Types of cookers and ovens for your kitchen

Due to the current emphasis on convenience, versatility and speed, there are now about as many cooking appliances as there are foods. However, ovens are still the backbone of every kitchen, and with the frequent updates to this old appliance, you'll never run out of options for designing a functional home kitchen.

Choosing an Oven

Ovens can be purchased as part of kitchen ranges (also known as cookers) or as stand-alone appliances. While a kitchen range combines a stovetop and an oven in one unit, many homeowners now prefer separate wall ovens or under-counter ovens that allow convenient height placement and easier access to the controls. Wall ovens can be single or double, or paired with a similarly formatted microwave. Both traditional ranges and wall ovens can use gas or electricity to operate, but gas models are usually more expensive and may require electricity for certain specialized features, such as grilling components.

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Although gas stovetops are preferred by many professionals and serious home cooks, electricity is more popular for ovens. Electric ovens are designed for precision, convenience and safety, incorporating elements such as safety locks, a self-cleaning option, cooking timers and broiling or grilling capabilities.

A variation of the basic electric oven, convection ovens use fans to circulate hot air and lock in moisture to produce flavorful foods. Convection ovens are also more efficient and cook foods evenly.

Similar to other major kitchen appliances, electric ovens are typically offered in black, white, beige and stainless steel finishes, and prices range from the mid-hundreds to well into the thousands. Many owners also enjoy the rustic look of wood or charcoal-fired brick wall ovens.

The size of a cooking range varies from 20 to 40 inches, and wall ovens are sold in 24, 27, and 30-inch models, so make careful measurements before you go shopping. To reduce operating costs in the future, purchase an oven with high efficiency ratings from Energy Star.

Alternative Cooking Solutions

Having a full-sized oven is essential for any cook, but when you're too busy for lengthy food preparation or just want to keep the kitchen cooler during warm weather, it's smart to have small, practical alternatives close at hand. Some popular options include:

  • Toaster ovens. Unlike a standard toaster, toaster ovens are versatile miniature ovens that can toast, bake, roast and broil with heating elements capable of reaching up to 500 degrees or more. Toaster ovens are perfect for preparing individual meals, snacks and some larger items while using far less energy than traditional ovens.
  • Slow cookers. Priced as low as $20, slow cookers are largely self-regulated crock pots used for preparing soups, stews, roasts, whole chickens and other one-pot dishes. For a family, purchase a slow cooker with at least a 3-quart capacity.
  • Microwave convection ovens. These fast-cooking ovens can combine the speed of microwave radiation with the precision of convection cookers to produce well-cooked, flavorful foods in no time. These ovens can even accommodate full-scale roasting and baking.

Ovens might be only one piece of the puzzle when selecting cooking appliances, but they're often the most important element. Although many people are responsible for preparing meals in their home, most of them have limited time and space and don't have the skills of an expert chef. Whether you live in a house, an apartment or a dorm, appliances are being designed with your needs in mind, and there are numerous cooking options if you're willing to do the research.