Your cooker is likely to be the heart of your kitchen! It’s safe to say that most of us use cookers to create all kinds of hot meals and dishes for our families. However, knowing exactly what to look for in a cooker, as well as what the difference is between a cooker and oven, is not always so obvious.
A cooker is likely to see plenty of use. Depending on the size of your family and your meal demands from day to day, you may find that you need a double oven to cook more food in one go. You may also find that you need to look into range cookers if you could stand to benefit from a hob.
Crucially, the best cooker for you is going to be one that suits your cooking needs. There are no right or wrong answers when it comes to finding the best cookers around, which is why we’ve set so many great buying guide pages up for you across WhichCooker. After all, the clue’s in our name – which cooker is going to be right for you?
In this quick guide, we’ll look at what a cooker actually is, and why it’s such a firm staple from kitchen to kitchen. What’s more, we’ll take a look at the different types of cooker out there, varying in terms of type as well as in terms of features.
Not sure what to look for in a cooker? Keep reading and we will fill you in – and once you’re done here, do make a point of checking out our buying guide pages on electric range cookers, electric ovens, freestanding cookers and more. We’re here to help you find the perfect fit for your kitchen!
What Is A Cooker?
Let’s make this nice and simple – it’s a piece of equipment that cooks food! That much is obvious, but it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a cooker and an oven, for example, especially when it comes to shopping around and looking for the best possible fit for your purposes.
A cooker is a freestanding cooking chamber and a hob all in one. Unlike an oven, which is just a single cooking cavity built-in to your kitchen, you don’t require a separate hob. This is the main difference between cookers and ovens. An oven is just part of a cooker – it’s a cooking cavity, and you can often find ovens which are built into kitchen units, meaning that they are not freestanding.
A cooker can, therefore, include several different parts and features. Some will include multiple oven cavities, and, as mentioned, most should have hobs on the cooktop. You may also find that they are referred to as range cookers in many cases. This also tends to be where you will find a hood and extractor built-in.
However, on the whole, range cookers tend to be bigger and have greater capacity than your average freestanding cookers, meaning that they are often favoured by bigger families and bigger kitchen owners. That said, there are no right or wrong answers – you just need to look for a cooker option which fulfils your specific need, nothing more, and nothing less.
It’s also worth noting that the word ‘cooker’ tends to be a pretty British choice. In the US, you’d probably see the words ‘stove’ or ‘range’ used in much the same way. Therefore, it’s worth distinguishing.
As a cooker is freestanding, it doesn’t need to be built-in to your kitchen, so you are pretty flexible in terms of positioning. This is what largely appeals to people who have smaller kitchens, or who prefer to not pen themselves in with systems or built-in cavities.
Now that we’ve established what a cooker actually is, it’s time to consider different types, which you will normally find are split into gas, electric or dual fuel. Let’s take a closer look.
Electric vs Gas Cookers
Electric cookers are perhaps the most common fuel type available. They have both an electric hob and electric cooking chamber(s).
There’s some variations between the type of hobs you can get with electric cookers – solid plate tops are the cheapest, but ceramic hobs and induction top cookers are also available. Induction hob systems tend to be very popular for the fact that they heat up quickly, and tend to provide a more precise experience. You can even buy electric cooker and induction hob systems which come with cooking zones that detect pots and pans!
People prefer electric cookers to gas cookers because they are easier to use, install and more reliable. There is no pilot light or flame, and most will either be hard wired or plugged in to the mains electricity supply without the need for gas.
Electric cooking is also arguably safer than gas cooking. While gas hobs are generally very precise, if you have a young family, they may not be the safest choice around. Gas cookers have the risk of leaking, and while modern systems from the best manufacturers likely won’t, electric cookers remove the risk of poisonous gas emerging altogether.
Many also argue that electric gives more consistent results and even heat, cooking food faster. It can warm the chamber easier than gas does, and electric grills are much hotter and easier to control.
- Distributes heat more evenly
- Electric grilling is more effective
- Easier to clean vs. gas
- Often provide more functions
- Often more budget-friendly to buy
- You will use less electricity than gas, but it is more expensive so will cost more to run
- Often more expensive to buy
- There is a delay heating up and cooling down your hob
Gas cookers are less popular and less widely available, but you may be a fan of gas cooking if you hate to wait for cookers to heat up or if you are more used to using a gas hob. They have both a gas hob and a gas chamber(s).
Gas cookers and gas hobs may not be the most popular choice out there, but depending on what you need, they can still give you a lot of precision and support when cooking daily dishes. Gas can sometimes work out cheaper, too, as you’re not having to run electric for long periods just to get up to the heat you actually need. You can just get on with cooking – switch your gas hobs on, light them up, and you’re away.
They are a bit trickier to install. Unless you know what you’re doing, always get a professional to help, and they’re easier to fit into an existing mains gas space.
Again, as mentioned above, while a gas cooking system might be energy efficient in many ways, they are not always going to be your safest choice. That said, we’re not against gas cooking – there are certainly pros and cons to all options on the market. In the modern age, however, just going for gas might not be the most efficient approach.
If you aren’t used to them, they can be hard to get the hang of. From lighting them to ensuring a consistent power and getting the correct heat, they aren’t quite as clear as electric. As you’re dealing with a potentially explosive and/or poisonous gas, you’re also going to need to be more careful, on the whole!a
- Instant heat for hob, grill and oven
- The hob cools down quickly once turned off
- Cheaper to run vs. electric
- Often have flexible hob settings which is good for lower heats
- Not as consistent or even as electric
- Dealing with flames and gas – may not feel comfortable in your home
- Trickier to clean
- There will be installation costs involved
Dual Fuel Cookers
Although less common, dual fuel cookers do exist and provide you with both gas and electric attributes. Despite the fact there isn’t as much choice, they are actually by far the most popular pick for those who have both an electric and gas supply to their kitchen.
If you love the heat control of a gas hob but favour the uniform cooking and efficiency of an electric oven, then this may be the much superior choice.
- ‘Best of both worlds’
- Often have more functions than gas cookers
- Often more expensive than their variants
- Takes professional installation for both gas and electric
Single Or Double Cooker?
With cookers, you can choose from a single cavity or two (a double cooker).
With the latter, the top compartment is often the grill, in its own dedicated chamber and able to be used separately to the oven. This would benefit anybody who thinks the ability to use them both at the same time is good, or anyone who frequently uses the grill on its own and doesn’t want to heat the entire cooker in the process.
Single cavity cookers are rarer but still around. Their main benefit is that they usually have a bit more capacity as the total size isn’t split, but many users also like them as you don’t have to bend down quite as much to reach the door.
A double oven option is likely to be more popular with most people as it means that you can actively grill food as well as use the main cooking cavity. Depending on what you need from your cooker, however, make sure that a single cavity option isn’t going to be more efficient and overall more convenient for you in the long run. Cleaning out a double oven can sometimes be more of a hassle, for example.
Points to Consider When Buying a Cooker
If you’ve read a buying guide or two at WhichCooker before, then you will likely know that there are many more features to a cooker system worth comparing and contrasting. Here are a few features and product points worth considering when shopping around.
Self Cleaning Ovens
There are some cookers which are self cleaning, which means that you only really need to wipe them down after use. These tend to be pyrolytic in the main, which means they work by cranking up the heat to burn up the worst ground-up food on the inside. Self cleaning can be a bit of a premium option, on the whole, meaning it’s well worth considering what you need – if cleaning isn’t that much of a hassle, you have nothing to worry about.
Fan Assisted Cooking
One thing you’ll also find fairly common across modern cookers is the option for a fan oven. While not essential, a fan oven is likely to make cooking food all the quicker, meaning that you can simply cook up your favourite dishes in half the time. Make sure to compare different options from system to system, however!
Hoods and Extractor Fans
One of the main reasons why you should always look for a cooker hood is for the simple fact that getting rid of grease from the air can be a real pain. If you’re constantly setting the smoke alarm off, too, then it’s well worth investing in a hood that will extract smoke and grease for you. Range hoods and cooker hoods can be bought separately, and many people invest in them as they can help to lighten the cooking space below, too.
Drawers and Storage
If you’re a fan of the Great British Bake Off, then you might well fancy yourself a proving drawer, or somewhere that you can keep food warm, in any case. If you’re struggling to keep dishes warm when serving up for groups of people, for example, a warming drawer or storage area is going to be fantastic help. However, this isn’t always something that comes with cookers as standard. You might need to buy these options separately – and they can be quite pricey at times, so do consider your options carefully!
Cooker Timers and Alarms
While it’s pretty common for kitchen users to have their own timers on the go, a fantastic function in many modern cooker systems is the presence of an LCD, along with built-in timer functionality. Simply put your food in the cavity of your choice, set your timer, and the oven will do the rest – providing you come back to actually turn the cooker off once the alarm sounds, of course! (Do consider light, this is something Jen didn’t do when she had her new oven installed below a sky light…)
There are also different types of control system or hub which you will likely spot from cooker to cooker. Some will come with front-facing systems, for example, while others will come with touch panels and sliders. Again, there is no right or wrong here when it comes to which pick is best. However, do keep in mind that front controls might be a bit of a nuisance if you’re likely to knock into them!
There is more to buying a cooker than you might think! This is just a quick breakdown of everything you need to keep in mind when shopping for the best systems and units around.
As always, read through our extensive buying guides, and hunt down an option that’s going to keep you and your family fed and happy for the years to come.