Range, Range in the Home
June 29, 2017 11:58 AM   Subscribe

What are good features to look for in an electric range? Is a probe useful? Anything else? Anything you wish you knew before you bought yours?

We are looking for a new electric range. We cook a bit, but are not super-fancy cooks. We are planning to cook more (we have a toddler, and have been cooking at home more and more since he was born, a trend we expect will continue). Mostly nothing super-fancy. I'd love to be able to roast a chicken quickly and easily. I'd love to be able to occasionally make a big meal for a few people.

We are planning to get a new freestanding electric range.

I’m curious what features you’ve found most useful/important.

The features I most wonder about are:

- Is it very useful to have an oven with a built-in probe? Or is it just as good to just use a separate wireless thermometer? (I’m drawn to ovens with probes, but that seems to limit our choices a lot)

- Those of you with toddlers – have child-lock features been especially useful for you?

- Is convection cooking important? A double oven?

- Anything else you love or hate about your range? Anything you with you knew before you bought it?

posted by Mayma Hosey to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We have an electric range with an induction top, which is nice, but:
1. we had to get all new pots and pans, because they need to be magnetic, and
2. we had trouble with a square pan (Copper Chef, specifically), because the pan size was in between our induction top options, which meant it wouldn't fully heat the pan

But once you find pans that work for you, they heat up and you can control the temperature well, plus clean-up is easy and it's relatively cool and safe on top.

We use convection cooking/baking option often, because our stove fits too well into its space, so it can't disperse heat as well as it would like, so it gets angry and beeps at us from time to time when we're cooking.

We don't cook or bake enough to warrant a double oven, but my parents-in-law have one, and they use it with some frequency, considering it's generally just the two of them. It's quite useful when we come to visit, or more extended family is around for holidays, and my parents in law really like to cook and bake.

They had to replace their double oven, and their new one has a pleasant bird-like timer tone, which is very nice, compared to some that sound more like a siren or angry cell phone.

We have two young boys, and we haven't had to use the child lock, because generally they realize that the oven is hot enough to be cautious around it (plus, we yell at them to stay away, so oven = hot + shouty parents). But the warming tray is an attractive nuisance. If you can't find something that your kid was playing with, check in there, as our warming try opens easily and is perfect kid-height to drop things in.

If you're looking for ovens with built-in probes, look at how often they fail, and how hard it is to replace the related parts. It could be cheaper and more reliable in the long run to buy a nice probe and get a different oven.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on June 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: If you're looking for ovens with built-in probes, look at how often they fail, and how hard it is to replace the related parts. It could be cheaper and more reliable in the long run to buy a nice probe and get a different oven.

I guess I'm somehow imagining that a built-in probe could somehow do more than a separate thermometer. (Like - it can automatically adjust the heat as it cooks in some sort of cool way or soemthing). But I have no idea if that is true. I suppose either way - the question of replacing broken parts is a good question...
posted by Mayma Hosey at 12:34 PM on June 29, 2017

The thing about those probes is that a) they have the potential to break the normal expected functions of the unit b) you should never, ever be so far away from your oven, or so distracted, that you can't go turn it down when the timer beeps or your wireless bluetooth thermometer of the future tells your phone to tell your watch to alert you to go do it. Get a programmable pressure cooker if you want those kinds of tricks, don't limit the rest of your range features on a doodad.

I've rented houses almost my entire adulthood, and had so many kinds of ovens, and at the end of they day they all cooked food about the same. One of the biggest complaints I've had were badly-placed controls - the ones I hated the most were stovetop dials on the front of the stove where I bumped my stomach into them, snagged my apron on them, and dripped goop all over them, and if I had a toddler it would have been an additional nightmare. (BUT, I'm tall. I don't know how short people feel about the back-panel controls that are pretty easy for me to reach even when I've got a lot of things cooking.)

Definitely "play-cook" at the ones in the store and see if your particular combination of height and arm length and vision work well with the location and format of the controls.

The other issue is, I swear some of the newer ranges I've used were terribly insulated on top from the oven below. The place I live now has a spot where, if I'm cooking something fairly moist in the oven, steam comes up and fogs the display where my left-hand stovetop controls are, and I haven't burned myself yet but I'm going to. Also, my husband likes to set plastic on top of the stove because it can't possibly be hot if it's not on so why not, and he's melted all kinds of stuff on the last two ranges we've had. Maybe that's just a thing that's always true now? But you might check the documentation to see if any ranges brag about *not* doing that?

Convection is fine and I think it's pretty common now for all but the lowest-end ranges to have a fan, but I cook a lot and I cook all kinds of experiments and I've never had one and I'm fine.

All things considered, I really miss wall ovens, which I've had in two houses. I'm tall, and they're usually up much closer to my height so I don't have to bend so far down to see or reach in there, but that's probably not an option if you're range-shopping. While you're play-cooking definitely try handling an imaginary huge lasagna or turkey and see if there's anything unpleasant to you about how the doors or grates operate.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:56 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have a gas range with electronic temperature probe, and its pretty great. You just set your desired end temperature, and as soon as your roast/whatever reaches that temperature the oven automatically turns off and starts evacuating the heat.

[Searing a beef roast and cooking it to 135f internal is perfect and fool proof]
posted by axismundi at 1:12 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have a gas range, but the biggest issue I never thought to think about (and I'm glad my SO did), was the number of and size of burners (assuming you're not looking for an induction top). Depending on how you like to cook, you may prefer having one huge burner for a pasta or soup pot - and if you do, how many other burners do you like to keep going at once. We have one big one in the center and a large and small on either side, so we can conceivably get 5 going at once. With some of the options, we could only have used 3 at once, based on the size of our pans and the things we tend to cook when using multiple burners.

But mostly I'm just answering because I love the post title.
posted by Mchelly at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

We bought a GE stove, model PB960S, about a year ago. It replaced an electric stove that had pretty much the same features as the one my mother cooked on in 1955.

The new stove has a flat, "radiant" glass top. Pots and pans are supposed to have a flat bottom, and I have not found a grill pan (other than maybe cast iron) that suits. A brand new T-Fal skillet has a slightly sprung bottom and I use it, but I worry that maybe I shouldn't. We think our Le Creuset porcelain pot should be OK, but similar pots of lesser brands may not be.

The glass top is vulnerable to scratching, though I don't think we scratched ours in year.

The complaint that pro chefs have about electric heat is that it's slow to change temperatures, especially that it stays hot for a while after you turn the burner off. I think the new stove may be slower to cool than the old one.

All the new stoves are highly electronic, which means a whole new class of possible problems. Ours pops up an error message about once a month, and once I had to "pull the breaker" on the stove circuit while cooking dinner because the burner controls became unresponsive. (We need to get this looked at....)

We got a stove with a double oven since I liked the idea of having a small oven for just the two of us. And it is. I didn't appreciate how low that makes the big oven, or that it eliminates the under-oven storage drawer.

We have a microwave/convection oven, and I've used the convection setting for several things but I did so mostly because that appliance was operated via a timer (like all microwaves). In theory, I could set a time on the new oven without using convection. I have a convection oven cookbook that has recipe conversions for baking. Mostly, they call for similar time at a lower temperature. I like the idea of convection, but I don't actually see it as very important. Interestingly, our new, big, lower oven uses a fan even on the non-convection settings. I think it's just an exhaust fan.

posted by SemiSalt at 2:04 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

An induction cooktop is pretty nice if within your budget. The heat adjusts instantly from off to full on and back to low just like a gas burner. The glass top never gets hot enough to burn your hand. The heat is generated directly in the bottom of the pan. If you spill anything on the top, it never burns or crusts. You can mop up any spills under the pan with just a damp sponge without even turning off the heat. Since the glass surface never gets particularly hot, if you are only using one or two burners, the unused flat cooking surface can be used as an extension of your counter top space.
posted by JackFlash at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've found it pretty valuable to have a range with a split set of ovens -- we often cook a single sheet of cookies, say, or one kid's worth of fish sticks, and this way you heat up a smaller amount of space, and don't have to reach down as far, saving the monster oven for when you want to Cook For People. Here's something close to what I have (mine is gas and slide-in, but otherwise similar).
posted by acm at 3:03 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Definitely get the flat glass top and not the coil burners. The glass top is a breeze to clean. (I really miss that now that I have gas and have to take the whole thing apart to clean it regularly.) Also get some of the "stovetop magic" or whatever the local brand is, it's a glass stovetop cleaner with a fine grit in it so it gets it really clean and super shiny.

I like double ovens which I had in my last house and miss terribly. The house before that had a warming drawer under the oven which is SUPER USEFUL and perhaps even better than a second oven about 3/4 of the time anyway. It seems such a waste to make an entire oven warm just to keep one thing warm. I would buy rotisserie chicken on the way home from work and throw it into the warming drawer so we didn't necessarily need to sit down to eat at any specific time.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 5:54 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I much prefer my induction hob over my old glass electric hob. It's responsive, easy to clean, doesn't burn you and doesn't blind you (my electric rings turned very bright when heated).

However: I personally really dislike the touch buttons on my induction hob. If you spill water over them and don't wipe immediately you get an error and the ring or even the entire hob turns itself off. You have to press multiple times to get the temperature setting you want. So I'd suggest induction, but look out for knobs rather than touch controls. That is what I'd install if I were setting up a kitchen, and I would add a separate high powered gas ring to cover both the convenience of induction and the flexibility of gas.

As for ovens: in our kitchen a wall-based two-oven set up, where one oven is smaller than the other, would be ideal as I dislike the waste of energy in powering up a big oven for reheating or baking smaller quantities.
posted by tavegyl at 7:37 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with tavegyl. Knobs are nicer than touch buttons for an electric range. For the oven, it doesn't much matter since you usually just set it once, but knobs are better for the cook top which you adjust frequently.
posted by JackFlash at 8:16 PM on June 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I recently switched from one GE stove to another and miss some of the older stove's features. As the oven is heating up, I don't know the temperature until it gets to the desired temp (it says pre). Once it's to temperature, I'd like it to switch back to displaying the time but it doesn't. There is only one hot burner signal for the whole top, and I'd like to know which one is still hot. And the oven buttons require me to push up rather than enter the desired temp. All small things, but I wish I'd paid more attention rather than thinking that it was essentially the same stove and I'd like it just as much.
posted by Sukey Says at 2:55 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

One more voice for induction - it takes a bit of getting used to, but then its great. If I could afford it, I'd like one of those full surface induction tops where you can put your pot anywhere - because I too have a square pan that doesn't work optimally on the circles I have now. I visited a professional kitchen where they had changed to induction from gas for safety, after a fire in their listed building, and even these professional cooks really liked their new stovetop. It's as controllable as gas and even faster. I miss the wok burner though.
I want my oven as big as possible, for that one time a year were a goose goes into it. I also always go for the oven that can get very hot - like 500 degrees F. This is because my favorite thing to cook with kids is homemade pizza, and that needs a really hot oven. It's also good for bread-baking.
My current electric range has a lot of functions that I have never used, including a built in probe. IMO all those extra functions are just irritating distractions that can go out of order. I also think that I read somewhere that literally no ovens ever hold the temperature they are supposed to - so home bakers need to test their ovens using thermometers all the time if they want great results. I just want OK results, so I look at whatever I'm cooking/baking and go by that.
One function I have used a lot, specially for roasting chickens, is a dual convection/grill thing. It guarantees perfect juicy meat and golden blistery skin. I also use convection if it says in the recipe I'm using, or if I put several pans of food in the oven.
Another really great thing about my current oven is that there are these things that holds the sheets like a drawer, so when you pull out your bird for basting, you don't have to carry the weight. It is nice, and also makes cooking safer.
Some ranges have knobs you can push in so they can't be turned went they aren't being used - this seems to me to be great for safety when you have toddlers in the house.
posted by mumimor at 3:52 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a gas oven, but I can say that I love the double ovens. I end up just using the small one most of the time, and being able to use one for warming or cook at two different temperatures is so convenient.

I would skip the oven probe. I was so excited to have it, and then found that it's terribly inaccurate and a pain to use. The cord is short, so you basically have to try to maneuver the probe in while your hands are in a hot oven. In my case, it turns the oven off when it reaches temperature. Which is not so good when you check with your Thermapen and realize it's not actually done yet and now the oven is off. My sister-in-law has had both gas and electric ovens and said her probes were never accurate either.

Having cooked on electric tops before, I agree with the other posters that I would go for an induction cooktop if I was using electric again.
posted by thejanna at 6:46 AM on June 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: okay, thanks!! I am persuaded that a built-in probe is maybe nice to have, but not something to base my choice on.

I al also persuaded that induction is something worth considering. (I had not considered it before, but am persuaded by all the enthusiasm here...)

My worries about induction (apart from price)

a) I am totally reliant on my thermapen for all my cooking. I am concerned it will not work well with the induction stovetop. Can you use induction with an instant-read thermometer?

b) It looks like an induction stove may require re-wiring? Or is it a safe bet that whatever wiring I have for my current range will work with an induction range?

posted by Mayma Hosey at 7:42 AM on June 30, 2017

Response by poster: (Also persuaded that some sort of double oven is nice...)
posted by Mayma Hosey at 7:50 AM on June 30, 2017

Thermapen will work exactly the same with an induction stove top.

Most electric ranges in the U.S. are designed for a 40-amp circuit. You can look in your breaker box for the range circuit you are using now. If it is marked 40-amps, you are generally fine for a new induction range. But always ask before you buy.

One item to keep in mind is that you may need new pots and pans that are magnetic. They don't have to cost a fortune but they may be two or three hundred dollars for a full set.

Another thing to keep in mind about induction stove tops is that they do make a noticeable electronic hum. And it may have a small computer-like fan noise to keep the electronics cool.
posted by JackFlash at 8:21 AM on June 30, 2017

Response by poster: Thanks!! These responses were all very helpful! I went ahead and got a range with an induction stove and dual oven. It was more than I planned on spending, but I figure an oven is good for a pretty long time.
posted by Mayma Hosey at 10:28 AM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

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