These days, counter-top ovens (as opposed to built-in) offer non-bakers an inexpensive and quick way to begin their foray into making cakes, cookies, and the likes. With so many brands on the market each hawking their own capabilities, it is normal to feel overwhelmed with the abundance of options.
Firstly, in our most humble opinion, when it comes to home-baking for leisure bakers, the truth is that there is little importance in the differences between counter-top ovens of the same range between brands. It is therefore much more important to consider what you are after, and then narrowing down the ovens that suit you, as opposed to fixating on a brand before thinking about what you want from the oven.
Factors To Consider
The first thing to decide on is the type of oven you might require. In other words, what are you going to be using the oven for? If it’s merely to make a few slices of toast each morning, re-heat leftover bread, or even making a few simple cookies, a toaster oven will be sufficient. Toaster ovens are small, light, and use less energy than say, an electric oven. While baking a cake is not impossible in a toaster oven, most recipes aren’t written with that in mind.
Simply put, if you intend to roast chicken, bake cake layers, or more intricate treats like choux pastry (think profiteroles, cream puffs, éclair), consider an electric oven.
Knowing what you want to make with the oven will also help you determine what functions you’d like to see in the oven you purchase. For example, if roasting meats is a regular menu item for your family, then you’ll want an oven with a rotisserie function for spit-roasting meat.
2. Size & Space
Counter-top ovens, as its name suggests, take up space on the counter-top. Naturally, the more space you’re willing to allocate to the oven, the larger the capacity of the oven. This means the ability to cook more at the same time, roast an entire chicken together with vegetables, or bake multiple batches of sweets in one session. In Singapore, the largest capacity we’ve seen is 76L, while the smallest is about 19L.
If you intend to use the oven to make whole meals for your family every day, we’d recommend the largest capacity you can find. Otherwise, anywhere between 35L to 56L is good enough for leisure baking & cooking, which includes the above-mentioned rotisserie cooking.
Side-note: The Bakestarters test kitchen uses ovens ranging from 32L to 56L (and a built-in oven) to simulate most counter-top ovens in Singaporean homes. We’ve found that smaller ovens tend to hold less heat (when you open the door, most of the heat escapes), and thus baking time is increased. Using a higher temperature can help to compensate for a lack of heating in a small(er) oven.
3. Conventional Vs Convection
You know what you’d like to use the oven for, how often you’d use it, and the number of servings you’ll typically cater for - it’s time to dive a bit deeper into some oven technicalities. If you’ve been to any major electronics store and looked at the ovens, you might have noticed that some ovens come with a setting known as ‘Convection’. In recipes, some may write it as ‘fan-forced oven’.
A conventional oven heats up using one source of heat (sometimes two, depending on the oven), which is usually found at the bottom (top & bottom in certain models) of the oven.
A convection oven has the same setup, except with an additional fan & exhaust system that helps to circulate hot oven air around the food. What this means is that the food cooks & bakes faster, as well as more evenly.
Note: The recipes found in all our baking kits are baked with the more common conventional setting.
While convection baking provides benefits such as more even browning and faster cooking times, not all baked treats are suitable for convection baking. The blowing air will result in an uneven end product for foods that start off as wet batter and set during cooking (cakes and souffles).
Foods for Convection
- Roasting foods, such as meat & vegetables
- Dehydrating or Toasting
Foods not for Convection
- Lava cakes
Here’s the good news, most convection ovens provide you with the ability to switch off the setting (it is after all, a regular oven with an added fan system!). If your budget allows, we’d recommend getting an oven with both convection and conventional oven settings. Though it can be slightly pricier, it gives you more versatile usage and allows you to bake large batches without having to rotate your trays, due to the even circulation of hot air.
An Oven For Your Needs
And there it is. Three important factors for you to consider when picking out a new counter-top oven for your kitchen! We hope we’ve armed you with some essential knowledge and questions to start you off on your baking journey. If you would like to read more articles on home-baking in Singapore, sign up for our newsletter to get free baking tips and tricks delivered fresh to your inbox.