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Gas or electric ranges can give you fine performance. Serious chefs often prefer gas for the quick response and visual confirmation of a flame. But electric elements generally heat faster and maintain low heat more precisely. Dual-fuel ranges combine a gas cooktop with an electric oven.
Electric smoothtop ranges sell the most overall and are tops in performance and value. The best blend superb cooktop heating and simmering with a large oven and maybe a cooktop warming zone that keeps the vegetables warm while you finish the main course. You'll also find electric ranges with induction surface elements, which use an electromagnetic field to heat the pot or pan more quickly and effectively while leaving the surface cooler. In our tests the cooktop of induction ranges brought water to a boil about 25 percent faster than electric smoothtops in our tests and even faster than gas models.
Most ordinary electric and gas ranges are 30 inches wide, while some huge pro-style gas models favored by decorators may span 36 inches or more. But even regular ranges now have beefy knobs, rugged grates, and stainless trim for far less money. In this range guide we compare and contrast types and features.
Love steaks? Choose a range that did well in our broiling tests. And if you're sweet on desserts, look for models with strong baking scores. A roomy range also helps if you entertain often; we measure space you can actually use. Then keep these tips in mind:
Focus on convenience. Look for at least one high-powered burner or element for quick heating. Expandable electric smoothtop elements let you match their size to the pot or pan. Ranges with at least five rack positions provide added flexibility when cooking on more than one rack, and models with dual ovens can roast a turkey and bake a pie at the same time.
Don't buy by Btu. Short for British thermal unit, range and cooktop Btu are often a selling point at the store. But that measure merely indicates the amount of gas used and heat generated, not performance. Indeed, higher Btu hasn't guaranteed faster heating in our tests.
Stand-alone ranges are best for kitchens where you're simply replacing a range or where the range is the centerpiece, as with professional-style ranges. There are three major types of ranges: electric, gas and dual-fuel. Freestanding ranges are easy to install. The oven control panel is on the backsplash, above the cooktop surface. Slide-in ranges give a custom built-in look but easily slide in between surrounding cabinets. The cooktop and oven controls are on the range front and there's no back panel, showcasing your backsplash.
Most smoothtop ranges have four surface elements in three sizes: one or two medium-power elements (about 1,500 to 1,800 watts), a small element (about 1,200 watts), and one or two large ones (more than 2,000 watts, often 2,500 watts or more). Some have a warming element in the center section.
Smoothtops, which place the elements beneath a sleek ceramic surface, have displaced coil tops in all but the lowest-priced models. Induction elements use magnetic coils below the ceramic-glass surface to generate heat directly in the pot or pan rather than the cooking surface.
Coil tops are generally less expensive as a group. Smoothtops are sleeker and make it easier to wipe up spills because there are no electric coils or gas burners protruding above the surface. Induction cooktops take the cake for quick heating, the surface stays cooler, and they have fast heat response.
Coil-top models won't win any styling awards. Induction elements add to the price and require magnetic cookware.
The capacity of a burner is measured in British thermal units (Btu) per hour. Most gas ranges have four surface burners in three sizes: one or two medium-power burners (about 9,000 Btu), a small burner (about 5,000 Btu.) and one or two large ones (about 12,000 Btu or more). Some have a fifth burner instead of a center section. Gas-on-glass models that mount gas burners above a smooth ceramic surface are an option.
An experienced chef may find it easier to judge heat by the appearance of the gas flame, and gas burners can accommodate a variety of pot types and sizes. Gas burners let you quickly move from a high to low setting, unlike radiant electric smoothtops and coil elements which tend to retain heat longer.
Natural gas may not be an option where you live.
When buying a new range, keep high-tech options in perspective. Some individual features are no guarantee of good overall performance. Here are the range features to consider.
It lets you disable the oven controls. We recommend it if the electronic-oven control panel is at the front of the range, rather than on the backsplash.
Many higher-priced electric and gas ovens use one or more fans to circulate the hot air in an oven. Some ovens, usually electric models, have an additional convection heating element. Convection typically reduces cooking time, especially for large roasts.
Two separate cavities that let you roast a turkey in one while baking pies in another and at different temperatures. Some pair a smaller top oven with a larger oven below, others have two same-size ovens. Keep in mind there's no storage drawer and usually the convection feature in the bottom oven, although some haveconvection0 in both ovens.
Be sure they're well placed and visible while you cook. Front-mounted pads are easy to bump and reset by accident.
On electric and gas ranges look for at least one high-heat element or burner especially if you often cook for a crowd. For electric ranges, a high-heat element is over 2,000 watts and often 2,500 watts or more. For gas ranges, high-heat burners are about 12,000 Btu or more. High heat sears and stir-fries especially well, and it can heat large quantities quickly.
This light warns when an element is still hot and is particularly useful on smoothtops.
Induction uses an electro-magnetic field to heat pots and pans and in our tests was much faster than gas or radiant-electric models.
In a gas range, a small, low-power burner provides extra-low flame settings. But this feature is not essential; the other burners should be capable of simmering.
Typically this cycle uses high heat to burn off spills and spatters in the oven. An automatic safety lock on self-cleaning models prevents the oven door from being opened until the oven has cooled. Some models have a countdown display that shows the time left in the cycle. The self-cleaning cycle helps eliminate the drudgery of cleaning an electric or gas oven by hand. Other low-temperature self-clean cycles are available, but haven't performed as well in our testing.
The more the better. You can adjust for the size of the food and distance to the broiler element or flame.
Only the least-expensive electric models use coils these days. Smoothtops, both radiant and induction, make it easier to clean up spills but require a special cleaner, and dropped pots and sugary liquids can damage them. Coils are sturdier and easier to replace, but they require more cleaning time.
Most smoothtops have expandable (dual or triple) elements that allow you to switch between a large, high-power element and a small, low-power element contained within it. Some have an elongated "bridge" element that spans two elements to accommodate large cookware. The surface of smoothtop induction ranges doesn't get as hot as conventional (radiant) smoothtops. Many have one or more hot-surface warning lights--a key safety feature for radiant elements because the surface can remain hot long after the elements are turned off.
It lets you set a time for the electric or gas oven to start and stop cooking. But this feature is not essential--you shouldn't leave the oven on when it's unattended, and most foods shouldn't stay in a cold oven for long.
This convenient feature helps keep plates and food warm and comes in handy when you are cooking for a crowd.
Most electric and gas ovens have it. It provides adjustable settings for foods that need slower or faster cooking.
In addition to the familiar brands you grew up with, you'll find more big names—and some newcomers—competing at the "pro" end of the price spectrum as kitchens morph into places to show off as well as cook. This guide will help you to compare ranges by brand.
This value-oriented, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $400 and $1,000. Amana offers stylish appliances with clever features at affordable prices. The cooking line includes gas and electric ranges. More than 40 years ago, Amana introduced the first countertop microwave and changed the way Americans cook.
This high-end brand offers a full selection of German-engineered kitchen appliances. Bosch ranges are available in gas, electric, and dual-fuel models, with prices starting at around $800. Bosch is sold at Lowes, Sears, Best Buy, and independent appliance retailers.
This upper-midlevel brand offers cooking appliances priced between $1,500 and $2,500. The cooking line includes gas, electric, and dual-fuel ranges. The Electrolux name is new to the U.S. market, but has been used in Europe for more than 70 years. The appliances feature a modern design and touch glass controls.
Electrolux also has the high-end Icon line, with most cooking appliances priced at $4,000 and $6,000 each. The line includes gas, electric, and dual-fuel ranges. The line promotes innovation, performance, and flexibility with premium features at premium prices. Icon appliances are sold through independent appliance retailers.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $500 and $1,500. The Frigidaire cooking line includes gas and electric ranges loaded with time-saving and high-performance features with a classic design. The appliances are sold in matching kitchen suites.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $500 and $1,500. The line includes gas and electric ranges with a timeless look and up-to-date features that offer excellent performance and value.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells gas, electric, and dual-fuel ranges priced from $1,000 to $2,000. The line includes a wide variety of prices and features, possibly the most in the industry. The appliances are sold in matching kitchen suites.
This upper-midlevel, mass-market brand sells gas and dual-fuel freestanding ranges priced above $2,000. The latest brand from GE, the Café line is characterized by stainless-steel exteriors and updated styling. Think modern restaurant kitchen.
This high-end line offers pro-style ranges priced from $5,000 to $7,000 for gas, electric, and dual fuel. Monogram appliances are made to be top performing, and positioned for high-end consumers. The appliances are sold in matching kitchen suites and are sold through independent appliance retailers.
This value-oriented mass-market brand offers electric and gas ranges priced between $400 and $800.
This high-end line offers appliances priced between $1,500 and $6,000. Jenn-Air makes high-performance cooking appliances in a choice of stylish collections that include stainless steel and other finishes.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $500 and $1,500. Introduced in 1927, Kenmore has earned a solid reputation with consumers. The appliances are sold through Sears stores.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $500 and $1,500. Kenmore Elite offers more innovative features than the Kenmore line. The appliances are also sold through Sears stores.
This high-end line sells cooking appliances priced between $1,500 and $6,000. Taking inspiration from professional kitchens, Kenmore Pro offers pro-look gear with styling and features such as stainless-steel construction, heavy-duty knobs, and other premium features. The appliances are sold through Sears stores.
This high-end brand sells a broad range of cooking appliances priced between $1,500 and $6,000. Its Architect Series II collection includes built-in wall ovens, electric, gas, and dual-fuel ranges, induction, gas, and electric cooktops, microwave-hood combination ovens and hoods, and a slow-cook warming drawer. Its pro-style ranges have convection and steam-assist technology.
This midlevel brand sells cooking appliances priced between $1,000 and $2,500. New to cooking appliances, LG is known for high-tech design and technology and gear characterized by stylish controls and a large capacity in its freestanding ranges. Its Dual Convection System claims a 30 percent faster preheat time for ovens.
This midlevel, mass-market brand makes appliances priced between $500 and $2,000. Maytag, the first brand to introduce the double oven range in North America, offers a full line of dependable and durable cooking appliances such as built-in ovens, freestanding ovens (single or double), gas and electric cooktops, microwave/oven combinations, and downdraft hoods.
This midlevel brands sells cooking appliances priced between $1,000 and $2,500. In 2008, Samsung released a range with the SteamQuic cleaning system, a three-fan true-convection range designed to cook food more evenly.
This high-end brand sells cooking appliances priced between $1,500 and $6,000. Thermador is known for its innovation and today the company is aiming to combine state-of-the-art cooking with great style. These ranges are sold through independent appliance retailers.
This high-end brand sells cooking appliances priced between $4,500 and $6,000, including gas, electric, and dual-fuel ranges. Viking ushered in the pro-style look more than a decade ago, and is considered the benchmark for gourmets. The company adds premium features to its ranges, including high-output burners. The company offers the Professional and the Designer series, both sold through independent appliance retailers.
This midlevel, mass-market brand sells appliances priced between $500 and $1,500. Whirlpool’s freestanding ranges offer features such as hidden bake elements, power burners, and convection technology. Whirlpool introduced a range designed specifically for the Hispanic consumer in 2006 and features English and Spanish controls, as well as a comal for heating tortillas.
This high-end brand sells cooking appliances priced above $5,000, including gas and dual-fuel ranges. Wolf targets consumers who want a pro-appliance look and high performance. These ranges are sold through independent appliance retailers.