What’s cook­ing in kitchen ranges

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - BUSINESS -

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:

Es­sen­tial

• 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.

Skip­pable

• 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.

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