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Cooktop or Range: Which is Right for You? [Bonus: Wall Ovens!]

by Pam Silvia

Like with most major purchases, the choice between a cooktop or range comes down to the three Ps: price, performance, and preference.

We extend “performance” and “preference” to implicate your kitchen habits. Are you a novice chef or a seasoned pro? Do you like to multitask? For responses to these and other questions, read on!

What are the Differences?

To get our terms straight, we should establish the differences between these cooking appliances.

A kitchen range can be succinctly defined as a combination of a cooktop (a.k.a., “stove” or “stovetop”) and an oven. It’s an all-in-one appliance when you consider that a cooktop and oven can each be purchased and installed separately.

The Benefits of a Kitchen Range

As far as kitchen trends go, a range is the most popular cooking appliance that has also stood the test of time. It perhaps has something to do with the fact that is more affordable than owning a separate cooktop and oven.

To add a few other points in its “Pros” column, a range is easier to install and is more space-efficient, thanks to its one-stop-shop design. This really comes in handy if your home has a modestly sized kitchen. And if you’ve got a keen eye for interior design, a snazzy-looking kitchen range can establish a breathtaking focal point in the heart of your home.

As for choosing between a built-in (a.k.a., “slide-in”) or freestanding model, gas and electric ranges can reap the benefits of either installation type. While built-in ranges are favored for a seamlessly integrated appearance, freestanding ranges are less expensive and easier to install.

Gas Range

Favored by professional chefs, gas ranges allow better cooktop control, as they enable instant changes in heat while cooking since a flame doesn’t need time to warm up or cool down—unlike electric burners.

And compared to their electric counterparts, these kitchen ranges are more durable, and in the long run, more cost-effective. Yes, upon initial purchase, gas ranges tend to cost more, but when the monthly utility bill comes around, you’ll find that gas is generally cheaper than electricity. If your family enjoys homecooked meals every day, a gas range or cooktop is the most prudent purchase.

Electric Range

On the other hand, if keeping your kitchen clean seems like an impossible task in your already hectic household, many electric ranges have a glass cooktop, which makes them easy to clean—especially when compared to cast iron grates. Just take a dampened cloth to the smooth surface, and you’re done in seconds.

And unless your kitchen is already equipped with wiring for a gas range, it will be less expensive to install an electric version, and depending on your budget and the features you need, more electric ranges are available in a larger spectrum of prices.

Although considered rare fixtures in U.S. households, induction ranges are available for purchase. For optimal energy efficiency, look no further than induction cooking—but more on that later.

The Benefits of a Separate Cooktop and Oven

House flippers and culinary aficionados know: Separately installed cooktops and ovens are all the rage now. If you’ve got the space and finances, consider breathing new life into your kitchen with this modern setup. And we've got reasons that might compel you to take the plunge.

Opting for a separate cooktop and wall oven allows you to install a cooktop in a kitchen island without sacrificing storage space below.

Also, if you tend to cook meals on the stove, you can go for a larger cooktop with six burners and a smaller single oven—the latter of which you can install on the other side of the kitchen or directly underneath your stovetop.

Alternatively, if you're an avid baker, you can splurge on a double oven and stick with an industry-standard four-burner cooktop. Any way you look at it, the possibilities are endless.

Gas Cooktop

Along with the aforementioned benefits of a gas range, the best gas cooktop should have a high BTU number (for perfectly seared steak and salmon) with a low-BTU simmer burner (for smooth and creamy soups) and an optimal gas burner configuration.

As far as control knobs go, these would ideally be located at the front center of the cooktop—this enables the most usable space on the cooktop for easy arrangement of multiple pots and pans.

If you’ve got overhead ventilation for your cooktop or range, the highest-power burner is ideally situated at the center.

Electric Cooktop [Bonus: Induction Cooking]

Electric cooktops have become increasingly popular. As is the case with some electric ranges (remember: there are models with electric coil burners), glass-surface electric cooktops make easy work out of post-dinner cleanup. Another point in their favor is that electric heating elements do not generate a lot of ambient heat, resulting in a cooler kitchen—in both senses.

A setback is that these cooktops and ranges rely on electricity to operate, so, in the event of a power outage, you’d be a little out of luck.

In recent years, you might have heard of induction cooktops. While both electric and induction cooktops operate on electricity, the main difference between these appliances is that induction cooktops transfer heat electromagnetically into conductive cookware with virtually no trace of heat on the induction element itself—not to mention that the surface cools down instantly once powered off.

Induction cooktops are safer to operate since there is no radiant heat and residual heat dissipates quickly. Plus, due to the technology involved, induction cooking operates more economically. In other words, no heat is wasted! So, if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, an induction cooktop is certainly a worthwhile purchase.

The Benefits of a Wall Oven

While a cooktop can be installed directly above an undercounter oven to resemble a range, we implore you to also consider ovens that can be mounted amongst your overhead cabinetry. In either case, a separate cooktop and oven allows you to have disparate sizes to better reflect your kitchen habits, granting you flexibility through options.

A wall oven doesn’t force you to bend down to retrieve or put in your food, making it the kinder choice for your joints and tall home cooks.

If you’re a seasoned pro that likes to dole out multiple dishes at once, a wall oven can be more ergonomic, with roasted turkeys and vegetables at eye and arm level—not to mention that double-oven models allow you to cook for larger parties.

And if making dinner is more of a family activity, separate cooking and baking zones make it so that it’s not a crowded kitchen.

We hope our guide makes your decision between a cooktop or range easier! To check out our selection of kitchen appliances, visit our store or call up our experts to see what we can do for you today. Whether you have specific questions or don't know where to start, our experts are always happy to help.