How to buy the best range cookerby Jane Darling
There are hundreds of range cookers to choose from, including dual-fuel, gas and electric. Use this guide to find the best range cooker for you.
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How much does a decent range cooker cost?
For £750 you will be able to find a good range cooker with an accurate oven that heats evenly, a grill that spreads heat evenly and a well-designed and easy to use hob. But you'll need to choose wisely as not all range cookers available for around this price do a good job of heating food.
Best Buy range cookers are available for less than £750, and some will have the distinctive four-door range cooker set-up of two ovens, a separate grill compartment and a fourth drawer. At this price, the fourth compartment is more likely to be a storage drawer for pots and pans rather than a more helpful warming drawer.
Cheaper range cookers will lack some of the trademark cooking accessories, such as griddles, hotplates and roasting trays, that you might normally expect to find on a range cooker. But if you pay around £1,200 for a range cooker you’ll find more of the features and accessories that make cooking easier. More will have fan-assisted ovens and multi-function cooking. And handy accessories, such as griddles, wok rings and roasting trays attached to the inside of the doors, are more common. Some will come with catalytic oven linings that make cleaning easier, and also look out for a warming drawer for plates.
At around the £1,500 mark, you’ll be more likely to find range cookers with self-cleaning ovens as standard - either catalytic, absorbent linings or super-heating pyrolytic programs. It’s also at around this price that you’ll find range cookers with quick-heating and energy-saving induction hobs. At this price, a range cooker should come with all of the cooking bells and whistles a keen cook would want.
There seems to be no upper limit on the amount you can pay for a range cooker, but you definitely shouldn’t need to pay more than £2,000 to get an excellent range cooker with all of the features you desire. Any more than this and you’ll be paying more for the name than you are for the performance.
Range cooker sizes
Range cookers are bigger than freestanding cookers - most are 90cm, 100cm or 110cm wide - and come with between five and eight hob rings or burners, two ovens, a grill and a warming or storage drawer.
Large range cookers tend to have four separate compartments, comprising two ovens, a large grill and a heated warming drawer or storage drawer for pots and pans. They generally have six to eight burners.
Smaller range cookers need to fit these features into a more condensed space, so they generally have two ovens, a grill and a five or six-burner hob. You can find some range cookers with just one oven, but this provides less of a true range-cooking experience.
Mini range cookers are like range cookers in looks, but in terms of size they are the same width as a standard freestanding cooker (60cm).
90cm, 100cm, 110cmThe different widths of range cookers
Range cooker fuels
The cheapest option is to stick with the fuel type that your current cooker runs on. Although gas is cheaper to cook with, if your current cooker runs on electricity, it will take many years to recoup the outlay of swapping over to a gas connection.
On the other hand, dual-fuel range cookers are a popular choice. Many people like an electric oven coupled with a gas hob - and these do well in our tests. However, electric induction hobs can be as controllable as gas ones.
Here are the different types of range cookers:
Dual-fuel cookers: this is the most popular type of range cooker. They have a gas hob, which should be easy to control, and electric ovens, which generally heat more evenly than gas ovens.
Electric range cookers: most electric range cookers have one or more ovens with a fan, which helps to spread the heat around the oven. If your oven has a fan, it’s going to heat up more quickly - this means you can reduce the cooking temperature and cooking times.
Electric induction range cookers: these cookers heat quickly and efficiently. When you cook with induction, the hob zones themselves don’t get hot. But you’ll need iron-based pans, such as stainless steel, if you’re cooking on an induction hob. Test your current pans with a fridge magnet - if it sticks then they will work on an induction hob.
Gas range cookers: these are the cheapest to cook with. The hobs on gas cookers are easy to control and provide instant heat when you need it. Gas range cookers and dual-fuel cookers will need to be installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
Dual fuel range cookers are the most popular type
Range cooker oven space
When you’re in the shop, take a look inside to see how much space there is in each oven. Stated usable oven volumes can be deceptive, as the figures provided by manufacturers include the space beneath the lowest shelf, which you can’t use to cook with.
When we test range cookers, we measure how much genuinely usable space there is, and we use a plastic turkey and a tray of roast potatoes to see what you can actually fit in.
The usable volume of an oven is much less than the actual volume
Range cooker energy use
Gas is cheaper to cook with than electricity. The cheapest gas range cooker we’ve tested costs around £14 a year to run, while the most expensive range cooker we've tested is dual fuel and costs around £58 annually. You can check running costs under the 'Full specification' tab in all of our range cooker reviews.
What range cooker features do I need?
Some range cookers come packed with features, such as a wok burner, griddle and pyrolytic cleaning, while others are more basic. Here are some of the main features you may come across. Go to our range cooker jargon buster to find out more.
A high-powered wok burner can be used for frying or rapid boiling
Fan oven: most electric or dual-fuel range cookers come with a fan to distribute the heat evenly around the oven. On cookers with two electric ovens, one usually has a fan and the other is conventionally heated by upper and lower heating elements.
Griddle: these are large cast-iron slabs that are excellent for searing meat or veg. Some are ridged, while others are flat and can be used for making pancakes or frying eggs.
Multi-function oven: many range cookers now come with multi-function ovens. These allow you to cook with a variety of heat sources independently or in combination, such as the grill and fan together.
Pyrolytic self-cleaning: range cookers with a pyrolytic self-cleaning program heat to around 400°C and incinerate oven waste. All you need to do afterwards is sweep away the ash. If a cooker comes with pyrolytic self-cleaning, this will be shown on the dial or the control panel.
Catalytic liners: catalytic linings absorb oven spills and splashes, break them down and burn them off during cooking. They are usually found on the sides of an oven, and sometimes on the back or roof.
Roasting tray: some range cookers have a roasting tray holder fitted to the door, so that when you open the door it swings out with it. This avoids having to reach into the oven when you want to tend to your roast potatoes.
Wok burner: found on gas hobs, this is a fierce burner that is great for a stir fry, searing meat or simply heating up a big pan of water quickly.
Read up on our top scoring range cookers in our range cooker Best Buys.