The range is a central component in most kitchens. There is one main difference between a range, a cooktop, and an oven. A range combines both a cooktop and an oven into one appliance, whereas cooktops and ovens can be bought separately and installed in different areas of the kitchen.
Ranges tend to cost less than buying an oven and cooktop separately and you only have to deal with one installation. Of course, buying a combined appliance means you have almost double the considerations to take into account in finding the right one.
For many years, kitchen ranges came in two basic options: gas or electric. Serious cooks generally preferred gas stoves because they heat up quickly and give you more precise temperature control. But not long ago, a third option known as induction ranges came into the market. Though there are definite pluses for each type, most cooks choose their range based on the way they like to cook.
When it comes to cooktops, you have plenty of choices. Different burners generate different types of heat and offer varying cooking experiences, so it’s important to know what works best for you and your kitchen.
A gas range is an open burner heated by gas fuel. Gas ranges are often preferred for their ability to heat quickly and cook food evenly as well as their very precise temperature control. With gas ranges, you can move between different levels of heat on the stove within an instant. Because you can see the flame on a gas stovetop, you have a constant visual cue of how hot the burner is. Most have sturdy metal burner grates that hold pans evenly above the flame and are fairly easy to clean, though foods can bake onto the grates or under the burners. Gas ovens are known to heat less evenly and the air can be too moist for some types of dishes.
Gas rates better than electric in terms of energy use. You can expect to save on your monthly energy bills by going with a gas range, but you’ll spend a lot more to get your gas range set up if you don’t already have a gas hookup in the kitchen. You’ll need to talk with a licensed plumber to get an estimate for having gas pipes installed.
An electric range works great and for everyday meals, you can’t go wrong. Though it’s slightly more difficult to control exact temperatures on an electric range, most cooks get used to their stove and know how long it takes to heat a pan or boil water.
You’ll find electric ranges with coil stovetops and those with smooth tops. Coil stovetops are some of the cheaper options you’ll come across, whereas electric ranges with smooth cooktops tend to be some of the most expensive options on the market. You won’t get instant heat from a ceramic stove top, but you will still achieve great cooking results. Electric ranges are popular with many consumers because smoothtop stoves have a nice, sleek aesthetic and are easier to clean than gas stovetops, which have many parts you have to take apart and clean individually. For anybody that doesn’t have a gas hookup in their kitchen, an electric range will be the easiest option and cost you less to install.
One area where electric cooking does excel is in baking. Electric ovens heat consistently and more evenly than gas ovens. They also provide a drier air, which is much better for roasting and broiling. While experienced chefs usually prefer the precision of gas, experienced bakers prefer electric ovens, which produce superior baked goods since the heating is more even.
The induction range has become a very popular appliance in recent years. These stoves provide the clean, smooth cooktop appearance of the electric range with the fast, easy-to-control temperatures of a gas stove. And they’re a bit of an amazing technology—they use electromagnetism to heat your pans and cook your food. That being said, your cookware must be made of a magnetic-based material such as stainless steel or cast iron.
Metal coils lie beneath each burner zone. When you turn on the power, current runs through the coils creating a magnetic field. You can touch the burner area with your hand and it won’t feel hot. But when you put a stainless steel pan on the cooking zone, the magnetic field causes the steel to heat up by transferring the electrical currents to the pan. Induction ranges provide efficient cooking and fast pan heating. You can easily control temperatures much like with a gas range. And since the cooktop area is smooth, you can wipe up spills and splashes with ease and you can create the same meals as with a gas range, but foods won’t bake onto the surface.
For serious cooks who also want sleek, clean lines in their kitchen, induction makes perfect sense. With your induction range, you can quickly sear steaks and then turn the temperature down to instantly sauté veggies. And immediately after cooking, the surface is cool enough to wipe up any grease or spills—which is a huge plus for the cook who prefers to clean as you go.
Dual Fuel Range
If you want the precision of a gas stove combined with the even baking of an electric oven, a dual fuel range offers both. They will typically cost you quite a bit more than going with one fuel type or another, but consumers that do a lot of cooking and baking and are particular about their cooking experience may find the difference worth the cost.
From small, quick meals to feeding the masses, your range size will determine how you multitask while preparing your meals. Make sure you have plenty of elbow room with the right size range. When shopping for different sizes, keep in mind your kitchen design and how much space you’ll need for the size you want. A significant size upgrade could require some renovation and rewiring.
A 30-inch range is the standard household size, typically accommodating four burners and room in the center for a griddle or spoon rest, depending on the brand and model.
A 36-inch range is also standard for residential kitchens, but allows more working room with five burners.
48-inch ranges can certainly be used residentially but are more common in small commercial kitchens. However, six burners and double ovens offer plenty of working space if you have a large family or if you frequently entertain guests in your home.
The type of range you purchase affects how and where it will be installed. There are multiple range body types that can accommodate your kitchen design whether you’re replacing your old range or remodeling your kitchen.
A freestanding range offers the most flexible installation since it functions as its own unit, and it comes with finished sides and a backsplash. Since freestanding ranges are the most common types of ranges, most home kitchens already have space for a standard-size range so installation doesn’t usually require any renovations.
A freestanding range is the easiest option in terms of installation. You can put them wherever in your kitchen you have a gas and/or electrical hookup. They have finished sides and a flat back and their sizes are standardized so they should fit into any standard range space. They typically have a backguard on them that both protects your wall from any mess or heat and is usually where the oven’s controls are found. They’re the cheapest and most convenient of the range design types.
A slide-in range includes both a stove and an oven in a single unit, but it has a cooktop that sits flush with the surrounding countertop. Slide-in ranges also have no back panel that obstructs your existing backsplash. Instead, the knobs and switches are located on the front of the oven.
A slide-in range has the benefit of looking like it’s built in and custom made for the kitchen, but actually being much easier to install than that, since you can just slide them into the available spot in your kitchen. They don’t usually have a backguard and the controls are located in the front of the range, so they have a smoother, cleaner look. They’re also wider on top, so there’s no space left between the range top and the counter and drips and crumbs can’t get through.
Drop-in ranges have stovetops and oven doors that typically sit flush with the surrounding countertops and cabinets. Installing this type of range requires a custom-made space to ensure a seamless look.
Like a slide range, a drop-in range has unfinished sides and a wide enough top to ensure there’s no space between the range and counter. Unlike a slide-in range, a drop-in range never touches the floor, but is rather installed on top of a cabinet baseboard. It makes the range look more built in, but it’s harder to install, as it often requires custom-made cabinets. Drop-in ranges aren’t as popular now as they once were, so you’ll find less selection with this type of range at your local appliances retailer.
A wall oven is just an oven, without the cooktop. Someone who desires more flexibility in their kitchen design can buy a wall oven along with a cooktop and place them wherever in the kitchen makes the most sense. This usually costs more than buying a range that brings the two appliances together, but ends up leaving you with more storage space in the kitchen and can sometimes add convenience when you’re cooking.
Range Accessories and Features
Handy accessories and modern features can help you refine your search or the perfect range. If you’re someone who loves all the bells and whistles that come with large appliances, or if you’re just looking for a range that gets the job done, extra features are worth considering. Here are some helpful features to look for while shopping.
Many larger ranges come with a griddle built into the center of the stovetop. This is useful to sear meat, grill burgers, or make pancakes.
A warming drawer is a special compartment built into a range that allows you to keep prepared dishes warm or to help dough rise. Look for a warming drawer with stackable racks or compartments so you can easily keep various dishes warm at once.
A self-cleaning oven keeps your oven clean and smoke-free and safe. Removing grease build up regularly is important to reduce the risk of fire. Plus, when there’s no grease around heating elements, your oven can do its job better. A self-cleaning oven has the ability to heat itself to incinerating temperatures that will turn any debris into ash.
When considering range controls, look for key features such as control lock out and a hot surface light. Control lock out allows you to temporarily lock your range controls to prevent burners and other features from being accidentally or unnecessarily turned on. If you have a smoothtop range, a hot surface light turns on to indicate hot surface temperatures until the heating elements cool.
How Much Does a New Kitchen Range Cost?
Electric ranges will often cost more than gas, with the exception of those that use the coil cooktops, which are cheaper (and use less electricity than other electric models). If you’re interested in newer technologies like convection ovens and induction cooktops, expect to pay a premium for them. Keep in mind the costs associated with buying an oven as well, such as how much it will cost to install (much more for a drop-in range than a freestanding one) and how much you’ll be paying in energy costs.
The cost of your range can vary based on the size and features you want. Depending on what you’re looking for, a new range can cost anywhere from $900 to $4,500.