Because a range is the heart of your kitchen, the choice of one can set the menu for the rest of a remodeling project. Although you can spend as much as $6,000 on a professional range, you can get an excellent conventional one for one-tenth of that amount.
Our tests of four expensive 36-inch-wide pro-style models did not show any major differences compared with conventional ranges in cooking performance, even for specialized gourmet cooking. What you do gain is the ability to cook a lot of food, quickly. For someone who rarely entertains on a lavish scale, a big pro-style range makes little sense. (See CloseUp, below, for results of a cook-off between an expensive range and one priced for mere mortals.)
Two of those expensive ranges are dual-fuel models, which combine a gas cooktop with an electric oven. Our tests don't support the claim that a gas cooktop is faster than electric, or that an electric oven cooks more evenly than gas. These ranges cost upward of $5,000, but they offer little that improves on ranges costing $500 to $700, so they are not included in the Select Ratings.
Special cooking. Ranges are now available with features for different kinds of cooking. For example, the flip side of the GE Monogram's cooking grates are contoured to support a wok. A few other models, such as the Kenmore Elite, had convection ovens that cooked by circulating hot air around the food.
Features at the low end. You don't have to spend thousands to get the features you want. Notable features migrating to lower-priced models include high-power burners, glasstop cooking surfaces for gas burners, stainless-steel trim, and front-control slide-in ranges.
Two ovens in one range. Several of the conventional ranges offer the flexibility of two ovens--either one regular-sized plus a smaller one or one regular oven and a microwave oven drawer.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Check the Select Ratings for performance in the baking, broiling, and cooktop tests, and make sure the right burners are located in convenient spots.
Consider your style of cooking. If you often cook for a crowd, look for multiple high-power elements or burners and a large …