Range cookers cost a lot of money, makes sure you buy a good one with our guidance
Who wouldn’t love a big range cooker?
If you cook then it is the default option to have for many people so long as you have the space in your kitchen and of course the money to buy one.
Many people think that they are all largely the same thing with the only differences being the choice of fuel used (gas or electric), the colour and layout often giving little consideration to the other things that should really be thought about.
You really should put some thought into that after all, you will spend a fair chunk of cash on the cooker and you’ve then got to live with it for years, possibly a couple of decades. It is worth some thought.
How you choose and just what cooker you end up with will often come down to two all important factors then one that is an add on. The two important ones are, how serious are you about cooking and then how much space do you have. After this, it just comes down to how much you want to spend on our range cooker which will often be determined in conjunction with how serious you are about cooking.
We would argue however that there are a bunch of other things you need to think about as well before you blow a pile of cash on a cooker and many of the points we highlight here are practical and common sense things we've learned over the years from seeing hundreds of cookers, talking to people that own them and making stupid choices at times ourselves. We hope you read this and don't make the errors others have before you.
First thing to think on if you are looking to have a range cooker is the available space that you have.
We will often see a range shoehorned into a space with almost no working area around about it and, this is bad. You will quickly find that you need some space, especially worktop space, to put things on from the cooker or oven as close to its as you can get. This can be either taking cooked stuff out the oven, off the hob or sitting things that are ready to go in or prepared ingredients.
In order to do that and be able to work well you really need some space around the cooker, preferably on both sides. You can live with one side but, it’s not ideal.
Juggling bowls of food and hot trays is not fun!
The short of this is, if you don’t have the space then look at other options, range cookers are not for everyone and you do need a fair bit of space to have one and to be able to use it to the full. It’s all very well buying one and it sat there looking pretty but a bit annoying if using the thing frustrates the life out of you.
The temptation here is to think bigger is better and, if you do cook and especially entertain a lot then yeah sure, a big wide range cooker bordering on something you might see in a commercial kitchen may well be just what you need.
But, if you don’t then we’d advise sticking with standard cooker sizes just in case it all goes horribly wrong at some point and you want to swap out the cooker. Of course if you buy a good range chances are you won’t have to do that however it is still worth considering.
Standard widths are 60cm, 90cm, 100cm, 110cm and then up to 150cm.
You can also get cookers in 70cm, 80cm, 120cm, 140cm, 180cm and 220cm. The 70cm is relatively common but the rest, not so much and we’d advice caution in choosing those as they will limit your choices if you ever need to replace it.
The whole width thing is really about two main factors, you get more space to work with on the hob top although often not any more burners or zones and of course the oven capacity you can increase.
We will now have a look at that side of things.
Range Cooker Configuration
For most people most of the time a large oven with a multi-function capability, a small static oven and a separate grill is just fine. Any more than this is overkill really and probably only needed for specialist requirements.
The hob is more of a personal thing as most people that cook will be using this a lot, ovens you set and forget largely as it is not often that you will adjust the temperature until whatever you are cooking is done. The hobs though, that’s different as you will need to be able to adjust them up and down in use, swap pans from one to another and use all sorts of different and or pots on it. This we’d say is where you want to focus.
Make sure the controls are easy to use for you, some are a pain and ensure the control knobs are good as well as some of the cheap range cookers have really rubbish plastics on them.
The separate grill is a good thing and, the hotter it can run the better for proper searing and crisping stuff plus it’s actually easier to keep clean as you will be able to get most of the tray out. Excess fat, if it runs hot enough, will normally just burn off in use.
The oven bit of things is harder on for people to see when looking to buy a cooker. To the untrained eye they will all look the same, offer much the same functionality and so on but the reality can be different.
Ideally you want a small static oven which, if it’s good enough you will probably end up using all the time and a larger oven that you will use for larger meals or events that has the space to do a full on Sunday lunch in it. Believe us when we say that, the cookers we see with two small multi function ovens are not a lot of good in this respect.
The reason it isn’t good is that let’s say you want to do your meat and a bunch of veg at about 150-180˚C but you’re also cooking Yorkshire puds that you need an oven at 220˚C or higher for. Doing all the things you can have in the lower temperature or, you want at the lower temperature in one whilst blasting the higher temp stuff (which there will be less of) in the smaller oven makes a whole lot of sense.
Or, you want one oven running hot to cook with and either smaller or large one to just keep things warm ready to serve. A good example is you cook a lot of the meal on the hob but are roasting off a smaller item in the small oven but you want to put all that you’ve been cooking on the hob in the oven to keep it hot but there’s too much to fit in the small oven.
This is why, as you go up the scale to cookers aimed more at the avid home cook they start to take on the configuration that you will often see in commercial ranges. This sort of layout is eminently practical and allows a great degree of flexibility in use that two ovens the same size cannot match.
This is the configuration we’d go for if at all possible just because that practically, in use, this seem to be the best.
Range Cooker Doors
We will often see solid doors on range cookers, this is good.
Glass doors, not good.
Glass doors will break as they get worn and the glass scored, then they will blow. If you can’t get a new glass which is all too common on older Glen Dimplex cookers among others then you’re stuffed. You need a new cooker.
Aside which they’re a nightmare to keep clean. After a few weeks they will often look grubby with streaks on them and spots of burnt on grease.
Solid doors do not fail. You can sit stuff on them, score them, range then about and they’ll just keep on going. You would almost have to be trying to wreck them to break those and that’s why we recommend those and why you will never see a glass oven door in a commercial kitchen, because it’s mad if you ask us.
Opening the door to check stuff (if you even need to) is hardly a chore.
And they’re easier to keep clean but, shut the door and so long as the outside is clean it’s not an eyesore like glass doors often are.
Okay we know some people love their gas ovens but, honestly, it’s a dead duck now just don’t do it!
Domestic gas cookers are a royal pain to install, maintain and get repaired. They’re dirtier as well and gas is probably going to get phased out as a fuel for cookers in the next decade so, just avoid these is our advice.
At some point everyone is going to have to move across to electric ovens and hobs anyway so, you may as well start now.
Gas Or Electric Hob
If you’ve read our piece on gas versus induction and, you noted the bit about gas ovens above you probably know what we’re going to tell you.
Gas, forget it now. A few years ago we would have said like most that know of such things to use a gas hob and electric ovens but now, with the end of gas on the horizon it would be a bit daft of us to say to go down that road.
If you can get induction and if not them ceramic is probably the way to go for all the reasons explained in that article.
These days there’s all the colours of the rainbow avaialble in range cookers and some are better than others to go for.
The classics of course are the bare stainless (our default choice) and black. For the rustic look you also have the creams, blues and all the usual things some bonkers, some not so much.
So let’s explain why our go-to is stainless steel.
It looks cleaner longer for a start, it’s easier to clean and keep clean and it looks new for a lot longer if you look after it. But the huge bonus is that it will fit with virtually any decor and look like it’s meant to be there.
Other colours, not so much at times.
Most people will redecorate their kitchen before they swap out their range cooker and sure that British racing green or red may look cool now and be the in thing for the time being but, what if you want to change things?
Hence the default for us is a neutral colour and the best one to use, in our opinion at least, is stainless steel.
Even if it does get a bit scratched up over the years from use and cleaning it will still look good years down the road, the coloured ones tend to look a bit tatty after a few years.
Range Cooker Quality
Here’s where we get into the stuff that we bang on about and probably bore people will al the time. Yes, we’re going to do it again!
You are buying a big cooker that you will probably expect to cook thousands of meals, that will get cleaned repeatedly, battered about a bit and that you do not want to be swapping out anytime soon.
Get a good one or, don’t get one at all and settle for something easier to change as required.
You want performance and quality components so that it lasts and performs but not just for a short time, for years.
Do you really think you will get all that at a bargain basement price?
If you want a proper range cooker that’s going to tick all the boxes then you are looking at £2000 and upwards with many of the really good ones kicking off at £3000 and up.
You can get the cheap Turkish stuff and some GDHA made cookers for half that and even less but, we wouldn’t. Nor should you.
Now you might be thinking this is a bit weird, what the blazes are we doing talking about spare parts in a buying guide for?
Simple really, you are likely to be looking for spare parts for your range cooker at some point as something will break some ways down the track or, hinges will wear out, you need a new oven seal or whatever and you need to be at least reasonably confident you will be able to get the part.
We cannot say that you always will be able to because, as was the case with Mercury where Rangemaster bought the business then pretty much dropped all support we can’t see into the future. But you do want a reasonable steer on it.
You also don’t want to find that you bought a cooker like a Lacanche only to find that you can only get parts for it from one place and, well, let’s say you better have oxygen and a stiff drink to hand for that moment you are told the price of many parts.
So yes, this is a consideration and you should think about it when buying. Companies that care about their products lasting will support them long after production stops but, for a good number you will find that even as little as five to eight years later you’re stuck.
If you find yourself in that position as a good many people have, you learn that cheap range cooker wasn’t such a bargain after all.
You can learn more on this topic in our why parts and service matter article.
When you have a range cooker installed try to make sure it can come out for servicing.
So often we see cookers on plinths, yeah looks funky but no service technician will go near it. We se then tiled in, again forget about a technician pulling that out. In short if there’s any danger of causing damage whatsoever gaining access almost all service guys will walk away asking you to call them when you get it out.
They hate doing that, it’s not good for them or the customer but there’s really not a lot of choice.
To get to lower elements, fan motors and a bunch of other stuff at some point, that cooker will have to come out and it’s up to you to make sure it can.
If it’s a kitchen fitter or company installing it, make sure they allow for this as many will not. Trust us, we see this all the time.
Putting barriers in the way like an island or such, not good either.
Choosing A Range Cooker
As you can see there are a lot of points to consider when you go shopping for a new range cooker and we’ve told you the major things you should consider when you do.
Some of the above people may not want to hear but it is some of the stuff we see all the time and we’re trying to help you avoid making the same tired old mistakes that others have made many times before.
Buying smart can save you a heap of hassle and make using your cooker a pleasure, not a heartache.
You can use the manufacturer section to find out who actually makes the range cooker you may be looking at and often find out what spare parts are like and so on also. Do be aware that there are a large number of own label brands when it comes to range cookers (like most appliances!) and the name on the front may not be who actually made the cooker.
If you need more help or advice please feel free to ask in the forums where the guys will offer up advice specifically for you or if you think we've missed a specific area just let us know and we will try to sort that.