If you don't know your pyrolytic from your catalytic, our guide walks you through the features you can find on modern built-in ovens.
Over several decades, we've tested ovens from Bosch, Neff, Zanussi and all the big brands. We can help you pinpoint which features are worth having, as well as what else to look out for when buying a new oven.
Some built-in ovens come with automatic cooking programs that allow you to cook at the touch of a button. Once you've selected the food type, sensors set the cooking temperature, heat sources and duration based on the weight of the food and moisture in the oven.
When we tested this kind of feature in the past, we found it was better with simple foods, such as cakes and pizzas, rather than meat.
Some ovens will eventually turn off if left unattended for a set period.
With this setting, only the bottom element generates heat, which is useful for crisping pizza bases or pastry cases.
Catalytic oven liners (essentially rough surfaces inside the oven), catch, absorb and break down food spills, which are then burnt away during normal cooking at temperatures of more than 200°C. This makes the oven walls easier to keep clean, but you will still need to clean the oven ceiling, base, door and shelves in the usual way.
A child lock lets you lock the control panel – though not the door – so that the oven can’t be turned on without you knowing.
Most electric built-in ovens come with a fan that helps to distribute the heat evenly around the oven.
Rather than cooking with all of the grill, you can set it to cook using only half of it, which is useful if you want to grill a small amount of food.
Some ovens allow the grill and fan to operate alternately, which is useful if you want to crisp food evenly. This uses less energy than crisping food in the oven at a high temperature.
The aim of this is to keep food warm without drying it out.
Insert this probe into the centre of the meat you’re cooking to find out if it has reached the optimum temperature and is therefore cooked. Make sure the whole probe goes into the meat or it will read the heat from the oven, giving a falsely high temperature reading, meaning you could end up serving food before it’s ready.
Ovens with memory functions allow you to create, save and name your own cooking programs.
Many ovens are multifunctional, which means they have a range of features, such as a fanned grill or a defrost setting, alongside conventional and fan oven cooking. This gives you more options when cooking. For example, the heat that a fanned grill produces is less fierce than a conventional grill, and is useful for grilling thicker pieces of meat or fish.
A pizza mode should ensure a perfectly cooked pizza with a crispy base. When we tested it in the past, we found in most ovens this gave slightly better results than just using the fan mode. It’s therefore worth considering if you eat a lot of pizza.
Fully programmable ovens allow you set the cooking temperature, duration and heat sources. The oven turns on, cooks and turns off afterwards.
A warming drawer – which usually heats to between about 40°C to 80°C – can be used for proving dough, melting chocolate, making yoghurt, warming plates and more.
Pyrolytic oven programs burn off dirt and grease at very high temperatures – up to 500°C. All you need to do is sweep out the ash afterwards. These programs take between one and three hours, and for safety, the oven door will lock while the cycle is running. You will still need to clean the oven ceiling, base, door and shelves in the usual way.
Some ovens have a self-cleaning function. See catalytic oven liners, pyrolytic cleaning and steam cleaning for information on types of oven self-cleaning.
This works by softening burnt-on or greasy debris so that it can be wiped away more easily. Some steam ovens incorporate pyrolytic cleaning too (see above).
Some ovens have a steam function with an integral water tank. The water is vaporised and provides a quick and healthy cooking method. It can also be used for crisping bread.
Telescopic or extendable shelf runners are superior to non-tip shelves as they enable the trays or shelves to be fully pulled out of the oven while keeping your dish supported. Some ovens come with a single pair, which are often fixed in place, though some let you position them at your preferred level.
This function, which cooks food on a spit like a rotisserie, isn’t found on many ovens. When we tested them in past, we found the results were no better than roasting a chicken in the conventional way.