How we test range cookers
By Jane Darling
Each range cooker we review faces a series of stringent tests. Only the best combinations of oven, hob and grill become range cooker Best Buys.
Our independent tests reveal whether a range cooker's oven sticks to the temperature you set, and whether its grill and hob will brown and fry your food to perfection.
Check out the video above to see how a range cooker can become a Best Buy and why choosing the right one could make a real difference in your kitchen.
Which? range cooker reviews and Best Buys
Our reviews will answer your most important questions about range cookers, including:
- Will the range cooker ovens heat up quickly and spread heat evenly?
- How much usable space is there in each range cooker oven?
- Is the grill of the range cooker effective?
- Is the hob quick and does it distribute heat well?
- Is the range cooker easy to use and energy efficient?
- Should I buy it?
Will the range cooker oven heat up quickly and spread heat evenly?
We set each range cooker oven to heat to high and low temperatures, and we record how long they take to reach their target. Heat settings for conventional electric and gas ovens are 180°C and 200°C. For electric ovens with fans, the settings are 150°C and 180°C.
We also record how accurately each range cooker heats – Best Buys get very close to the set temperatures and stay there, but the least accurate ovens can overheat by more than 30°C.
30°CThe amount a bad range cooker can overheat by
We use baking trays covered with 10mm-wide strips of shortbread to reveal just how effective each range cooker is at spreading heat throughout the oven. The colour of the shortbread after cooking shows how evenly the oven distributes heat across each oven tray.
The best range cooker ovens we’ve tested deliver heat evenly across the shortbread, but the worst leave some areas unbrowned and other parts burnt. You can see examples of the difference between a good and bad range cooker in the image below.
Our tests also involve baking a large sponge cake. We then measure how well and evenly the cake rises in the range cooker, and how evenly it browns.
How much usable space is there in each range cooker oven?
We use large fake turkeys, chickens and roast beef joints on roasting trays, along with another tray of roast potatoes, to find out what you can actually fit inside each oven. For a range cooker with a two ovens, we test both the main and secondary, or side, oven.
We only measure the space that you will actually be able to use inside a range cooker’s oven. We measure the internal width from side to side, and the depth from the inside of the door to the back of the oven.
But we only measure the height from the top of the lowest shelf to 3cm from the top of the oven, and we don’t include the space beneath the lowest shelf as it's important to leave enough space for the hot air to circulate.
Is the grill of the range cooker effective?
We cover each grill pan in white crustless bread to see how far and how evenly the heat spreads. The best range cooker grills we’ve tested can effectively brown almost all of the bread on the grill pan.
The worst will struggle to heat anything more than the area directly beneath the element, or around 30%.
Is the hob quick and does it spread heat well?
We test how quickly the hob of each range cooker can heat a pan of water from 15°C to 90°C. The quickest cookers will take around four minutes, while the slowest take eight minutes longer.
Additionally, we check how good each range cooker hob is at simmering, and how well heat spreads across a pan when you turn up the heat – the more evenly it does this, the better the results when frying. Finally, we test what happens when you switch off the hob, to see how quickly it cools down.
Is the range cooker easy to use and energy efficient?
We use an independent panel to assess how easy to use each range cooker is. The panel look at how straightforward it is to set the ovens, grills and hob, how clear the markings are and how easy it is to check food while it's cooking.
To find out how energy efficient each cooker is, we simulate roasting a whole chicken in the range cooker for the recommended time and heat setting. We then record the amount of energy each range cooker oven uses while cooking, and use this to calculate the running costs for each model over a year.
Should I buy it?
The most important thing to consider when deciding whether to buy a range cooker is how good it is at cooking. That's why 70% of a range cooker's overall Which? test score is based on how well the oven, grill and hob functions fare in our tests.
But a good cooker that's a nightmare to use and clean, or expensive to run, isn't much good. So we take all these factors into account as well.
The full score breakdown for range cookers is:
- 40% oven performance
- 25% ease of use, including ease of cleaning
- 20% hob performance
- 10% grill performance
- 5% energy use
Range cookers need to score 66% or more to be awarded Best Buy status.
Any model that scores 40% or less is classed as a Don't Buy, which means we think it's so poor you should avoid it.
Find the top scoring range cookers by browsing our range cooker Best Buys.