These are described together because many people still prefer one free-standing cooker combining both functions, rather than the fashionable separate hobs and oven. And of course, if you are in rented accommodation or anywhere else where you do not intend to stay for a long time, it makes sense to put in a free-standing cooker you can take with you when you go; this is not so simple with the split-level, built-in variety. The range is large. For a start you will decide between gas and electricity. Once, it was usual to advise that gas was the cheaper running option.
It would be invidious to do so now, since ll fuel costs are high and gas prices do not appear to be much lower than electricity. Gas was said, on the other hand, to be dirtier than electricity, though with a weIl functioning extractor fan l have not personally found this to be true. Conversely, the disadvantages of electricity were said to be that ovens took longer to heat up, and hobs were less easily controlled. Now, there are ducted hot air systems in several makes of electric oven which mean they heat instantly and hobs are delicately controllable. Strikes? Either industry is susceptible.
Design? Some good, much bad in both camps. It is really a question of personal preference, or of being forced to use electricity because there is no gas available, which does happen in some country districts. You can, if you are having built-in appliances, opt for a gas oven and electric hobs, or vice versa, or even for hobs working on both fuels, or for a cooker which has an electric oven and gas hobs. Free-standing cookers can be very large, incorporat- ing double ovens, four hobs, a griddle and/or a grill, as well as a large storage drawer; or they can be very small with just a single oven. There is also a limited choice of very small cookers which stand on a work surface, and (apart from caravans) are really only suitable for bedsits. Many of the free-standing cookers – even the smaller ones – are available with ceramic cooking hobs which are not as fiendishly expensive as when they first appeared on the market, some of the more expensive ones have the ducted hot air system already mentioned, and some have grills with a dual circuit so that only a part of the grill need be heated to cook a small amount of food. Most freestanding cookers made on the Continent have the grill incorporated into the tcp part of the oven, a point worth remembering when considering the purchase of such a model. For it has a definite effect on cooking methods, and recipes for such things as spongecakes may have to be adapted accordingly. On the credit side, such cookers usually have a foId-down lid (there being no high-Ievel grill) which makes an extra work surface when no cooking is taking place on the hobs.
The built-in fittings are infinitely variable. The main components are: gas or electric ovens, either large or small, with or without grills; separate wall-mounted grills, a very few of which are available for building-in; gas or electric hobs or a mixture of both fuels; electric ceramic hobs in black, white or brown; and something which was only at prototype stage at the time of writing but is probably now in full production, induction hobs which are activated simply by the touch of the pan on the designated area (no central panels are necessary). In addition to all these things, there are some attractive ranges of separate hobs, deep-fryers, griddles and warm plates, any or all of which are intended to be set directly into the work surface. There is no doubt that if you are planning a kitchen for long-term use, this splitting of the oven and hobs dees epen up all sorts of interesting possibilities in the arrangements, as well as Iooking good.