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Once upon a time, buying your main cooking appliance wasn't complicated. There were just a few choices and they primarily rested on how the stove's heat was generated: gas or electric. Today, how to buy a stove takes serious consideration because there are a LOT of features to consider.
Incidentally, gas stoves were the first to hit the market. They became popular around the end of the 19th Century. But electric stoves weren't far behind once electricity was introduced into homes. A notable demonstration meal by a Canadian electric company owner occurred at an Ottawa hotel in 1892.
So, let's go through the steps you need to consider before you plunk down your hard-earned money.
But first, let's establish the terms we are going to use for the rest of this blog.
And then there are three styles of ranges:
The simplest, easiest way to assure your new appliance will fit in the same space as what you have, is to replace it with its modern equivalent of freestanding, slide-in, or drop in. But that's not to say you shouldn't skip step one, measuring.
Whether you have a brand-new home you are trying to outfit, or a new-to-you home with a tired stove you need to replace, you need to know how much space you must work with.
If you are replacing an old range that's tucked in-between cabinets, it's best to carefully pull it out. That way you'll know exactly the amount of space there is and what connections are back there. If you have a wall oven, simply measure it. If you have a cooktop, you might be able to lift it up around the edges that overlap onto the countertop—check your manual. As the edges collect grime, you might have to do some cleaning to unstick them.
Also, examine the outlet on the wall. Snap a photo and use it as reference. You will need to buy a new power cord that fits it.
One, because you really don't want to reuse an old cord for another 10 to 20 years!
And two, your stove won't come with one.
Read our blog on power cords to learn more.
Of course, the cord needs to match the outlet you have. Gas stoves use a basic 120-volt, 15-amp outlet that's preferably on a separate circuit as well as require a natural gas hookup. Electric stoves only use 220/240/250, which may have 3- or 4-prong plugs. It too should be on a separate circuit. If you don't want to hire an electrician to change things up, you should go with what's already there.
If the outlet looks grimy, smoky, and basically scary, consider replacing it too. It draws a LOT of power, and you want to make sure everything is A-OK.
It's also possible, even if what you had was electric, that there is also a gas outlet back there. Or if it is gas, there might also be a 220 volt plug in addition to the standard 3 prong electrical outlet. This opens the possibility of getting either electric, gas, or what is called a dual-fuel range. Dual fuel ranges have a gas cooktop and an electric oven.
That brings us to the second step, deciding between gas or electric—or using both.
If you can change out what was there before, or you are building from scratch, you need to know the advantages and disadvantages of each fuel source. This is especially important if you spend more time baking or more time sautéing.
Gas cooktops, with their instant on/off and precision control, are the darling of chefs and cooking pros. Gas ovens though, not so much. That's because natural gas, when burned, releases water vapor. This can affect the browning and crisping process.
Plus, there's another concern.
There's a movement underway to ban natural gas for heating and cooking in all new structures—both residences and businesses—citing health and environmental concerns. Some cities in California have already done so. Forced retrofits are not on the table.
If this is of concern to you, add a hood vent over the range to exhaust kitchen air outdoors.
Here are gas cooktop benefits, as explained by Whirlpool:
Natural gas is almost always cheaper than electricity, thus reducing operating costs. The AC cord used on gas cooktops provides electronic ignition of the gas burners. But most, if there's a power failure, can be lit manually with a match. So, if that's a concern, be sure to ask that question when you are buying either a gas range or gas cooktop. In a power failure, a gas oven will not work, as other key components in its use run on electricity.
Gas oven benefits:
Electric ranges as well as the standalone electric cooktops and wall ovens are quite common. After all, homes already have electricity! And installing a 220/240/250 volt in the kitchen is standard. So, installation is very straightforward.
Electric also provides some additional cooktop configurations not found with gas.
Here are some electric cooktop benefits:
When I moved into my 1967 ranch-style home, the gas wall oven had been removed and its cavity clumsily turned into storage. The original avocado green gas cooktop was a sticky mess and stank. And the huge, freestanding electric range, obviously added later, sat awkwardly by itself.
I chose to get rid of the electric range, had a new gas wall oven put in (not only did I reclaim floor space, but I also now had an oven at eye level!), and replaced the gas cooktop with a modern version. As the cavity spaces were small, I didn't have a lot of appliance choices. Plus, the kitchen itself was small and my finances were limited so a complete remodel was impractical.
I also bore in mind the no-power scenario, a common occurrence during severe weather. Being able to use the gas cooktop for meal prep is a lifesaver. Although some people will also use the flames to help warm the kitchen or that section of the house, this is not a recommended practice. I have gas logs instead. I also have a gas hot water heater.
In hindsight, knowing what I know now, and If I had been able to afford it, I would have chosen an electric wall oven instead of gas. But it would have required an electrician and somehow tapping into the wiring of the old stove's 220/240/250 outlet and extending it to the other side of the kitchen, as my fuse box is at its max.
But those were my choices, based on what was already there in my kitchen. Your space, your preferences and needs, and your budget will lead you to your own priorities.
Which leads us to the third step, budgeting.
According to cnet.com, you can spend between $500 and $10,000+ on a new range. Of course, the more expensive it is, the more features it has. So don't let yourself be seduced by bells and whistles. Figure out your budget and stick with it.
Stoves are often classified by size. Their height and depth are often similar, with width being the main variable. That's because ranges often match countertop height and depth. Remember, listed measurements are often rounded up.
Freestanding stoves have a typical dimension of 30 to 36 in. wide x 25 to 27 in. deep (including the closed door) x 36 in. without backsplash and 46 in. with backsplash.
Slide-in ranges are like freestanding, but do not have a backsplash.
Whirlpool also notes that all measurements are not equal. So be sure to understand the context:
If you've got the finances, cooktops, and ovens—whether standalone or found in a range—now have some very interesting features. Some of these are dependent on whether they are gas or electric.
Cooktop features can include:
By the way, induction keeps the surface cool for safety, requires stainless steel or cast-iron cookware, and is easy to clean. It's also one of the most efficient cooking technologies, according to this report:
"With this technology, up to 90% of the energy consumed is transferred to the food, compared to about 74% for traditional electric systems and 40% for gas."
The same report, however, also notes that despite induction's efficiency, "natural gas is the lowest cost solution to the user."
Oven features might include:
The last quarter of the year is a great time to go shopping for stoves, ovens, and cooktops. That's when next year's models start to arrive, and the existing ones are marked down to make room. Three-day weekends also have good sales.
Once you've found the cooktop, oven, or range that best meets your requirements—style, size, budget, fuel source, and features—and haggled on price, it's time to talk about some other, equally important details.
Do NOT feel pressured to buy any power cords they happen to have on hand. Do some comparison shopping ahead of time. Certified Appliance Accessories sells 3-wire and 4-wire, 40- and 50-amp cords for electric ranges. And for those of you opting to add gas, there is also a Universal Gas Line Connector Kit.
Should you decide to buy a Certified range power cord, you can purchase them online at Lowe's, Walmart, Amazon, and other ecommerce sites.
Our final advice? Don't rush the process. Follow each step and really think things through. Don't let those hours of watching cooking shows tempt you into spending more money than you can afford. And give yourself time to get used to your new cooking appliance well before company arrives. You don't need the double-pressure of entertaining guests and figuring out how that new appliance works!
Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.