Flexibility is the biggest reason to trade the usual range for a cooktop and wall oven. But while you can get an electric cooktop and wall oven for as little as $1,300 or so, you'll find top-performing electric and gas ranges for less than half that amount. Some other shopping tips:
Consider your fuel
Electric elements tend to heat faster and maintain low heat better than gas burners. But a gas flame makes it easier to see the heat level. Either is capable of fine performance. Induction cooktops use an electromagnetic field that speeds cooktop heating a notch beyond an electric element's while leaving the surface cooler, since most of the heat goes to the pot or pan. But you'll need magnetic cookware for the technology to work.
Consider your cooking
If you often cook for a crowd, look for at least one high-powered element or burner and a large oven. You'll find more cooktops with the ultrahigh heat once exclusive to professional-style stoves. High-heat burners can be useful for searing, stir-frying, or heating large quantities. Wall ovens that excelled at broiling produced well-seared, evenly cooked burgers in our tests.
Balance convenience and durability
Electric smoothtops are relatively easy to clean but require a special cleaner and can be damaged by dropped pots and sugary liquids. Coil tops are tougher, but they require more cleaning time.
Keep high-tech in perspective
Models with special baking modes might not outperform conventional models. While touchpad oven controls are more precise than knobs, front-mounted versions are easy to bump and reset by accident. Be sure that they're well placed and visible while cooking. And while some induction cooktops now cost as little as $1,000, you'll still find smoothtops electric models for hundreds less.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.