Everybody needs to eat, so it should be simple to choose a cooker. But the choices can be bewildering. Here are some of the many things to consider.
Space and Appearance
Most stoves are 30 inches wide. For smaller kitchens a 24-inch model may be best, but full feature models can be 36 inches or even wider. You must also decide between free-standing and drop-in models. The former often have a storage drawer. The latter look sleek but require custom cabinetry. Then there’s the choice of finish: white? a color? stainless steel?
Fuel and Cost
Depending on where you live, you may have the option of choosing between electric or natural gas stoves– or dual fuel ones, which typically use gas for the cooktop and electricity in the oven. Many cooks prefer gas cooktops because it is easier to precisely control their heat levels. And really serious cooks appreciate gas cooktops that come with special burners producing extra-high heat, for searing, and very low heat, for simmering. Some electric cooktops have a bridge element that connects two burners, so you can use oblong cookware such as griddles.
There can also be a cost differential between the two fuels over the years you use your stove. When shopping, look for the Canadian government’s EnerGuide label which tells how much energy a range will consume in a typical year. That makes it possible to compare the operating costs of not only the different models but of the different fuels.
With so many choices, you can buy the stove that’s perfect for you and your kitchen – assuming it fits your budget. Here are some of the options.
Electric cook tops come with conventional burners or with smooth ceramic tops that are very easy to clean but are more expensive. Among the smooth tops, there are also fast-heating induction cook tops, and new halogen-technology cook tops that allow the precise control of gas cooking; but both of these are pricier still.
Self-cleaning ovens have a very-high-temperature cycle, typically of three hours, that reduces the built-up grease on oven walls to ash. They use more electricity, but free you from the toil, and the potentially toxic cleaning products, of doing the job by hand.
Convection ovens have a fan that circulates the hot air. They cook a little faster, and are especially appreciated by people who like to bake because they maintain perfectly even temperatures. Trivection ovens add a microwave as well, further speeding up cooking times.
Some ranges have built-in downdraft ventilation that eliminates the need for an overhead hood. But these need to be vented to the outdoors, unlike many cheap range hoods which simply recirculate air through a filter.
How You Cook
You will probably live with and use the stove you choose for a long time. So perhaps the most important questions to ask have to do with how you cook. Are you busy enough to place extra value on features that save time? Do you like to experiment with recipes that might depend for success on features like a high-power burner or a convection oven? Before you go shopping, you should know not only how much you can spend, and what space and installation requirements your kitchen imposes, but also what kind of stove is going to make you the happiest cook.