As their name suggests, wall ovens (also known as built-in ovens) are recessed into a wall. They offer flexibility in terms of kitchen layout and may even help save space. Opting for a wall oven requires consumers to purchase a separate cooktop, which can be installed in a countertop or kitchen island. A range, by contrast, combines the oven and cooktop into one unit. Most consumers prefer ranges because they tend to cost less than a separate cooktop and wall oven. Shoppers can buy a standard, no-frills range for less than $500, while the cheapest oven-cooktop combo will cost at least $1,000. ConsumerSearch has separate reports on ranges and cooktops.
While the vast majority of today's wall ovens are electric, it is possible to find a gas model. Experts generally recommend electric wall ovens, which heat more evenly. Regardless of power source, most wall ovens are 30 inches wide. Compact versions that measure 24 or 27 inches in width, while less common, are also available. Single ovens are the most common, but manufacturers also offer single-double and double ovens that allow cooks to prepare food at different temperatures. Single-double ovens have the capacity of a single oven divided between two smaller ovens, while double models include at least one full-size wall oven and are usually stacked on top of each other.
Consumers can expect to pay at least $1,000 to $2,000 for a good wall oven. We found some budget ovens that cost less, but most of these are compact wall ovens (less than 30 inches in width). You'll also have to budget in the cost of a cooktop when you buy a wall oven. Cooktops range in price from around $600 for a decent budget model to $2,000 for a unit with fancy features. Nearly every wall oven comes with a one-year warranty.
While Thermador wall ovens, including the Thermador ME301ES (*Est. $2,600) , post high scores in independent tests, a reader survey from ConsumerReports.org finds the brand to be less reliable overall, with about 30 percent of owners reporting problems with their Thermador wall ovens within five years of ownership. In June 2007, about 42,000 Thermador wall ovens were recalled because the insulation had gaps, posing a fire hazard to nearby cabinets when the oven was in self-cleaning mode. Another 37,000 Thermador wall ovens were recalled in January 2010 for the same problem.
Thermador isn't the only manufacturer to recall wall ovens because of fire hazards. In December 2007, about 92,000 GE and Kenmore microwave/wall oven combos were recalled because of an overheating door switch. In May 2008, Frigidaire recalled 7,500 Kenmore gas-powered wall ovens because of fire and explosion risks when using the broiler. In November 2008, GE recalled another 244,000 wall ovens because of door attachment problems that could cause nearby cabinets to overheat and catch fire during the self-cleaning cycle. To protect yourself, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website prior to any purchase to see the newest product recalls.'
Overall, we found few professional reviewers that test wall ovens. We did find one detailed, thorough test at ConsumerReports.org that covers more than 15 electric wall ovens. (Some of these models are discontinued, so the editors have recommended similar models on the basis of their earlier tests.) Each oven is rated on capacity, baking and broiling. The site also includes a survey of brand reliability, in which more than 19,000 readers report on the repair rates for wall ovens they own. We also consulted consumer magazines Which? from the U.K. and Australia's Choice, but the wall ovens reviewed in those publications are not available in the United States. A 2008 article in SmartMoney magazine puts five wall ovens to the test at the hands of a professional chef, but that review focuses exclusively on high-end products (in the $4,000 range).
To supplement these opinions, we sought out user reviews. Unfortunately, there are fewer comments available for wall ovens than for many other appliances. We did find some at online appliance retailers like Sears.com and AJMadison.com. Aggregator review sites like Buzzillions.com and Google Shopping proved somewhat more helpful, as they bring together reviews from a wide variety of sources. However, these sources include some duplicate reviews that have been posted at more than one site. To avoid potential conflicts, we have not counted recommendations from these sources when they overlap with any other user-review source that recommends the same model.
Finally, to evaluate the overall reliability of particular brands, we consulted the annual customer-satisfaction survey conducted by J.D. Power and Associates. In the 2011 survey, more than 4,000 consumers rate their cooking appliances on such factors as style, performance, price and ease of use. No individual products are rated, however, and the ratings are not broken down among ranges, ovens and cooktops.