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Questions and Answers
What types of cooking appliances are available?
Shopping for a range? You've got a choice of four types: freestanding, slide in, drop in, and high/low. Freestanding ranges have finished sides and rest on the floor. Slide-in ranges come with unfinished side panels to slip between kitchen cabinets. Drop-in ranges have unfinished sides and are built into cabinets and typically rest on a low wood base. A high/low range offers two ovens-one above the cooktop (sometimes a microwave) and one below. Ranges can be finished with porcelain enamel or stainless steel exteriors and sometimes have glass cooktops.
Cooktops drop in to any type of counter. Cooktops may have electric coils, radiant elements in a smoothtop surface, or sealed or conventional gas burners. Cooktops can also be frameless or flush frame, which is recessed into a metal frame and sits even with your countertop. The surfaces of cooktops range from glass to porcelain to stainless steel.
Wall ovens slide in to kitchen cabinets and have unfinished sides. Options include a single or double oven and a combination of thermal and convection heat. Wall oven exteriors are also finished with porcelain enamel, glass, or stainless steel.
How do ranges differ in price and size?
For $600 to $800, you'll likely get an electric or sealed gas burner range with dial oven knobs and electronic controls for the oven (electronic models only). Most ranges in this price category offer self-cleaning ovens, which use intense heat to burn spills to a powdery ash that wipes off easily after the process is complete. Savvy shoppers can also find power burners or simmer burners, which produce either a high flame--great for boiling water, searing meats, or stir-frying-or a low flame that's ideal for keeping soups warm. Ranges with this price tag generally offer two oven racks and come in white, almond, or black.
Step up to the $750 to $1,300 price range, and you'll get sealed gas burners with possibly heavy cast-iron grates and easy-to-clean surfaces or a smoothtop, a warmer drawer, numbered pads to set oven cooking time, and a splashy-looking backsplash with fluorescent readouts. Inch up more in price and the features bubble over: Some models come with warming zones (an area on the cooktop that keeps the serving temperature of the dish until it's ready to be served), downdraft ventilation systems, interchangeable cooking modules, and stainless-steel exteriors.
Models costing from $2,000 to $5,000 and up are the chef's delight. These ranges typically boast four or more gas (or electric) burners. They usually include convection ovens (which are fueled by gas or electric and circulate air around the cavity to maintain a uniform temperature and speed up cooking times).
On all gas ranges, the amount of heat produced depends on the BTUs (British thermal units) generated. A standard gas range generates 8,000 to 10,000 BTUs per burner. The heavy-duty burners on pro-style ranges generate 15,000 and sometimes higher BTUs. And the higher the BTUs the quicker food will cook.
How do cooktops differ in cost and size?
At the $300 to $400 end, you'll likely find an electric cooktop with coil elements. These units typically are 30 inches wide with rotary controls and sport porcelain finishes. For roughly $100 more, you'll be cooking with gas.
Jump up to the $600 to $800 price range, and shoppers can get an easy-to-clean smoothtop (radiant elements covered by a glass-ceramic surface) and a variety of widths (30, 36, or 40 inches). Since smoothtops and electric ranges can be slow to heat and cool and you can't always tell when they're on (causing a potential safety hazard), most come with surface-on, or hot surface, indicator lights.
Cooktops in the four-digit price tag often boast 42-inch widths, six burners or cooking elements, stainless-steel surfaces, cooking modules, and more.
If price is a factor, remember: A cooktop/wall oven combo will cost, on average, $400 more than an all-in-one range.
How do wall ovens differ in cost and size?
What's most important when selecting a cooking appliance?
What are your cooking needs? Consider the types of food you cook-and the number of people you cook for. If you have a large family or entertain often, a six-burner cooktop might be handy. If your kids trickle home after dinner, a warming zone or warmer drawer may be perfect. If you often sear meats, perhaps a modular grill will suit your needs. Maybe you bake a lot. In that case, scout for a range or wall oven with good performance and a large viewing window.
Who will have access to your cooking appliance? If small children frequent your kitchen, look for safety features such as knobs or touchpads placed on the backsplash, push-to-turn knobs, and surface-on indicator lights to alert you of hot elements. If your elderly mom will be doing most of the cooking, avoid units with heavy grates, small illegible type, and small, hard-to-grasp knobs.
Who cleans your cooking appliance? If you have teenagers who are not self-cleaning, you'll want to prevent food from dripping inside your unit. So shop for a self-cleaning oven and a cooktop with upswept sides and few cracks, crevices, and seams. Smoothtops are generally easy to clean. On the flip side, smoothtops require flat-bottom pans to cook and special solutions to clean the surface. Except for low-budget ovens, both freestanding and built ins are generally self-cleaning.
Electric coil - The traditional coil cooktop is the least expensive heating system. The coils are reliable, easy to replace if damaged, and can heat up quickly. The downside: They cool down slowly, so reducing a boil to a simmer may take longer, and drip pans can be difficult to clean.
Gas - This heat can be controlled precisely. If you're sold on gas, you have to decide whether to buy conventional gas or a sealed burner (where the burners are sealed to the cooktop to prevent spills from dripping into hard-to-reach places). Conventional gas burners can be time-consuming to clean.
Modular - This variation of gas or electric cooktop lets you interchange various modules that contain conventional burners and accessories (such as a grill, griddle, wok, or deep fryer).
Halogen - Vacuum-sealed quartz glass tubes filled with halogen gas create instant heat and emit a red glow. The tubes are hidden beneath a smoothtop surface.
Radiant - The most common source of heat in smoothtops is radiant. Electric radiant elements are installed beneath a glass-ceramic surface, and designs on the smoothtop indicate the heating areas.
Induction - With this, a magnetic field--created by the cooktop and an iron or steel pan when they make contact--generate the heat. It's fast. It's responsive. And it's expensive. Note: Copper-bottom and some stainless-steel and aluminum pans won't work on this type of heat surface. Again, the elements are concealed beneath a smoothtop surface.
What does a shopper need to know about installing a cooking unit?
Whether you're buying an all-in-one range or a cooktop and separate wall oven, you'll need to connect your appliance(s) to an energy source. When you buy a gas cooking unit, you have to hook it up to a gas line and a three-prong 120-volt outlet if it has a pilotless ignition (which most are today). Be aware that most local codes require a licensed and certified gas professional to install a gas unit. When you buy a freestanding electric range or an electric cooktop, you'll need a dedicated 240-volt outlet-and the assistance of an electrician. If you're eyeing a dual-fuel-cooking appliance, you'll need both gas and a dedicated 240-volt outlet.
What other cooking unit features are worth considering?
Dehydration - In certain convection ovens, this feature circulates air at a low temperature for drying herbs or preserving fruit.
Continuous grates - These grates extend from burner to burner allowing pots and pans to slide across the cooking surface easily.
When buying a cooking appliance, do you need an exhaust?
What must shoppers know about delivery?
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