The ultimate heart of the kitchen, the classic range cooker is now available with as many hi-tech features as style and colour options
We bring you the latest designs, technologies and styles available
What kitchen appliance could be more evocative than a traditional range cooker, as heavenly aromas of Sunday roasts or home-made bread and cakes drift out of it? Built to last and offering a timeless aesthetic, a range is the perfect centrepiece for a period home, yet the latest models also come packed with modern technology for enhanced functionality, convenience and energy efficiency.
Which type of cooker?
The classic cast-iron range cooker was designed to be in use continually, with the ovens and hotplates set to a steady, gentle temperature, ready to cook, toast or boil on at all times. These ‘heat storage’ cookers give off a lot of warmth so also provide space heating for the kitchen, although in summer most owners turn them off and switch over to a smaller electric oven, to avoid overheating.
In recent years, however, there has been a lot of innovation in the range cooker sector, and the latest heat storage designs offer far more control. While these cast-iron ranges cook food in the same way as traditional models, using radiant heat from all sides, it is not necessary to have them permanently on. You can also operate each part of the cooker independently, and heat-up times are much faster.
It is possible to get the look of a heat storage cooker with one of the many cooking-only models that operate in the same way as a conventional oven. Stainless-steel, range-style cookers are another alternative, and offer a more modern, professional look that works well in many period homes. ➤
Should I use it to heat my home?
Some range cookers are designed to be used as the primary heat source in a house, operating the central heating and hot water from a built-in back boiler. Esse and Rayburn both offer models that work in such a way, with the Rayburn 600 series capable of heating up to 20 radiators. This is an option worth considering if you are off mains gas.
Which fuel is best?
If you are on mains gas, the most obvious option is a dual-fuel model, with an instant, highly controllable gas hob and electric fan-assisted oven. But there is an option for every preference. Electric cookers are increasingly popular, and some can now mimic a traditional heat storage range and feel warm to the touch. Increasingly available are designs that include induction hobs. All-gas models are also available and are popular with keen bakers as a gas oven features different heat zones, allowing you to cook separate dishes at the same time.
If you are determined to have gas but are off mains, you can choose a cooker that runs on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). Alternative fuel options include oil, wood or solid fuel, which will require a flue to remove smoke and harmful gases.
Can I afford to buy one?
It is possible to purchase an entry-level cooker for £1,000, which will have standard functionality and few professional-inspired features, but offers classic looks and reliable cooking. A high-end, multifunctional model will cost several thousand pounds. Classic cast-iron range cookers are expensive, usually costing between £5,000 and £10,000, but these are investment pieces designed to last for years, and can be restored in the future.
Are they expensive to run?
Many cooking-only models won’t use much more energy than a standard oven. Look at the appliance’s energy rating, from A to G, to get an indication of how cost-effective it is to run. Newer hi-tech cookers are much more energy efficient than older designs. Heat storage models are more expensive to run – in the region of £12-20 per week – but can also provide the heating for your kitchen, eliminating the need for radiators in this space.
What size do I need?
There is a size of range cooker to fit every kitchen, from slimline 60cm-wide designs for small spaces to luxurious 140cm-wide models – although most are 100cm or 110cm wide. It is important to compare the number of ovens, and the sizes of the cavities themselves, as this will make a big difference to overall cooking capacity.
Which features should I look for?
Many cookers have an impressive array of features, but think realistically about what you will use. A wok is great for cooking healthy stir-fries, while a griddle plate is a useful extra that can be fitted on top of the hob for an oil-free cooking surface. Bread-warming drawers are perfect for keen bakers as they allow you to prove dough perfectly. Meat probes enable you to check a roast is done, and rotisserie options are an indulgent extra if you like the idea of spit-roasting meat. On traditional heat storage models, slumber mode is ideal for slow cooking, or to give a gentle heat into the kitchen. To keep on top of cleaning the oven, look at pyrolytic designs that allow the cavity to be heated to a very high temperature to burn off any food residue into a fine ash that can be wiped away.
Above: Victoria TR4110I fourcavity electric range cooker in Pastel Green with induction hob, from £2,639, SmegTop right: Ascot 120 dual-fuel three-oven multi-function range cooker in Ametista, from £5,970, Steel Above right:Delphi 100cm two-oven nine-function dual-fuel range cooker in Gloss Red, £2,853, Britannia Living