Stoves & Ranges – What you may want to know.
The other week I wrote about cabinets. Today let’s take a look at stoves. Like just about everything in a kitchen, there is no upper limit on what one can spend on cooking appliances. There are companies like Aga, Viking, Dacor, Jenn-Air, Bosch, and Thermador that specialize in very high end stoves and ranges. These appliances start in the thousands and have a multitude of special features. You can spend months analyzing the differences among them and arguing about which is best. I’m going to focus here on the more common type appliances that one typically finds in a Hoboken condo. The GE Profile, Frigidaire, Whirlpool, LG, Kenmore and similar brands.
Even among the more pedestrian stoves and ranges there are a multitude of different models and features available today. Here is a quick rundown of what you might look for in a range whether you are replacing an old one or buying a condo with a supposed “chef’s kitchen”.
Wall oven & cooktop, freestanding or slide-in?
If you have a huge kitchen you may have the luxury of having separate wall ovens and a counter cooktop. Most Hoboken apartments have a single unit that is both an oven and a cooktop – called a range. While a range can be as large as a 48″, 6 burner again, most Hoboken kitchens are small and a 30″ range is pretty typical.
Slide-in models don’t have a raised piece along the back of the stove. They fit in with your countertop more seamlessly but you will need a backsplash of some sort.
Gas, Electric or Dual Fuel?
Most cooks prefer gas for the greater control over the heat level. Gas stoves also use less energy than electric ones. The better electric ranges now have induction heating elements which require special cookware but offer much better control over cooking temperatures. Some electric ranges will have a mix of induction and regular electric stove elements.
Most city apartments have 30″ stoves and most of those have only 4 burners. The better 30″ gas stoves have 5 burners – a low simmer burner; a super-burner to boil water quickly; two normal burners; and a center burner, preferably oval shaped, that can accommodate a built-in griddle.
Dual fuel ranges offers the best of both worlds – a gas cooktop and an electric, convection oven. Normal ovens have two elements – one on top and one below. Convection ovens have a fan which circulates the air inside the oven as it cooks to avoid hot and cool spots. Baking & broiling takes less time and can be done at a lower temperature and the results are even regardless of which rack you choose. There is a difference between true convection and regular convection. A true convection oven has a third heating element along with the fan so the air that is blown is hot. Of course, the various companies have come up with their own names for their convection ovens so it can be even more confusing to compare.
Continuous grates – the better gas stoves have a grate that allows you to slide your pans around without tipping and spilling. They are made of separate grate pieces that fit together to make a continuous top.
Sealed burners – these are burners that don’t allow spills to go inside the burner mechanism making it easier to keep your stove clean.
Self cleaning – this is a no brainer. Even Viking now makes self-cleaning ovens. No one likes scrubbing an oven with toxic cleansers. The new self-cleaning ovens have a “light clean” feature that lets you run it for less than the full 5 or 6 hour cycle.
Removable stainless knobs – not only do the look nicer than plastic knobs, they remove for easy cleaning and they are more durable than plastic.
Double ovens – many of the top-of-the-line ranges offer twin ovens although it’s hard to find any for under $1,200. These are great on Thanksgiving when you need to cook the main course and various side dishes at the same time.
Warming drawers – these can keep the dishes that are ready sooner warm while you finish preparing the rest of your meal.
Black, white, stainless or a color? This is more of a personal preference choice but some manufacturers claim that true stainless is easier to keep clean. The trend is definitely for stainless everything yet I see way too many properties with stainless appliances and fingerprints and food smudges all over them. Clean is best.
What about the exhaust?
Keep in mind that stoves require hoods to exhaust the cooking fumes. Most apartments do not have vented hoods as there is no access to the outdoors. The little charcoal filter under the microhood is barely adequate. If you have a high-power professional-style cooktop you need are going to need a powerful, professional exhaust fan.
When buying a range, comparison shopping is crucial and most of it can be done online. It does help, once you’ve narrowed it down, to go see the appliance in a store. Prices vary as do special sales. Don’t be too hung up on brand names. All of them are made by the same 4 manufacturers (Whirlpool, GE, Frigidaire & Amana) and marketed under many different labels. If you are a diligent shopper, you can find, for example, a gas, 5 sealed burner, continuous grate, self cleaning, stainless range with a convection oven, a griddle included and a warming drawer and stainless knobs for under $700. You may have to pay for installation but delivery and haul-away are usually free. It’s not the cost, it’s the features that matter. Hopefully you will now have a better idea of what to look for when evaluating that “chef’s kitchen”.