Choices in ranges

The freestanding ranges discussed in this report are designed to fit into a bank of kitchen counters or to stand by themselves. See our separate report on wall ovens for reviews of single and double ovens that mount flush with a wall and our report on cooktops, which lack an oven and are designed for a kitchen island.

Experts say consumers should consider the following when buying a range:

  • Capacity: For a family of four, experts recommend at least a 4-cubic-foot oven, although singles and couples can get away with ovens of 2 to 3 cubic feet.
  • Cleaning: A self-cleaning feature is almost standard in electric ovens, but quite a few gas ovens still lack this feature. On gas ranges, look for sealed burners, which keep fragments of food from dropping below the cooktop surface. On electric ranges, smoothtop surfaces are easier to clean than coil elements, although special cleaners are often recommended to prevent scratches.
  • Controls: Many ranges use electronic touchpad controls instead of knobs or dials, although these sometimes malfunction and can be costly to repair. Knobs rarely break, and when they do, they're inexpensive to replace. Another problem: If the touchpad is on the front of the range rather than the backsplash, it can be easy to bump it and reset the controls by accident.
  • The right burner settings: Look for at least one high-heat burner, which is good for searing and stir-frying. A low-power burner is suited to simmering delicate sauces, but it's not essential; a standard burner can usually be turned down low enough.
  • Oven rack positions: Experts recommend choosing an oven with at least five rack positions, so you can fit large items in the oven and position food so it cooks efficiently.
  • Price: Unless you cook for a crowd on a regular basis, you probably don't need a range with six extra-large burners and a grill. Price can also be affected by the style you choose. For example, a range with a stainless-steel finish will cost an additional $100 or so.

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