1. Home

Find the Best Cooking Range for Your Kitchen

Ranges 101 - From Buying to Caring

By

It's often said that the kitchen is the heart of the home and that places the cooking range in the central, most important room of the home.  Whether you're a gourmet chef or only cook occasionally, a cooking range is an essential home appliance. 

Range design, convenience and time-saving features have greatly improved over the years and this has inspired many homemakers to cook and bake.  And with today's economic awareness, there's been a return to the basics - homemade goodness that's fun to make.  If you're buying your first home appliances or replacing your existing range, my tips will help you to chose the right stove for your kitchen.  And I'll also give you some good tips on how to care for it.

 

1. Types of Cooking Ranges

Cooking ranges come in either electric or gas fuel models and the decision is usually based on the availability of gas being serviced to the home.  Electric ranges are the most common but buying decisions include choosing a cooktop style and cooking type, as well as oven cooking type. 

Most standard ranges are 30" wide, but there are smaller and much wider models available, but with limited features.  While freestanding ranges are most common and the easiest to relocate when moving, slide-in or drop-in models are also popular with some, but require preplanning and special installation for a perfect fit beside or within cabinetry.

Cooktop Style:  Smooth-top vs Coil Element

  • Pros:  Smooth-top is more stylish and easier to keep clean; more choice of elements
  • Cons: Coil element ranges are the cheapest, familiar and require less special care
  • What's a Smoothtop Cooktop?

Cooktop Cooking:  Traditional vs Induction

  • Pros:  Traditional is familiar and cheapest, but induction cooking is fastest and uses less energy
  • Cons: Induction requires magnetic cookware while any pot can be used on a traditional coil or smooth-top cooktop
  • What is Induction Cooking?

Oven Cooking Types: Conventional or Convection

  • Pros:  Conventional ovens are cheaper and and cooking style is familiar
  • Cons: Convection requires adjustments to faster cooking and baking times
  • What's Convection cooking?

Range Installation Options:  Freestanding, Slide-in or Drop-in

Other Buying Tips:

 

2. Important Range Features

Best features include capacity for the oven - whether you can get two baking sheets on the same rack and a good variety and sizes of cooktop elements. Though coil elements are generally limited to four for a standard-size range, smooth-top models offer much more choice.

Besides two large and two small elements, options can include a warming element, as well as a combination of bridge or multi-size elements. Some ranges offer components which might include a grill depending on the model, size and installation. Interior as well as dash lighting is extremely important to improve visibility while cooking and reduce the risk of burns.

When cooktop lighting is minimal, an overhead range hood with light can be a good solution. And a range finish can be a best feature, but chose wisely.  Some finishes like stainless steel may be more difficult to keep clean than a white model. Where controls are located is more of a convenience and preference choice, but front controls which are common on a drop in or slide in range, are not suitable for every kitchen.

 

3. Bells and Whistles

The most common range feature is the self-cleaning function which saves a lot of hard work and time, though you will pay more for a range with this setting. Other features include those that improve convenience, ease of cleaning and enhanced cooking settings.

  • Self-cleaning function
  • Dual conventional plus convection cooking with auto conversion
  • Enhanced interior lighting
  • Easy to clean controls
  • Large oven
  • Variety of element styles and sizes: bridge, multi-size, warming, low simmer
  • Hidden Bake Element
  • Porcelain coated wire racks
  • Smooth-top ceramic or glass cooktop rather than coil
  • Sabbath Mode
  • Large viewing window
  • Preset cooking and baking cycles
  • Cookware storage drawer and/or warming drawer
  • Choice of finishes
  • On coil cooktops - a one piece top that can lift to clean under

4. Energy Efficiency - A Must to Save Money

While range cooking remains the main method of cooking foods for most, some have reaped some energy savings by using their microwaves, toaster or counter ovens, slowcookers or other cooking appliances for certain tasks as a way to save on energy use when cooking amounts are small.  Buy Energy Star qualified appliances when possible and compare Energy Guide ratings of various models to buy the range with the lowest estimated energy use. 

5. What Not to Buy

Because there's a learning curve with convection cooking, it's best not to buy this style of range, unless it has an auto-conversion feature which would eliminate a lot of time adjustments on your part, or you're committed to taking the time to adjust your cooking and baking times accordingly.

When it comes to induction cooking, this style of cooktop is quickly gaining popularity as an energy and time saver, but it requires a specially-designed type of cookware, which can mean a sizable investment to replace your current cooking pots, pans and skillets.

6. Price Ranges and Compare Prices

Range prices vary considerably due to the variety of cooktop elements, cooking choices and installation styles, but you can find a basic model for under $500, with slide-in, drop-in and convection oven cooking or induction cooktops costing several hundreds of dollars. A smooth-top range with conventional cooking and a nice variety of elements and features that include self-cleaning might be in the $900 range, while adding convection and several preset settings might increase the cost to around $1500.

Depending on your purchase cost, you may also want to consider buying an extended service contract for your new washer. If you're replacing a range, you may need to look at appliance disposal or donation options.

Compare Prices

7. Range Reviews

Along with comparing range prices, you should read reviews.  Some consumers will include important care and use tips in their appliance reviews, along with information on durability, reliability and cooking performance. This information is valuable to those shopping for a range.

To help others make their buying decisions, consider writing a review on your current or past cooking range.

8. Range Care, Use and FAQ's

A range requires a certain amount of care and maintenance to keep it in good operating condition.  But when it comes to a smooth-top cooktop, these need added care to keep them from scratching and looking nice. And to prevent spills from turning into a hazard, it's important to keep your range oven clean. Learn how to care properly for your new range.

9. Cooking Range Alternatives

While a freestanding range is probably the most common especially for apartment dwellers or those who move often, cooktops and wall ovens are also quite popular.  They do however require professional installation and may not fit well in every kitchen.  Cooktops and wall ovens are usually factored into the design when a home is built or a kitchen is renovated. 

Cooktops come in a variety of grill/griddle and element configuration and in various sizes. Wall ovens are generally in the 24" - 26" wide range and come in single or double oven designs and with or without a warming drawer.  Stylish in design and often more convenient that a traditional range, cooktops and wall ovens usually cost more and also impinge on space that might otherwise be for storage.

Microwave cooking has become a standard cooking option for many, but although most homes have a microwave oven, it's often deligated to specific cooking tasks, reheating and defrosting.

    Compare Prices

    10. Range and Cooking Accessories

    You'll need a few cooking implements to use with your new range, including pots, pans, stockpots and skillets for stovetop use and an assortment of sizes of roasting pans and bakeware.  Cooking utensils are also essential tools as are oven mitts and pot holders.

    Venting hoods are a must for gas-fueled ranges due to the much higher heat that should be exhausted from the kitchen and range hoods which may or may not provide venting but supply task lighting, can be very convenient and stylish.

    Compare Prices

    11. General Appliance Tips

    What to do if your appliance has been recalled or you've upgrade to a new model.  And there are reasons why it's a good idea to inform manufacturers of problems or areas where appliances could be improved.  Remember to review your product manual and keep it handy - it has lots of use information, as well as key tips on how to properly care for your new appliance.

    Promotional Feature: View this video series to learn how to take good care of your house.

    ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.