Whether you’re after a country-cottage vibe or stylish hi-tech look, a range cooker can make any kitchen the heart of the home. Modern range cookers combine cutting-edge technology with stylish good looks and a host of labour-saving features to help make cooking an everyday pleasure.
Range cookers are considerably wider than standard models and come with extra hobs – often including an extra-large hob designed for stir-frying with a wok. You are likely to find at least two ovens, perhaps also with a separate grill.
A range cooker can be ideal if you are regularly cooking for a large family, for example, but they are more expensive and take up more space in your kitchen.
When choosing a range cooker, you’ll first need to consider what size cooker you need and can fit into your kitchen, along with your buying budget and the type of fuel you wish to use – be it gas, electricity or a combination of the two.
Once you’ve decided on these, you can then look at which range cooker features are essential and those you can live without.
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Range cooker fuel sources
One of the first considerations when shopping for a range cooker is the type of fuel it will use. Generally, it’s easier and cheaper to stick with the fuel your existing cooker use, as switching electric to gas can result in a heavy installation costs for example.
Electric range cookers
Electric range cookers are available with different hob types such as ceramic, solid plate and induction. Although more expensive to buy, induction hob cookers deliver quick, even heat and are cheaper to run than other electric hobs. As they use a magnetic field between the heating element and the pan, the hob itself stays cool but you do need to use induction-suitable cookware. You can check your existing cookware by using a fridge magnet. If it sticks, then the pan is magnetic and so can be used on an induction hob.
Most electric range cookers come with one or two fan ovens that ensure fast preheating and cooking times, and more even temperatures.
Gas range cookers
Gas range cookers are cheaper to buy. With their visible heat source, they offer lots of control with the ability to switch instantly from a high heat to a low flame for simmering. Most have mains ignition and some have automatic ignition so the burner ignites as you turn the knob. Gas ovens can be inefficient, with the heat not circulating as well as in electric fan-assisted ovens (although electric ovens without fans can have the same problem).
Dual fuel range cookers
Dual fuel is the most popular type of range cooker. They combine an easily controllable gas hob with the fast and even cooking of an electric oven. Both gas and dual-fuel range cookers must be fitted by a Gas Safe Registered fitter.
Oil-fired range cookers
Oil-fired range cookers such as Agas and Rayburns have been a country kitchen staple for decades. While their classic style hasn't changed very much, modern oil-fired range cookers do include advances that make them more efficient than they used to be, such as using thermostats to make sure oil is only used when necessary, with only a very low fire at night. Even so, a two oven oil-fired range cooker can use about 40 litres of oil a week, or even more if it's also heating the water.
The main benefit of heating oil is for houses off the national grid, but you will need substantial open air space to store it and will need to follow all building regulations.
If you're in love with the look of a traditional oil-fired range it's worth looking at the more modern gas and electric ranges sold by many of the traditional brands, including Aga, Stanley and Heritage.
What size range cooker?
Larger than traditional cookers, range cookers come in a range of width sizes – the most common being 90cm, 100cm and 110cm. Depending on their size, you can expect between five and eight hob burners, two to four ovens, a grill and a warming or storage drawer. If you’ve a compact kitchen but still hanker for the classic cooker look, consider a 60cm mini range cooker with four hobs and double ovens. When measuring up for a range cooker, be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommended gap between the cooker sides and the kitchen cabinets to allow for ventilation, as this can differ from brand to brand.
How much do range cookers cost?
Range cookers are expensive with prices starting from around £600 to more than £4,000 for a top-of-the-line model. Mid-priced range cookers around the £1,200 to £1,500 mark come with plenty of features and accessories such as fan-assisted and multi-function ovens, while premium models include self-cleaning options such as catalytic liners and pyrolytic programs as standard. Oil-fired ranges cost considerably, with prices ranging from £6,000 to nearly £20,000.
What range cooker features to look for
When it comes to range cooker features, there’s a lot to consider. Cooking features and accessories such as multi-function ovens, griddles, hot plates and wok burners deliver loads of versatility while an extra compartment for pots and pans can be very useful. As with all cookers, cleaning is a necessary chore so look for a range cooker that offers easy clean features such as catalytic oven liners. These absorb spills and splashes, which then burn off during cooking so you won’t have to clean the sides, back and/or roof of the oven.
Most electric or dual-fuel range cookers have a least one oven with a rotating fan that evenly distributes heat around the oven. This speeds up both preheating and cooking times, and ensures a uniform temperature no matter where food is positioned in the oven – perfect when batch baking.
Lots of range cookers feature multi-function ovens, which offer greater flexibility when cooking compared to conventional and fan ovens. They combine up to nine different heat sources, which you can use separately or in combination. For example, you can use the grill element and fan together when cooking meat or bottom oven heating and the fan for baking pizza.
More expensive range cookers may offer pyrolytic self-cleaning programmes that help make cleaning the oven far easier. The oven is heated to 400°C which incinerates splashes and spillages, leaving only ash for you to sweep away.
However, the pyrolytic function won’t work on the shelves or oven door so you’ll still have to clean these by hand.
Catalytic liners are found on some range cookers and help to reduce over cleaning. They are rough surfaces that absorb and dissolve grease and splashes, then burn them off during high heat settings. You’ll typically find them on the sides of the oven and sometimes on the back or roof too. You may need to replace them during the lifespan of the cooker.
Telescopic shelf runners
Telescopic shelf runners allow a shelf to be partial pulled out of the oven, with a safety mechanism stopping it from coming out completely. They make it easier and safer to check items during cooking or baking, and then remove them from the oven.
Oven door rack
Some models have a rack attached to the oven door to hold a roasting tray, so that when you open the door, the tray swings out with it. This means you don’t have to reach into the oven when basting meat or vegetables.
Griddle and hotplates
Either ridged or flat, griddles and hotplates are useful additions to range cookers. They are perfect for searing meat, shellfish or vegetables, making pancakes or frying eggs and bacon.
Typically found on gas hobs, this is a high-powered burner that’s perfect for creating stir frys, searing meat or quickly boiling a big pan of water. Alternatively, a wok support provides a cradle that holds your wok over a high flame, directing the heat towards the bottom so food is cooked quickly.
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