Advice And Reviews: Choosing A New Range

In selecting a new range, weigh your available budget against your available fuel source, the special features you would like to have, and aesthetic considerations.

If you're in the market for a new range, or are thinking about getting into the market, you've probably already discovered for yourself that the variety in ranges is as wide as the variety in their prices. Your choice in a range is likely to be driven by several key factors: your fuel source, your desired features, your aesthetic requirements, and your budget.

You have probably heard it said that baking is best done in an electric oven, but that gas stovetops are superior to electric. You've heard right- gas burners allow more precise heating control than do electric ones, while electric ovens allow for more even heating and more efficient self-clean. With this in mind, if you have natural gas or liquid propane available in your kitchen, you have a choice to make. If you have the right wiring (or have the right wiring installed) you can choose an all-electric range, eschewing gas altogether; you can choose a gas range; or you can select one of the dual-fuel ranges available on the market. Dual-fuel ranges offer an electric oven and a basic gas stovetop. The price range for these ranges is much higher than that for basic all-electric or all-gas models; Frigidaire offers one for less than $500 (it is not self-cleaning), but for the most part these ranges start around $1000, while all-electric ranges and all-gas ranges start around $300. Selecting a fuel source, if you have gas available, is really a matter of simple preference. If liquid propane is your fuel source, be aware that it does not burn as hot as does natural gas; stovetop cooking will take longer than with electric, and self-cleaning will not work well. With some gas ranges, you will need to buy a separate conversion kit to use liquid propane, while other models include the kit.

The wide variety of features available in ranges is a major influence on their prices, and will be a crucial consideration. The cheapest, stripped-down ranges will, of course, cook food, but chances are there are at least some special features you'd like to have. Self-cleaning is the first option most manufacturers add; if you will be using gas, especially propane, this may not be very important to you, but the additional cost is less than $100. Adding convection, which leads to more even heating of foods, is a more significant cost, and is available in both electric and gas ranges. Convection works by using a fan to circulate air through the oven cavity, eliminating temperature variations. Food cooks faster and more evenly, and convection allows you to use more of your oven (higher and lower racks) than you otherwise would. If you're interested in convection, however, only true convection is worth the added cost. In true convection (also known as third-element or European convection, or by manufacturers' own names), there is a third heating element, separate from the top and bottom coils and located near the fan, so that the fan is blowing heated air. True convection is available in electric and dual-fuel ranges from a variety of manufacturers. It is quite rare in gas ranges, but KitchenAid offers a true convection gas range. In some high-end ranges like those made by Jenn-Air and Bosch, dual-speed convection is available with separate bake and roast settings.

Observant Jewish families may look for a range with Sabbath mode. If you've had your current range for quite a while, you may not be aware that newer models, as a safety feature, will shut themselves off after a certain period of time- usually twelve hours. Sabbath mode defeats that safety feature, so that you can turn the oven on Friday afternoon and be able to heat foods up on Saturday. If this feature is important to you, know that it is available in most price ranges, but takes some looking to find.

Both gas and electric ranges offer a variety of cooktop options. The most basic options available on gas ranges are sealed burners for easier cleaning and electric pilotless ignition. As you move up slightly in price, burners are available with different power levels- high-power burners for boiling water, and special low-power simmer burners. Especially if you have special burners, it's nice to have burners with continuous grates for sliding pots from one burner to another; at this option, the under-$500 price range is left behind. Very high end (four figure) gas ranges may offer a larger range of power settings on all the burners, as opposed to offering only one or two high power burners, and may also have a higher top power.

The most basic electric ranges have traditional coil burners. Coil burners are fine, but whatever the manufacturers say they are devilishly hard to clean. Many people prefer smooth top ranges. Instead of having coil burners perched above drip pans, these ranges have smooth surfaces with the heating elements buried. Since you never have to unplug the burner and pull out the drip pan, they are much easier to clean, and they generally provide an indicator light so you know if the cooktop is hot. This option adds to the cost of the range, of course, but it can be found paired with a self-cleaning oven for about $500. Both coil and smooth top ranges offer a full variety of heat settings.

If your budget for a new range is low, you will likely select a utilitarian range that offers as many features as you can afford, and be satisfied with a choice between white and black (if that- some very basic ranges come in only one color). If your budget is higher, however, you may allow aesthetics to become a consideration. Ranges in the upper three figures offer noticeably improved style along with better features like convection, although at this price they are not available in all-stainless steel. Ranges that leave the $1000 mark behind look better still, but their cooking performance may not be significantly improved as the cost rises.

© High Speed Ventures 2011