Buying a cooker
A cooker is at the heart of your kitchen – consider a few key points before making your purchase. Are you happy with your current size cooker, or do you need something bigger? If you entertain a lot, or have a growing family, will you require a cooker with double oven? Make sure your new cooker has the flexibility to accommodate your everyday as well as special cookware—like turkey roasters and extra large baking sheets in the oven.
These are the most popular style as they are the least expensive type of cooker to purchase, and electricity is more widely available than gas as a reliable power source. You can depend on most electric models to provide consistently good performance, including flexible features for multiple cooking purposes. Electric ranges use two types of cooktop heat—the standard coil burner and smoothtop ceramic glass cooktops with electric elements sealed beneath the solid surface.
Traditional coil burners are reliable and easy to clean and replace. The open exposure of the heating element makes it vulnerable to spills from over-boiling pots, but drip pans capture spills and are generally easy to access, remove, and clean.
Cearmic smoothtops are easier to clean than the traditional coil. The radiant elements have unique conducting properties that heat quickly to evenly cook foods. Radiant elements are generally available on mid- to high-range electric models, so you will spend a little more for this feature.
Electric cookers have constant, even heat, and no open flame. They allow you to maintain very low heat, which is not always possible on some gas models. Some elements, compared to gas hobs, heat up and cool down more slowly and it can be somewhat more difficult to regulate temperature with an electric cooker.
Looking for fast, flexible heat? Gas cookers allow you select different levels of heat, cool down or heat up cookware almost instantly, and offer precise temperature control. Consider a model with electronic ignition, an automatic system that instantly lights burners.
Some gas ranges include special burners that provide cooking flexibility, like fast, high-output heat for quick boiling and searing, or burners that hold a gentle, consistent simmer for liquids and sauces. Many models feature sealed gas burners, which make clean up easier by keeping spills on the surface and preventing foods from becoming trapped under the burner.
Before purchasing you will need a gas hookup, either to a natural gas source or to a liquid propane (LP) supply tank and a 120-volt household electric circuit for running appliance features including the clock and lights, and the electronic ignition.
Dual-fuel gas and electric cookers
Dual-fuel ranges provide the instant-response of gas burners and the even heat of an electric oven. They are usually available in the mid- to high-price range.
Simmer and high-heat burners
Accuracy and flexibility are important. Both gas and electric models can offer a burner simmer setting, which provides gentle, gradual heat. This feature is perfect for keeping any sauce from getting too hot and scorching, preparing creamy or delicate sauces, melting chocolate, or slow cooking soups, stews, or stocks. Some gas cookers also feature a high-output burner, which will instantly provide up to 13,500 BTUs of cooking heat allowing you to quickly boil, or sear foods to seal in flavor.
Convection ovens typically bake approximately 30% faster than conventional ovens. A fan in the rear of the oven cavity circulates heated air, over, under, and around foods to cook them quickly. Most manufacturers offer some models with a convection oven feature.
The manufacturers of many brands are making electronic touchpad controls with digital displays more widely available on both electric and gas models. Digital displays are easy to set for cook time and delay start functions, and they are also easy to read and clean. Consider a model with extra display features, which help to take the guess work out of cooking. A hot surface indicator lights will alert you to a hot burner on the cooktop—an important safety feature.
Oven capacity is similar across all types: both gas and electric ranges offer roomy ovens with approximately the same sizes across model lines. Typically, free-standing ranges vary in size from 3.30 to 5.0 cubic feet.
When you shop, consider what you need to put in your oven. Do big pans and roasters sit side-by-side with baking sheets or casseroles? Some baking needs are very straightforward and all you require are three basic racks and a good heat source. But if you find you need space and flexibility, ovens with split, or adjustable racks offer a possible solution. This design allows for a big dish on one rack (giving it more room in width and height) and smaller dishes on the split rack and will give you up to five or six rack positions.