Ranges have been getting better recently, as more of us have become aware of what a really good range can do. Dual-fuel ranges, touch-pad controls, self-cleaning ovens, convection ovens and true simmer burners are just a few of the features available now. Consider your style of cooking – what foods you cook, how much, and who you cook with and for. Then consider the relative advantages of a big oven or a hot burner, fuel efficiency, appearance, durability, versatility and ease of operation.
What Do You Want to Cook in the Oven?
If you bake a lot, and especially if you want to be able to bake while you are also roasting, broiling or warming something, you should consider having more than one oven. The leader in the field is the Aga Four Oven Cooker, with four separate radiant-heat ovens, for roasting, baking, simmering and warming. For the best baking in other ovens, you will probably want convection. Good news: several manufacturers now offer true dual-fuel ovens – gas fired, with electric fans to circulate the air.
How Much Oven Space Do You Need?
Do you like to turn out a dozen – or even a baker’s dozen – loaves of artisan bread on baking day? Then look for the ranges with ovens with four of more cubic feet of interior space, or with more than one baking oven. If you don’t need to cook a lot at a time, but you like to cook a lot of different things at the same time, look for a range with a variety of spaces and controls – a good roasting oven plus a second oven for baking, and a broiler.
What Do You Want to Cook on Top of the Stove?
Gas stove burners are the best for efficiency and control – when you turn gas down it goes down. Pay attention to BTU values. For candy or sauces, or for making candles, you will need a burner that stays on at a very low setting – some can go down to 150 BTU. To get big pots of water boiling quickly, look for burners that can crank out 15,000 or more BTU. Like stir-fry? Look for a grate designed to hold a wok. Or you can get a griddle or a grill, either built in or as an accessory.
How Big Are Your Pots?
Do you cook pasta for 10 or 12? Boil a couple of lobsters at a time? Or a week’s worth of chili? To support and heat a big pot, look for a range with continuous grates and combinable burners, as well as large burners. Or an Aga with a Boiling Plate. Combinable burners are also great for evenly heating large fish cookers. To cook a lot of different things at once on top of the stove, you need a range with both some large, hot burners and some small, slow burners.
Where Will the Range Be?
The traditional place for the kitchen range is under a hood against a blank wall. That’s especially good for a large, multi-burner unit. There’s a reason for not placing a range in front of a standard window, but there’s no reason it can’t be in an island. That can put the fridge and sink at your elbows and your audience in front of you, with a prep area at hand. Slide-in and drop-in ranges are good for containing spills anywhere, and they’re particularly well-suited for placing in an island.
How Big Will It Be?
To squeeze a range in, consider one of the 20″ or 24″ ranges designed for apartments. Standard four-burner ranges are 30″ wide. 36″ and 40″ ranges usually have five or six burners and offer more stove-top options such as grilles and griddles, plus a really big oven. 60″ ranges can have up to eight burners, or six burners plus a grille or griddle, or lots of other combinations, and two to four ovens. The 72″ LaCornue Grand Palais comes with a gas oven, an electric oven, and eight big burners.
Add an Oven?
If you need a small range and you like to bake a lot, or cook sizable roasts, look for a place to add a second oven – perhaps in a wall. If you love the Aga Cooker but need a bigger oven, you can add a Companion to a 3 Oven or 2 Oven Cooker. The Companion adds two 24″ electric ovens and four gas burners. If you have the 60″ space an Aga Four Oven Cooker would occupy but you would prefer to have two large ovens, several ranges, including the Dacor ERD60 Dual-Fuel Range, will give you that option.
What Color Do You Like?
Refrigerators and dishwashers can have wooden panels applied to help them blend into your cabinetry. For a variety of reasons, including fire safety, ranges are not available that way. So pick a color. Most good ranges are made in stainless steel. Aga ranges can have variety of vitreous finishes baked onto their cast-iron bodies. LaCornue offers 20 finishes, including stainless steel. A Viking Professional Series can have one of 14, including stainless, with brass trim as an additional option.