Using hobs and ovens

Your recipe will tell you whether to use a hob, an oven, a grill or a microwave, and at what temperature. Every cooker is different, but here is some general advice.

The most common arrangement is for four rings of varying sizes on the top (this is called the ‘hob’), with a grill and then an oven below.

Cooking on the hob

  • Choose the ring closest to the size of the pan you are using and place the pan on it.
  • If using a gas hob, make sure the flame does not reach up the side of the pan – it should reach no further than the edges of the pan base.
  • Use the correct dial to turn on the heat – check from your recipe whether it should be set at high, low or medium. If it doesn’t say, set the heat to medium.
  • Be prepared to adjust the temperature setting if it looks like the food is cooking too fast or too slowly.
  • Make sure that the pan handles are not over other rings, or sticking out into the kitchen where they can be knocked.

Using grills

  • Follow the instructions on your cooker and check from your recipe whether it should be at medium or high temperature.
  • Turn on the grill so that it can reach the right temperature before you start cooking.
  • Use the special grill pan to cook your ingredients cook below the heated grill.
  • Keep a close watch during grilling. Normally your recipe will tell you to turn the ingredients over half-way through cooking.

Using ovens

  • Do not put anything in the oven until it has reached the cooking temperature given in your recipe; this will take between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the oven and the temperature.
  • Temperatures for electric ovens are given in degrees (centigrade and Fahrenheit), and for gas ovens in ‘gas mark’ numbers. If your recipe does not give the right type of temperature for your oven, use the conversion table here.
  • Heating a whole oven uses lots of fuel and is expensive, so try not to use the oven for just one dish – see our page on planning meals.

Using microwave ovens 

  • Microwaves can be useful for quick reheating and defrosting.
  • You can also use them for heating milk, melting butter and cooking baked potatoes (if you are in a hurry or don’t want to use a whole oven).
  • Microwaves vary in power and complexity, but will all have different settings for different purposes (low for defrosting, high for fast cooking etc).
  • The higher the wattage of your microwave, the quicker your food will cook.
  • Ready-made microwavable food will give clear instructions on what setting to use and how long it will take.
  • Always use microwave-safe containers. Never use anything containing metal.
  • The heat within the food continues to cook it even when it has been removed from the oven; take note of any instructions about standing time.
  • Take care when removing cooked food from the microwave and when peeling back any covering. The container may not be hot, but the food inside it and any steam released will be.