Faced wth an array of options and features, many customers find buying a range to be a nearly overwhelming experience. The best range for one person can differ greatly from the best range for another person. When selecting a range, look at the options and features needed to do the best job for each particular situation.
Fuel Source: Gas or Electric
Gas or electric is just the beginning of the selection process when looking at the power source on freestanding ranges. Chefs often prefer gas cooktops because the heating levels are easier to control. Some people prefer electric stovetops for cooking because they are typically less expensive than gas cooktops and can be easier to clean. Some ranges offer dual-fuel with gas cooktops and electric ovens. Electric ranges typically have elements that range from 1,200 watts to about 2,500 watts. Gas ovens measure power in British thermal units (BTUs) and generally have burners ranging from 5,000 BTU to 12,000 BTU. Typically, the fuel source does not weigh heavily on the overall price of the range. There are low-end, midranged and high-end versions of both gas and electric ranges.
Electric Stovetop: Coil Top or Smooth Top
Most electric ranges currently produced have a smooth cooktop. Smooth cooktop ranges offer substantial cleaning benefits over coil top ranges. In addition, many smooth-top ranges have a ridge around the perimeter to help prevents spills. Coil-top ranges are often the least expensive electric ranges, but because smooth top ranges are more popular, coil top models are limitedt.
Some smooth cooktops use induction to heat dishes. Pans with a magnetic strip activate the cooktop, leaving other areas cool. Because induction cooktops require special pans to activate the surface, the cooktops are always cool to the touch, an advantage if children live in the house. Induction pans generally cost more than pans that can be used on non-induction cooktops. Typically, induction ranges tend to be more expensive than traditional gas or electric models.
This option is standard on high-end ranges, but few ranges that cost less than $1,000 have the option available.
The size of the household one is feeding is a good indication of the capacity to look for in a range. A single person can use a smaller range with 2 to 3 cubic feet of oven capacity, but families generally will need more room. For a family of four, a 4 to 5 cubic foot range is recommended.
Auto Shut-Off and Sabbath Mode
Many ranges offer an auto shut-off feature that provides protection by turning off the range after a certain time period (usually about 12 hours). Sabbath mode is a feature that overrides the auto shut-off, allowing an oven to stay on during the Sabbath for observant Jews who have self-imposed electricity restrictions.
Many ranges have a lower drawer, but the uses for the drawer vary. Most less-expensive ranges provide a storage drawer. More expensive models uses the space as a second oven or a warming drawer. Some drawers are used as broilers.
Ratings and Reviews
- JD Power rates reliability, overall satisfaction, performance and ease of use on ranges. It's advisable to check the ratings prior to purchasing a range.
- Consumer Reports tested more than 80 ranges and provides information on specific models as well as general buying advice.