What’s better, a separate cooktop and oven (or ovens), or a range that contains both in a single appliance?
A wall oven plus a separate cooktop maximizes the flexibility of available space and lets two people work together comfortably -- while one cook sautés chicken breasts, the other has room to pop in a sheet of cookies for dessert. Wall ovens are generally positioned at convenient eye level, whereas you’ve got to bend to use the oven in a range.
Still, an imposing pro-style range with six burners can be a glamorous element in a kitchen.
Kitchen hot spots
You can prepare delicious meals with four basic burners and one oven. Serious cooks, though, often seek ranges, cooktops, and ovens that offer greater versatility and convenience.
Commercial-style gas burners have heavy cast-iron grates that transfer heat quickly. High-end gas and electric units offer flexibility, cranking out ultra-high heat for rapid boils and quick sears for maintaining a steady whisper of low heat to simmer delicate sauces or melt chocolate.
Glass-Ceramic electric units with expandable (dual) elements can effectively heat different pan sizes. Two ovens providing a combination of heating options -- conventional heat, convection, steam, microwave -- let you cook several courses at once with the method that’s right for each.
Think about your personal cooking style, what you have room for and can afford, and the overall look of your kitchen. Then configure your cooking gear to match.
If you are remodeling, you have many choices. But if you are purchasing a new range to fit into your current kitchen, size is a factor in what you buy, as are your fuel options. Are you currently set up for gas, is the kitchen all-electric, or can you opt for a dual-fuel range?
A standard unit is 30 inches wide and usually comes with a single oven; if it does have two, neither will be very large (will your Thanksgiving turkey fit?). Pro-style ranges do provide stylish choices in this size category. If you have the space and feel you need two good-size ovens, consider large commercial-style ranges, which are 48 inches wide or more with a pair of ovens.
Most new ranges have self-cleaning ovens and one or more high-power gas burners or expandable (dual) electric elements. Spend more and you’ll get more: great power, more high-heat burners and elements, a convection oven, continuous grates or bridge elements, sealed burners, digital touchpad controls, a warming drawer, and more attention to design.
Commercial and pro-style
Professional ranges have been much in demand in recent years -- partly due to their higher BTU output and partly because their stainless-steel construction implies serious culinary business. Pro-style (residential/commercial) ranges have the commercial look and the high BTU output of professional ranges and cooktops but with better insulation and such niceties as electronic ignition, sealed burners, heavy continuous grates, and self-cleaning ovens.
Freestanding, slide-in, drop-in
Freestanding ranges, the least expensive type, can sit anywhere, since they are finished on the sides as well as the front; controls are on a backsplash. Slide-ins look more custom, with front controls and sides meant to fit between cabinets. Drop-ins rest on a wood platform within base cabinets to blend with the countertop; their integral rims seal any food-collecting gaps.
Popular for period homes, heirloom ranges can be either refurbished oldsters with few modern amenities or high-ticket new ranges with state-of-the-art features and an “old” facade -- perhaps in a retro color like mint green or aqua.
For flexibility, specialized cooking, or simply a modern look, a separate cooktop makes good sense. Cooktops are also the way to go for kitchen islands and peninsulas -- another reason their use is on the rise.
The same considerations apply for a cooktop as for a range. What size? What style? Which fuel?
Gas units heat and cool quickly, and the flame is visible and easy to control. Electric units heat faster and maintain low, even heat better than gas, but you can’t adjust the heat as quickly. A few models offer dual fuel, with both gas burners and electric elements.
Standard gas and electric cooktops drop into counters like self-rimming sinks, with connections below. Most have four burners; some have five, six, or even more. The majority are 30 and 36 inches wide; all are at least 2 inches shallower than the standard 24-inch cabinet.
Manufacturers are focusing on power and control, introducing higher-output gas burners; faster-heating, megawatt electric elements; and extra-low-heat systems that hold the simmer for sauces or gently melt chocolate.Keep in mind that unless you buy a down venting model or install a separate downdraft vent, your cooktop will require an overhand vent hood.