Whether you're baking chicken nuggets or a from-scratch Thanksgiving feast, stove technology is evolving to ensure every dish comes out perfectly and the cook enjoys the process. Evaluating how you cook and how you plan to use your stove -- the combination of cooktop and oven -- can help you decide what types of options to look for while hunting down the perfect appliance for you.
First, decide how you want to heat your food. Decisions were once as simple as gas or electric, but now those are now combined with options such as dual fuel and induction, plus convection and steam-cooking options.
Controlled gas flames, measured in Btus, or British thermal units, heat open burners. According to Consumer Reports, the common setup is one small burner of about 5,000 Btus; one or two medium-power burners of 9,000 Btus; and one or two large burners of 15,000 Btus.
Another popular option for cooktops, electric burners heat food without a flame. Electric coils under a ceramic-glass surface warm the smooth cooktop. The coils heat the surface, which in turn heats the pot or pan. This stovetop option is typically the most affordable.
Similar to electric cooktops, induction cooktops harness the power of electricity to create heat. Induction cooktops feature electromagnetic coils below a ceramic-glass surface that transfer energy directly to the pot or pan above the coils, keeping the cooktop cool to the touch. Induction heats quickly and more efficiently than gas or other electric options, but requires magnetic cookware, which is easily found at most retailers. In recent years, induction cooking has surged and is now available in many mainstream brands.
While most gas and electric ranges include a standard oven -- or two -- there are other options available for more specific cooking needs.
Dual fuel refers to ranges that mix a gas cooktop with an electric oven for more precise cooking.
Steam is an emerging technology with limited availability. Steam cooking allows food to retain natural moisture and nutrients.
One-Touch Function: Need to cook a frozen pizza? There's a button for that! Frigidaire caters to busy families who use their ovens most often for frozen pizzas or chicken nuggets. This one-touch function sets the perfect temperature and cook time for these favorite quick meals.
Double Ovens: Mainstream brands such as Frigidaire and Samsung are bringing double ovens to the masses -- in a smaller size. Slightly larger than a regular range, the oven compartment can be split into two with a removable center panel creating two separate cooking chambers.
When buying a new stove, make sure you keep the size of your kitchen in mind. For a small kitchen, a range with multiple features, such as a convection oven and cooktop griddle, effectively maximizes space. A standard range is 30 inches wide, though there are models out there as narrow as 24 inches and as wide as 60 inches.
Stove/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---- The 4-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 2? Choose a Dual-Fuel Range. This range combines a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Whatever your heat source, the key to a responsive cooktop is BTU's or British Thermal Units. Your cooktop should include a range of burners with different BTU's. For example, 1,000 to 10,000 BTU's is ideal for general cooking. More than 10,000 BTU's is great for boiling, sauting and searing meat, and less than 1,000 BTU's 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 range top that includes everything you'll need. 4-burner cooktops are the most common options. 5 and 6-burner cooktops are available or 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 2 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 Drop-in Range has no back or side panels and its insulation is visible. Consequently, it must be placed between 2 cabinets. A Freestanding Range features [unk] 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 vent 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 put steam and smoke down into the range, and put 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 ProGrade Range is a high-performance appliance designed for home use. It features more BTU's, 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 double multiple dinner schedules.