What’s cooking in kitchen ranges
Like any workhorse, the kitchen range is something we usually take for granted. Until it breaks down, that is.
Thanks to new features and more stylish choices, the old workhorse has become something of a show pony, says Consumer Reports.
New designs and placement of the controls have boosted the stove’s visual appeal. The latest models have powerful burners or heating elements to get pots boiling quickly and two ovens for more versatility. Some even pair a gas cooktop with an electric oven to give you more choices.
When shopping for a new range, it’s easy to be seduced by fancy features -- even if you don’t really need them. But remember that the more bells and whistles a range has, the higher its price. And more extras don’t necessarily mean that a range will be better at the basics or more reliable in the long run.
To help you zero in on the features that increase safety, save time and add convenience, Consumer Reports sorted popular features in order of importance:
• High-power burners and elements are great for bringing water to a fast boil and for stir-frying a big pan of food.
• Control lockouts let you disable the oven controls on ranges and are recommended when the control panel is at the front of the range, especially when young children are afoot.
• Hot-surface warning lights tell you when an electric heating element is still hot (one warning light per element is best, though one overall light will probably cost less).
Nice to have
• Oval gas burners can accommodate griddles and elongated pans. (On electric ranges, an elongated bridge element that spans two burners serves the same purpose.) Most radiant smoothtops have elements that expand or shrink to match a pot’s diameter.
• Convection can speed up baking and roasting, and improve browning.
• A warming drawer comes in handy when hosting large gatherings or feeding stragglers.
• Wi-Fi-enabled ranges let you preheat the oven, change the temperature and more from another room or from across town. But for safety’s sake, Consumer Reports warns that it’s better to be close by when the range is on.
3 things a sales rep won’t tell you
1. Some ranges with front-control panels and no back panel vent the oven’s air out the front. Not only does that heat up the kitchen, it also may make you feel uncomfortable while you’re stirring your gravy.
2. Few ranges are silent, but some are noisier than others. For instance, you may hear the fan (or fans) whirring during cooking or self-cleaning cycles or when using the convection feature. And the elements on induction ranges may hum or buzz at higher settings.
3. Oven racks can be hard to move around, which for bakers can be especially annoying. Even gliding racks, which are made to be easy to push in and pull out, can be hard to switch to another position. Move the racks around before you buy.
To learn more, visit ConsumerReports.org.