It’s often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home and that puts the cooker as the centrepiece. Whether you’re a gourmet chef or only cook occasionally, a reliable cooker is an essential kitchen appliance.
With beautiful and affordable designer kitchens and cooker set-ups, more people are getting into home cooking.
And with so many of us at home, looking for ways to create special meals because our favourite restraints have been closed, there’s been a resurgence to the fun of homemade cooking. If you’re buying your first home appliances or replacing your existing cooker, our tips will help you to choose the right freestanding cooker for your kitchen.
Types of Freestanding Cookers
Freestanding cookers come in either electric or gas fuels (some duel fuels available) and the decision is usually based on whether your home is plumbed with a gas main. Electric cookers are the most common with differences in burners, and oven/grill packaged.
Most standard freestanding cookers are 50 – 60cm in width and slot into a gap in the kitchen worktop, but there are smaller and much wider models available, so always keep sizing as you don’t want to buy a cooker only to find it doesn’t fit.
Whether you choose electric or gas, you’re going to need either a fully qualified electrician or gas engineer to install your cooker, as they don’t just “plugin”, rather, they need hard-wired or gas plumbed in – don’t try to DIY installation if you’re not qualified.
Hob Style: Smooth-top vs Solid Plate vs Gas
- Pros: Smooth-top (or ceramic glass) is more stylish and easier to keep clean hob compared to glass and gas burners.
- Cons: Solid plate burners are the cheapest, familiar and require less special care, but are harder to keep clean and are not as appealing to the eye.
Traditional vs Induction
- Pros: Traditional (I’m referring to gas and electric coil burners) has the most familiar feel and cheapest, but induction cooking is fastest and uses less energy
- Cons: Induction requires magnetic cookware while any pot can be used on a traditional coil or gas hobs.
Oven Types: Double vs Single
- Pros: Double ovens allow you to grill and roast at the same time, and at different temperatures.
- Cons: Freestanding cookers with double ovens are usually more expensive than with single ovens.
Best features include capacity for the oven – whether you can get two baking trays on the same rack and a good variety and sizes of hob burners. Though coil elements are generally limited to four for a standard-size cooker, ceramic and dual fuel can give more than four cooking elements.
Besides two large and two small burners, options can include a warming plate, as well as a combination of bridge or multi-size elements. Some cookers offer components that might include a grill depending on the model, size and installation.
When cooking lighting is minimal, an overhead cooker hood with light can be a good solution. And a cooker finish can make your life easier but chose wisely. Some finishes like stainless steel may be more difficult to keep clean than a white enamel or glass.
Where controls are located is more of a convenience and preference choice, but you want a freestanding cooker that clearly indicates temperature settings.
Think About Energy Efficiency
Your cooker hob or oven is usually your go-to method of heating food, but to save on power costs, try using other smaller appliances like a microwave, halogen oven, multi cooker or air fryer, or toaster, for certain tasks as a way to save on energy use when cooking amounts are small. Also, check the energy efficiency rating across various models to find a cooker with the lowest estimated energy use.
Price Ranges and Compare Prices
Prices for freestanding cookers vary considerably due to the variety of hobs styles and features, cooking choices and installation styles, but you can find a basic model for around £200 that has four good solid plate burners and an oven. Reputable brands such as Beko and Bush have some excellent budget freestanding cookers.
A ceramic glass top with a double oven and generous size burners from brands such as Smeg, Belling, and Hotpoint might set you back £500 or more, some of the best freestanding cookers and range cookers can be right up there at the £1,000 mark.
As you can see, there’s quite a wide range in pricing, but a mid-range model would be ideal for the busiest household who cook often and want a cooker that will last for years to come.
Along with comparing range prices, you should read online reviews. Some consumers will include important care and use tips in their appliance reviews, along with information on durability, reliability and cooking performance. Also, pop into a local appliance store and get up-close and hands-on with the freestanding cookers that are on display, and don’t be scared to bring a list of questions for the salesperson.
A freestanding cooker – like and cooking appliance – requires a certain amount of care and maintenance to keep it in good operating condition. But when it comes to a smooth glass hob, these need added care to keep them from scratching and looking nice. Fortunately, these cooking surfaces are easy to keep clean, unlike gas burners which require dismantling, and any spillages are easily wiped.
Gas as solid plate burners require more cleaning, but are much more robust and can take a knock. Ceramic and induction glass cooktops require a little more care because you don’t want to smash or scratch the glass.
Freestanding Cooker Accessories
Of course, a brand new cooker is great, but you need the right cookware to stand cooking – frying pans, pots, pans, stockpots and skillets for stovetop use and an assortment of sizes of roasting pans and bakeware. Cooking utensils are also essential tools as are oven mitts and potholders.
Get yourself a cooker hood to extract those cooking gases out of the kitchen, in particular, vented cooker hoods are prefered for gas burners due to the much higher heat that should be exhausted from the kitchen. Carbon filter cooker hoods are fine, and the supply of additional over cooker lighting can be very convenient and stylish.