Ranges, ovens, and stoves are a basic staple of any kitchen, and we are dependent on them for much of our cooking. As such, it is important to understand their basic operation and how to choose the best appliance based on individual needs.
What to Consider When Purchasing a Range, Oven, or Stove
When considering whether to get a range vs. a separate stove and oven, be mindful that freestanding ranges are the most widely sold and easiest to install. Typically, the oven control panel is on the back of the range, above the cooktop surface. Slide-in ranges give a custom, built-in look and easily slide in between surrounding cabinets. The oven controls are on the range front, and there’s no back panel, so your backsplash can be showcased. These are designed to fit between countertops, and some aren’t finished on the sides, so they cannot be used in freestanding fashion like a typical range. Entry-level options for ranges include storage or warming drawers, adjustable racks, and a self-cleaning mode.
Built-in ovens and countertop stoves are relatively easy to install if a kitchen is being built new or is being extensively remodeled, or if simply replacing or upgrading a current stovetop and/or oven and there is already dedicated space is already allocated for them. These ovens and stoves are stylish, though are typically more expensive than a range.
Some models include innovative features that can make your time in the kitchen easier and more enjoyable. They include smart double-wall ovens that are Wi-Fi connected, allowing you to do things like start the oven remotely, keep cooked food warm until you're ready to eat, get notified when a burner is left on and much more.
Most electric and gas ranges are 30 inches wide. Most pro-style ranges start at 30 inches wide but can climb to 48 inches if they are custom configured with extra burners and ovens, or add-ons such as integrated grills, griddles, or woks. Even regular ranges now typically have at least one high-power burner and a dedicated simmer burner. They also frequently have a convection function, which uses a fan to heat the oven cavity more evenly. All these features used to set pro-style ranges apart, but that’s no longer the case.
A roomy oven comes in handy when baking or entertaining. We measure oven space you can actually use—some manufacturers include space below the lowest rack position, so check the capacity scores in our range ratings. The smallest ovens in our tests are a little more than 2 cubic feet; the largest are almost 4 cubic feet.
Ranges are electric, gas, or dual-fuel, which pairs a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Both gas and electric have their advantages.
Gas vs. Electric
The choice between gas and electric ranges is largely dictated by the current setup in the kitchen. Gas ranges require either natural gas or propane service, while an electric range will work in any house, provided there is a 220-volt electric line in the kitchen.
If switching from gas to electric, or vice versa, you’re likely to need an electrician or a plumber to run new lines. Same goes for upgrading to a dual-fuel pro-style range, which partners gas burners with an electric oven and requires both the standard gas and electrical connections.
Many people prefer cooking with gas, you’re not alone. The flame makes it easier to judge the heat and provides a level of sensory feedback that electric models just can’t match. Most gas ranges have four to five burners of different sizes, typically with at least one high-power burner and one simmer burner.
Response time is particularly quick, especially when compared with a radiant smoothtop. When you turn the knob from high to medium on a gas cooktop, the pot and the food in it experience that change almost immediately. And with most gas burners, you can strike a match to light them when your power is out. But you should know that gas burners tend to be slowest to bring water to a boil.
Electric Smoothtop Ranges
Ranges with radiant electric smoothtops are a popular choice. All the models have at least one high-power burner. Most have expandable dual or triple elements that can be switched from a large, high-power element to a small, lower-power element within it. Some ranges have a warming element in the center to keep side dishes warm.
A downside to radiant electric models is that they hold a lot of residual heat, so after reducing the temperature, burners will take a few minutes to settle at the lower setting.
Electric Induction Cooktops and Ranges
On most 30-inch cooktops, the field is concentrated into four spots (or elements), and they otherwise function just like the elements on an electric cooktop or the burners on gas.
As for the ovens in induction ranges, they broil and bake just as other electric ovens do, and capabilities will differ from model to model.
If you’re replacing an older radiant electric range, consider and induction range. These appliances look a lot like typical glass-top electric models, and they run on the same standard electric line as a regular electric range, but they use magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface to cook by sending pulses directly to cookware, causing pots and pans—but not burners—to get hot. The ovens in induction ranges work just like those in regular electric ranges. Induction ranges cost a little more than radiant electric ranges, but they tend to boil water faster and simmer more steadily, and any adjustments made to a burner happens immediately because the elements themselves don’t get hot. As a group, induction ranges outperform all the other types of ranges.
Pros and Cons of Induction Cooktops and Ranges
They're sleek. They're precise. And they can boil water in about half the time of a conventional stove. But are they right for your kitchen?
Induction cooktops are a special type of electric cooktop that gets its power and precision from induction technology. This means it generates energy from an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface, which then transfers current directly to magnetic cookware, causing it to heat up.
It works. Induction cooktops and ranges generally outperform every other kind of range, and new induction cooktops and ranges may be eligible for financial incentives.
Induction Cooktops and Ranges: The Pros
There are plenty of things to love about induction ranges, whether you’re obsessed with perfectly prepped food or interested in energy efficiency. Here’s how they compare with gas and conventional electric ranges.
- They’re more environmentally friendly. An induction stove is 5 to 10 percent more efficient than conventional electric stoves and about three times more efficient than gas stoves. And unlike the case with gas, it’s better for indoor air quality.
- They have a built-in safety feature. If you turn on an induction burner with no pot on it by mistake, it won’t get hot. That’s because the heat is created from within the cookware itself; as soon as you remove it from a burner, that heating stops. Therefore, the glass surface never gets as hot as it would on a traditional radiant electric range. That surface might merely feel hot the way the kitchen counter feels hot if you were to put a pot of just-cooked soup on it.
- Food cooks faster. No other technology we’ve tested is speedier than induction. It cuts out the intermediate step of heating up an element and then transferring the heat to the pot. So compared with electric or gas, it cooks more quickly when you turn up the heat and responds faster when you dial it back down. You’ll find that 6 quarts of water will approach a boil 2 to 4 minutes sooner than on a gas or electric stove. Life-changing? Probably not. But definitely helpful when you’re making dinner on a busy weeknight.
- Meal prep is easier. With heat generating from within your pot or pan, induction ranges cook more precisely and evenly. No more simmering sauces that break into a splattering boil or chicken thighs that emerge from the pan scorched. As with other smoothtop electrics, induction surfaces are easy to wipe down, too.
Induction Cooktops and Ranges: The Cons
Before shopping for an induction cooktop or range, consider the cost and your cooking habits. Here are a few pointers:
- It feels very different from cooking with gas. Some avid cooks really love cooking on a flame and the immediate visual feedback they get from it at the turn of the knob. No electric option, even induction, can replicate that feel. In fact, because the electromagnetic field on an induction cooktop doesn’t create a glow, you won’t even know it’s on. That’s why manufacturers have started adding virtual flames and other lighting cues.
- It can get expensive when you convert from gas to electric. If you’re replacing an electric range, the swap is simple. Induction cooktops and ranges use the same outlet as a standard electric range or cooktop. But if you’re switching from gas, expect to pay an electrician several hundred dollars or more to install the necessary outlet.
- It requires the right cookware. Magnetic cookware is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of a pot, the cookware will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless steel and cast iron cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t. Those made of aluminum and anodized aluminum—won’t work on induction. If shopping for new cookware for an induction cooktop, look for pots and pans marked “induction-compatible.”
- It might emit a sound. There may be a noticeable buzz or hum, and often louder at higher settings, as well as the clicking of element electronics at lower settings or the sound of the cooling fan for the electronics. Heavy flat-bottomed pans help reduce the vibrations that cause this buzz.
- It requires going old school with an analog thermometer. The magnetic field of an induction cooktop can interfere with a digital meat thermometer.
- Induction cooktops and ranges are typically more expensive than conventional electric models. But prices have continued to drop in recent years, despite inflation.
Pro-style ranges are either gas or dual-fuel, meaning they partner gas burners with an electric oven. They tend to be beautifully built, with heavy-gauge stainless steel, well-insulated ovens, and cast-iron continuous cooking grates.
But these touches don’t necessarily translate into better performance. Plus pro-style models are pricey; expect to pay two to 10 times what you’d spend on a comparably equipped traditional range.
Other Options and Features to Focus On
One Oven or Two?
Many ranges now come in single- and double-oven configurations. Double-oven ranges typically have a smaller oven up top and a larger one below. They’re great if you want to bake or roast two different foods at different temperatures. If you’re reheating, say, pizza or chicken nuggets, you can activate just the upper oven and save some time on preheating. Just know that when you cook a large roast in the lower oven, it can be more difficult to remove because the door is close to the floor, so you’ll need to bend farther down. And there are several other factors to consider before purchasing a double oven.
For some, double-oven ranges offer the best of all worlds. These freestanding and slide-in ranges typically pair a smaller top oven with a larger oven below. The smaller oven can be used for weeknight suppers, the larger oven when roasting a turkey, or both ovens when cooking for a crowd or if there is a need to cook different foods at different temperatures.
A few double-oven ranges have two ovens of the same size, with each oven offering about half the capacity of a traditional single oven. Double-oven ranges are great for serious cooks or avid bakers, but since they’re not as popular as regular ranges, there typically are fewer options at the store and they cost more than a similar single-oven range.
Still, any double-oven range packs a lot into a lean package, and they’re far cheaper than a double wall oven and separate cooktop.
What you get—and what you lose—when you choose two ovens
- The lower oven is low. It’s near the floor, and if you’re using the lowest rack, for say, roasting a turkey, it’s very low. When shopping, bend down and pull the racks out. Now imagine lifting out a roaster. Better yet, grab a roaster from housewares to try it out and see this double-oven design works for you.
- The storage drawer is gone. With the exception of pro-style models, most single-oven ranges have a storage drawer or warming drawer beneath the main oven cavity. You won’t find either on a double-oven range.
- Size up the capacity. Most double-oven ranges have excellent capacity but look at the ovens in the store to get a sense of their size.
- Check controls. It is important to have controls that clearly indicate which oven is being preheated or adjusted. Play with the controls in the store to make sure they’re intuitive.
- Consider convection. Most double-oven ranges have convection, but not always in both ovens. When it’s reserved to a single oven, it’s usually in the lower cavity.
Speaking of convection, many mid-priced and higher-priced ranges use one or more fans to circulate hot air in the oven. Some ovens, usually electric models, have an additional convection heating element. Convection typically reduces cooking time, especially for large roasts.
When and How to Use the Oven's Convection Function
Many newer ranges and wall ovens offer a convection setting, typically with two modes: baking and roasting. When either of these modes is turned on, one or more fans inside the oven cavity circulate hot air while your food cooks.
But in practice, the success of convection cooking can be hit or miss, especially with baking. Some ovens do better with convection baking mode turned on, but others do best simply on the conventional bake setting. And in some cases, the same oven might beautifully convection-bake some baked goods, but still botch others.
Reference the owner’s manual. Some instruct to shorten the cook time or reduce the temperature when using the oven’s convection function. It’s a good idea to do a test run of a favorite baking recipe to see how it impacts the food.
However, convection roasting is another story. This additional convection setting is best for crisping and browning large cuts of meat and is less fickle. When using convection roast, you can generally turn down the oven temperature 25° F below what the recipe calls for and start testing for doneness earlier than you might think, until you’re accustomed to how your oven handles the job.
Expandable Elements, Bridge, and Oval Burner
On gas cooktops, oval burners accommodate griddles and elongated pans. Some electric range tops have an elongated bridge element that spans two burners to fit a griddle or other odd-shaped cookware. Most electric radiant and induction smoothtops have an expandable burner that allows the user to choose the size that best matches the pot’s diameter.
Hot-Surface Warning Lights
This light warns when an element is still hot and is particularly useful on electric radiant smoothtops. Some ranges have a warning light for each burner, and others have just one.
This feature allows the disabling of the oven controls. This is particularly useful if the electronic oven control panel is at the front of the range, rather than on the back panel, especially if there are young children in the house.
Most electric and gas ovens have variable broil, which provides adjustable settings for foods that need slower or faster cooking.
Most WiFi-connected ranges work with a smartphone app. The app enables the user to check the oven temperature, set a timer, check the internal temperature of whatever is cooking, to turn the oven or burners off, or even see whether any burners were accidentally left on.
Many major range brands now have at least one model with an air-fry setting. This setting usually engages multiple fans to circulate hot air—much like a countertop air fryer. Some also have wire mesh cooking baskets to maximize circulation.
Bringing A New Range Home
Measure Twice, Install Once
Before buying a new range, make sure to measure the space twice so it only must be installed once. Start by measuring the height, width and depth of the unit. In addition to ensuring the range stove fits, make sure there's space for doors and hinges to function properly, as well as enough clearance for a power cord for an electric range, and a gas-line connector for a gas or dual-fuel range. If installing a slide-in range, it should sit flush with the countertop for a seamless look. However, freestanding ranges are generally the same height as the countertop, though having it about the counter or cabinets is a personal preference.
If replacing an existing range, buying a new model of the same type and size ensures that the new range will fit. Slide-in ranges—where the top will slightly overlap existing countertops—are definitely on trend. However, if replacing an old freestanding range, a backsplash may be needed on the wall behind the old range.
Consider the retailer’s appliance delivery and haul-away service. This will help ensure safe delivery, that the appliance gets installed correctly, and the old appliances are taken away and properly recycled.
Keep in mind that there is still a shortage of major appliances, including ranges. Extra time may be needed for delivery. If there is a long wait for ranges, ovens, and stoves, a freestanding burner and a countertop toaster oven, as well as an outdoor barbeque grill, a countertop air fryer, and a slow cooker can help get dinner on the table in a pinch.
Most building codes require a ventilation system for ranges. There are hood styles for nearly any situation and need - whether it’s wall-mount, for an island, under-cabinet, or downdraft. Some ventilation hoods use a charcoal filter to recycle the air. For a more upscale design consider a range hood that collects and vents airborne grease, baking odors, excess moisture, and other cooking steam and smoke outside, to improve the air quality in the home, and to make the cooking environment more comfortable. Over-the-range microwaves generally include a range hood, so these will cover ventilation requirements.
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