Dreaming of more space to cook for your family and friends? A range cooker could be your answer. No longer found only in big country kitchens, they're now popular in all kinds of homes. Providing you with between 30cm and 60cm more space than a standard cooker, they'll give you extra oven and hob space, a grill, a wok burner, a warming compartment and a griddle - all in one convenient place.
Range cookers offer a variety of great features you'll quickly find you can't live without. Here are just some of them. When choosing your cooker, check it has all the ones you need most.
Think of a conventional single oven with its one cavity (that's the area your Sunday roast goes into). The classic range cooker give you four cavities: two ovens, a grill and a warming compartment. This means you can cook a number of different dishes at different temperatures all at the same time - handy if your family is large or you're entertaining a lot of guests.
The bacon's ready, but the eggs need a little longer. Pop your rashers in your range cooker's warming compartment. They'll come out at the perfect temperature as soon as your eggs are ready to serve - and won't be overcooked. Of course, warming bacon is only one use for a warming compartment. You could also use it to warm through your plates before you dish up.
Exactly what you'd expect - a standard oven with heating elements at the top and bottom. The hot air circulates naturally, just like in a traditional oven.
Still has the same heating elements top and bottom like a conventional oven, but with an added plus - a fan built in that pushes hot air around the cavity. Great for cooking at lower temperatures, making it ideal if you're looking to save energy (and money).
Depending on which model you buy, you might have a grill with standard elements or one that uses hot air for perfectly even cooking and optimum temperature control.
Handy for switching between conventional and fan-assisted cooking within a single oven.
If your range has a standard electrically powered ceramic hob, you'll be able to use all your favourite pots and pans on it. But if you go for an induction hob, you'll need special pans with a particular base to conduct the heat. The beauty of induction cooking is that the hob itself remains cool to the touch - only the pan heats up. Ceramic hobs are convenient because they're simple to wipe clean.
Lots of cooks prefer gas hobs, saying they're better for controlling temperatures more precisely. One thing is for certain - gas hobs can be messier to clean if you have a lot of food spills. On the upside, most modern gas hobs now have flame supervision devices (FSDs) to shut off the gas if it fails to ignite or the flames go out. A great safety feature to give you peace of mind.
Most range cookers have electric ovens and grills and a gas hob with one large burner. This gives you the convenience of easy-to-control burners, plus an electric oven's even cooking temperatures - a popular combination.
A griddle is usually a large cast-iron slab, sometimes ridged, sometimes flat, heated by gas or electric burners. A ridged surface is ideal for searing meat or vegetables - leaving those characteristic lines on food, and also draining any excess fat. A flat griddle is great for pancakes or frying eggs.
Perfect for quickly sizzling meat, shellfish or vegetables, a stainless steel hot plate is also useful for cooking bacon and eggs cafe style. You can even use it like a Japanese Teppanyaki plate.
Many range cookers come with a roasting dish fitted inside the oven door, so it slides out easily as you open the door. Handy when you need to baste regularly - no hunting around for oven gloves.
A high-powered wok burner is great for more than sizzling stir-fried meals. Use it to heat water quickly, too. Your range might also come with a support to make your wok sit safely on the hob. As this also raises it, a more fierce heat is directed to the bottom - perfect for fast searing foods.