The Ultimate Range & Oven Buying Guide
Whether totally remodeling a kitchen or replacing an old range, oven, or cooktop, the options for new cooking appliances available today may be surprising, particularly to those who don’t identify as foodies.
Even the terminology used to describe various configurations and specifications you need to choose between can seem like a foreign language: convection, induction, dual-fuel, drop-in, freestanding, etc. All of the choices can be overwhelming – a lot like buying a car, really. And like buying a car, it’s best to identify basic needs first before getting hooked on extra features that raise the cost.
Today’s post covers everything you need to know as you begin shopping for ovens and ranges while demystifying some of the terms you’ll encounter. Here’s what you need to know.
First Things First: Think about Cooking Habits
Before shopping for a range, it is best to review your current cooking habits. Those who use the stove mostly to boil water and the oven to heat up frozen dinners can save money by getting a reliable appliance that doesn’t come “fully loaded” with extra features they’ll never use. However, amateur gourmets who love to cook and entertain may relish all the extras.
If you didn’t know already, stoves and ovens can be separate appliances. So-called “cooktops” can be installed in a counter, leaving the space below for cabinets instead of having an oven below. Ovens that are separate from a stove are called wall ovens and can be installed at more convenient heights in single or double configurations for more versatility in the kitchen.
When the stove and oven are combined in the same appliance, it is called a kitchen range—or range for short.
Ranges can be freestanding, drop-in, or slide-in. Freestanding ranges have finished front and side panels, and so they can be placed anywhere. Drop-in ranges do not have finished side panels, and are placed down into the counter and surrounded by cabinetry. The bottom front of these ranges is also unfinished and requires that a strip of cabinetry wood, like a kick plate, covers this area. Slide-in ranges are the most common design, and as their name implies, simply are pushed into the space between two cabinets and countertop. Like drop-in ranges, slide-ins do not have finished sides, though they are finished all the way to the floor—some incorporate storage or warming compartments in this area below the oven.
All of these appliances come in various sizes. Here at K&A Appliance, we mainly carry 20”, 24”, or 30” range sizes. Stoves can have four to eight burners, and some gas models even have a grill.
Ovens also vary in capacity, typically from two to six cubic feet. For those who need to bake a roast at one temperature while simultaneously heating rolls at another, there are double ovens and ovens with special drawers that can cook at a different temperature than the main chamber.
In general, those cooking for a large family or who frequently entertain might benefit from larger ranges. But the average cook may be just fine with something smaller. Either way, the deciding factor on size tends to come down to available kitchen space.
After identifying cooking habits, the next step is to measure your current appliances to see how wide and tall they are, particularly if the new appliances will need to fit in that same space.
Gas or Electric…or Both?
Gas ranges are desirable because they afford more control over cooking temperatures. When turning a burner’s flame down, the temperature drops faster than on an electric stove, whose cooking surface holds the heat longer. Gas burners also heat more evenly than coiled electric burners. However, gas burners take longer than electric stoves to bring a pot of water to boil.
Gas ranges require natural gas or propane hookup to the home. If the home doesn’t already have that, adding it will be an additional cost. On the plus side, gas stoves can still work during an electric power outage.
Although gas stoves are loved by cooks because of their responsiveness to temperature changes, gas ovens are not as well-liked because they don’t bake as evenly as electric ovens. So, a modern, popular solution to this problem is the dual-fuel range, which combines gas burners with an electric oven.
Electric Range Options
No matter what kind of electric range is being considered, it will need a 220-volt hookup. Some ranges directly plug into a 220-volt outlet, while others, for safety reasons, need to be hardwired to that hookup. If an appliance does need to be hardwired, be sure to consider installation.
Coiled or Glass Top
Classic electric coiled stove burners remain the least expensive of electric stove options. However, these burners don’t heat as evenly. They also take longer to heat up and cool down, making them less responsive when going from boil to simmer. Also, they are much more difficult to clean than flat glass stovetops.
Smooth top ranges solve the cleaning problem while also affording a few extra features that enhance efficiency. For example, most glass or ceramic stoves feature expandable burners with two diameter size options. When using a small pot on an expandable burner, only the center area needs to be heated, but when a larger pot is used, the additional outer heating element can be turned on as well. Some such ranges even have elements filling the space between two round burners so that a skillet or large casserole pan can be heated across that entire area.
Glass or ceramic tops are sleek and modern looking, but they are also more fragile than coiled burners. Any cookware that is used on them must be perfectly flat on the bottom, otherwise hot air and moisture can get trapped in indented spaces, causing the glass or ceramic surface to crack.
Additionally, cast iron cookware and woks tend to be too rough for these tops and will scratch them. Depending on the surface and manufacturer, other precautions may need to be considered. Be sure to review those before making a purchase.
Conduction vs. Induction
Glass or ceramic stoves use either conductive or inductive heating. Conductive means the stove’s elements heat up and transfer that heat to the pot, while inductive heating means that the elements never get hot but rather produce electromagnetic pulses that cause pots to heat up. For this to work, however, pots must be made of a metal containing iron.
Inductive stove surfaces never get hot themselves, making them safer for children as well as more energy efficient. However, only pots with enough iron content for magnets to stick to them will work on inductive stovetops. People with stainless steel cookware will likely need to purchase all new cookware.
There are oven options available to meet every cook’s needs. The traditional, electric, single oven with multiple shelves remains the least expensive, particularly if part of a range. Like stoves, ovens can be electric or gas. Though, gas ovens tend not to bake as evenly as electric.
Gas and electric ovens can be either conventional or convection. Conventional means they have one heat source, usually at the bottom of the chamber. This can cause the oven to be hotter on the bottom shelves.
On the other hand, convection ovens, in addition to having a main heat source, also have an internal fan that continuously circulates the heat to bake everything evenly no matter which shelf is used.
Some ovens feature a convection setting so cooks can bake with or without the fan. Using convection is more energy efficient and reduces the temperature at which foods need to be cooked. However, most recipes’ cooking temperatures and times are for conventional ovens, so adjustments will need to be made when using a convection oven.
Those who entertain a lot or just like to cook may want the versatility of a double oven or an oven with an additional baking drawer. Double ovens are ovens with two separate chambers. Each chamber can be heated to different temperatures. Double ovens can be great energy savers because when baking small items, only the smaller chamber needs to be used and will heat up faster than a standard size single oven.
Double ovens that are part of a stove range can have a smaller maximum capacity. The oven’s maximum capacity is limited to the size of the larger of the two chambers. Those who cook large turkeys may need to consider if a range double oven will be sufficient. Also, to allow for the most room, double oven ranges do not have a bottom storage drawer for baking pans. Finally, the bottom chamber is lower to the ground than traditional range ovens, making it more difficult to lift that heavy turkey up to the counter.
Double ovens that are wall units come in larger sizes and can be installed at more convenient heights.
Ovens now have additional features for every type of cook. Those who like to dehydrate fruits, meats, and veggies, no longer need a separate dehydrator—they can get an oven that has a dehydrator setting. And those who like to bake bread can get an oven that has a built-in steamer to ensure softness.
Whether on a range or as a counter cooktop, stoves now have additional safety options too, like hot surface indicators and automatic turn-off.
For home automation enthusiasts, some ranges even now have smart technology. They have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity so the stove or oven can be controlled with a smartphone or other smart technology devices, like Amazon’s Alexa. This feature is great for those who are never sure they remembered to turn off the stove or for those who just want to manage cooking from the living room.
As with all appliances, the more extra features it has, the more things can go wrong. But don’t worry, K&A Appliance has a full parts, service, and repair department to support our customers’ appliances! If you still have questions or you’re ready to shop, contact us or visit our friendly showrooms in Lancaster and Willow Street, PA today!