With interest in culinary arts rising, range manufacturers have gone beyond the basics, including pro-grade technology at every price point. Today's ranges offer a wealth of options when it comes to functionality, finishes, size, and oven capacity.
When shopping for a range, consider your cooking and baking needs, available floor space, and decorating preferences. The most commonly purchased ranges are fueled by gas or electricity. Gas ranges allow for precisely controlled temperatures, cost slightly less to run than their electric cousins, and need venting to the outdoors; electric ranges, either with exposed coil elements or smooth-top surfaces, don't immediately cool when the heat is turned down, but remain a favorite of American cooks. An induction-style range, the most energy-efficient stovetop, employs an electro-magnet below a ceramic surface that transfers heat to pots and pans. Dual-fuel ranges combine a gas stovetop with an electric oven.
Ranges vary in width from 24 to 60 inches, with professional-type stoves in the 36- to 60-inch range being the most expensive. Finishes are a matter of personal taste: stainless-steel and anodized finishes create an industrial feel; black finishes recede to further contemporary character; custom-color ranges suit retro- and Euro-style kitchens; and bisque and white are all-time traditional favorites.
In the end, budget often dictates choice. Here's an overview of what your money will buy.
A standard stove, priced between $400 and $1,000, measures 30 inches wide and is available in white, black, biscuit, or stainless-steel finishes. Models include slide-in and freestanding gas and electric ranges that sport four gas burners or four electric coil elements. Ovens provide 4-6 cubic feet of oven space, self-cleaning options, and broiling systems. You'll also find ranges equipped with high-power and low-simmer burners and convection ovens and smooth-top electric ranges in this price range.
Midpriced ranges, costing from $1,000 to $4,000, include the features of standard ranges but offer larger oven-door windows, high-tech temperature and timer controls, and enhanced culinary convenience. Many ceramic-top electric and induction stovetops are equipped with a zone for keeping side dishes warm until serving. Gas ranges might feature full-width or continuous iron burner grates (electric ranges might have a bridge element) that let you easily move pots around the stovetop. Many have five burners in varied sizes that fit different-size pans; some have reversible wok grates and warming drawers. Dual-fuel ranges appear in this price range, as do ranges with vertically stacked double ovens and ovens with extra rack settings and specialty racks.
Top-notch chef-style ranges -- priced from $4,000 on up -- offer custom-color exteriors or stainless-steel or anodized finishes; are available in widths of 30, 36, 42, and 60 inches; and feature restaurant-style downdraft or hood venting. Most have capacious single or side-by-side ovens (60-inch ranges offer 8 cubic feet of oven space), oftentimes pairing a convection oven with a conventional oven. Customizable stovetops combine high-powered brass burners, griddles, and grills that can be configured to suit your cooking style. Steam convection ovens, making the most of moisture, heat, and airflow, are available on some high-end ranges.
Range Buying Guide
If you're like most folks, your kitchen is first and foremost about cooking. Hi, I'm Lacey Howard, and the most popular range is still the tried and true one with four burners on top and an oven below, but there are so many choices, so let me show you what to consider when you're shopping for the range to suit your kitchen needs. Gas burners give you greater control and gas is an economical heat source. Electric burners are less responsive but they're easier to clean. Many bakers prefer the even heat of an electric oven. Torn between the two? Choose a dual fuel range. This range combines a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Whatever your heat source, the key to a responsive cook top is BTUs or British Thermal Units. Your cooktop should include a range of burners with different BTUs. For example, 1000 to 10,000 BTUs is ideal for general cooking. More than 10,000 BTUs is great for boiling, sauteing, and searing meat, and less than 1000 BTUs is appropriate for simmering or slow heating sauces. To determine the size of your range, be honest with yourself. Assess your cooking style and needs on a daily basis as well as for holidays and parties. Ranges are typically 30 inches wide, but there are options as slim as 24 inches and as wide as 60 inches. Always carefully measure the available space in your kitchen, width, depth, and countertop height. Look for a rangetop that includes everything you'll need. Four-burner cooktops are the most common options. Five and six-burner cooktops are available for busy home chefs. Smooth top ranges are sleek looking and very easy to clean. On many cooktops, you can change out some of the burners for grills, griddles, or other accessories. Consider how easy they are to clean and change. Ovens cook food in two main ways. Thermal is the conventional cooking method for both gas and electric ovens. One heating element is on the top for broiling, another is below for roasting and baking. In a convection oven, a fan circulates heated air, cutting cooking times up to 25%. Don't forget to consider the configuration of your range when you're shopping. A slide-in or a drop-in range has no back or side panels and its insulation is visible. Consequently, it must be placed between two cabinets. A freestanding range features finished side panels and so can stand alone or within cabinetry. Be sure to also assess your range's ventilation needs. Some ranges come with downdraft vents while others require you to purchase and install an overhead ventilation unit. If you're passionate about cooking, you can have a field day outfitting your range with all sorts of special features. Self-cleaning ovens have textured walls to absorb and burn away spatters. Digital displays allow you to set precise temperatures and exact cooking times. Downdraft vents pull steam and smoke down into the range and push it out through an exhaust duct. The look of a professional range like one you might see in a restaurant kitchen has become very popular. If this is the look you want, be sure you choose a range that's approved for residential applications. Professional ranges usually exceed code requirements in both wiring and weight. You want to choose a professional look or a professional grade range for your home kitchen. A pro-look range is wrapped in stainless steel and boasts restaurant-style knobs and grills. The unit's power, however, is similar to a standard gas or electric range. A pro-grade range is a high performance appliance designed for home use. It features more BTUs, heavier grates, and a higher level of control. Remember, if you choose a professional grade range, you must provide stronger ventilation. In addition to a great range, a warming drawer may make your culinary life easier especially if you enjoy cooking large meals or have to juggle multiple dinner schedules.