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Range buying guide: how to buy a range to fit your needs
Whether your idea of a luxurious dinner is a six course meal complete with garnishes or a big pot of macaroni and cheese, you will need a range that compliments your lifestyle and one that will prepare delicious meals for years to come.
Consumers are offered a wide array of choices in today’s marketplace. Understanding the different range styles, colors and cooking features that are available will help to narrow down the selection. That’s why we’ve put together this informative buying guide to help you along in the decision-making process.
To begin, use the following questions to help navigate through the key components of buying a range. Find in-depth information on the topics listed below by simply clicking on any of the following links:
- What style of range do I need: Freestanding, Slide-in, Drop-in or Professional Range?
- What range size will best fit my kitchen?
- What are the differences between gas, electric, and dual-fuel?
- What colors and aesthetic options are available in a range?
- What is a convection oven and how does it work?
- What is induction cooking, and how does it work?
- What are some new and unique features on today’s ranges?
- How can I further protect my investment?
While the industry terms used to describe range styles may sound interchangeable, they each have very different meanings. Each style offers unique advantages and disadvantages in relation to installation and appearance in your kitchen. The four main range styles in the market today include freestanding, slide-in, drop-in, and professional.
The freestanding range is the most commonly used range style in the industry. Featuring finished sides and a flat back, this range can sit flush against a back wall. Generally the rear control panel or back console stands 5 inches from the cook top. Burner controls are located either on the back console or on the front of the range, depending on the model.
The freestanding range provides for the easiest installation in the industry due to the fact that its size has been relatively standardized for many years, making replacement a cinch. The range is typically installed with its back against a wall, in-between two countertops, but sometimes with one or both sides exposed. Freestanding ranges are also the most affordable style, giving cooks on a budget the best bang for their buck.
With the growing trend of kitchen islands and decoratively tiled backsplashes, the slide-in range has become one of the fastest growing segments in the industry. Featuring unfinished sides and back, this style is designed to be built-in between two cabinets. The body of the range is typically 30″ wide and the top of the range is slightly wider so as to lip over and hug the edges of the countertop. This prevents crumbs from getting in the crevices between the countertop and range while providing a more built-in appearance. The oven and burner controls are located on the front of the range, just above the oven door.
When a slide-in range is pushed back against a wall, there is a gap between the back of the cooktop and the wall. In most installations, a strip of countertop is used to fill the gap between the cook surface and the wall to complete the built-in appearance. In the absence of countertop along the back, most manufacturers will offer a filler strip that can make up this distance between the cook surface and the wall.
A common misconception about the term “slide-in” is that it simply means the oven controls are located on the front of the range. Although all slide-in ranges feature front-controls, the term “slide-in” actually refers to the unfinished sides and wider cooktop of the range.
There are many applications for which the slide-in design is appropriate. When installing a range into an island, a slide-in range offers a seamless look with no protruding control panel. The same is true if a range is being installed against a wall with a decoratively tiled backsplash. In cases where it is required that all oven & burner controls are located on the front of the range (such as when working with a handicap-accessible design), a greater selection is available in the slide-in range style versus freestanding. Ultimately, the slide-in range style provides a built-in design that cannot be matched by a freestanding style.
While at one time a more dominant style in kitchen design, the drop-in range has waned in popularity in recent years. A drop-in range shares many characteristics with a slide-in range. It too features unfinished sides and a cooktop that overlaps the counter. A strip of counter or a manufacturer’s filler strip can be installed behind the range to fill in the gap between the back of the cooktop and the wall.
The primary difference is that while a slide-in range touches the floor, a drop in range sits on top of a cabinet baseboard. One advantage of this design is that it provides a greater built-in look as compared to a slide-in range.
One disadvantage of a drop-in range is that it is more difficult to replace. Standard countertop height is 36″ so consumers generally need not be concerned about replacing a freestanding or slide-in range. However, replacing a drop-in range may require modification of the cabinet baseboard, which would incur additional costs. Also, the selection of available drop-in ranges is significantly less than any other range style.
While it is the most expensive range style available in the industry today, the professional range has seen increasingly large growth in recent years. For chefs who have cooked in commercial kitchens, the professional range is designed to replicate the cooking performance and appearance of a true commercial range, while also allowing for safe-use in a residential environment.
Similar to the freestanding range, the professional range style features finished sides and a flat back which allows it to sit flush against a back wall. The oven and burner controls are always located on the front, just above the door. Typically, you have the option of adding a back guard, ranging in height from 1″ (for use with decorative tile backsplashes or island applications) up to 24″ (with options of built-in shelves for food or utensils).
The professional range style represents the highest level of craftsmanship in the industry. Its body is predominately constructed in stainless steel and only the most durable components are utilized for construction of the burners, grates, racks and other elements. Professional ranges feature multiple burners that can achieve high temperatures for rapid boiling as well as extremely low temperatures for delicate and precise simmering. Larger models (36″, 48″or 60″ wide) offer flexibility in the cooking surface, allowing for the addition of built-in griddles, grills, and other specialty surfaces. Its large oven(s) generally boast convection capabilities and intensely high-temperature broiling.
Professional ranges generally come in a stainless steel finish although some manufacturers such as Viking and Bertazzoni offer a palette of designer colors. Special colored knobs, bezels, and accents provide more of an industrial appearance, reflecting the commercial heritage of the product. Professional ranges are typically designed with a gas cooktop and the choice of either a gas oven or 220 volt electric oven.
Unlike many other appliances, range sizes have become standardized throughout the years in both height and width. The majority of freestanding, slide-in, and drop-in ranges are designed to fit a 30″ wide opening. Standard countertop height is 36″ and most ranges also have a surface height of 36″. This allows for the range to fit seamlessly between two countertops, with the cooking surface and countertop perfectly aligned. While range depths vary slightly, most models protrude only an inch or two beyond a standard 24″ deep cabinet.
Although the 30″ wide range continues to be the most common in the industry, several freestanding ranges are also available in 20″, 24″, 36″, and 40″ wide configurations. Professional ranges can be ordered in varying widths from 24″ to 60″. Slide-in ranges are available only in a 30″ width, and GE continues to manufacturer a 27″ wide drop-in range for replacement purposes of a popular model sold during the 60s and 70s.
Rear control panels and/or back guards on freestanding ranges typically vary between 2-6 inches high. Some professional style ranges offer back guards from 1″-24″, some including options for additional shelving and lights. Depending on the configuration of your kitchen, the height of the rear control panel and/or back guard could be a factor in determining which model you need. As always, you will want to assure that it will fit.
When replacing a built-in range and/or when installing new countertops, it is important to note that each range model requires unique cutout specifications. If you are installing new countertops such
as granite or quartz, you will want to select your range prior to installing the counters. Cutout specification sheets should be provided to your countertop supplier so that the countertop opening can be cut exactly to size. return to top
One of the most common questions regarding a range is: what’s best – gas cooking or electric cooking? The answer to the questions is: it depends. Each fuel source has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences in relation to your cooking style can help guide you towards the model that best suits your needs.
Highlights of Gas Cooktop / Gas Burners:
A gas cooktop is generally preferred by professional and aspiring chefs. Most gas burners have electronic ignition for quick and easy starting. The majority of ranges feature a power burner that can output high temperatures needed for rapid boiling, and a simmer burner for more delicate cooking needs, such as sauce preparation. Most importantly, gas burners offer an instant range of heat zones – from very high temperatures to extremely low temperatures – with the turn of a knob.
Highlights of Electric Cooktop / Electric Burners:
Though true in the past, a common misconception remains that electric ranges perform inferior to gas ranges. Electric ranges, which run on 220 volts, can, in most cases, boil liquid as quickly as their gas counterparts. Certain models feature electric burners that reach extremely low temperatures for delicate and precise simmering.
Due to the heat-retention qualities of electric coils and ceramic, electric cooktops (with the exception of induction surfaces) cannot range from high heat to low heat instantaneously as their gas counterparts can. This is one main difference between gas and electric cooktops. One advantage of an electric range is the option of a glass (or ceramic) cooktop. With fewer crevices and less surface area than porcelain/coil or gas ranges, glass surfaces are the easiest to clean and maintain.
A glass top, if properly maintained, will retain its appearance longer than any other range surface in the industry. Though brittle and expensive when first introduced decades ago, today’s ceramic cooktops are extremely durable and scratch resistant. Another good piece of news – the electric glass cooktop is not substantially more expensive than comparable coil cooktops.
Electric Oven vs. Gas Oven:
Electric ovens provide slightly more even temperatures than gas ovens. Most ovens have some degree of variance in baking temperatures. Electric ovens, however, have quicker response time to temperature changes, providing less heat variance overall. Lower amounts of variance yield to more even heat and more consistent baking results. Gas ovens provide more “moist heat” than electric ovens, which is more desirable when cooking foods such as meats & vegetables.
Highlights of Dual-Fuel Cooking:
For cooks who want the best of both worlds, the dual-fuel range is the preferred choice. A dual-fuel range features gas burners on the cooktop with a fully functional 220 volt electric oven. This configuration provides the flexibility & control of a gas cooktop, while maintaining the accuracy and precision of an electric oven.
Natural Gas vs. Liquid Propane:
Gas ranges are designed to connect with a natural gas line. Most gas ranges can be ordered for or converted to use with liquid propane (LP). Liquid propane connections are most commonly seen in remote areas including applications in lake homes and trailer homes. Running a gas line or electrical connection to the kitchen is a process that requires varying degrees of effort given the existing setup of the home. return to top
Most ranges are available in black, white, or stainless steel finish with corresponding-colored cabinet and handles. Stainless steel models offer a variety of painted black, grey, or stainless steel cabinet colors depending on the style and model. Bisque, otherwise known as off-white, is still produced but has limited availability. Most ranges today are monochromatic or one-toned in appearance. Though more popular in the past, the two toned range – typically black door/ console with white or bisque cooktop/ drawer – is still available but with very little selection.
For those looking to do something more creative, manufacturers such as Viking and Bertazzoni offer a complete line of designer-colored ranges to fit any style and taste. These ranges feature custom-color painted oven door(s) and storage drawer combined with stainless steel cooktop and console, depending on the model. Some professional range manufacturers such as Wolf and Viking offer various knob colors and alternative knob finishes for accents and bezels, such as chrome, copper, or brass. return to top
Available cooktop colors
The surface / cooktop color of an electric range varies depending on the model. It is important to know the color options that are available and how they differ. The following terms are defined below:
- True White refers to pure, stark-white cooktop and white burners.
- White refers to a gray and white speckled top with black or gray burners.
- True Bisque refers to a pure, clear-bisque cooktop with bisque burners.
- Bisque refers to a brown and bisque speckled cooktop with brown or black burners.
- Black refers to a pure black cooktop with black burners.
For gas ranges, cast iron burner grates are coated in colored enamel. The colors of the grates can differ depending on the model. However, typically the colors are as such:
- White Range: Cast iron burner grates are painted gray enamel
- Bisque Range: Cast iron burner grates are painted taupe or chocolate brown enamel
- Black Range: Cast iron burner grates are painted black enamel
- Stainless Steel: Cast iron burner grates are painted black enamel or matted enamel
Although rare, some manufacturers do offer matted enamel-finish burner grates with white or black ranges. return to top
Technically, the term “convection” refers to the transfer of heat via air movement. In the context of cooking, a convection oven features a fan installed in the back of the oven cavity which circulates heat during the baking process. Depending on what food is being cooked, this process yields varying results.
When preparing meats, such as a turkey, the convection fan is designed to sear the skin of the meat in a process similar to a wind chill effect. Once the convection fan sears the skin, the natural juices in the meat are retained. This process yields quicker cooking times and more moist, flavorful results.
While baking, most ovens tend to have hot and cold spots, as well as a slight variance in oven temperature. The convection fan works to even out the overall temperature, resulting in even heat distribution and consistent baking; causing less overcooked edges and undercooked middles. It also allows for increased precision when baking on multiple racks, as heat comes from both the rear of the oven as well as the top and bottom.
The good news- working with a convection oven is quick and easy!
A good thing to remember is the “25 Rule”. When using convection, subtract 25 degrees from the regular temperature and 25% off of the normal cook time. (Example: Bake at 350 degrees for one hour – in convection oven would be -bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.) For added convenience, many convection ovens provide electronically-controlled convection conversion systems that take the guesswork out of convection cooking.
Convection ovens are available in both gas and electric range models, with the most basic electric convection range starting at $799.
When considering convection ovens, it’s important to know the various cooking systems that are available. It’s helpful to understand some industry terms related to convection:
Convection: Combines a rear convection fan with standard bake elements. When convection fan is on it distributes heat evenly throughout the oven cavity, improving baking results and reducing cooking time & heat.
True Convection (or European Convection): Combines a heating element with a rear convection fan to provide direct and even heat. This style of convection provides more accurate temperatures and consistent results when baking multiple racks.
Reverse Airflow Convection: The rear convection fan is designed to blow inwards rather than outwards and disperse heat from behind a baffle in the back of the oven. This system allows for ideal convection cooking, as direct heat never touches the food. Many reverse airflow convection systems allow for multi-rack cooking, up to six at a time! return to top
Standard electric cooking utilizes coil or radiant burner elements to transfer heat into cooking vessels (pots or pans). An induction burner, on the other hand, acts as a high-frequency magnet. Cookware used in induction cooking must have ferrous iron content – in real life terms, a magnet must be able to stick to it. The magnetic field generated by the induction element reacts with the iron in the cookware, and transfers heat and energy directly into the cooking vessel.
This method of cooking provides a degree of safety that cannot be replicated by traditional electric or gas designs. Due to the fact that induction cooking reacts only with ferrous iron, it is not hot to the touch. If a person touches an active induction burner, they will not be burned. However, if they touch the heated pot that is on the induction burner, it will definitely hurt!
Induction is the quickest heating method in the electric cooktop industry today with some models reaching boiling temperatures in 90 seconds! Induction also offers instantaneous heat reduction and low temperature outputs similar to well-performing gas burners.
Not only does induction provide direct heat and fantastic cooking results, it’s also easy to clean! Since induction elements react only with ferrous iron, food will rarely burn onto the cooking surface which makes cleanup a snap! return to top
Ranges have improved significantly throughout the years and today’s ranges provide convenient features and efficiencies that will make cooking a real pleasure. Some great features to look for include:
- Electronic Oven Controls – convenient electronic controls feature digital clock and timer displays. Electronic controls can include many options such as self-clean mode, delay start, convection mode, convection conversion and more.
- Oven Capacity – most ranges feature an oven capacity of 3.5 cu. ft. up to 5 cu. ft. This allows for multi-rack cooking and provides ample space for large food items.
- Self-Cleaning Oven – manually activated self-clean mode locks the oven door and heats oven cavity to 900 degrees. This burns off all baked-on food particles and turns them to ash. Simply wipe the oven floor clean at end of self-clean cycle.
- In-Oven Broiler – conveniently located on the top of the oven, the broiler is easy to access. An added benefit to having the broiler located in the oven is an increase of insulation around the oven cavity, which improves efficiency & baking results.
- Storage Drawer -save space in your cabinets by utilizing the storage drawer for pots, pans, baking sheets and more.
- Warming Drawer – lower drawer functions as a keep-warm area for leftover food. It can also be used to warm plates and cups. Typically there are three heat settings on the drawer – low, medium and high.
- Second Oven – lower drawer functions as a separate oven. Perfect for cooking items such as pizzas, pies, casseroles, etc. A second oven is always useful.
- Split Oven Racks – allows for convenient flexibility when cooking multiple dishes simultaneously, split oven racks can be partially removed as needed.
- Roller-glide full extension racks – allow for easier placement and removal of bigger, bulkier dishes.
- Recessed Heating Element – lower bake element is hidden beneath a panel. This provides an unobstructed oven environment for easier cleaning and maintenance.
- Power Burners – high output burners can reach boiling temperature in seconds
- Simmer Burners – low output burners bring temperatures to an ultra low simmer
- Sealed Burners – contains spillovers and messes to the range surface, preventing spills from going between the range & counter. Makes for quick & easy cleanup.
- 5th Burner -some gas ranges feature a 5th burner element in the center of the cooktop. A cast iron griddle is often provided for contact cooking.
- Continuous Grates – provides a flat cooking surface over gas burners for easy movement of pots & pans.
- Radiant Coil Elements – more efficient than traditional coil elements, radiant elements can be placed beneath a glass cooking surface, allowing for easy cleanup and streamline appearance.
- Induction Burners – innovative cooking method uses direct heat transfer to send energy from burner directly to pan. The most efficient & high-performing burner option in the industry -induction burners can boil water in 90 seconds!
- Warming Zones – a dedicated heat element located in the center of the cooktop can be used for keeping food warm. It is especially useful with multiple dish meals. return to top
Most manufacturers offer a one year limited warranty on their product. For as little as $50 Warners’ Stellian offers a Product Protection Guarantee designed to keep your new range preparing your family’s meals for years to come. Our Product Protection Guarantee covers all functional parts and labor on your new appliance for up to two, three or five years. return to top
We hope you have found this buying guide to be useful and informative and we appreciate the time you took to read through it. If you have questions that were not answered by this guide, please feel free to contact us.