Finding My Perfect Range Cooker - A Busy Mum's Experience

A lot has changed since coal burning Agas or Aga type range cookers were the only type you’d ever come across. Since buying my own range cooker, just 2 months ago, I’ve realised the sheer amount of options you now have can lead you to an oven that suits you perfectly, such is the extensive range on offer today.

I chose to look at range cookers firstly because of my rapidly growing family. However, since recently becoming a stay-at-home mum with my soon-to-be three-year-old son, I’ve realised a love of experimentation with food, preparing many oriental/ Asian dishes. Apart from a range cooker allowing me to cook multi-component dishes more comfortably, a larger hob with more burners would let me use lots of woks and saucepans in the more complicated Chinese and Thai meals I’ve wanted to try. I’ve also always hoped to host my large family at Christmas, and a big oven would allow me to cook up a huge turkey, complete with all the trimmings in the next-door cavity.

It’s all very simple contemplating Christmas with a big cooker, but I’ve realised there’s so much choice available, along with features and accessories such as griddles and wok supports, that choosing a range cooker can be quite a lengthy experience. However, if you consider every option, you can get something that suits you and your cooking style exactly, right down to having a pink cooker if that’s what you desire.

Where do I start?
The first obstacle I hit when looking for a range cooker was where do I start? I had no idea where to look or which brands were going to offer me the best quality. My first thought was looking in my local electrical superstore, but I predicted overpriced cookers with little choice or valuable comprehensive advice for a first time buyer, and judging from their website, I was probably right. I wanted to find a retailer dedicated to range cookers where they knew what they were talking about and there was a full range to consider. Without any other ideas, I ended up simply typing, “range cookers” into a search engine and, not knowing what to expect, clicking on the first result it gave me.

I’m glad I did: ticked all the boxes- featuring many more brands than any high street electrical retailers, ranging from the well known Smeg, Stoves, Hotpoint and Rangemaster to some Italian brands like Bertazzoni and Fratelli Onofri. In total, offered me 25 different brands- plenty of choice there then!

Choosing a size
However, there was a lot to narrow down, for example, what size? Range cookers, I discovered, come in three main sizes: 90cm, 100cm and 110cm, but they can come in all shapes and sizes and it’s possible to find them up to 140 or 150cm or as small as 70cm. In the past I’d had a 60cm built in oven, but after relocating my fridge I found that I had enough space for a 100cm width range cooker, although I wasn’t quite sure about what features I wanted yet, except for having two ovens, preferably in different sizes. Whether or not to have a separate grill was also a question I needed to answer, but after considering that we rarely use our grill (except for the odd slice of cheese on toast!) I decided on having an integrated grill in one of the cavities, so that the grilling option would still be there but it wouldn’t take away from valuable oven space.

What to have on a hob
Where I definitely wanted lots of flexibility though was on my hob. Hosting parties along with my recently found love of Oriental cooking (but also the humble fry-up) meant that I was looking for at least 6 burners, maybe even 7 or 8 burners if possible. I’d been informed by the website of specialised functions and I was excited by the prospect of powerful, high-heat wok burners, which can transform a stir-fry but are also effective in heating great pots of soup or just boiling pasta water up quickly, so for my family, that function sounded ideal.

Though not so integrally, I also took interest in looking for other ways of specialising the way I cook and I found that some cookers had burners for fish kettles, others with hot plates or griddles ideal for cooking steak. It excited me to see that some cookers included all four functions on their hobs and still had 4 or maybe 6 burners on top of that! However, cost was going to be an issue, and I had a budget with a limit of £2500, which made me think I’d have to abandon my ideas on multifunctional hobs with lots burners as it excluded a fair few cookers at the very top of the range. Nonetheless, I was surprised and delighted to find that many in my price range (and far below) still had this top feature.

Gas or Electric?
After deciding what I wanted for my hob, the next question I had to address was which fuel I wanted my cooker to use. There are three main types: Gas (Natural or LPG- most cookers come with LPG converters), electric or dual fuel. Another fairly new option is the induction hob which, with electromagnetic technology, heats the pan rather than the hob itself, and with instant temperature changes, makes cooking much quicker. However, as a born and bred gas hob user, I’ve decided to stay with a safe choice. It may be slower, but this gives me useful time for chopping and peeling while other things are on heat, plus the temperature’s easier to control than with an electric hob.

In the Gas vs. Electric debate, I find that electric ovens are easier to use and create an even cooking temperature, something which isn’t always there in a gas oven. When fan assisted this is only improved and gives good cooking temperatures. Because of this, I decided to look for electric ovens and have then glass fronted if possible, because I like to be able to see my food cooking and check it’s progress.

Choosing a Colour and Style
Like every woman, it must be said that if not the most important part of finding my perfect range cooker, choosing the colour and style of it comes pretty close. My kitchen currently sports magnolia walls with white units and black counters. We had it done that way 11 years ago, just as I was expecting our first child, and although lime green curtains have been put up and walls repainted since, it’s a little on the sharp side for the family atmosphere I’ve always wanted to create in our kitchen. For this reason (apart from the fact that we’ve already got a silver fridge) I set my heart upon a brightly coloured range cooker. Naturally I wanted to go for a pink, purple or orange cooker, but alas, I was outnumbered by the males in my family, who pushed for a blue cooker. I decided to meet them in the middle and settled on a bright red cooker, which actually complimented the original colour scheme perfectly, and when I later bought my range cooker, it became a real centrepiece in my kitchen, a contemporary oven rather than a classic, exactly what I wanted.

My Perfect Range Cooker
This was the Ethos 100 Range Cooker by Rangecookers Appliances, priced at £2,420, almost matching exactly my budget, but I would’ve chosen this cooker anyway- It had exactly what I was looking for: Strikingly bold cavity doors in pillar-box red with stylish stainless steel sides, control panel, handles and hob which complimented our fridge perfectly. It was the double cavity cooker I wanted, both ovens containing an integrated grill, so that I can grill whenever I need to. The 61litre oven also meant there’d be no difficulty at all in getting an absolutely giant Christmas turkey in, and doubtless along with the smaller cavity of 35litre, I’d be able to cook up a complete feast. Oven furniture was included and both have wipe-clean enable, but I decided to take the option of catalytic liners, which absorb any dirt and grease. They’re disposable which means that I don’t have to take time out of being with my children to clean hardcore dirt out of my ovens.

Considering that I got a free matching stainless steel hood with my cooker, I decided to spend the remainder of my budget on the optional pizza stone for my oven, which cooks up pizzas in four minutes flat and has been a real hit with my children. What’s taken my husband and I however is the rotisserie function in the 2nd oven, which makes meat really juicy and tender, although my personal favourite part of this dual-fuel cooker is the single handed ignition hob: 8 rings including two wok burners (exactly what I wanted), a fish kettle burner and a hotplate. I also bought the optional griddle, getting carried away somewhat by the excitement of all the cooking options I now had!

Something I didn’t fully appreciate until I had it is the quiet oven operation on this cooker- it makes for a peaceful home…well, except for when the children are running round the kitchen, but I’m a lot happier about them doing it now since my range cooker has facia cooling, which means that the control panel isn’t hot and reduces the risk of them burning themselves, something I’m very grateful for. I also try to make our family as green as possible: triple glazed windows mean little heat can escape, and both the ovens in my side-by-side cooker are energy rated A, so are the most energy efficient available and on top of that should only have to cost me around £60 a year to run, reducing our electricity bills considerably!

As for choosing the brand, it really wasn’t an issue. I knew I could trust Rangecookers Appliances - well with a name like that, it’s going to know about range cookers (!) - It’s an established brand and reviews I’d read told me of it being “a popular choice”, quality and stylish, I’d definitely have to agree.

Contributed by:

Priscilla Armstrong
(Busy Mum of 3)