Kitchen range for serious cooking?
January 5, 2015 11:48 AM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for a new kitchen range and I'm not having much luck figuring out what to get. I'm a pretty serious cook and I'm planning to pay for a nice range, but when I say serious I mean that I don't care about or want a lot of the features that (I think) sell ranges but aren't actually much good for cooking. Help! Excessive detail below the fold.

Here's my thinking about features. The must-have list is:

-- 30" width
-- gas cooktop
-- continuous level cooktop surface
-- all burners identical
-- range, not separate cooktop and wall oven

The "wants" are:

-- decently low simmer
-- decently high BTUs (high-end of consumer?)
-- open burners
-- electric oven
-- self-cleaning oven

Don't care about:

-- looks or brand-name cachet
-- convection oven
-- insanely high BTUs (not using a wok or boiling water in seconds)
-- wok capability (either shape or heat level)

Actively don't want:

-- fancy electronics, LED displays, digital controls, wi-fi, f-ing bluetooth whatiswrongwithyoupeople
-- grill/griddle or more than four burners
-- need to install bigger gas line or other serious residential install problems

This is for a residential installation (U.S.) and I'm planning to put in a high-end hood. I'm willing/expecting to pay for a higher-end brand of range (Wolf, DCS, Viking, etc.) if necessary but I'd be fine with a good consumer model if it had the right features. I'm finding that my thinking about features doesn't seem to line up very well with what's out there from the consumer brands. I think I can get what I want in a higher-end brand, but then I'm clueless about the brands. The reports on quality are completely inconsistent, and the companies seem to have been bought and sold enough that it's not clear if the quality is even consistent from a given brand over time.

Anybody out there with recommendations? Anybody with similar preferences who is happy with their range? Suggestions for good online forums for this topic would be great as well.
posted by madmethods to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I may be misunderstanding what you are asking for, but these are all incompatible:

-- gas cooktop
-- continuous level cooktop surface
-- all burners identical
-- decently low simmer
-- decently high BTUs (high-end of consumer?)

Gas means you'll have some type of grate, not a level cook top surface. Identical burners means you cannot have both a decent low simmer and high BTU.

If by level, you mean burners are recessed, and the grates are flat (vs the inclined), I've only seen that in commercial (because cleaning/servicing that's a pain). Though they've also had all the same burners, just VERY LARGE, so the decent simmer would work if you're putting a 200 qt stock pot on it)
posted by k5.user at 12:34 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just a word of warning: I've had Viking applicances (range, dishwasher, and fridge) and have never been more disappointed in my entire life. Every single one of them either has broken completely (e.g. dishwasher that relies on a motor that is no longer made by anyone) or has intermittently been on the fritz for a decade (e.g. a fridge whose freezer has needed four expensive repairs just to keep the freezer from turning into a solid block of ice). The range has been a nightmare as well--issues from the door not being installed tightly to horrifyingly poor temperature regulation.

I've since learned about Viking's bad reputation for reliability and will never recommend nor purchase anything they make again.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:37 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

I imagine that by "continuous level cooktop" OP means something like this Wolf, where the grate is one plane for the entire surface of the range.

But I agree with K5 that having all burners be identical is going to be a tall order, since most have a couple of simmer burners and a couple of mega furnaces; specialized tools for specialized jobs.

OP, you might want to download the very helpful guide from one of my local retailers, Yale Appliance in Boston. Check out their blog, too--lots of interesting stuff there, and they're not just pushing the most expensive models.

Personally, my next cooktop (I don't have a range) is going to be induction. It's more efficient and more tunable than gas.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah I wouldn't recommend Viking and Wolf is frankly overpriced for what you're getting. I assume by "continuous" you want the gas grates across the whole cooktop, even when there isn't a gas jet?

I have electric (ugh) and haven't been in the market for a good gas range in a little over a decade, but I know there are a number of ranges that would
Meet your needs.
posted by michellew at 12:45 PM on January 5, 2015

I've never seen a residential gas range that has identical burners. That doesn't mean it's not out there somewhere, but I too am a serious cook and renovated my kitchen a few years ago; that range didn't exist then and I haven't seen it since.

This is the cooktop I have and I absolutely love it. It's incredibly durable and is a work horse. I know you said you want a range: here's a range with more burners than I have, and here's another one.

The Dacor ranges linked above all have continuous platform cooktops (which is what I think you mean by "continuous level cooktop surface."

I cannot recommend Dacor enough. My husband did hundreds of hours of research for my cooktop and I couldn't be happier with it. I can only assume the ranges will be as good as the cooktops.
posted by cooker girl at 12:48 PM on January 5, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify: yes, I meant a grate that's even over the whole cooktop so that you can move pots and pans around freely, as opposed to having little grates over each burner or pair of burners as on most lower-end cooktops. Not a completely flat plane like an induction cooktop has.

I've definitely seen all-identical burners that can go from low simmer to high heat, but maybe only on the high-end (Blue Star, Wolf, Viking). I think they are often effectively two gas burners/rings in one, where at low levels only one part of the burner is on.
posted by madmethods at 12:50 PM on January 5, 2015

My model doesn't have a "continuous level cooktop" since there's a gap between the grates, but take a look at NXR. My husband (the household chef) wanted high-end performance without all the repair issues that seem to come with a high-end range.

We've had our NXR for ~5 years and adore it. It's been trouble free, works great from searing to simmering, and is easy to clean. Plus no touchscreen or buttons, just expensive-feeling knobs.
posted by the_shrike at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm reminded of what Philip Greenspun wrote about Viking stoves waaay back in 1997. He bought a GE Profile, and they definitely have gas models these days that have continuous grates.
posted by holgate at 12:59 PM on January 5, 2015

I would encourage you to take a look at a restored/refurbished vintage stove. Brands like O'Keefe & Meritt and Wedgwood would fit all of your requirements save the electric oven.
I have cooked on vintage stoves at home for most of my adult life and they are incredible work-horses. Few moving parts, no computers, tons of power and built like tanks. We have a recently remodeled kitchen with a modern esthetic and our vintage stove is a design focal point.

Most of the residential units made by the manufacturer's available to the US market are absolute junk IMHO. They're made to look like their commercial brethren but that's as far as it goes.

Commercial units are not an option for residential applications because they are not insulated and most have standing pilots. My understanding is this is unsafe and could jeopardize ones fire insurance should there be a claim.
posted by Mr.Me at 1:04 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I have separate cooktop/oven in this house (GE Monogram, don't know that I'd get again), but in my last house I had a Dacor duel fuel range (gas cooktop, electric oven) and it was great. I see that now they have more electronics than they did when I bought mine, so don't know if that's a deal breaker...
posted by cecic at 1:17 PM on January 5, 2015

It's been several years since I remodeled my kitchen, but at the time the Kitchen forum at Gardenweb was the go-to place for things like this, and it looks to still be quite active.

Staying away from electronics and getting four identical burners capable of simmering and high heat is going to eliminate every current consumer-type stove I've seen. A quick bit of searching suggests that the Bluestar RCS (PDF) might tick your boxes pretty well.
posted by jon1270 at 1:26 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Please don't go with Viking. Coincidentally before I even saw this question I had a service call out this morning for our gas range. Not our first. Or the second. I still can't believe this is made in USA. I will be watching this thread-at some point we will have to stop fixing it right?
posted by 58 at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2015 [1 favorite]

Gah, the Bluestar doesn't have identical burners either. Also not self-cleaning, and not an electric oven. Nevermind.
posted by jon1270 at 1:32 PM on January 5, 2015

Honestly, you may do best by scouring your local classifieds and looking for sell-offs of defunct restaurants. Or contact your local equivalent of Nella. You'll get a used commercial level stovetop + oven, gas, HOT, and flat. Most likely there will be individual grates but these are a feature and not a bug--it sucks having to take the whole top off to clean a localized spill. Plus commercial ranges are built to withstand pretty serious abuse, meaning home use is something they'll shrug off and still be working fine for your grandchildren.

Note that commercial ranges are always on--even the stovetop burners run from pilot lights. So you'd need a gas shutoff valve to save money and for safety.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:42 PM on January 5, 2015

My husband's a chef and we have a vintage O'Keefe which I love so much. Two ovens, two broilers, six burners, and a clock and salt and pepper shakers and a light and it's dreamy. I found it on Craigslist, didn't need any work, looks cool. Cost me about $300.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2015 [5 favorites]

I just bought the Bosch 300 series range and am super pleased. It fits some of your criteria- continuous grates/flat surface, no electronic nonsense, is a 30" range with oven.

3/5 contiguous burners are the same size. One is tiny for simmering. One is massive and 16-18k BTUs for boiling quickly. While you do not get 5 same sized burners, it sounds like from up the thread that may not be a commercially available thing.

At the $800 price point, this has served my needs as a frequent home cook incredibly well.
posted by slateyness at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2015

We have the Capital Culinarian rangetop (here's the 30" range). Capital was founded by the founder of DCS. We really like it! Apparently they now have a dual fuel version (here's the 30" range) if you want an electric oven.

All burners are identical and are open burners. Each is 23k BTU, so more power than I think any consumer grade (other than the dual fuel version, which has 25k BTU burners if you pick the open burners), and I've never had a problem with keeping a simmer (though before we got it, I did read a few negative comments relating to older models' simmer ability).

The surface is not quite continuous, but the grate corners nearly touch, so it should be good enough -- for me, I only notice with my smallest pot, and of course, it's a small pot, so I never have any problem just lifting it and moving it.

I can't speak to the oven-related features (we have a Wolf wall oven), though I think it hits all of your wants.
posted by odin53 at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

My friends had a Viking for a long time - don't, just don't - they couldn't convince themselves it was ethical to clean it up enough to resell it.

They replaced it with a Blue Star, and it has been roughly as loved as the Viking was hated. It doesn't tick all your want boxes, but I'd imagine that they can configure something fairly serviceable for you.
posted by wotsac at 5:38 PM on January 5, 2015

We recently underwent a kitchen renovation. We also consider ourselves serious cooks, and had many of the same requirements you have. After researching everything and visiting appliances stores we ended up choosing a Bluestar, which is essentially the "home professional" line that Viking is aiming for, but much more spartan and without the luxury brand name.

We went for an RNB-36", with six burners and a 22btu burner that's great for wok cooking.

Lucky for you, if the high btu burner isn't important to you, their RCS series is the less expensive version, and comes in a 30". It hits most of your wishlist, but I think some of your wishlist is going to be difficult to find all in one unit.

Yes -- 30" width
Yes -- gas cooktop
Yes - this is called "Full motion grates" -- continuous level cooktop surface
There are 3 15k btu burners + 1 Simmer burner -- all burners identical
Yes-- range, not separate cooktop and wall oven

The "wants" are:

Yes. The simmer burner is great.-- decently low simmer
RCS has 15k BTU burners; normal consumer ranges you'll find are on average 9k-13k with a single 15-22k "power burner". If you're willing to pay more the RNB series has 22k btu standard, but you won't really need that unless you want to do wok cooking -- decently high BTUs (high-end of consumer?)
Yes-- open burners
No. This is a convection oven. I've never seen a gas stove with an electric oven.-- electric oven
No. -- self-cleaning oven
posted by Karaage at 6:01 PM on January 5, 2015

Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff explained why she picked a BlueStar range and reviewed it once it was in. It ticks many of your boxes, but not all.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:39 PM on January 5, 2015

« Older Excelfilter - How do I "fill in" missing data...   |   Which must-read non-fiction books can I tackle in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.