The kitchen stove is a visual and functional focal point in many kitchens. And there are several options from which to choose. This week’s mini lesson will give you an overview of many of those options, including, ranges vs cooktops, plus gas, electric, induction, convection, and dual fuel cooking. This lesson should help you choose the best stove for your new kitchen.
Let’s start by talking about the very basic differences between cooking with gas versus cooking with electric.
GAS VS ELECTRIC
Electric ranges and cooktops are less expensive than their gas counterparts, however, electric units are more expensive to operate.
Controlling the heat on an electric burner is more difficult than with a gas burner and electric coils take longer to heat up and much longer to cool down.
Electric burners actually heat water faster than a gas burner unit. Induction burners, which we’ll discuss in moment, can boil water faster than either gas or electric.
Gas ovens bake moister, but electric ovens bake more evenly.
Most serious cooks tend to prefer gas, but if you only cook occasionally or have a tight budget, an electric stove might be the best choice for you.
COOKTOPS VS RANGES
A cook top is a cooking surface that’s built into the top of the counter and is usually paired with a separate wall oven.
Cooktops are available in 30 and 36 inch models. One of main advantages of using a cooktop over a range is that the space beneath the cooktop that would be occupied by the range oven, is open. That open space is often used for storage drawers where you can conveniently store your pots and pans.
Some people distinguish a cooktop from a rangetop. A cooktop usually has a sleeker design with the controls on top and a rangetop looks a little more industrial, or professional, with controls on the front of the unit.
The heat output of gas units is measured in BTUs. The BTUs vary from model to model, but the output generally falls somewhere between 5,000 BTUs for low heat on a small burner and 18,000 BTUs for high heat on a large burner. High end cooktops and ranges have BTUs that go lower and higher for more precise cooking.
The heat output from electric cooktops is measured in watts. Output varies from stove to stove and burner to burner, but most people buying electric units aren’t serious cooks so they are not all that interested in the specific heat outputs of electric stoves. Instead, they are usually more interested in the different types of electric cooktops surfaces.
Smooth top (glass-ceramic cooktop) surface: These cooktops are made of smooth glass-ceramic with heating units under the surface. This type of cooktop is prone to scratches, and not all cookware is safe to use on the surface, but the smooth surface looks sleek and is easy to clean.
Electric coil surface: Electric coil stoves are economical but notorious for uneven cooking because it’s hard to keep the coil perfectly level. In addition, electric coil stoves are slow to heat and slow to cool and more difficult to clean.
Next, let’s talk about the newest kid on the block...
Induction cooktops: Induction burners use the heat created from electromagnetic energy to cook your food. An element that creates an magnetic field is located just below the surface of an induction cooktop. When you put a piece of cookware containing iron, a cast iron skillet, for example, on top of that magnetic element, it causes a vibration that converts to heat.
Induction cooktops are safer than gas or electric burners because they don't use flames or direct heat -- induction burners only produce heat while iron containing cookware is in direct contact with the element.
Induction cooktops are also more efficient and heat things quicker than other types of burners. Many induction models can boil a large pot of water in 6 minutes.
The main downsides to induction cooktops are that you can’t use just any old cookware on an induction stove and they tend to be more expensive than comparable gas and electric units.
Ok, that was cooktops… If you don’t want a separate cooktop and wall oven, you’ll want to choose a range.
A range combines a cooktop and an oven in a single unit. You can find ranges as small as 20 inches wide, which are ideal for tiny homes and RVs, or as large as 60 inches wide.
A standard range is 30 inches. Most folks building custom home will choose either a 30, 36 or 48 inch range.
Ranges come in three basic types: slide-in, drop-in and freestanding.
A slide-in range slides between two lower cabinets and because of that, has unfinished sides. Slide-in ranges are more expensive than freestanding models. A slide in range sits on the floor.
In contrast, a drop-in range is dropped into the lower cabinetry, so it has cabinetry on 3 sides. Instead of it sitting on the floor, the bottom of a drop in range rests on a short piece of cabinetry. A drop-in range also has unfinished sides since cabinets will be on each side of the range.
Freestanding ranges are an economical option and can fit anywhere in a kitchen. A freestanding range can be placed between two cabinets or it can be placed at the end of a row of cabinets.
Freestanding units have finished sides, and the range controls are often located on raised panel on the back of the unit. This raised back control panel is a less expensive to manufacture than controls on the front of a range, so free standing ranges are less expensive than other models.
Now, what about the different types of ovens.
When selecting an oven it’s best to look at its interior dimensions. The amount of interior space can differ greatly, even in ovens with the same external dimensions.
If you choose an oven with a 24-inch-wide interior, it can probably accommodate a standard cookie sheet, but most roasting pans will be too big.
A 27-inch-wide oven can handle just about any size roasting pan, even a large turkey roaster.
A 30-inch oven has room for two cookie sheets side-by-side.
Conventional ovens cook food by using non-circulating, heated air inside the oven. Conventional ovens can be powered by either gas or electric.
Convection ovens were developed in the 1950s to help commercial bakers save time and bake things more evenly. Convection ovens cook with an electric heat source and use a fan built into the back of the oven to circulate hot air. That fan helps to evenly disperse the heat and is especially nice if you're baking food like cookies on more than one oven rack at the same time.
Because the unit uses moving air to cook the food, convection ovens cook food more quickly than conventional ovens, but convection ovens can dry food out.
A steam/convection oven gives you the best of both worlds, as it combines the speed and browning capability of a convection oven with the moisture of a steam oven. The convection part of the oven also prevents flavor transfer between racks, so you can bake muffins right along side a seafood casserole. There are also combination convection/ microwave ovens.
Dual-fuel ranges combine an electric oven with a natural gas or propane-powered rangetop in a single unit. These ranges are popular with home chefs who want the even heat of an electric oven without sacrificing the precision control of a gas burner.
Wall ovens: Adding a second wall oven is a popular upgrade, especially if you do a lot of baking. You can have a cooktop and double ovens, or you might choose a range and a single or double wall oven.
Wall ovens come in 24-, 27-, and 30-inch widths and can be either gas or electric. There are also convection and steam wall ovens.
A wall oven is usually smaller than a range oven—typically 3.5 cubic feet, as compared to the 5.0 cubic feet of a range oven. That smaller size is why many homeowners choose to get double wall ovens. For those without the space or budget for a double oven, a less expensive option is to look for a single, large wall oven with maximum interior space.
You can find good quality ranges, cooktops and ovens at any price point, but the more money you spend, the more bells and whistles and more options for finishes you get. Be realistic about the features you need and will actually use in an oven or range to keep yourself from wasting money on upgrades that sound good, but aren’t practical for your lifestyle.
You can get a very basic range for $500 - $1,000. You’ll be able to perform basic cooking functions, like baking and broiling, but your options for finishes are usually limited to black, white and bisque. Occasionally you can find a few stainless-steel models in this price range.
For $1,000- $3,000 you have more options in cooking modes, styles and finishes, including lots of stainless steel models.
For $3,000-$6,000 you can get some fancy options like dual-fuel power, slide-in design and convection fans.
$6,000-$10,000 gets you professional-style appliances. You can buy a range with all-stainless steel construction (not just a stainless steel finish on doors and control panels). This price range also has many larger models with more than 4 burners.
If you are looking for ranges in unique colors like blue or orange, and if you want built-in features like steam for baking, you’ll most likely have to invest $10,000 or more for a range.
Other fancy features that you can see in higher end ranges include:
Wireless connectivity which allows you to control and monitor your stove from your smartphone. For example, you can use your smartphone to begin to preheat your oven on your way home from work. There are also some newer models that can be controlled by Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated virtual assistant.
Temperature probes are like meat thermometers that are built into the wall of the oven. You can use them to monitor the internal temperature of meat as it cooks. The temperature displays on the control panel of your oven, so you don't have to open the oven door to see if your meat is done.
A Self cleaning mode which will cost you an extra $300 or so, but most people think not having to manually clean the oven several times a year is worth the added cost.
A Delayed bake mode which turns the oven on at a predetermined time, and a warm and hold mode that maintains a low oven temperature and allows you to come home to a hot meal.
Lastly, a quick word about vent hoods.
Ideally you want unwanted elements from cooking such as smoke, odor, humidity and heat to be exhausted outside the house with a ducted vent hood. Seriously try to avoid ductless, or down draft vent and those over-the-range microwave filters that pull air in but recirculate the air back into the kitchen.
Vent hoods, both ducted and non-ducted, must be adequately sized for the job. Hoods need to be designed around the size and strength of the range. A properly sized hood must cover at least the full width of the range (ideally the hood should be 6 inches wider that the stovetop) and at least 50 percent of the front burners. Local code will dictate minimal vent hood requirements, but you might want to go beyond the minimal code requirements and take the recommendations of the The Home Ventilating Institute (HVI), a nonprofit organization that certifies residential ventilation products.
For exhaust hoods, The HVI recommends a minimum of 40 CFM for every linear foot of a range or cooktop. CFM stands for cubit feet per minute and is measurement of how fast air circulates in and out of a space. So, 40 CFMs minimally per linear foot of your stove.
In the case of professional gas cooktops, the rule of thumb is 1 CFM for every 100 BTUs. But ultimately the HVI recommends following the cooktop manufacturer's advice to determine ventilation requirements. Here's an online calculator that will recommend the number of CFMs you'll need for your specific situation (size of kitchen, size of range, etc).
If at all possible, choose HVI-rated vent hoods. Inflated performance ratings are common for range hoods that are not HVI-Certified. Selecting range hoods with HVI-Certified Performance Ratings will ensure that ventilation expectations and building code requirements are met.
Alright, wanna do a couple of quiz questions?
1. True or false: Electric ovens cook more evenly, but gas ovens cook moister.
Choose a combination convection steam oven for moist and even cooking.
2. True or False: For range hoods, The Home Ventilating Institute recommends a minimum of 40 CFM for every linear foot of range.
Well, that's all I have for this week. Thank you for joining me. I hope you learned as much as I did. Hope you stop by next week.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete, it’s subject to change and it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.