Choosing your range cooker
OK – you’re refitting your kitchen. You know roughly what the aesthetic will be. You have an idea of the carpentry style, the materials and the finish. Furniture is roughly decided on and you even know the lighting style you want to aim for. That just leaves what you’re hoping will be the centrepiece of the room – the cooker. So where do you start? Range cookers come in an array of styles, shapes and sizes, and are available to suit a variety of budgets. Fuel types vary from traditional gas through to modern induction models. So, first things first…
The cost of a range cooker varies dramatically from an entry level model by Flavel at around £600, through to a mammoth cooking unit from high end French manufacturer Lacanche weighing in at a hefty £12000. Generally though, £2000 will buy you an excellent range cooker that will be of a high build quality and offer enough cooking features to keep the most demanding home chef satisfied. Rangemaster or Stoves, both UK manufacturers, fall into this category and produce well renowned cookers that are extremely serviceable, well built and look good.
Slightly higher end cooker manufacturers such as Falcon and Britannia span the gap between domestic and commercial, and offer cooking features usually found in restaurant kitchens such as rotisseries and chef top griddles. Build quality steps up a notch too, with thickness of materials and quality of finish being paramount.
At the upper end of the scale reside monolithic cookers from GE Monogram and Lacanche. These are generally hand built using the highest quality materials – heavy gauge steel, cast iron and solid brass – and offer a comprehensive array of useful high end cooking features. Cookers at this level offer the same cooking power as commercial models and indeed can be found in the homes of many famous chefs.
A question of taste
Range cookers typically fall into either the traditional or contemporary categories – some models do however have a timeless appeal and sit in either category comfortably. Traditional cookers offer a homely, farm cottage feel with thick, lustrous enamel, heavy, bevelled oven doors and arched bakers style windows. Solid cast iron pan supports and metal control knobs complete the look. Notable traditionally styled cookers include the Rangemaster Classic, the Stoves Richmond and Redfyre models.
Modern styling presents itself with sleek stainless and gloss black finishes, clean utilitarian lines and sharp contrasts. Full glass doors feature heavily, as do ceramic and induction hobs. Popular contemporary cooker models include the Professional Plus by Rangemaster, Rangecookers Appliances’ Ethos series and Mercury’s cooker collection.
Does size matter?
If you’re replacing an existing cooker, size will be an essential factor in the choice of replacement. Range cookers usually come in 90cm, 100cm and 110cm nominal widths, with a limited number of models available at both narrower and wider sizes. It is important to remember that the nominal width of a cooker refers to the width of the space into which it will be housed – for example, a 90cm cooker will often measure in at an actual width of 89.5cm.
A wider cooker will not necessarily offer more in the way of cooking capacity however. Manufacturers will sometimes take the chassis of a 90cm cooker, add two slab sides and release it as a 100cm model. The oven capacities and hob area will obviously be the same on both so there will be no functional gain.
As mentioned earlier, range cookers are available in a choice of fuel types. Dual fuel models combine electric ovens with gas burners – all gas cookers pair up gas ovens with a gas hob. All electric models offer electric ovens with either a ceramic hob or, increasingly, a powerful and efficient induction hob. Choice of fuel type depends on a couple of factors – cooking style and availability of mains gas and electric. Gas cooking is the preserve of traditionally skilled cooks who can juggle dishes in the gradient heat zones of a gas oven, whereas induction offers more in the way of convenience and controllability.
Some properties in rural areas often don’t enjoy a mains gas supply, therefore necessitating the use of either an all electric cooker, or a gas cooker converted for use with lpg (bottled) gas. Conversely there are occasions where an electrical supply powerful enough for an all electric or dual fuel cooker, thereby making gas cookers a viable option.
Range cookers offer a variety of features depending on the model, fuel type and brand. Features such as multifunction ovens and telescopic shelves are standard on an increasing number of mid to high end cookers, as catalytic or pyrolytic cleaning ovens. Timer functions are extremely useful, as are warming drawers for pre-warming plates. Always consider if the features that appeal to you now will prove useful in the future – generally, more features equates to more cost, so there is little point in paying for features that you will likely never use.