One of the essential items for your kitchen is a range. The magical appliance can do everything from boil water to cook, bake, reheat, simmer, fry, broil – the list goes on. But how do you choose the right range based on your cooking style?
If you aren’t an aspiring home baker, you won’t need a premium range with all of the bells and whistles. But even the occasional cook could benefit from a range that offers some specific features.
Here’s a look at some of the most common types of cooks and what features you should look for in a range.
Cooking Style: The Occasional Cook
A basic 24″ or 30″ electric range will do fine for the occasional cook, providing a coil or radiant cooktop for doing things like boiling water, simmering sauce, and frying up pork chops, along with a spacious oven interior for trying your hand at a tuna casserole or lasagna. A smooth/induction cooktop will make clean-up a breeze and a high-wattage element will speed up the process for things like boiling water to make potatoes or pasta. Some ranges have a keep warm zone on the top that can keep one dish warm while you finish cooking another, which is useful for occasional cooks who haven’t quite mastered timing with multiple dishes. If you don’t cook often, you don’t need to find a range with extra elements on the top since you probably won’t ever have five dishes going at once! But it’s worthwhile to consider to future-proof the investment should you foresee more cooking in your future.
While gas ranges provide more precise temperature control, an occasional cook might be intimidated by them and may not be willing to get the gas hookup done in the house if it isn’t already there. Of course, if you live in a home where there’s already a gas hookup, a gas range is worth considering as well. Look for a decent-sized one that has burners that are designed for everything from low simmers to quick boiling. Just keep in mind that gas ranges typically cost a lot more than electric so they might not be the ideal option if you’re on a tight budget.
Cooking Style: The Aspiring Home Chef
There are two oven types that are ideal for aspiring home chefs: gas ranges and dual fuel ovens.
Gas ranges, as noted above, provide more precise temperature adjustments and better and more efficient cooking control since you’re cooking over an open flame. So, whether you’re frying, sautéing, or boiling, you can tweak the temperatures perfectly. This is why you’ll find gas ranges in any professional kitchen.
But I actually love the concept of a dual fuel oven, which includes a gas cooktop with an electric oven interior so you get the best of both worlds, since many say that electric ovens offer more precise heat controls than gas ranges. As an aspiring home cook and baker myself, I have a dual fuel oven at home and love being able to cook both ways.
Note that there’s nothing wrong with an electric oven, of course, if this is your preference and all you are set up for at home. I had a great electric oven for years before upgrading to gas and it worked beautifully for cooking and baking. Opt for a quality model from a reputable brand.
In terms of features, you’ll want a range with a large oven interior to accommodate your experimental dishes as well as multiple burners up top that are designed for different tasks, from low simmer to high boil and sear. Choose an oven that’s at least 30″ in width (assuming you can accommodate this in your kitchen) and 5 or higher, or even 6 cubic foot or larger in capacity.
A true convection setting is ideal for not only helping cook foods faster but also more evenly. Convection cooking also comes in handy when you want to get a crispier skin on items, like baked chicken wings, or when you want to brown the exterior of meats or vegetables, for example. For a busy family, convection cooking can save considerable time and it’s a feature worth seeking out in a new range.
Style-wise, there are slide-in and freestanding ranges. If cooking is a big thing in your household and you are renovating the kitchen, a slide-in creates a seamless look and can free up space in the kitchen for you to add other useful equipment. So, it’s worth considering if you have the set-up to do it.
Cooking Style: The Frozen Food Reheater
A convection range is also great for the person who doesn’t necessarily “cook” but rather reheats frozen foods, whether they’re store-bought or meals prepared by a loving family member or friend (or that you prepare in big batches and freeze ahead of time due to time constraints.) This is because, as noted, it can heat and cook items more quickly as well as yield crispier results with even heating.
If all you’re doing in the range is reheating food, though, you can make do with a pretty entry-level, average-sized electric range. Both electric and gas ranges can include convection cooking technology, by the way. Look for a handy broil feature as well, which can be great for bubbling cheese on top of a frozen lasagna during the last few minutes of reheating.
Up top, you’ll want a range with a low-temperature burner that can simmer items like sauce or soup that you’re slowly reheating from frozen. An induction smooth top makes the most sense to make clean-up simple, assuming time is of the essence. You won’t really require the precise temperature control of a gas cooktop.
Cooking Style: The Entertainer
I love to entertain, so an oven with a large interior is essential in order to fit not only large dishes and cookware but also multiple dishes at once, whether they’re being cooked or keeping warm for a pot luck. Look for something with a 6 cubic foot or larger capacity and 33″ or even potentially larger in width if you have to space to accommodate it. Also handy is a warming drawer at the bottom you can use for both keeping dishes that have already been cooked (or that guests bring over) warm until you’re ready to serve or storing flat baking sheets.
In addition to being a dual fuel oven, my range is also a double oven, which is super convenient when I want to make more than one dish at once. Dual fuel ovens have interiors that can be divided in two for cooking two different items at two different temperatures. So, you could be cooking a turkey in the main top interior while baking a pie underneath, with each set at the proper temperature. The door is divided into two so you can open the entire oven or press a button on the handle to just open the top portion. When you want to use it as a regular oven, remove the divider. It’s a genius idea, really!
Cooking Style: The Baker
Like aspiring home chefs, avid bakers will appreciate spacious oven interiors and convection technology that comes in handy for dishes like pies, pastries, and large batches of cookies thanks to the ability to melt fat, create steam, and bake faster and more evenly.
Bakers should also seek out ranges with adjustable oven racks to accommodate various types of desserts and savory dishes. So, whether you’re baking hundreds of cookies for the school bake sale or during the holidays or making souffles and need the extra room for them to rise, the racks can be adjusted accordingly.
A gas range is also the better option for bakers because of the precise temperature control, which is crucial when doing things like melting chocolate, making homemade caramel, or heating ingredients like milk for a recipe that requires it to be at an exact temperature.
Everyone needs a range whether you’re training to compete on the next big cooking show in your hometown or reheating frozen foods to scarf down quickly before heading to bed every night. But what type of range you buy can vary considerably.
You can’t go wrong with any type of range but there are certain types that are better suited to different cooking styles, and have specific features you can benefit from, as noted above.
One more piece of advice: it’s always a good idea to step up and opt for some features you think you won’t use because they might come in handy in the future. While you might not be an avid baker right now, you might very well start experimenting down the line. A range is a huge investment and not one that’s often replaced. So, go with your gut and get the model that makes the most sense for you now but that you also won’t regret a few years down the line should you start trying to improve your cooking skills or adopt a more adventurous cooking styl.
Check out a complete line of all types of ranges at Best Buy Online.