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From gas to electric, ranges now come in a wide range of options. Some cooktop ranges are inserted into a countertop and have a matching wall oven that is installed separately. There are free-standing models--range and oven combos--that have panels on both sides and can stand alone in the kitchen. There also are slide-in models, which have no side panels or backsplash and fit between two cabinets. Then there are drop-ins, which are fueled by electricity only, and are installed between cabinets on a pedestal with no bottom drawer below oven. Here's an overview of the types of ranges and combos you'll find on the market:
This style offers more flexibility in terms of placement because the cooktop and wall oven aren't connected. However, it requires more installment/carpentry expertise in many cases than a freestanding range.
Price: $250 to $1,500 for cooktops; $400 to $2,000 for wall ovens
The range and oven are all-in-one. These typically cost less than cooktop and wall oven combos. They are easier to install in most cases, but the oven and range height are fixed.
Price: $700 to $1,599
They fire up quickly and you always know when they're on. They are powered by natural gas, which has to be available in your community, or liquid propane, which you have to buy and have delivered. They are slightly more expensive to buy than electric ranges but are slightly less expensive to operate. They can come with unique burners for very fast high-temperature heat (searing, boiling) and for gentle low-temperature heat (simmering). Look for sealed burners for easier cleanup. Another plus: You can cook during power outages.
Price: $250 to more than $21,000
Cooking power: British thermal units per hour (Btu/hr), the standard heat-output measurement, ranges from 5,000 to 12,500.
Width: 20 to 40 inches
Gas cooktop for quick response with good temperature control, including an electric oven for more even heating.
Price: $850 to more than $6,000
Width: 30 to 40 inches
With electric ranges you have less control over heat output--for example, water can take longer to boil. However, you can get better overall performance from the oven. Models are slightly less expensive than gas ranges but also cost a bit more to operate from month to month.
Price: $220 to $4,000
Width: 20 to 36 inches
Coil types:Electric ranges come with a wide range of burner types, including:
Convection is an oven option that uses fans to circulate heat more evenly throughout the oven, which cooks food faster while using less energy and heat. One plus is that there is no need to place cooking trays on certain levels of the oven since heat is distributed evenly. You can switch between conventional baking and roasting and/or convection baking and roasting. In addition to convection, another speedier cooking option is trivection, which uses thermal heating, convection, and microwave heating power.
Price: $1,000 to more than $6,000
Width: 30 to 60 inches
With the home chef and kitchen upgrade trends, some people want the professional look and power of a commercial range. Most commercial-style ranges have at least four and sometimes up to eight burners. They generate high heat output (typically 15,000 Btu/hr.), which requires more cooking finesse. One downside of these ranges: They sometimes have a high-repair history.
Price: $4,000 to more than $21,000
Width: 30 to 60 inches
When it comes to picking range/oven size, consider how much you really cook, how much value you want your kitchen to add to your home (kitchens often sell a home these days), and how big an oven you need to keep your family well fed. After measuring how much range/oven space your kitchen can handle, consider these general guidelines as well:
One to two people:
You'll need 2 to 3 cubic feet of oven space.
Three to four people:
You'll need 3 to 4 cubic feet of oven space.
Four or more people:
You'll need more than 4 cubic feet of oven space.
Features depend on whether you go with gas or electric; here's a general breakdown:
High-power burners or elements: Good for quick boiling and other cooking tasks that require more heat such as quick boiling or searing. Most ranges have one or two high-power burners, and commercial-style ranges may have more.
Medium burners or elements: Good for all basic tasks.
Low or "simmer" burner or element: Good for slow cooking and simmering.
Wok burner can be an option.
Grates: The pricier the range, the more heavy-duty the grates. Materials range from thin steel to porcelain-coated cast iron to brass as well as a weightier cast iron. Also, continuous grates allow you to slide a pot from one burner to another.
Bridge element: This is an extra element that bridges one burner to another so that you can use griddles or other large pans with maximum efficiency.
Different-size elements: Accommodates round pans in many sizes.
Warning light: A light that lets you know when a burner is still hot, even though it has been turned off.
Depending on whether you go with gas, electric, or the convection option, you should find the following basic features:
Self-cleaning cycle: Burns off oven residue and build up using high heat. Self-cleaning ovens also tend to have more insulation. Some models come with a self-cleaning countdown display.
Racks: Most ovens offer five or more oven rack positions.
Smart timers: Some models now offer programmable timing options, such as start cook and stop cook, to automatically turn off the oven when the timer buzzes.
Automatic door lock: Models may include an automatic lock for the self-cleaning cycle and some come with child locks, too.
Broil: Models may come with broil setting or high and low broil settings, for meats of different cuts.
Window: Many models now come with a large, clear window so you don't have to open the oven door and lose heat to check on your food.
Touchpad controls: Beyond the basic dial, models that come with touchpad controls allow more control over temperature and timer settings or for custom cooking options. Others allow you to save your favorite recipes.
Ovens especially come with a wide range of advanced features for keeping food toasty and for the gourmet set.
Dehydration: Some models have a setting that allows you to dehydrate fruits and vegetables.
Sabbath mode: This feature keeps cooked foods warm on the Jewish Sabbath and holidays. For any host, this setting can also be a plus when you're hosting lots of guests and need to keep food warmed over a long period of time.
Warming drawer: This drawer warms food or you can use it for bread proofing (letting bread dough rise).
Internet or telephone remote control: Now you can use the Web or a phone to get dinner started. One model allows you to remotely access your oven from the Net or a landline or mobile phone. It works because the oven also doubles as a refrigerator and keeps your food fresh until you're ready to activate the oven remotely.
Touch screens: Flat-panel control screens throughout the house can enable you to control your oven via Microsoft Media Center Home Network.
Speedcook: This oven type is in the microwave family and can, for example, cook a turkey in 42 minutes. You can pick settings like bake, roast, broil, air crisp, dehydrate, or toast along with your preprogrammed recipes. Models can also include profiles (one model boasts 500) to automatically determine cook times and temperature.
Ventilation: Some models include downdraft ventilation that will suck up smoke, steam, and odors, eliminating the need for an overhead hood. Their effectiveness compared with over-the stove hoods, however, is debatable.
In general, cooking with natural gas is cheaper over the long run than cooking with electricity, especially if the range uses spark ignition over a pilot light, which runs continuously. Choosing an oven with a window is an energy-saver because you won't keep letting heat out to check the progress of your dish. Not using the self-cleaning mode more than once a month is another cost-saving tip. With electric ranges, it also pays to make sure you match the pot size with the burner.
According to the Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, here is an energy cost comparison of ovens based on cooking an average casserole. It assumes the cost of gas is 60 cents a therm, and electricity is 8 cents a kWh:
|Electric Oven||350||1 hour||2.0 kWh||$.16|
|Electric Convection Oven||325||45 minutes||1.39 kWh||$.11|
|Gas Oven||350||1 hour||.112 therm||$.07|
|Electric Frying Pan||420||1 hour||.9 kWh||$.07|
|Toaster Oven||425||50 minutes||.95 kWh||$.08|
|Electric Crockpot||200||7 hour||.7 kWh||$.06|
|Microwave Oven||"High"||15 minutes||.36 kWh||$.03|