How to buy the best freestanding cooker
By Jane Darling
Freestanding cookers that slot into a space in your kitchen can be a cost-effective cooking solution, as they wrap up an oven, grill and hob in one product. A good one will have plenty of cooking space, cook quickly and evenly, and be easy to use and clean.
Watch our video above to get the lowdown on how to choose a new cooker, and use our advice on this page to narrow down the sort of cooker you want, as well as the features you need.
Cookers that can do everything well are few and far between. Compare models to find the ones that fit your criteria, and do well in our independent cooker tests, by heading to our cooker reviews.
Buying the best cooker for you
Our interactive tool will walk you through the features you need to consider when buying a freestanding cooker – to help you decide which ones are essential, and which you can live without.
How much should you expect to spend?
All-gas cookers are the cheapest and most basic option (provided you already have access to gas), and the average price is around £350. Electric cookers with a ceramic hob will cost a little more, as will dual-fuel cookers that have an electric oven and gas hob.
Our cheapest Best Buy cooker is an all-gas model
If you're keen to have an induction hob on your freestanding cooker, you should expect to pay between £400 and £600 as these are a pricier option. Some can cost up to £1,000, although this is still likely to be cheaper than buying a double oven and induction hob separately.
The cheapest cookers usually look very basic, and are likely to have just one oven plus a storage drawer. As you go up the price spectrum, you are likely to get more features, such as catalytic self-clean liners, programmable timers and more spacious ovens or a separate grill, as well as more stylish designs.
However, paying more doesn't necessarily mean you'll get a decent cooker. We've found pricey models that fail to impress as well as some cheap-and-cheerful options. Check our cooker reviews before buying to avoid a dud and see if you can find a bargain.
Cooker size and type
Most freestanding cookers are 60cm wide, but if you're squeezed for space, you can also find 55cm and 50cm wide models. All are roughly the same height and depth to fit a standard kitchen and line up with your worktops.
There are a couple of different layout options to choose from. All freestanding cookers will have a four-ring hob, and at least one oven. But you can opt for a version with a storage drawer for tins and pans, an extra grill compartment, a second oven or an eye-level grill above the hob.
The more common set-up is to have a hob, main oven and separate grill compartment. The cheapest models have just one oven including a combined grill, which means you won't be able to use both at the same time. Freestanding cookers with eye-level grills used to be popular, but are few and far between these days. We have tested some so check our cooker reviews if you're keen to have one.
Gas or electric cooker?
Unless you have a strong preference for gas or electric, it makes sense to stick with the fuel type you already have the wiring or supply for in your kitchen. Gas is cheaper to cook with, but cooking costs have a relatively small impact on most people's household energy bills.
There are a couple of different combinations of fuel type and technology. You can have all-gas, or a dual-fuel cooker that has an electric oven and gas hob. With electric models your main choice is what kind of hob you get. Below we explain what your options are, and the pros and cons of the different types.
These have an electric oven and hob. Most have fan or fan-assisted ovens, which should help to spread heat more evenly around the oven cavity. If your cooker has an oven fan, it will cook food more quickly – so you can reduce cooking temperatures and times.
There are occasions when conventional heat - top and bottom heat without a fan – is an advantage, and if you get a cooker with a double oven, you'll usually get one conventional oven and one with a fan.
Electric induction cookers
These have an electric oven and electric induction hob. Induction hobs heat quickly and efficiently, and the hob zones themselves don’t get hot during cooking, which can be handy. But you’ll need iron-based pans, such as stainless steel, if you’re cooking on an induction hob, which can be an extra expense. If a fridge magnet sticks to a pan, then it will work on an induction hob.
Induction hobs are speedier than gas or conventional electric hobs
All-gas cookers are the cheapest to cook with, and the gas hobs are usually easier to control than standard electric hobs, providing instant heat when you need it. However, the oven cooking results can be a bit less uniform than in an electric model.
These have a gas hob and an electric oven, providing the best of both worlds for some people, with an easy-to-control and quick-to-heat gas hob, and an electric oven that heats evenly.
Gas and dual-fuel cookers will need to be installed by a Gas Safe registered engineer. Find out more about the differences with our guide to gas cookers vs electric cookers if you aren't yet sure what you want.
Making sense of oven capacity
Manufacturers state capacity in litres, but this doesn't tell the whole story as it includes space you can't actually use for cooking, such as the space under the lowest shelf.
We only measure the space you can actually use to cook with. You'll find this figure for each cooker we've tested in the specifications tab on our cooker reviews. Our tests show that the average usable oven capacity of a cooker's main oven is 43 litres, but there is quite a large range in volumes: the smallest main oven we've tested has a volume of just 38 litres while the largest is a roomy 58 litres, giving you nearly a third more space to cook with.
20 litres- the difference in usable capacity we've found between cookers (in the main oven)
It's worth checking inside the oven to see how much space there is, how many oven racks are supplied, and how many shelf positions you have to play with – as this affects how much you can fit in.
In our tests, we try putting a plastic life-sized turkey, chicken, joint of beef and a tray of roast potatoes inside the oven to see what fits into each one, and how versatile the cooking space is.
Larger ovens will accommodate not only a family-sized turkey but will also leave space for an extra tray of veg. The smallest won't even squeeze in a turkey, which could cause stress if you find this out at the last minute.
Cooker features to look out for
Timer: if you're looking at cheaper models, it's worth checking whether you can trade up for relatively little cost to a model with a timer, as this can be handy for keeping track of cooking times.
Controls: touch controls offer a sleeker look and can be easier to clean. They may also have handy options, such as a child-lock to stop wandering hands. But you may prefer the heft of a control knob.
Automatic ignition: most gas burners ignite automatically when the burner knob is pushed. These are more convenient to use than a separate ignition button as you don't need both hands.
Catalytic self-cleaning: catalytic self-cleaning liners are becoming more common in cookers. Often they are on the sides of the oven, but can also be on the back or roof. They absorb fat spills and splashes, then break them down and burn them off during high-temperature cooking, meaning that you don't need to clean the sides if something spills.
Flame supervision devices (FSD): Most gas cookers have these now, but it's worth double-checking. This is a safety feature that will shut off the supply of gas should a burner fail to ignite or get blown out.
Catalytic self-clean liners make keeping your oven grime-free less effort
Multi-function oven: some freestanding cookers come with a multi-function oven. This allows you to cook with a variety of heat sources independently or in combination - such as the grill and fan together - which can work nicely for cooking through thick pieces of meat or fish. Multi-function ovens also have a defrost setting which simply fans room temperature or slightly heated air around the cavity.
Programmable ovens: these turn the cooker on, time your cooking and will turn the cooker off when the food is done.
Pyrolytic self-cleaning: ovens with a pyrolytic self-cleaning program heat to around 500°C and incinerate oven spillages that may have solidified on the oven walls. All you need to do afterwards is sweep away the ash. Pyrolytic cleaning is still relatively uncommon in freestanding cookers, though there are plenty of built-in ovens that come with this function. Bear in mind that you'll need to clean the shelves and glass manually. While metal shelves are robust, take care when cleaning the glass part of the oven door. Avoid using scouring sponges or metal cleaning pads as these can introduce microscopic scratches in the glass which makes it more vulnerable to shattering.
Thermostat indicator: on electric cookers, there is usually a light that turns off when the oven reaches the desired temperature.
Getting your cooker installed
If you decide to change from a gas to an electric cooker, or vice versa, when it comes to replacement, then installation costs could be quite high. But if, like most people, you opt for the same fuel then John Lewis offer a cooker installation service for between £65 and £95. They charge another £9 to dispose of your old one. Currys prices are between £75 and £100 for installation and £15 for removal.
If you'd prefer to give your business to a local tradsesperson endorsed by Which?, then go to Trusted Traders to find local companies who may be able to offer you a cheaper deal.
Do freestanding cookers cost much to run?
The cookers that we've tested cost, on average, around £33 a year to run.
The cheapest cookers are all-gas models, that can cost as little as £14 a year to run. Electric cookers have higher running costs – we came across one recently that ate up the fuel and would work out at just under £90 a year – but generally you'd expect to pay around half this for standard family use.
Find a good cooker that is also cost-effective to run by using our cooker reviews to compare models.