Range & Cooktop Buying Guide: Our Experts Weigh In
What’s a home cook to do when the centerpiece of the kitchen is on the fritz? Go shopping! If you’re in the market for a new range or cooktop, we’ve got the inside scoop on the latest features and styles. Use this range buying guide to polish up on your kitchen appliance knowledge so you can make the perfect purchase for your kitchen.
What’s the Difference Between a Range and Cooktop?
As you start browsing, you’ll notice some kitchen appliance lingo, usually based on the part of the country you call home. For many, a range refers to a standalone unit that features an oven on the bottom and a gas or electrical-powered cooking surface on top.
However, the word range can also refer to just the top portion. Often when it’s a separate piece (commonly installed in kitchen islands or space saving kitchens without an oven), it’s referred to as a cooktop. It might have just one cooking burner or several!
Which Features Should I Look For?
The first major decision is practically made for you! You’ll have to choose whether you want an electrical or gas-powered appliance. If you only have an electrical outlet in your kitchen, you must choose an electrical appliance unless you want to have a gas line installed (anywhere from $500-900).
If you have both gas and electrical hook-ups in the kitchen, choose whichever style you like best.
Many cooks say gas-powered cooktops and ranges are easier to fine tune when paying close attention to cooking temperature (for example when making candy or frying meats). If you already have a gas line, they can also be an energy (and cost) saver.
However, the smooth surface of an electrical cooktop is easier to wipe clean, since you don’t have to maneuver around burners or grates.
Love both? Look up dual fuel stoves for the ultimate control over cooking temperatures and energy efficiency.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the individual features and options you’ll likely come across as you’re shopping.
Ranges and cooktops aren’t one-size-fits-all-spaces appliances. Measure your available kitchen space carefully. There are narrow appliances (20″), perfect for small homes and apartments, that feature just one or two cooktop burners. Others are almost industrial size (48″), with up to six burners and oven capacities of 5-7 cu. ft. These are best for avid home cooks or people preparing meals for large families.
Some ranges feature dual ovens so you can prepare two dishes at different temperatures or with different cooking methods. For example, dinner rolls could bake in one oven, while chicken and potatoes roast in the other.
The benefit? You can time your meal so all the food comes out of the oven at the same time, hot and ready to be enjoyed!
If you’re an avid baker, consider a convection-style oven. These include an internal fan that circulates the air in the oven to ensure even broiling and baking, which is critical when making cakes, loaves of bread and cookies.
Do you have small kids at home? Consider a range with a cooktop that feels cool to the touch even when in use. The induction heating method only heats the cooking pan and food inside, not the surface of the range, which helps prevent burns.
It’s not uncommon to see varying shapes and sizes of burners. Some accommodate long, narrow griddles, while others offer lower heat settings for delicate cooking endeavors, like melting chocolate. The heat output of these burners is measured in BTUs, with 15,000 BTUs being a standard burner heat.
The cooktop burner controls and oven settings may be positioned in multiple places. The most common are at the front of the oven just above the door handle, against the back of the range near the rear burners or in the middle of the cooktop, in a center panel.
Choose a range that aesthetically coordinates with your other appliances, but also consider whether or not you want the dials accessible by children. Do you mind reaching over the burners to make adjustments? Can you reach the rear of the appliance easily?
Most ovens offer a self-cleaning mode, warming drawer to keep foods heated before a meal, variety of cooking modes, oven lighting, a built-in timer, moveable cooking racks, a window to monitor cooking progress and a manufacturer’s warranty. Many retailers will also offer additional coverage options and repair services.
It’s a great time of year to purchase new kitchen appliances! Check out these special offers from some of our favorite retailers:
- JCPenney: Get 15 percent off any order through April 1, 2017 and earn 15 percent cash back! That’s $75 on a $500 appliance!
- Sears: Take $25 off Kenmore appliances priced at $499+ through January 31, 2018 and enjoy free shipping!
- P.C. Richard & Son: Select ranges are on sale. Buy online and pick-up at the store!
Whether you’re upgrading, remodeling or building, you can save some serious cash on your next range or cooktop. Browse ShopAtHome to see what coupons and specials your favorite appliance dealer has available this month! Happy shopping and cooking!
Check out our other buying guides for kitchen appliances: