Stove Buying Guide: What To Look For

Time for a new Oven?  Let me make your search a little easier, by sharing what I learned in the process.  The intent is to save you some time, money, and stress, so you can feel confident in your final decision.  Ultimately my husband and I decided on a 48 inch dual fuel oven/range with built in griddle from Kucht.

There are a few things you first think of when shopping for a new range/oven. To be honest, design, color, and cool tech features may have clouded my judgement at first. I was attracted to flashy features like WiFi built in, digital display panels and the variety of colors to choose from. Some companies give you an option to design the color of the control knobs, door panels etc.
Then I came to my senses. Why was I buying a new range? What did I want it to do? Do I really need to adjust my oven temp with my smartphone? Will a custom design color help me create great meals? No! Don’t get me wrong, I am still attentive to design, and it was important that the oven visually fit with the design of my kitchen, but there are other, more important things, to look for.

Price: What is your Budget? Going into your search without a budget may make it easy to waste time looking at beautiful appliances that are out of your price range.  To me, Kitchen appliances are an investment, because I cook so often, and spend most of my free time in the kitchen. So my budget may be different than yours, it all depends on you.  My husband thought I was crazy at the time for even mentioning a desire to spend $10,000 on a new oven.  It truly was a crazy idea for our household, so I reduced my budget to the $5-6,000 price range.  He was more inclined to choose between the $1-2,000 price range. For us, Cost was the most difficult and time consuming part of our search for the right oven.

Size: Once you have your budget ironed out, consider the oven size. If you are planning on remodeling your kitchen, you may have more flexibility with your choice of size, but otherwise this should be the first thing to consider. Ovens are usually 36 inches tall, counter height. Some have adjustable legs if you need a higher cooking surface or two side-by-side ovens. Oven widths range from 20”,30”, and 36 inches. 30” being the most common for household use. Commercial grade ranges come in 36”, 48”, 60 inches. I have seen bigger, but unless you have a massive kitchen, I wouldn’t suggest going larger. If you need more burners or a third oven, instead consider a stackable oven that can be built into the cabinets or a range top that can be built into your counter tops, in addition to your new range. This all depends on whether you bake or cook more. How many burners vs. oven space you need.

Style/Design: Next decide if you need a slide-in or freestanding range. Slide-ins are designed to have a seamless transition between the range top and the counters on either side of the range. The control knobs are usually at the back of the oven, also providing a built in backsplash. Whereas the freestanding range has the knobs at the front of the oven and offers a seamless transition between the range top and your tile backsplash. Be mindful of the knobs, if you choose a freestanding range. Some temperature knobs are made from plastic. If you leave your oven open for too long the heat from the oven may cause them to melt. I would suggest looking for an oven with high quality metal knobs. They may get hot if the oven is left open, but at least they won’t melt and need replaced. The sides of a freestanding range also have a more polished look, so they can be “freestanding” and not enclosed by cabinets. Making this decision will help you design your kitchen around your oven, or better integrate your new oven into your existing kitchen.

Gas or Electric: Have you considered what fuel type you want or need for your oven? This will play a huge roll in the cost of your install and the oven itself. Your choices are, electric, natural gas, liquid propane (LP), or dual fuel. Gas ovens traditionally cost less, but if you don’t currently have gas installed, the installation of a new gas line may break the bank. Most gas ranges will come with, or have a liquid propane or “LP” conversion kit that can be purchased. Gas and electric combos, also known as dual fuel are also an option. My research suggests, electric ovens offer more even baking temperatures, when compared to gas ovens. I wanted to convert from an electric induction range top, to gas. So I could get higher temps out of a gas range top than with my electric induction. Since I like to bake, and wanted my cakes to bake evenly, I chose dual fuel (electric oven and gas range top.

Gas Burners: So you have decided to go with a gas range? What else is there to consider? Loads! Are you going to want to light your range with a match each time you cook, or do you want electronic ignition? Have you considered auto-reignite for safety? If your flame goes out, for some unforeseeable reason (like a pot boiling over and extinguishing the flame), do you want the range to reignite on its own, or risk a gas leak? I personally didn’t consider a range that didn’t come with this safety feature. Next take a look at the burner’s British Thermal Units, BTU, units that measure the temperature output of a gas burner. To give you a better idea, 1 BTU will increase the temp of a pint of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. You want a good range of BTU between burners. This gives you a variety of cooking options. You need a good dynamic set of burners that can lightly temper the most delicate sauces at around 600 BTU, fry at around 5,000-7,000 BTU and sear at 18,000 BTU Although a burner with 18,000 BTU isn’t absolutely necessary, it does a heck of a job of boiling water, searing a steak or preheating a cast iron skillet.

Hood Vents: If you absolutely have to have a range top with 18,000 BTU+ be mindful that you will need a good range hood vent. They are rated for the BTU output of a range. Unless you want to set the smoke alarm off every time you cook, keep this in consideration and get a good range hood to go with your range. Try  to  find a range hood that is easy to clean with removable grates that can be run through the dishwasher.  The range hood collects a lot of oil and can be a real pain to clean.  

Manual or Digital Controls: Most range/ovens I have cooked with have had digital thermostats and panels that tell you the exact temperature of the oven, and have built in timers or digital controls. Keep in mind that electronics and high temperatures don’t mix. Avoid ovens with digital control panels on the front that can melt or malfunction because of the heat of the oven. Once your digital controls fail, how are you going to operate your oven? Not having a digital control panel took some getting used to, but I found an internal oven thermometer to be more accurate and easily rests/hangs on the oven rack. There are also lights on the front of the oven that indicate when the oven has reached the set temperature. In my opinion, an oven without digital controls means less maintenance , and one less thing that could go wrong over time.

A few minor convenience notes. Closed burners make for easier cleaning, continuous grates over the burners allow you to slide pots from one burner to the next without lifting the heavy pot. Heavy cast iron grates also distribute the heat more evenly over the base of your pans. Oven convection is a great feature, but you also need to calculate the increase in temp associated with the proper circulation of hot air in your oven and lower your cooking temp or time. Griddles are also nice, but if you are buying the range for its griddle, take a look at how it’s integrated into the range. If you want a griddle to sear meats, you want to pay attention to the BTU output. Is the griddle built in, or does it set on top of the existing burners. If it’s built into the range, you know it was designed for that specific purpose. Ranges that offer griddles as an accessory are just that, an accessory, not a feature.  From personal experience, steel griddles are also harder to clean, and can be stress inducing if you have difficulty removing grease build-up.  Cast iron griddles are more durable and easier to clean.

Best of luck to you on your search!