By Diana Murphy

Whether you cook frequently or just once in a while, every kitchen needs a range; it’s a necessity and a focal point in the heart of every home. But with so many types and models to choose from, how do you know which range to select? It all boils down to a few simple rules of thumb, so consider the following questions when buying a new kitchen range: 

Should I choose an electric or gas range?

Whether replacing an old range or installing one in new construction, remember that a gas or hybrid range that features both gas and electric cooktops will require access to natural gas. Given that this utility is available, it then comes down to your cooking preference. Many cooks prefer gas cooktops for the precise control over heating and no waiting for the element to heat up.

What types of cooktops are available?

There are several types of cooktops to choose from, and even if you have access to gas, you may want to consider one of the other types to suit your preferred cooking style and décor.

Gas ranges

Available with open burners and drip pans that can be lifted up for cleaning or with sealed burners attached to the cooktop for easy cleanup around them. Many models have interlocking grates that allow you to simply slide pots and pans from burner to burner. Some of the benefits of gas burners include even cooking, precise control over the heat, the ability to turn the heat off immediately and the ability to cook during a power outage. Many professional-style gas ranges come with five or six burners, and some feature built-in griddles or grills.

Electric ranges

Available with either coil elements that remove for easy cleaning or in smooth-top models that have radiant elements beneath an easy-to-clean glass surface, accommodating pans of any size. Some smooth-top models feature induction cooktops, which heat pans immediately while the surface stays cool to the touch.

Hybrid ranges, otherwise known as dual-fuel ranges, offer the best features of both gas and electric cooktops, with gas burners for precise cooktop cooking and an electric oven for even baking.

What style range should I buy?

There are three styles of ranges available, and the type you choose depends on the design of your kitchen.

Slide-in ranges

Slide into the cabinetry for a built-in look. The controls are on the front, and they have no backsplash.

Drop-in ranges

Have controls on the front and a custom look similar to built-in but with a strip of cabinetry along the bottom and may require modification of the cabinets for a proper fit.

Freestanding ranges

Finished on all sides and have a backsplash, so they don’t need to be surrounded by cabinetry. Typically, controls for freestanding gas ranges are on the front, while electric models’ controls are usually on the backsplash.

What size range should I buy?

First consider the space that’s available for your range. If you are replacing an old range, the new one will need to fit in the old space unless you’re considering reconstructing the cabinetry. With new construction you have more flexibility, so it’s best to decide what size range you want before designing the layout of the kitchen.

Then consider your cooking style. For singles or couples, who don’t typically cook large quantities of food, a range with a smaller-capacity oven of 2 to 4 cubic feet is probably sufficient. For big families or people who typically cook large items such as turkeys or many dishes at once, opt for an oven with 4 or more cubic feet.

What other features should I look for?

When buying a range, there are several features to look for to suit your needs and cooking style. Here are a few:

Convection oven.

If you bake a lot or like to cook or reheat foods quickly, you may want a convection oven, which uses a fan to distribute heat all around the food, cooking it more evenly and faster than conventional ovens.

Warming drawer.

This is a great option if you entertain a lot or have family members who eat on different schedules. The drawer keeps food warm in a separate compartment, leaving the oven free to continue to cook other dishes or turn off.

Self-cleaning oven.

This feature allows for easy cleaning of the oven compartment. Not all models have this ability, so if it’s important to you, check to make sure it’s included in your new range.

Burners of different sizes. If you use your cooktop often for all sorts of dishes, consider a range that includes elements of various sizes to accommodate different-size pans.

Storage drawer.

For small kitchens without a lot of cabinet space, buy a range with a storage drawer with room to stow pots and pans.

Digital controls.

To make your cooking experience even easier, look for digital controls such as built-in timers, digital temperature displays, programmable cooking times or favorite settings and specialty buttons to cook foods such as pizza or frozen foods.

To help your selection process when buying a range, visit the manufacturers’ websites to learn more about the sizes and features available on their models. Then you can make an educated decision when it’s time to make your purchase.

Diana Murphy is the managing editor of Home Sweet Solutions. The former editor of Kitchen and Bath Portfolio and Country Living Special Interest Publications, she recently helped her sister-in-law waterproof her deck.

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