How to Choose a New Stove or Range
Tips for buying cooking appliances
"Start by considering your cooking habits," says certified kitchen designer Mary Jo Peterson, author of Universal Kitchen and Bathroom Planning. That, she says, means being conscious of what (and how) you like to cook. For example, if you love to use a wok, look for a cooktop with at least one high-BTU burner. Sincere about your sauces? Select a model with a precision simmering option. Baker extraordinaire? Find the oven (or ovens) of your dreams.
Here are five other stove shopping criteria to consider:
1. The fuss about fuel
Do you want gas or electric? Bakers typically prize an electric oven for its even heating, but serious home cooks also like the instant response offered by gas burners on top. If you feel passionate about both these options, consider a dual-fuel range, which offers an electric oven paired with gas burners.
2. Burn, baby, burn
How the burners are sized and arranged can help or hinder your cooking style. "The distance between burners and the locations of the large versus the smaller elements impact how you'll cook," Peterson says. Look for models with staggered large and small burners, she suggests. "So if you're cooking on multiple burners, there's room for a large pot next to a small one, rather than two large pots trying to fit next to each other. This becomes less an issue on larger cooktops, and is more of an issue on 30-inch ranges or cooktops."
One configuration you should avoid: two large burners in front of two smaller burners. "If you have two large pots in front, it is difficult to access a small pot behind," she says. "There are many stove top or cooktop configurations. Just be sure your favorite pots and pans will fit so the heat hits the base correctly. You don't want a big pot on a small burner."
This is also a good time to talk about induction "burners," which use an electromagnetic coil that never becomes warm to the touch. Top one with an iron-bottom pan, however, and the electromagnetic coil causes molecules in the iron pan to vibrate and generate heat from the pan itself. The coil senses the size of the pan and adjusts accordingly, using 60 percent less energy than gas and cooking two time faster than an electric cooktop. The down side is that you must use flat-bottom pans made of iron for the induction cooking to work—copper and non-magnetic stainless steel won't work.
A range features an oven cavity below the cooktop—some ranges feature two ovens below.
"Even if you buy a range with an oven," Peterson says, "if you love to bake, you might also want a separate wall oven. That's because, with everyday use, there's a lot of bending and lifting involved with a range. A wall oven promises no bending."
If you're considering two wall ovens, think about installing them side-by-side if space allows, rather than stacked. "This allows both ovens to be at a no-bending-required height," Peterson says. Check out convection cooking too. A quality convection oven runs on electricity and features a fan that circulates heat from three heating elements. Food bakes or roasts more evenly, more quickly, and at a slightly lower temperature than in a conventional radiant oven. Convection is also handy for baking multiple trays of goodies at one time.
Some manufacturers offer ovens with a steam option as well, which help keep foods moist. The downside is that steam can't brown foods, so a dry heating option is often needed.
4. Sizing up costs
- A basic range is 30 inches wide with prices from about $250 to $750. Be sure to measure the space you have available: sizes start at 24 inches wide and go up to 60 inches wide.
- If you have a little more to spend, take a look at an electric smooth top for each cleaning or a five-burner gas range. These run from $600 to $3,000. At the higher end of this price-point, you can choose a slide-in model, convection or double ovens, and a stainless steel finish.
- A pro-style range may be more to your liking—expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $6,500 for a gas 30-inch stainless steel model with burners as powerful as 12,000 Btus.
- For a true professional grade range or one that operates ondual fuel, pull out your pocketbook and expect to pony up at least $1,750 and up to $9,000 or more. Go for lots of bells and whistles, such as a grill/griddle option and super-powerful 15,000 BTU burners and a double oven, and you could spend $16,000 or more in this category.