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Oven symbols and controls

By Jane Darling

Puzzled by the symbols on your oven? Discover what they all mean, and how to get the best results out of them.

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Oven symbols can be obscure, and if you don't know what they mean you won't make the most of your oven and get the best cooking and baking results from it. 

The good news is that all ovens tend to use similar symbols, so once you've learned the key ones that we explain below, you should be able to navigate your way around most ovens you come across. 

Our oven symbols guide will help make sure you use the right setting to crisp your pizza base or bake your biscuits. We also explain some of the other features you’ll find on your built-in oven’s control panel.

If the washing symbols on clothes are baffling you, head to washing symbols explained to shed some light.

Fanned oven heat

What does it do?

A fan surrounded by a circle represents an oven fan with its own heating element. Heat is produced by a circular element surrounding the fan at the back of the oven. The fan helps to circulate the heat right around the oven.

Good fan ovens will spread heat evenly, so whether you're cooking near the top, bottom, back or front of the oven you should get similar results. If heat distribution in an oven is poor then you'll have to move your trays around to get even cooking results.

A fan symbol without the circle shows the fan is being used with the conventional upper and lower heating elements, rather than from the back.

What's it good for?

Most types of cooking, particularly baking trays of biscuits or cupcakes, or anything else where you’ll be using more than one shelf.

Upper and lower heating elements

What does it do?

Two horizontal lines at the top and bottom of a square show that heat will be generated by elements in the top and bottom of the oven. There’s no fan used to spread the heat around the oven – instead the heat spreads through natural convection. 

What's it good for?

This is a good option for single-shelf cooking of something substantial such as a large fruit cake. This setting also works well when roasting meat.

Lower heat element only

What does it do?

A single horizontal line at the bottom of a square shows that heat will come solely from the heating element at the bottom of the oven. The fan won’t be used to circulate the heat with this one.

What’s it good for?

This is great for gently cooking something such as a casserole. It can also be used for crisping something such as a pizza base.

Lower heating element and grill

What does it do?

A zig-zag line at the top and a horizontal line at the bottom shows the grill being used in combination with the lower heating element.

What’s it good for?

This is a good option for pies, quiches and crisping pizzas.

Grill and fan

What does it do?

A fan underneath a zig-zag line shows the grill in combination with the oven fan. The fan distributes the heat right around the oven and the grill cycles on and off during cooking.

What’s it good for?

The grill and fan used together produces a rotisserie effect and is excellent for cooking meat and poultry.


What does it do?

A zig-zag line at the top of the symbol box denotes the grill. If you use the full grill you’ll be able to cook a lot of food at once. For half-grill settings, only a section of the grill element gets hot, so remember to make sure your food is directly under this part of the grill.

We've come across some really poor grills in our testing. Good grills will make sure that all your food gets crisped or browned evenly, whereas poor grills will give patchy results.

What's it good for?

Making toast, cooking sausages and bacon, browning meat and anything else that sizzles.

Oven light

What does it do?

A light bulb symbol shows there’s a light inside the oven.

What’s it good for?

Lots of ovens will cook with the light on anyway, but if you see the light bulb symbol you’ll be able to turn the light on when you clean the oven, too.

Pyrolytic cleaning

There is an increasing number of ovens out there that offer high-temperature pyrolytic cleaning. This involves a program that heats the oven up to around 500C which has the effect of incinerating burnt on cooking grime and reducing it to dust. All that you have to do is wipe up the resultant ash.

As pyrolytic cleaning hasn't been mainstream for long, the symbols used by manufacturers aren't consistent. For example, Beko P, Neff 9 little diamonds, Zanussi 9 squares

Easy-to-use ovens

Having an oven that's easy to use can make the difference between enjoying your cooking and finding it a chore. 

When we test ovens on the Which? test lab we assess how easy certain features of an oven are to use, including how easy it is to set the oven and grill, how clear the markings on the oven are and whether it's easy to see inside the oven when it's on. 

This is one of the many factors that we take into consideration when compiling our best oven recommendations.


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