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There's a perfect range for every cook, kitchen and budget

Kitchen ranges -- which combine a stovetop and oven -- are perhaps the most common appliance found in kitchens. Ranges come in countless configurations from bare-bones basic to fancy to super high-tech, but they basically fall into four major categories:

Electric ranges. These are the most common and affordable ranges. They come with either coil elements, which heat cookware directly, or a smooth-top surface, which has radiant heating units beneath a glass or ceramic surface. Many users say they prefer smooth-tops because they are more attractive and easier to clean than electric coils. Once found only on high-end models, smooth-tops now dominate the range market; only lower-end models have electric coil elements. The ovens on electric ranges tend to perform very well in maintaining a consistent, even heat.

Gas ranges. As their name implies, these ranges are powered by natural gas. They have heavy cast-iron or ceramic grates that cover the gas burners. Many higher-end models feature continuous cooking grates, which cover the entire cooktop's surface, allowing cooks to slide pots and pans from one grate to another. Less expensive models typically have individual grates over each burner. Many cooks prefer gas stovetops to electric because they feel they have a greater degree of incremental control over cooking, but gas ovens don't heat as evenly as electric ovens.

Dual-fuel ranges. These ranges combine the uniform, even heat of a gas-powered cooktop with the reliability and consistent temperatures of an electric oven. The burners on these professional-grade ranges are often more powerful than those found on gas ranges. However, dual-fuel ranges are more expensive than gas or electric ranges, costing anywhere from about $1,500 to $4,000 or more for a high-end model. Still, many cooks say it's worth the money to get the best of both cooking worlds.

Induction ranges. Induction ranges include an electric oven and an induction stovetop, which heats food by creating a magnetic field between an element just below the surface of the cooktop and the cookware itself. Experts say induction burners are very responsive, heating and cooling food quite rapidly. They get great reviews from people who like to speed up their meal preparation.

Standard size fits most kitchens. Most ranges measure 30 inches wide, although it's possible to find compact models as narrow as 24 inches and wider versions of 36 inches or larger. They usually are either freestanding or slide-in. Freestanding ranges allow for the most flexible installation. They have finished sides and a backguard with controls. They are generally the most affordable option as well as the most readily available. Most of the ranges available in stores are freestanding. Slide-in ranges provide a seamless, built-in look. Slide-in ranges have unfinished sides and are a bit wider on top so that they slide over kitchen countertops. This feature keeps spills and crumbs from falling into the gap between the range and the counters. There is no back guard on these models, which allows owners to showcase a kitchen backsplash. Because they aren't as readily available, these ranges aren't reviewed as often, but they're becoming increasingly popular as an option with a custom look.

A convection feature and warming drawer are becoming must-haves. Expert say these two features are by far the most popular and are increasingly available on all types of ranges at every price level. Convection ovens use a fan to circulate air within the oven, cutting cooking time and heating food more evenly. Warming drawers keep food hot in a separate compartment until it's ready to serve.

If you need more oven space than a kitchen range can provide, a wall oven may be better suited to your needs. You'll need to have a separate cooktop if you prefer this kind of oven. We have top recommendations for both.

ConsumerSearch editors evaluated dozens of expert and owner reviews for every type of kitchen range sold. From there, we narrowed it down to the models with the top reviews for features, performance and ease of use. Price was a consideration as well, and we found a couple of top ranges that will offer great performance without breaking the bank. One of these will be sure to fit all of your kitchen cooking needs.

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