While there have been many advances in cooking appliance design, the all-in-one range is still a popular choice. The appliance has a multi-burner cooktop above one or two ovens. While the range is an old standby of kitchen design, a number of newer features can make a difference in the range that will work best for your cooking style. Similar to cook tops, ranges are powered by types of fuels: gas and electric. With some ranges combining both fuels into one unit for maxium function.
Gas is still the most economical heat source, but it does not heat the ovens as evenly as electricity. On the plus side, it is easier to gauge the heat on a gas burner simply by looking at it. Also, gas still flows during a power outage. Electric Ranges equipped with electric ovens heat more efficiently and evenly, but they do require a 220 volt power line (a standard line is 120 volts). A handy feature, accurate pre-heat indicators are only available on electric ovens.
“Dual Fuel” is a term indicating that the model has gas-heated cooktop burners and electric oven. Considered by some as the “best of both worlds”, dual fuel ranges combine the quick response time and visual nature of a gas burner cooktop with the even temperatures of an electric oven.
Convection ovens are standard ovens which have the added feature of a pneumatic heating system that circulates heated air inside the oven. These ovens which have been standard equipment in restaurants and bakeries for years are now coming to residential kitchens. The even distribution of heat produce by the convection ovens shortens cooking time and bakes the food more even than standard thermal ovens. While some electric ovens claim to have convection elements (usually a fan that helps even out temperature), a true convection oven has a second heating element which heats the air as it blows thru the fan.
Single or Double-Oven Range
Single-oven range models include 24 inch “apartment” sized ovens, 30 inch ovens and Pro-style 36 inch ovens. On larger Pro-style models (usually 48 inch or 60 inch wide) the range is normally equipped with two side-by-side ovens. These can either be heated with the same fuel or split, one electric and one gas. This configuration is ideal for meals that require baking multiple dishes. On smaller, residential-style double-oven models (sized 30 inch) the two ovens are available stacked vertically. In this configuration, the top oven is smaller than the bottom one if it is a gas model, because the gas heating element takes up some of the room. While this allows for the convenience of a double oven in a more modestly sized appliance, some people find that the lower oven in a stacked configuration is too low to use comfortably.
Backless ranges are used when a flat, flush surface is required for ranges installed in kitchen islands, peninsulas, or along a wall underneath a backsplash. All range controls are situated on the front panel of backless designs. Two backless models are available “slide-in” or “drop-in”. Slide-in ranges rest on the floor and can measure anywhere between 24 inches and 60 inches, while drop-in ranges have a lip that rests on the countertop, often leaving space for some cabinetry below the oven. Drop-in models are usually only available with 30 inch ovens.
In single-oven range models the space below the oven has traditionally been used as a broiler or a storage drawer, but there are new options for this area as well as new takes on the old design.
An under-oven drawer which doubles as a warming oven is both space and energy efficient. Cooked meals can simply be moved down into the warming drawer until served. While this feature is not yet available from every manufacturer’s product lines it is gaining in popularity and availability.
Separate Gas Broiler
Some ranges equipped with electric ovens and gas cooktops also have the option to include a gas-heated broiler below the oven. This is a popular option on models that do not have a storage or warming drawer.
Stainless steel, black and white are the most common range colors, but most models are also available in bisque. More vivid colors like; blue, red and yellow are available in some pro-style product lines.
Knobs vs. Touch Pads
The range’s controls panel usually consists of knobs or an electronic touch pad. While touch pads often offer more features, knobs tend to last longer and are more economical to repair. The controls also impact a kitchen’s aesthetic, as a range with knobs evokes a more traditional design, while a touch pad has a more contemporary look.
While a larger window makes for less effective insulation, if it can save you from opening the door, it will save energy. Also, many windows are tinted or have painted screens, which help the oven retain its heat and operate efficiently.
While some basic ranges still require manual cleaning, most mid-to higher-end models include a self-cleaning feature. In self-cleaning mode the oven super-heats itself for several hours incinerating any food residues.
Many older ovens have an automatic pre-heating sensor however these older designs only measure the temperature at the side-mounted sensor, often leaving pockets of much cooler air in the middle of the oven. In today’s higher-end convection and electric ovens, the pre-heat feature alerts you only when the entire oven reaches the correct temperature.
Electric models often have timers that enable the user to set a time for the oven to turn on, as well as to turn off, instead of merely setting itself to turn off.
Child Safety Lock
Many models feature mechanisms that lock the oven door with a “child proof latch”.
Hidden Baking Element
The term “baking element” refers to the oven’s heat source, either gas flames or electric heat coils. Some designs cover the baking element with a plate that allows for more even cooking.
Automatic Oven Light
Many new models come with lights that automatically turn off and on when the oven closes and opens. Higher-end models often have been upgraded to a brighter halogen bulb.
Rack Settings and other Features
For cooks who bake or roast a great deal a good selection of rack settings and features is essential to allot space for different dishes. In many mid- to higher-end models the racks are designed so instead of sliding on ledges they are mounted on sliding rollers. Rollers move smoothly and easily and eliminate the risk of tipping or jamming the rack at high temperatures.
Older broilers usually only had one temperature setting, but many new models have variable temperature settings for the broiler.
Burner Number and Size
Some important features to look for in your range burners include the number and type of burners. Residential-style models are usually 30”, four- or five-burner models. Pro-style models, on the other hand, come in sizes ranging from 24” up to 60”, including between four and eight burners and, on the larger models, griddle or grill areas. Certain models may have varying sizes of burners, or even especially small or large burners designed for simmering or high-BTU output cooking. These high-heat burners can sometimes be even more useful when paired with a pot-filler.
Other features include attached or modular specialty units such as gas grills, griddles, or permanent woks. When incorporated into the range these accessories can add many different layers of functionality within a very efficient single-appliance space. While these features do take up more space they offer the flexibility of mixing gas and electric heat sources such as gas burners with an electric griddle or an induction-powered cooktop with a gas grill.