Equipment: All You Need to Know About Stoves
From the ABCs of BTUs to the latest technical innovations and styles, here's the ultimate guide for buying a stove—the combined cooktop and oven that is a kitchen's key appliance.
Dictionary of Stove Terms
broiler Most gas ovens have a flame broiler, a bar in the center of the oven roof. Many gas stoves now also have an infrared broiler, a perforated ceramic tile that intensifies and distributes the heat from the flame broiler.
BTUs BTUs (British thermal units) refer to how much heat a burner generates. Companies often tout their BTUs, but remember, it's not just BTUs that are important—it's how much heat is transferred to the pan. Several factors come into play, including the design of the burners.
continuous grates These run across the whole cooktop to help spread heat across large pans. They also make it easier to move heavy pots off a flame.
convection oven This type of oven has a fan that circulates air, which helps distribute heat more evenly.
dual fuel Fuel source is the first decision you need to make when buying a stove. Most people prefer a more expensive "dual fuel" stove—an electric oven with a gas cooktop—because gas burners usually generate more BTUs, and electric ovens heat more evenly.
ports The angle and configuration of the ports—where the flame comes out of the burner—help determine how much heat reaches the pan. On most gas stoves, the flame comes out the side of a burner; on some the flame comes out the top. Other stoves have star-shaped, instead of round, burners so the flame touches more of the pan.
sealed and unsealed burners Sealed burners have no gap between their edges and the cooktop surface. They make a stove easier to clean (food can't get trapped inside), so they're standard on many high-end models. With an unsealed burner, you can see inside the cooktop. These provide better airflow, which helps the flame heat the pan.
self-cleaning This feature gets ovens so hot—up to 1,000 degrees—that whatever has been cooked onto the surface will burn off. But self-cleaning ovens need extra insulation, which can reduce the internal capacity by as much as 15 percent. Some manufacturers offer non-self-cleaning ovens with an easy-to-clean surface.
simmering function Many stoves have special technology to generate low, even heat. On some, one burner is made solely for simmering; on others, a mini burner ignites when you need an especially low flame.
Bosch, the German company known for its dishwashers, has just introduced its first line of stoves. Highlights include a large warming drawer and an oven rack so sturdy you can pull it out fully laden and it won't tilt (from $1,100; 800-944-2904).
There's a reason French stoves have become such status symbols: Most are handcrafted and charmingly old-world in style, with colorful enamel finishes and metal trim. French stoves are also known for their technical merits. Some have burners that reach 20,000 BTUs and offer unusual custom options such as French plaques (large porcelain and cast-iron plates where the heat is strongest at the center and gets weaker at the edge). Many models have become available in the United States only in the past few years. Here are a few standouts:
La Cornue The first French brand to be imported to the U.S., La Cornue makes residential stoves exclusively and builds each to order (from $14,000; 800-892-4040).
Godin At 164 years old, this is one of Europe's oldest stove companies, but it offers more modern options, such as convection ovens, than some French brands. Also known in Europe for wood- and coal-burning hearths (from $7,600; 800-550-4294).
Lacanche This company produces more affordable stoves (they're not custom-made), including one that's 28 inches wide—great for tiny kitchens (from $4,500; 800-570-CHEF).
Morice Originally designed for restaurants, this brand has burner knobs that look like old-fashioned faucet handles and is available with a faux oven chimney (from $9,000; 800-998-8966).
The French Diva de Provence is one of the most extravagant stoves out there: You can customize every part and even get 24-karat-gold trim. One customer ordered a 15-foot-long range (from $16,000; 888-852-8604).
Antique Appliances This Georgia store specializes in American stoves from the '20s through the '60s (from $2,400; 706-782-3132 or www.antiqueappliances.com).
Antique Stove Heaven This well-known Los Angeles store repairs and sells O'Keefe & Merritts from the 1940s and Magic Chefs from the 1930s, among others (from $1,300; 323-298-5581 or www.antiquestoveheaven.com).
Antique Stoves Specializing in ranges from the 1750s through the 1950s, this Michigan storefront does restorations for museums (from $2,000; 517-278-2214 or www.antiquestoves.com).
Elmira Stove Works This Canadian company has been making Victorian-style stoves with modern ovens and burners for nearly 30 years and is about to launch a line with a 1950s look (from $3,000; 800-295-8498 or www.elmirastoveworks.com).
Heartland Appliances Stoves in the Classic Collection, based on an original 1905 design—think porcelain-and-steel oven doors and nickel-plated legs—function like modern ones. The Canadian manufacturer also makes 1930s styles and wood-burning stoves (from $3,765; 800-361-1517 or www.heartlandapp.com).
Ovne Antique Stoves Based in West Cork, Ireland, the company restores and sells European wood- and coal-burning stoves from the late 19th and the early 20th centuries (from $1,240; 011-353-283-4917 or www.ovnestoves.com).
Elan—called Ilve in Italy, where the stove company is based—has a big following in Europe. Now the company has fans in the U.S., especially for its EuroPro 36-inch range. It includes a convection oven with a rotisserie, a brick-oven stone and a built-in meat thermometer—plus a useful under-stove storage drawer ($5,500; 800-550-4294).
News and Trends
Instead of having a gas burner or electrical coil, induction cooktops are powered by electromagnetic energy. Put a pan down and the burner heats it up; take it away and the burner feels cool—the cooktop can't burn you. Popular in Europe, induction cooktops are now available in the U.S. from Diva de Provence (from $3,000; 888-852-8604) and Küppersbusch (from $1,250; 800-459-0844).
The latest ovens use regular thermal heat, convection and microwaves to speed up and improve cooking. By combining these modes of cooking, the new GE Profile Oven with Trivection Technology can cook food up to five times faster than a regular oven. Turkeys roast in half the usual time. If you're worried about converting recipes, the Profile can still bake, broil and roast the old-fashioned way (from $2,350; 800-626-2000). Thermador's Jet Direct wall oven mixes microwaves and impingement cooking—blasts of superheated air—to cook food more quickly, a system that's ideal for crisping pizza crusts. This technology is used in restaurants, but Thermador's oven is the first one available for home use (from $7,000; 800-656-9226).
Serious cooks looking for specialized equipment can add these mini stoves to their kitchens. Viking's 24-inch-wide model comes with either four burners or an all-griddle, char-grill or wok surface (from $2,750; 888-VIKING1). Aga's includes four gas burners and two electric ovens—a handy companion to its radiant-heat stoves ($3,690; 800-633-9200).
Those who use British Aga ranges love how the stove heats continuously without ever turning off, though others are daunted by the idea of learning to cook in a whole new way. Now Aga has introduced the Six-Four Series stove, which has six regular gas burners and four electric ovens—one each for roasting, simmering, baking and broiling (from $7,000; 800-633-9200).
Where to Test Stoves
The following places offer a marvelous extra that most showrooms don't: the opportunity to turn on some of the stoves (we've specified those brands here) to see how well they work. At some, you can even make an appointment to cook a dish.
Albano Appliance & Service
TESTERS: Dacor, DCS, Diva de Provence, Viking, Wolf.
WHERE: Pound Ridge, NY (914-764-4051).
TESTERS: Aga, DCS, Diva de Provence, Viking.
WHERE: Bozeman, MT (406-582-1001).
TESTERS: Bosch, Thermador.
WHERE: Denver (303-307-4484); Grand Prairie, TX (800-772-7423); Houston (800-613-7333); Tempe, AZ (480-763-2669).
Manhattan Center for Kitchen & Bath
TESTERS: Dacor, Thermador, Viking, Wolf.
WHERE: New York City (212-995-0500).
TESTERS: Bosch, La Cornue, Thermador.
WHERE: Brisbane, CA (800-892-4040) and Huntington Beach, CA (800-294-0644).
TESTERS: Aga, Blue Star, Jade.
WHERE: Elmwood Park, NJ (201-797-2572) and Fairfield, NJ (866-88-RENOS).