The kitchen range is an essential part of every kitchen, despite the increasing use of the microwave oven as the main cooking appliance. There are certain cooking tasks that can only be done properly in an oven or on a cooktop, such as baking. Buying a new kitchen range involves making many decisions about the type, size, layout and accessories. Many kitchens also lack adequate ventilation and need a range hood to remove the smoke and steam from cooking.
Kitchen ranges are available in gas, electric and dual-fuel models. Gas burners are preferred by professional chefs because of their instant heat control, and the visible flame helps them judge the temperature better. If natural gas is not available in the kitchen, liquid propane cylinders can be used instead. Depending on the amount of cooking being done, a cylinder can last from a few weeks to several months.
The elements of an electric kitchen range lack the heat of gas burners and are better suited to low temperature cooking tasks, like simmering. Most electric cooktops today are made from smooth glass ceramic which is very tough and easy to clean. Some elements use induction technology, where a magnetic field creates heat directly in the container body rather than in the element itself. They are faster and more efficient but only work for containers made from iron and steel. Glass, copper and aluminum containers cannot be used with induction cooktops.
The duel-fuel kitchen range is a new concept that combines the benefits of both gas and electric cooking. They generally have an electric oven and a cooktop with gas burners. There are even models that have both gas burners and electric elements on the cooktop. Duel-fuel ranges cost more than other types and they require the provision of both gas and electricity.
Once the type of kitchen range has been decided, it is time to choose one of the three layouts. The freestanding range has the oven and cooktop integrated into one unit, and can stand on its own without needing cupboards to cover exposed sides. The slide-in range is similar to freestanding range but has no sides or back, and is designed fit neatly between cupboards. The drop-in range has a separate oven and cooktop that looks stylish compared to the other range types.
The self-cleaning oven is a great innovation but not all kitchen ranges have this feature. This mode heats the oven to a very high temperature for several hours to burn the grease off it. An interlock prevents it from being opened during this time, and also for some time afterwards as it cools down. These ovens are generally larger than regular ovens because they have thicker insulation. Ovens that require manual cleaning should have no difficult to reach spots or sharp corners that will accumulate grease.
Buying a new kitchen range usually requires that a matching range hood also be purchased. A range hood should ideally have a large volume fan to remove the cooking smoke and steam, and it should have a light strong enough to illuminate the entire cooktop. A hood should also be easy to clean and have no sharp corners, because it will accumulate a lot of grime in a short space of time.
Accessories can make the difference between a difficult kitchen range and one that is a pleasure to use. Fully adjustable oven shelves that can accommodate a variety of cooking containers are better than fixed shelves. Gas ranges should have a pilot light or electric sparker to ignite the gas, and a safety cutoff valve in case the flame goes out. Electric cooktops should have a heat warning light for each element that warns when it is hot. There are even microwave ovens that are specially designed for installing above a kitchen range.