Buying guide to Kitchen ranges
Setting up a kitchen is no joke. Many things need to be considered starting from the kitchen furniture, to the worktops, gadgets and appliances, cookware etc. One of the prime kitchen appliance required is the kitchen stove or the kitchen range. Stylish, efficient and convenient, a cooking range is a combination of a cooking stove and an oven in a single unit. The new generation of Ranges also incorporates grills, griddles and broilers with variable temperatures. The kitchen range is the focal point of any kitchen and blend easily with the kitchen décor.
This guide to buying kitchen ranges will help you understand the various types and features available to enable you to make a considered choice.
Before you set out to buy a kitchen range, there are a few very important points that need serious consideration:
Kitchen size: A Range may look very good in a magazine or in the appliance store, but do your kitchen dimensions permit it? Too big a range will look like a misfit and will visually shrink your kitchen. Ranges are available in different sizes, starting from 20 to 24 inch models for accommodating in tight spaces and going upto 36, 40 and 48 inches for the larger ones. These offer more burners or a secondary oven. The most popular, however, is the 30-inch model designed to fit into almost any kitchen.
Depending upon the kitchen layout and the space available, choose between a freestanding, drop-in and a slide-on electric or gas cooking range.
- A freestanding range stands alone and can be placed anywhere in the kitchen. Side panels give it a complete look all around. You can place it besides the cabinet or the island kitchen or other kitchen counter tops. Some models also include a conventional, convection or trivection oven. Often a clock, timer and other controls are located on the backsplash.
- A Slide-in kitchen range fits snugly between two cabinets or counter tops. With no panels this looks bare and visually unappealing if standing alone. However, some manufacturer’s offer panels for the exposed side, if the range is placed at the end of the kitchen platform. The gap between the countertop and the range is covered by flanges, which also allow for easy cleaning. With no backsplash, a heat and moisture resistant material is used on the wall against which this cooking range stands.
Both these types of cooking ranges have sliding storage underneath.
- Drop-in models are flushed between cabinets or into a cutout in a cabinet, and are fuelled by electricity. These ranges do not have any bottom drawer underneath the oven but a panel that matches with the cabinets completes the look. The space between the countertop and range is closed by the overlapping top edge of the range.
Cooking requirements: Depending upon your family size and the type of cooking you generally do, you can choose from the number of burners and capacities. The frequency and capacity of your baking will determine the size of the oven.
Price range: Cooking ranges come for a few hundred bucks to a few thousands. Gas ovens are costlier than electric ovens and combo ranges are costlier than both. The more feature-rich the Range, the more its price will be.
Types of Kitchen Ranges:
There are basically three types: gas, electric or a combination of the two. Both these cooking ranges offer many useful features, a variety of cooktops and burners and finishes.
The electric and gas ranges come with similar features and capacities and what one chooses is purely a matter of personal choice and the availability of that fuel. The combination kitchen range features both electric and gas burners which allow you to switch between the two fuels as required.
Electric ranges use heating elements to cook the food. Based on the type of heating element used, the cook-top is classified into two types - coil top and the smooth-tops.
The traditional models of electric stoves feature exposed coils. Coil top ranges heat faster than smooth-tops and are relatively inexpensive. They have easy-to-access drip pans for collecting spills. Some models feature a dual-watt coil; this lets you use the inner coil for a smaller utensil or both coils if the cookware is larger. Electric ranges featuring coil burners are relatively cheaper than those with radiant heating elements. Coils take a longer time to clean but are tougher and easily replaceable.
The newer models use radiant coil elements, induction elements, hotplates, ceramic radiant coils or halogen elements. However, these elements take a longer time to heat up before they can create a flame. But amongst these, ceramic radiant coils heat up faster and evenly and save on energy.
Smooth-top ceramic or glass cook-tops are very stylish and feature dual or triple expandable elements so that you can switch between a larger element with a high power and a smaller element within with low power as per your need. For heating an elongated cookware, a “bridge element” the size of two elements is also provided in some high-end models. Most smooth-top cooking ranges feature four elements in three sizes namely – a small element using 1200W, one or two medium power element that use about 1,500W to 1,800W and a couple of large elements that use over 2500W of power. A 100W element is used for warming the food. Some smooth-top models also feature a grill. Smooth-top ovens that feature a raised edge are ideal for preventing boil-overs from running into door vents and other open spaces.
The elements in Smooth-top ranges are placed under a ceramic surface and are easier to clean as there are no gas burners or electric coils jutting out. However, they require a special cleanser for cleaning. Since the surface of an electric range remains hot for a long time even after the heating elements have been turned off, many electric ranges feature “hot surface warning lights” as a precautionary measure.
Some smooth-tops feature induction elements that use magnetic coils placed below the ceramic or glass surface. Induction elements create an electromagnetic field that reaches an inch above the cooking surface and heat up the cookware rather than the cooking surface and thus are more energy efficient. However, you need special magnetic cookware for using induction elements.
Another heating option is the halogen bulb that quickly heats up and glows red on being switched on. Warning lights alert you when the surface is still hot and unsafe to touch. Energy efficient, these are very expensive.
Gas Ranges: Too much heat or too less, can take the flavor away from the dish. These types of cooking ranges allow you to control the heat as per the requirement of the recipe. Fitted with burners of different sizes, gas ranges are perfect for a variety of cooking processes. The burners in this type of range can either be open or sealed. Gas stoves generally feature four burners in three sizes – a small burner using nearly 5000 Btu (British Thermal Units), a couple of medium burners using about 9000 Btu and two large ones using over 15,000 or more Btu. Gas ranges use natural gas or liquid propane as fuel and are costlier than electric ranges. If there is an abundant gas supply in the area, then one can consider setting up a gas range.
Combination Ranges: These types use both – electricity as well as gas. In some models, the oven runs on electricity while the burners use gas.
Generally cooking ranges come in a variety of finishes including black, white, other colors, glass, stainless steel and more to blend with your kitchen décor. A matching hood not only adds to the kitchen aesthetics, it also comes with a large fan motor to rapidly exhaust all the cooking odors.
Warming drawers and warming zones: Found under the oven, these warming drawers come with a range of warming temperatures to keep the food warm after it is cooked until it is served. Low powered (100 watts) heating elements on cook-tops are used for warming food or for simmering at low temperatures.
Control panels: Most cooking ranges feature an easy-to-read display either in the front or back. Hot surface indicators and child-safe controls make the Range more user-friendly and safe to use. Electronic touchpads, digital temperature settings are additional conveniences.
Kitchen Range Ovens:
Kitchen ovens are found below the gas stove or heating elements in a Range. These can be either conventional or convection ovens, depending upon the model. Conventional ovens are fuelled by gas or electricity. Some new models also feature a trivection oven that combines a thermal heating, convection and microwave oven for faster cooking. However, these are efficient but very expensive. Large sized Range feature two ovens –primary and secondary. Select a kitchen range oven, depending upon the quantity of baking that you do.
For achieving perfect baking results, ensure that the heat is evenly distributed inside the oven. Convection ovens distribute heat evenly thanks to the high speed fan inside that circulates the air to maintain a steady temperature. The result is faster and even browning throughout the dish while the meats turn juicier and baked goods acquire a nice texture.
In conventional ovens, the food should be placed in the appropriate racks as per manufacturer’s recommendations. Convection ovens are almost 25 to 30 percent faster than conventional models. Ovens, nowadays, come with sensors and variable temperature setting that allows you to bake a variety of dishes and thaw frozen food. Ovens in the kitchen range are often used for cooking multi-course meals for large gatherings.
Features to look for in kitchen range ovens:
Self cleaning: Ovens with this feature use high temperature to burn out stains and spilt food, which can then be wiped. A lock-in mode ensures that the oven cannot be opened during this operation thus preventing any accidents.
Oven Racks: Depending upon the oven size, there are 2 to 6 or more racks for cooking different kinds of dishes. Ensure that the racks slide-in and out easily and are sturdy enough to bear the weight of large bakeware.Time/delay start: This preset setting allows you to set your on/off timings, so that you can do your other chores, while the oven does its job.
Wolf range dual fuel ranges come in 30”, 36”, 48” and 60” sizes to suit all requirements. The burners are dual stacked, while the large convection oven, distributes heat evenly to maintain a constant temperature. Besides ten different cooking modes, these kitchen ranges also feature bright halogen lights to light up the interiors of the oven. The larger versions offer steel griddle plates and an infrared char-broiler.
Summing it up:
As is evident, setting up a kitchen is a daunting task given the innumerable kitchen ranges on offer that makes it difficult to choose the ranges that are just right for your kitchen. The most important thing, invariably, is to decide upon your priorities when it comes to setting up your kitchen. There are plenty of branded ranges serving different kitchen needs, available in the market. For example, Wolf range dual fuel ranges come in 30”, 36”, 48” and 60” sizes to suit all requirements. The burners are dual stacked, while the large convection oven, distributes heat evenly to maintain a constant temperature. Use this guide to short-list, compare, and finally narrow down the choices when buying kitchen ranges.
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