Let’s face it: you spend a lot of time in your kitchen. So it’s worth the effort to choose a cooking appliance that makes sense for your kitchen space and lifestyle. With so many options on the market, deciding on the right appliance for your individual needs might not be as easy as it seems.
So we’re breaking down the choices you have into bite-sized pieces, demystifying the “cooktop vs. range” dilemma, and providing the pros and cons of both. After all, which appliance you choose comes down to three important factors: your kitchen layout, your budget, and your personal cooking habits.
What Is a Range?
A range is a one-piece unit that includes burners on the top surface, and an oven underneath. Ranges feature a variety of options, and their versatility and compactness make them a dream when space is at a premium. And what is a range top? That’s the term commonly used to describe the cooking surface that houses the burners. A range top without the oven underneath is called a cooktop. More on cooktops below.
There are two kinds of ranges: freestanding and slide-in. Both feature a range top above and an oven underneath—but that’s where their similarities end. Freestanding ranges have finished sides and typically come with an attached control panel on the unit’s back guard (the panel that extends several inches up the back of the range).
Freestanding models are generally the most affordable ranges you’ll find, and are adaptable to many kitchen configurations; you can place them between cabinets or they can stand alone in a corner or against a wall.
Keep in mind that a freestanding range doesn’t overlay on your countertop, so you’ll see a seam between your range and your counter on both sides. Since spilled food can often drip down and accumulate in these seams, careful, regular cleaning is a must.
Slide-in ranges don’t have back guards; their controls are mounted to the front of the range or on the range top, leaving your kitchen backsplash unobstructed. Designed for a sleeker, more built-in look, these ranges are meant to install between two cabinets, so their sides are unfinished. They also overlay a few inches on each side of your countertop, eliminating the seams between counter and range and making cleaning much easier.
And what about stoves? What is the difference between a range and a stove? Simply put, a stove is technically any enclosed space that uses fuel to provide heat. So in that sense, a stove is like an oven. This appliance-buying guide has information on the types of ovens you can purchase.
If the top of a stove has an attached cooking surface, it’s a range. Confused? Don’t be. Just remember that a stove with burners on top is essentially the same thing as a range—an all-in-one cooking appliance with the cooking surface on top and the oven underneath.
Advantages of a Range
- Ideal for smaller kitchens, where space is at a premium.
- Hood can be attached to a wall or an upper cabinet.
- Easy to install and comes with a wide assortment of options.
- Offers the same features and flexibility as wall ovens and are available in standard, convection, and even double-oven models.
What Is a Cooktop?
A cooktop refers to a stand-alone cooking surface with burners; it doesn’t contain an oven underneath. Cooktops paired with wall ovens are ideal if your kitchen space is large and your layout can accommodate this type of configuration. You can install them in center islands and in countertops.
In fact, depending on where you place your cooktop, you have the option of a hood extending down from the ceiling for a dramatic look, or a downdraft style where the exhaust fan rises vertically from the countertop with a press of a button, directing steam into a duct below your countertop.
Just like ranges, cooktops are available in many different configurations. Some models feature control knobs on the top surface, while others integrate them seamlessly into the cooking surface itself, rendering the entire cooktop smooth.
Pay attention to the burner configuration as well; the number of burners and extra features like “simmer” or “melt” may be important to you, as may be the option to combine two burners into one large one to accommodate an oversized pancake griddle, for example.
Advantages of a Cooktop
- Allows for valuable cabinet space underneath the cooktop that you can use for storage; an important consideration when space is scarce.
- Offers flexibility when purchasing and installing your ovens; you can choose between a single or double-mounted wall unit elsewhere in your kitchen, which can be useful when cooking large meals with multiple dishes.
- Easier for people with back or knee problems because there is no need to bend down to access or use the oven.
Cooktop vs. Range: More Considerations
Now that you know the difference between a cooktop and a range, and the advantages of each, your decision may come down to the design of your kitchen and how you like to cook.
Ranges are great space-savers for small kitchens or when one person is doing the cooking. Conversely, separate cooktop and oven (or double ovens) layouts typically require more square footage but are beneficial when multiple people are preparing dishes in different areas of the kitchen.
It’s also important to consider the position of your sink, refrigerator, and how traffic flows in your kitchen. Placing a cooktop on a center island may seem like a smart way to free up counter space, but if it’s directly across from a frequently used refrigerator, it could create unwanted traffic jams.
Something else to consider is the heat source of your cooking appliance. Cooktops—and range tops—come in electric, gas, and induction styles. Some ranges are even dual-fuel, typically with a gas range top above and an electric oven underneath. Electric and induction cooktops are made of glass or ceramic, or more commonly a combination of both.
Induction burners use magnetic fields to generate heat and require special “induction-friendly” pots and plans. When the control knobs of electric and induction cooktops are integrated into the surface, cleaning is a breeze. Simply wipe down the surface with a special cooktop cleaner.
Cleaning gas burners, however, often requires taking apart and scrubbing the burner apparatus to remove caked-on food debris, which can be a messy, time-consuming task.
Induction and electric cooktops provide steady, even heat as well as low-heat simmering options, although many people swear by gas burners for precise temperature regulation.
As you can see, deciding between a cooktop vs. range requires careful consideration. The good news is that with so many choices available, you can select a cooking appliance that truly meets your needs—and helps you prepare delicious dishes for years to come.
The contents of this article are provided for general guidance only. First American Home Warranty does not assume any responsibility for losses or damages as a result of using this information.