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.