Hands up – who doesn’t want a range cooker in their kitchen? If your hand just shot up, maybe one of our other appliance guides is better suited, but I’m betting I’ve peaked your interest. I have, haven’t I? It’s the piece of kit that is often associated with the old adage that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Whenever I think about that, my vision is always a cosy space complete with a range cooker – and lots of warming food being lovingly prepared for the masses.
Once a seriously hefty appliance made from cast iron and found in country homes as not only the cooker, but the main heating source too, the latest offerings cater to many needs, spaces, interior tastes, cooking styles and energy-saving requirements. You can also still get those hefty ones too, by the way, if you’re after a truly authentic look straight out of River Cottage or Little House on the Prairie (loved that show).
My dream kitchen would most likely include a range cooker, but I’m probably more interested in the modern versions that include larger cavities, a combination of gas and induction hob space and in a lovely pastel shade – I usually can’t get past the mint or pistachio designs.
But, it’s (sadly) not all about aesthetics, so let’s see what else you should consider before parting with your cash. I asked journalist Sally Smith to round up her list of things to look out for.
The traditional range cooker – many of us will think of the Aga first – is made from cast iron, fuelled with wood or oil, and can heat your home as well as cook your food. Once lit, they stay on all day. However, as manufacturers have moved with the times, the new generation of appliances pairs old-school charm with modern convenience, so there are more electric designs available that can be installed without a flue – all you need to do is plug them in. It’s good to know that electric range cookers only need two standard plug sockets and can be installed on any interior wall or even as part of an island.
You’ll now find an impressive array of designs that are either all electric, gas, or dual fuel, meaning they combine two sources – usually gas and electricity. Some of the latest designs include a steam oven, too.
The most popular feature of a range is its impressive cooking capacity, with up to three ovens plus a separate grill cavity – so you can easily slow cook a casserole, roast potatoes, bake a meringue, and grill sausages at the same time – yes please. Many come with a good selection of hob options, too, with up to six or eight burners, a pro-style wok facility, induction, hotplates and ceramic panels for griddles or pans.
The latest modern models mimic the radiant heat cooking system synonymous with solid fuel ranges, producing a consistent temperature in the individual oven cavities – so your dishes and cakes cook evenly, even on the bottom shelf.
Ranges are almost double the width of a conventional cooker, so between 90 and 110cm, but some brands build more compact versions to fit a 60cm opening – so the space available will be a key factor. Remember to leave a gap of at least 3cm between the back of your range and the wall so the appliance isn’t pushed against it, as this may damage the electric cable or block the induction vent.
Traditionally, the hob on a range cooker would have been hotplates powered by wood or oil. Nowadays, you can choose this style – or the more popular gas or induction hobs. Some also have griddles, teppanyaki plates and special wok burners, so you can really tailor it to your cooking style.
Easy clean functions
It’s a big appliance but don’t be put off – the majority of dual-fuel models come with liners which allow you to simply wipe cooking residue after running the pyrolytic self-clean programme. There are plenty of removable parts, too, so the hob burners, pan supports, shelves and shelf runners can be cleaned.
This appliance will likely be a focal point, so it’s vital it fits in with the style and colour of your kitchen as well as the room’s layout.
Before you go, it’s also worth knowing that…
Ranges can be heavy, especially traditional cast iron designs that can weigh up to 350kg. The more contemporary models are made from sheet metal and weigh around 35kg or more, but always check your floor is strong enough to hold it. Make sure the floor is level where you want to place your appliance and capable of supporting its weight. If you have opted for a solid fuel stove it will require a chimney or flue.
As an appliance that’s going to become a key focal point in your kitchen and one that is an investment piece that’ll last many years, it’s crucial to think carefully about each aspect mentioned above before you buy. Anyone else now off to search for Little House on the Prairie on Netflix or Amazon Prime? Nope…just me?
Featured image: Aga’s range has one oven for roasting and baking and one for simmering, plus a warming drawer and cookware storage space, a hotplate, and two-zone induction hob. The bridging feature allows you to combine those into one large cooking zone. 3 Series ER3 100-4I electric range cooker, £8345, Aga.