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Kitchen Stove Guide

Confused about ranges, cooktops, Btus, slide-ins, and built-ins? Skip the worry and read on for everything you need to know about buying a kitchen stove.

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A stove can work wonders, helping you cook more quickly, clean up easily, and manage your time more efficiently. If you're in the market for a new stove, help is here with this guide to common questions and a few insider tips on buying a kitchen stove.

Q: What's the difference between a range and a cooktop?

A: A range is the most common cooking appliance, with burners on the top and one or more ovens below. A cooktop, usually complemented by wall ovens, has only the burners.

Q: When buying a kitchen stove, what fuel choices do I have?

A: That depends on what you buy. If you purchase a range, you will have a single fuel source—either electric or gas—or a dual fuel source (a combination of the two with an electric cooktop and gas oven). If you buy separate appliances—a cook top and wall ovens—you can choose a mix of the two. Gas kitchen stoves have an open flame or a sealed top, typically with one or two larger burners (out of four). Electric-powered versions do not have a flame, but rather electric coils under a ceramic-glass surface. Induction is similar to electric, but with a few differences: While electricity generates the heat below a ceramic-glass surface, the cooktop stays cool to the touch. This is a quicker method than strictly electric-powered kitchen stoves, but requires special magnetic cookware. Electric stoves tend to be more affordable. But the fuel choice often comes down to a matter of personal preference in cooking style.

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Q: What size options are there when I'm buying a kitchen stove?

A: Whether you buy a kitchen stove that's a range or a cooktop, you'll find the standard sizes starting at 24 inches wide, and typically increasing by 6-inch increments. The biggest kitchen stove is a whopping 60 inches wide.

Q: I am buying a kitchen stove but don't understand the differences between freestanding, slide-in, and drop-in. Help!

A: The most common freestanding ranges sit on the floor, are self-contained, and typically about 30 inches wide (although narrower and wider models are available). Slide-in ranges do not have side panels and are designed to fit between cabinet openings. Unlike slide-ins, drop-ins must be fastened to the side cabinets. With both these models, controls are on the top or at the front. Another model gaining in popularity is a high-low range, which has a microwave oven at about eye height, often with an integrated vent for the stove, and a standard range below.

Q: When I'm buying a standard-size kitchen stove am I limited to four burners?

A: No. In fact, many residential kitchen stoves have really maximized options and accessories. When buying a kitchen stove, you may find a second (smaller) oven at the bottom or top of the appliance, a warming drawer, or a center cooking space with a griddle/grill combo—and that's on a standard size kitchen stove. You may also have options with an oven, such as convection heat, self-cleaning, built-in thermometer probe, and delay start.

Q: Speaking of convection, what does that mean?

A: Convection is an oven cooking method that uses a fan to circulate the oven air; this in turn bakes items more evenly and reduces time in the oven. When buying a kitchen stove, you'll find convection options in both electric and gas.

Q: What are the advantages of professional-type residential stoves and cooktops?

A: These models, styled to look like the appliances you see in commercial restaurants, also have extra finishes that make them good selections for heavy-duty cooks. Those may include downdraft or restaurant-style hood venting, high-performance Btu burners, and continuous grates. But be sure to investigate any installation restrictions—as well as budget requirements—before choosing one. There are plenty of standard kitchen stoves that mimic the look (with stainless steel and other options) without the price.

Q: I was researching buying a kitchen stove, and read an article about steam ovens. What are those?

A: Steam ovens, a fairly new product, are still not widely available; these kitchen stoves use steam to cook. Food tends to be more moist and retain original nutrients better when cooked in a steam oven.

Q: What about sealed burners? What are those?

A: Found only in gas cooktops, sealed burners are just that—sealed—in order to prevent cooking items and grease from getting into burner holes. A drip pan, which must be cleaned, catches debris.

Q: Am I limited to black, white, and stainless steel when buying a kitchen stove?

A: Absolutely not. Those are the most common finishes, but there are options, such as custom fronts and different knob finishes. As with most things, what you want is only limited by what you're able to spend.

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