One question that often comes up is, should you buy a range or a cooktop?
In short, it is really a personal choice, based on your budget, space limitations, looks, and needs.
Prices for cooktops, ovens and ranges vary a lot because the prices are changing constantly due to special offers and sales, brands are priced differently to start with, and they also depend on which of many different features they offer.
However, a separate cooktop and wall oven will always cost more than a range, and will also require electrical or gas plumbing to each unit.
With a cooktop and separate oven you are installing two appliances, therefore they will take up twice the space of a range. Building codes may also require you to install a vent over the cooktop. Also, you may lose some cupboard space to allow for the built-in oven.
Gas or Electric?
However, the first thing you should consider when buying a range or cooktop is whether you want the gas or the electric type. With the drastic increase in natural gas prices recently, many people are changing to electric appliances.
If you are simply replacing your existing equipment, this is no problem. If, however, you wish to convert from gas to electric or vice-versa, you might have to do additional work in your kitchen by adding wiring or gas inlets. Discuss this with your appliance dealer before purchasing.
Cooktop Elements and Burners
Standard gas burners:
Very easy to cook with, the choice of professional cooks. Gas burners heat up and cool off quickly compared to electric elements. You can see the flame and adjust it visually to the cooking task.
No open flame so perhaps safer, and less expensive than gas. May take a while to heat up and cool down, though, so if fine control is important to you then you may want to try one of the other electric options below.
Sealed Gas burners:
Gas burners are enclosed, the cooktop surrounds the burner so that any spills are easier to clean up. Most come with energy-saving electronic-ignition systems.
Have a smooth surface that is easy to clean and looks good. Can have either electric coils or halogen elements (or a combination). Halogen heat faster than electric coils but are more expensive to run.
Look similar to ceramic-glass units with the same easy cleanup, however, the heat is generated in the pan by an electromagnetic field, so the pan cooks the food, rather than the cooktop surface which stays cool to the touch.
Solid cast-iron disks contain the burner elements. These are similar to electric coil but are even slower to heat up and cool down. However, they are easier to clean than the traditional units.
Notes on burners:
The induction, halogen and European types of burners look good and are easier to clean than the other choices of burner but you need to carefully research these before you buy since these may not turn out to be the best investment. The initial costs are almost always higher and the repair frequency and expense are also higher for these types.
When you visit your dealer, take information on measurements and venting requirements for your existing oven/range if you have one. Ask about any other adjustments you will need if you want to purchase a different model from the one you have.
If you choose a gas range or cooktop, consider the pilotless electronic ignition type. This type usually costs no more than the traditional pilot gas type but is much more energy efficient (sometimes by as much as 25%).
Another money-saving feature for ranges is the oven window that allows you to watch your food cook. Be sure to add this feature since it will decrease the number of times you need to open the door to check food. This saves energy by eliminating the need for the oven to adjust itself to keep a constant temperature.
These windows sometimes cost as much as $40 to $50 more, but soon pay for themselves in saved energy costs. However, some of the newer radiant electric ranges suggest cooking certain foods with the door ajar and even have installed devices to hold oven doors open while cooking.
Be sure to keep your range or cooktop as clean as possible. Burned-on food and grease deposits will make your work harder and use much more energy than is required. Even with self-cleaning ovens, check often to make sure that there is not a build-up of ash deposits from the self-cleaning operation.
A worthwhile investment, especially with electric cooktops, is cookware that is completely flat on the bottom. Flat bottoms help food to cook more quickly and evenly. Curved bottoms or old and dented cookware will waste energy and require a longer cooking time.
Also, be aware of what size burner you are using with each piece of cookware. Using a pot or pan that is too small or too large for the burner can cause uneven cooking and energy loss.