The stove is your kitchen’s multitasker. It lets you boil, simmer, fry, roast and bake – sometimes all at once.
Your stove could be the most simple or most complex appliance in your kitchen, depending on what you’re looking for. Stoves vary from the basic four-burner plus oven types to full-featured professional models that even clean up after themselves. With such a big ticket, long-term purchase you want to be sure you find one that suits you and your cooking needs.
Types of Stoves
Unless you're building or remodelling, your choice of stove may be limited to the existing energy source in your kitchen. Many cooks prefer a gas stove's greater control over heat levels and they like to see the instant heat supplied by burners. Other cooks are more comfortable with electric stoves because the ovens cook more evenly. There are also some dual fuel models that feature a gas cooktop and electric oven, however these are not as common, are more expensive, and require a 240-volt outlet plus a gas hookup.
Another option for those after the quick responsiveness of gas but on an electric stove is the induction cooktop. Using electromagnetic technology, an induction cooktop offers faster cooking along with instant and precise heat control.
Electric stoves are the most common type of stove in North American kitchens, especially now that sleek smoothtop models are gaining in popularity. Advantages of an electric stove are that it is generally less expensive to purchase and electric ovens cook more evenly and with consistent heat, which is ideal when baking or roasting. If you are going with an electric stove, you next choice is what type of cooktop you want: coil element; smoothtop; or induction.
Cooktops that use coil elements are usually the most economical and rugged models you can get. The coils are sturdy and easier to replace when they burnout. Coil elements generally heat faster than smoothtop elements, while providing even heat distribution; the more rings a coil has the more evenly it heats. Coil cooktops do require more cleaning time as spills can become baked onto the drip pans and cooktop.
With its elements underneath a sleek, flat ceramic surface, smoothtop cooktops make for easy clean-ups since there are no burners or rings to remove and scrub. Best of all, pot boil-overs won't spill into a burner, making a mess, although look for cooktops with a raised edge so the boil-overs don’t run down the front and sides of your stove.
Some smoothtop stoves also feature dual elements, which are two elements (one large and one small) in one location, so you can select the size of element to use depending on the size of you pot.
Due to its ceramic surface, smoothtops require special care. Dropped pots and sugary liquids can cause damage. And while the ceramic is very durable, use cleansers specifically made for smoothtops. As for cookware, to achieve the best cooking results, choose medium or heavy-gauge metal cookware with smooth, flat bottoms.
An induction cooktop is the latest innovation in stoves, offering the quick responsiveness of gas with the precision of electric cooking. It uses electromagnetic technology to provide quick heating and energy efficiency. So how does it work? A copper coil, located below the cooktop’s surface, creates an electromagnetic field when an electric current is passed through it. When you place a pan on the cooktop, the energy from the electromagnetic field goes directly into the pan. This causes the iron atoms in the pan to vibrate rapidly. The friction between the atoms creates heat and your pan gets hot.
The advantages of induction cooking include faster cooking, instant and precise heat control, and greater energy efficiency since the energy is going straight to the cookware. And cleanups are easier since only the part of the cooktop that touches the cookware gets warm, so spills don’t burn onto the surface.
Important! Only certain types of cookware will work on an induction stove. To see if your cookware is induction compatible, perform a magnet test – if a magnet sticks to the bottom of your pots and pans, they will work.
Gas stoves are very popular with people who love to cook. Gas provides instant heat at a constant temperature and gives you more control over burner temperature. The burners’ power is measured by the BTUs (British Thermal Units) they can deliver. The higher the BTUs, the stronger the heat. A gas cooktop usually comes with a mix of low- and high-stove BTU burners.
It's important to note that every gas stove must be installed by a licensed gas installer according to local codes. Most models can be converted to propane.
Freestanding vs. Slide-in vs. Built-in
As with choosing between electric and gas stoves, it’s best to go with what you’re replacing. If you’re starting from scratch, here’s the difference in your options.
Freestanding stoves have finished sides and a backsplash where the controls are located. Because of the finished sides, you can place it about anywhere you want.
Slide-in stoves have unfinished sides since they are designed to fit between cabinets. There is no backsplash and the controls are on the front of the stove.
Built-ins (or drop-ins) are an option if you are building or renovating a kitchen. A built-in stove is similar to a slide-in, but requires a built-in cabinet for it to drop into. Another option is to get a separate cooktop and oven. The cooktop is built into your counter, while the oven (known as a wall oven) is typically built into a wall or cabinet.
Cooktops are usually available in 30- and 36-inch widths. Common widths for wall ovens are 24, 27 and 30 inches. You can also select between a single oven and double oven. If you are replacing an old wall oven, take three sets of measurements to ensure an accurate fit: overall oven width; cabinet size; oven’s cut-out size.
Before buying, consider where you will place the stove. Be sure to measure the height, width and depth of the opening and have the measurements handy when shopping. Include overhead space if you want a hood or microwave installed over the stove. It’s a good idea to also measure the width of all doorways and hallways the stove will pass through on delivery.
Most free-standing stoves are 30 inches wide. Specialty stoves can come in 20, 24, 36 and 40-inch widths. Drop-in or slide-in stoves are typically 30 inches wide, but some are available in other widths. Cooktops are usually available in 30 and 36-inches widths. Most stoves have about 3.5 – 6.1 cubic feet of oven space.