If you do a lot of cooking at home, you know how critical it is to have a great range. All ranges do a pretty good job at the basics, but that’s where the similarities end. Modern ranges, which include a cooktop and an oven, offer a variety of features, cooktop styles, and fuel types. With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Here’s what you need to know before buying.
Unit type. The most common type of range is the freestanding unit. Because the sides are finished, these models are versatile and work well in different locations. Drop-in ranges sit on a base cabinet. They offer a built-in look, but don’t have the bottom drawer for storage. Slide-in units are manufactured to fit between cabinets. Typically, they don’t have the back control panel and the cooktop is slightly larger than the rest of the oven to prevent spills from dripping between your stove and cabinet.
Fuel Source. Ranges use electricity, gas, or a combination of both to generate heat. Gas is fast, powerful, and easy to control. Electric ovens tend to be more consistent. Most people have a preference, but consumers tend to purchase a range based on the availability of gas in their kitchens. Having a gas line installed can be costly. If you have gas, dual-fuel ranges, which combine a gas cooktop and an electric oven, are a great option.
Cooktop. Those awful coil burners are a thing of the past. Smooth glass cooktops use radiant heat to cook food. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to clean, but they retain a lot of heat so it’s hard to lower cooking temperatures. Gas cooktops aren’t as easy to clean up, but they are powerful and easy to adjust. Induction cooktops offer similar speed, power, and adjustability to gas cooktops, with a cleanable, smooth glass top. Keep in mind, however, induction uses magnets to generate heat, so these ranges won’t work with all types of cookware. Induction models can be pricey. Extra burners, warming burners, and double burners (also called bridges) are nice, but they add to a range’s cost.
Features. It’s hard to tell which features are worth the added expense. Convection ovens promise shorter cooking times and more even baking by circulating air. This is especially helpful if you cook large items like roasts. Consumer Reports testers also liked the flexibility offered by double ovens. Control options such as delayed start and locks are also helpful, as are racks that slide all the way out. Don’t forget about self-cleaning; most models come with it because it’s so popular. Variable broil settings, warming drawers, and dough-proofing capabilities are also available, and might be worth the expense for hard-core home chefs.
Budget. A basic electric range with few features can cost as little as $200. Higher-end models with convection heating, induction tops, and other features are priced well over $2,000.