How to choose ... an oven

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am

Smaller ovens: most cramped Hong Kong kitchens don't have space for full-size ovens, but a countertop model can be adequate. Depending on the model, a countertop oven can be either a glorified toaster or something capable of roasting a chicken. Choose carefully.

Features: the most basic models have two settings - on and off. Although they're more expensive, it's better to buy one with a dial for temperature control and a timer. Also useful is the option of controlling the heat source: only from the top (for toasting), bottom (good for crisping pizzas) or all-round heat (for regular baking or roasting).

Size: buy the largest you can afford: one big enough to roast a chicken is more versatile than one that fits only a single slice of pizza. Watch out for models that have large exterior dimensions but are proportionately small inside.

Pans: these ovens always come with at least one pan but if it has more, even better. Some models come with ridiculously small pans; larger is better. If you need additional pans in different sizes, a good place to look is the kitchenware shops on Shanghai Street (take the MTR to Yau Ma Tei and take exit C).

What else? Because many countertop ovens are streamlined, with little insulation to keep in the heat, they cool off quickly. Even briefly opening the oven door will make the temperature drop. If you're baking a cake, where the correct heat is essential, set the temperature control about 10 to 20 degrees Celsius hotter than you need and give it plenty of time to preheat. Put the item into the oven as quickly as possible, shut the oven door then lower the thermostat to where it should be.

Where to buy? Pricerite outlets have a good selection (tel: 2663 8833; or go to the home appliance shops on 7/F, Times Square in Causeway Bay, where you can compare models and prices.