The traditional kitchen range with a 4-burner cooktop above that sits atop a standard oven is still the most common choice for homeowners looking to save money and space in the kitchen. If you think kitchen range technology hasn’t advanced in the last few years, it’s time to kick your avocado-colored appliance idea to the curb and upgrade to the modern cooking experience. Pronto’s Kitchen Range Buying Guide will help you get the best range for your buck (see also Cooktop Buying Guide and Wall Oven Buying Guide).
Measure your kitchen and doorways and choose a kitchen range that will fit both.
Consider the size of the largest pans or foods you will cook and choose a kitchen range with an oven capacity that fits them. Pay close attention to advertised oven capacity, remembering that protruding elements like heating elements and oven rack guides will reduce the usable space.
Choose gas for faster heating times, but keep in mind that digital controls have made electric kitchen ranges as precise as gas now. A kitchen range with a convection oven includes a fan that circulates air for quicker, more even heating.
Open burners and heating coils are the most cost-effective option. Glass and ceramic cooking surfaces are easier to clean and maintain. Look for a thermal indicator light on solid kitchen range cooktops, which remains hot after the burners are turned off.
Look for kitchen ranges with additional burners or an additional broiler beneath the oven to handle additional jobs during big meals. Choose thick oven racks that can hold 20 pounds or more and at least a six-pass broiler.
Consider a kitchen range with a continuous-clean or self-cleaning oven to minimize cleaning. For self-cleaning ovens, look for a kitchen range that uses the bottom heating element, which is where most messes gather. Solid kitchen range cooktops need special cleaners that won’t damage their surfaces.
Kitchen range controls, such as dials, that have no electronic components. Many gas kitchen ranges still rely on a simple dial that opens a valve to release more or less gas.
An area on a solid cooktop that lies between two heating elements, drawing heat from both to create an additional cooking area.
The cooking area inside an oven. Depending on its construction, a kitchen range may have a cavity that is significantly smaller than its outside dimensions would suggest. Cavity space is further limited by protruding elements, such as rack guides, fans and heating elements, which typically are not included in cavity dimensions.
A kitchen range oven that is coated with materials that prevent food from sticking. Over time, the heat from the oven reduces any food particles to ash.
An oven with a built-in fan that circulates air around cooking food for faster, more even heating. Better convection ovens include a third heating element near the fan.
Kitchen range controls, such as touchpads, that operate electronically with the help of a microprocessor. Digital controls are far more accurate than analog dials on electric kitchen ranges, and some deliver consistent performance within a degree or two of the temperature you set.
A source of heat in a kitchen range, such as a broiler or an electric burner coil.
A single bend in a broiler element. The total number of bends in a broiler tells you its number of passes, so a broiler with six bends would be a six-pass broiler. More bends can deliver faster, more even heating.
A gas burner that is enclosed beneath a solid cooktop. Sealed burners are easier to clean, since splatters and drips can’t get into the gas jets or burner openings. However, some users have found that sealed gas burners don’t work as well as traditional open burners because there is less air to feed the fire.
A kitchen range oven that uses extremely high heat to vaporize any spills or splatters.
A piece of glass or ceramic that covers all the burners on a kitchen range, providing a flat surface that is easier to clean.
A kitchen range almost seems quaint in an age where homeowners are renovating their kitchens with enough cooking stations to support a restaurant. But the humble kitchen range is still the best space-saving appliance for a small kitchen, and some cooks prefer having the cooktop above the oven so they don’t have to move too far to keep an eye on everything.
A basic kitchen range offers four independent burners mounted above an oven. Some kitchen ranges include a broiler or a storage drawer beneath the oven. If you cook a lot of big family meals, you may find the extra broiler well worth the higher price tag. Larger kitchen ranges may offer extra burners or warming stations on the stove surface.
Consider how much cooking space you need, then get out the measuring tape. Kitchen ranges come in a variety of sizes, and you’ll need to account for the exterior measurements so that the kitchen range will fit in your kitchen and through your doors. If you’ve got clearance above the kitchen range (and the budget), consider adding a matched oven or microwave above the kitchen range instead of a basic hood, which may be needed to vent steam and smoke. A matched appliance includes a vent and fan for your kitchen range’s cooktop.
Larger kitchen ranges may offer a larger oven cavity, but you need to check the manufacturer’s specifications carefully, as some kitchen ranges have thick walls that reduce the oven cavity. Think of the largest pans or foods you’ll put in the oven and then select a kitchen range that will accommodate them. Be aware that most manufacturers don’t include oven rack holders or protruding heat elements in their cavity calculations, so a kitchen range’s cavity may be a little smaller than advertised.
Gas was once the preference of professional chefs, but digital controls, faster warming times and convection technology have evened the playing field. However, this choice has been made for you if you’ve only got a gas or electric hookup available. If you have a choice, you can opt for a duel-fuel model that includes gas and electric heating elements.
Technology wise, new gas kitchen ranges are a bit more efficient than older models but offer the same functions. Analog dials control the gas flow and set the temperature. Some cooks prefer gas kitchen ranges because they heat immediately and they can tell the temperature by looking at the height of the flame. Gas kitchen ranges also cool more quickly, which has benefits in a home with pets or children. Look for pilotless electronic ignition that increases fuel efficiency and reduces the danger of gas buildup.
The most exciting technology can be found in electric kitchen ranges. Convection kitchen ranges include an oven with a fan that circulates air around cooking food. This reduces roasting time and provides more even heating. Some kitchen ranges include a third heating element near the fan. Choose a kitchen range with a third element below the fan for pizza and breads or one that encircles the fan for roasting.
Look for an electric kitchen range with digital controls. These take the guesswork out of cooking and give you precise control over cooking temperature and time. Kitchen ranges with digital controls include built-in timers, and some kitchen ranges include an auto shutoff or auto warming feature that turns off the heat at the time you choose.
Most cooks are used to the traditional open-faced cooktop design that supports pots and pans on a removable metal rack or directly on electric heating coils. This is still the most economic choice for kitchen ranges, but anyone who’s owned one knows they can be a chore to clean.
The modern kitchen range offers sealed gas burners and glass or ceramic cooktops that keep foods away from the heating elements. These surfaces wipe clean when they’re cool, so you won’t have to take the kitchen range apart to clear out those spatters and spills. You may need to purchase a specialized cleaner to keep your kitchen range’s cooktop sparkling, and you should consider its durability, as some cooktops can be scratched if you move pots and pans across their surfaces.
Decide how many burners you need your kitchen range to have. Most gas kitchen ranges offer just four burners. Electric kitchen ranges with glass or ceramic cooktops may offer more and include a “bridge warmer” that will keep cooked food hot while you’re waiting to serve it. Higher-end electric kitchen ranges give you control over the size of the burner, usually with two adjustments for small or large pots, which helps to save energy.
Make sure that kitchen ranges with solid cooktops include a bright, well-placed thermal indicator light. The cooking surface can take a while to cool down, even on gas kitchen ranges. A thermal indicator will warn you if the kitchen range’s surface is too hot to touch. Also be aware that the area around a burner can get hot, so you shouldn’t let anything that will burn or melt get too close.
Look for thick, sturdy oven racks that will hold 20 pounds or more. A kitchen range should also offer a six-pass broiler—a pass is a coil in a heating element. More passes deliver faster, more even heating.
Most kitchen ranges offer a self-cleaning or continuous-clean feature. Continuous-cleaning kitchen ranges have ovens lined with nonstick materials that convert spills to ash over time. A self-cleaning kitchen range oven uses high heat to vaporize messes. If you choose a kitchen range with a self-cleaning oven, make sure it uses the bottom element for heating, as this is where most spills and crumbs gather.