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.