Buying a Range
The big question is: Gas or Electric?
Many consumers prefer gas, but experts maintain that the difference in energy costs is negligible. Induction cooking, popular in Europe, runs on electromagnetic technology and wastes far less heat than either gas or electric. But, you would need magnetic cookware to use that cooking method and these ranges are highly-priced.
The flame on a gas range can be controlled with precision and is usually preferred by professional cooks because the flame will get hot and cool down instantly, but on the other hand, an electric range will boil water faster. Dual Fuel ranges combine gas cooktops with electric ovens. Convection ovens bake more evenly and about 25 percent more quickly. If you are baking cookies, with a convection oven, you can use all the racks at the same time without having to switch racks to ensure that the cookies don’t burn. There is an advanced convection feature that uses multiple fans to eliminate hot and cold spots in the oven. You need to decide how and what you cook before deciding on what type of range you need.
There is an endless array of features available for the buyer. Dual ovens allow you to bake two different items at different temperatures. Some ranges come with high output burners and low output burners so you can sear or simmer, as well as very low temperatures for delicate operations like melting chocolate. Continuous grates on electric ranges allow pots to be slid from burner to burner but those grates are usually heavier. Warming drawers, beneath the oven, keep food warm without drying it out. Steam can be used manually or automatically and will allow you to infuse roasts with moisture for a delicious meal. Delay cooking and WIFI connectivity allow you to start up the meat at any time without being anywhere near the kitchen. Griddles, Woks, and Grills are options that are available for the cooktop, mostly on professional ranges (see below).
A freestanding range is what most people think of when they think of a stove. It can fit anywhere and does not require any cabinetry. The sides are finished so it can stand on its own, if there are no cabinets are on either side. A slide-in range is designed to slide into its space and fit flush with the countertop. This prevents food from falling through the cracks. The controls are in the front so there is no backsplash to mar the look of the cabinetry and wall. Professional ranges feature up to eight burners and can measure up to 60 inches in width. They are ideal for preparing many different dishes at the same time.
Many people opt for a cooktop (stovetop without an oven beneath) instead of a freestanding range because their cabinetry does not have space for a freestanding unit. A professional rangetop is a slide-in appliance that is inserted between two counters. The cutout area is deep and tall and it extends through the front of the cabinets with the control knobs positioned on the front of the unit. The back of the rangetop is close to the wall so a separate backsplash needs to be installed to reduce the heat against the wall. Cooktops, on the other hand, require a smaller space to be cut out of the countertop for it to be installed. So, it is surrounded by counters. The knobs and cooking controls are located on the cooktop and out of reach of children. Glass cooktops, otherwise known as smoothtops, have the advantage of easy cleaning. One important feature to look for with these items is “hot surface warning lights” because the surface can remain hot long after the element has been turned off.
A range with a top that is easy to keep clean is a big plus. Electric units have coil tops (for easier cleaning look for porcelain drip pans) or smooth surfaces that can be easily wiped clean. Gas models have grates that need to be removed before cleaning. Seamless edges will prevent food from getting stuck in the tiny spaces. And, for most people, a self-cleaning oven is a must. Don’t assume that every oven has this feature. Be sure to check before you buy. There is also an option that features continuous cleaning ovens. Energy: Stoves are not on the list of Energy Star ratings because they are not big energy consumers.