2010 Nov 27th

What Makes a Hoboken Kitchen High-End: Part II

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?stove

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”.

  1. Erica

    Thanks so much for this explanation. I never knew what to look for. We’re thinking about buying soon and this will be very helpful when comparing different properties.

  2. Craig

    The higher-end models of the mass-market brands are definitely the best buy for most people if you need to have something fancy. You don’t need commercial grade cooking appliances in your home unless you’re a professional chef. Bobby Flay having a several thousand dollar stove in his home makes sense. Susie Homemaker? Not so much. A lot of these people with $5000 plus Wolf or Viking stoves and ranges in their homes make little more than grilled cheese sandwiches and bacon and eggs on them like the rest of us. I refused to buy a condo with them because I wasn’t going to pay a premium for someone else’s vanity. But that’s just me – to each his own.

  3. Lori

    What I’ve noticed, Craig, is that when builders install commercial-grade appliances the selection is made based on brand name and not on features. Having a Viking (or some other obscure, expensive, but poorly-rated) stove means little if it isn’t the one appropriate for my personal needs and preferences based on what and how I cook. I love to cook and have a fancy range but it is the one I chose for very specific reasons based on what it does, not who made it. But I agree, for most Hoboken kitchens, it’s nothing more than a very ill utilized status symbol. Worse yet, most of the exhaust systems that have been installed with them are way inadequate. The builders would be better off putting in quality cabinets and high-end GE or Whirlpool appliances.

  4. whynot

    As a cook, for Hoboken, I always thought GE Profile made sense. They’re a little nicer and higher end then – Frigidaire, Whirlpool, LG, Kenmore and similar brands, but not too crazy expensive and high end like Viking.

    For example, you can get a GE Profile suite for around $4,000 and a Frigidaire suite for around $3,000.00. I think spending the extra $1,000 makes sense. I could be wrong, but I like the GE Profile brand and it stands out better?

  5. Lori

    There are so many different models of each appliance made by each manufacturer these days that I don’t think you can generalize. I believe it is better to compare feature by feature to see which company offers the best value. I recently shopped for a range, for example and found that the Frigidaire model in the photo had more to offer than GE. The least expensive GE Profile stainless 30″ freestanding gas range is MSRP of $1,299 which you can find on sale for about $1,000. It is a 4 burner and no convection. The least expensive GE (not Profile) 5 burner gas range is MSRP $949 but you can find it for about $600. The center burner is round, not oval and no griddle included, no convection oven. I bought a Frigidaire with and oval center burner, griddle, stainless knobs and a convection oven on sale for $699. You have to compare apples to apples.

  6. whynot

    I understand that you have to compare apples to apples.

    My point is that I rather for aesthetics and quality get the higher end GE Profiles or the like (with less gadgets) than any Frigidaire or lower level GE.

    The cost is slightly more, but you get the quality and a chance at the wow factor.

    When a potential purchaser walks into a condo, they wouldn’t get the wow factor from Frigidaire or lower lever GE. They may actually even get turned off a bit.

    Erica – My advice, spend the extra $1,000 or so and go up a level for aesthetics and quality despite the features. If you’re ever going to sell, the wow factor is important and it doesn’t cost that much more.

  7. Lori

    I’m just not that wowed by GE Profile. GE Monogram, maybe but that’s an entirely different line and price range. If I were at that several thousand price point, I’d go for a JennAir or Thermador but that’s just me.

  8. teaorcoffee

    This is an excellent article. Thanks for posting.

    We need to upgrade our appliances, definitely, and want more than the basics. But my husband has created dishes and meals that are absolutely stellar on our cheap, rental-quality range. And our bottom-of-the-line dishwasher performs significantly better than a friend’s pricey Bosch. Information like this makes appliance purchases even more confusing and daunting! Articles/threads like this are helpful. Thanks again.

  9. whynot

    Lori – I think you need to understand that Frigidaire, Kenmoore or GE may be a turn off for a lot of Buyers of condos. Those brands really don’t add anything.

    When you talk about JennAir or Thermador there’s a very large price difference.

    You may not be wowed by GE Profile, but it’s certainly a step up from the others for a slightly higher price and not a turn off for most. That’s my advise.

  10. carl

    GE is GE no matter what type. Viking and Wolf are the high end appliances everyone knows.

  11. Tiger

    GE? Please. Everyone and their mama have them, they are the Toyotas of Appliances.


  12. whynot

    Not to exhaust the debate:

    Viking and Wolf are very expensive and you may not get your money back when selling. In this economic environment, experts say don’t make major major improvements. Check money magazine on the issue.

    – I was only making the point that GE Profile is slightly more expensive then Frigidaire, Kenmoore, GE, etc. (i.e. 3K v. 4K for a suite) and make a better appearance and are of better quality. So, if I was going to sell a condo in the future, I would spend 1K more and get the GE Profile to show an upgrade. My opinion.

    Kitchenaid? Is Tiger mixing cake batter again with his or her Kitchenaid or sniffing it? I wouldn’t go a full kitchen with Kitchenaid, plus I like when everything matches.

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