The Range

The ‘range’ can be broadly categorised into two groups: the traditional range gives cooking, hot water and sometimes heating – for up to 24 radiators with some models – while the ‘range style’ provides cooking only.

Within the scope of the traditional range there are yet further choices to be made. Storedheat ranges are left on all day, providing instant heat at a constant temperature, warming the kitchen at the same time. Most will need to be switched off during the summer months.

However, innovations such as AGA’s Intelligent Management System (AIMS) now allow greater flexibility — with slumber and holiday modes.

The single-burner, by comparison, can be fired up when required, typically ready for action within 15-20 minutes. And twin-burners allow hot water and heating to be operated independently of the cooker.

Fuel Choices

Your fuel choice will not only be dictated by how and what you use your range for, but also your lifestyle and locality. Solid fuel (coal and wood), oil, gas and electricity are all options.

Dual fuel – which combines the instant heat of a gas hob with the quick heat-up times of an electric oven – is a popular choice due to its convenience. However, traditionally solid fuels were burned, and according to Ian Kingscott, Technical Director for Redfyre, “Ever increasing energy prices have contributed to the recent revival in solid-fuel central heating range cookers. Wood is by far the cheapest energy if you can buy it in bulk and have a plentiful supply nearby. However, gas may be a better alternative for those in urban areas.”

Whatever your choice, ensure you plan for your range from the outset. Some fuel choices – such as solid fuel – will require a flue, while others may need to be located against an exterior wall. If you plump for an oil range you’ll require space outdoors for an oil tank. LPG is a good alternative for off-mains living, but you will need to purchase an LPG-compatible model.

Sizing up the Looks

The continued success of the range not only lies in our hankering for a bygone day, but in its evolution in style, form and function. There is a range to suit all tastes — from free-standing streamlined stainless-steel models which lend a professional edge, to the quintessentially British cast-iron range. Bold façades, bespoke colours to match kitchen interiors (though you may pay £200-300 extra for the privilege), designer-engraved finishes (see NO. 3) and ‘fingerproof’ stainless steel are further innovations designed for modern life.

There is also a size to meet all needs. The standard widths are 900mm to 1,100mm, but models of 1,500mm with six ovens are available for large kitchens. A number of manufacturers now also offer 600mm models for the smaller kitchen, and some, such as Heritage Range Cookers’ Uno, are a miniscule 500mm.

Hobs

Whilst smaller range-style cookers often have just four burners, if you can spare the space in your kitchen to go bigger then you can have a fifth, central burner. Whilst this could be a standard hob burner, a popular option is the ‘wok burner’, shaped to take the curved base of a wok. And the bigger you go, the more options open up, such as griddle plates, deep-fat fryers and barbecues.

Traditional cast iron ranges have hot plates, typically two: one slightly cooler plate for simmering and a hotter plate for boiling. Both can be covered with lift-up ‘hoods’ and, as they are constantly hot, burn off any food deposits, leaving an easy-to-clean dust.

Ovens

Whilst cookers measuring 600mm are likely to feature just two ovens, wider versions can offer many more. Avoid models with just one large oven — it will take a long time to heat up. Several smaller ovens operating at different temperatures are more practical. Optional extras typically include rotisseries and warming drawers. Pyrolytic self-cleaning ovens can also be specified.

In traditional ranges there are commonly two ovens, one that is cooler for ‘warming’ and another hotter oven which is designed for roasting.

Cost

Range cookers aren’t cheap. The most affordable range-style cookers start at £350, but expect to pay upwards of £1,000 for most ranges and £10,000 for top-end models. Additions such as wok burners and ceramic hobs will invariably add to the price, so weigh up the functions you will actually use.

If your existing cast-iron range has seen better days then consider giving it a MOT before making a new purchase. Companies such as Pegrum (01732 463256, pegrum.net) and Aga Twyford (01432 355924, twyford-cookers.com) offer reconditioning services — worn parts are restored and chipped enamel renewed. You can even convert to a different fuel. However, this can cost £1,000+, meaning a new model may be the way forward.

Optional Extras

The beauty of the modern range is the array of cooking options that can be specified — from simple plate-warming draws and rotisseries for Sunday roasts, to ceramic induction hobs, wok burners, ‘turbo’ and ‘defrost’ modes, and chargrill griddle plates.

Cleaning has also gone hi-tech, with innovations such as catalytic oven liners which help absorb spills. However, at the top end of the market is pyrolytic cleaning — at the switch of a button temperatures of 500°C burn off grease, saving you the chore.

Advice from the Experts

Enzo Balestrazzi, President, BaumaticStyle
Enzo Balestrazzi, President, Baumatic (0118 933 6900, baumatic.co.uk)“Industrial stainless-steel models still score highest with those looking to enhance a contemporary kitchen scheme — the look complements existing stainless-steel appliances. Details such as heavy-duty cast-iron pan supports, chunky bar handles and sturdy stainless-steel feet are also de rigeur of this contemporary style.”
Ian Kingscott, Technical Director, RedfyreInstallation
Ian Kingscott, Technical Director, Redfyre (01392 474079, rayburn-web.co.uk)“A gas range cooker needs to be installed and serviced annually by a Gas Safe Register engineer, whereas an oil range cooker needs to be installed and serviced every six months by an OFTEC engineer. A solid fuel range cooker must be installed by a HETAS engineer and be approved for use in a smoke-control area if you live in one.” (uksmokecontrolareas.co.uk).

Note: Article updated February 2011

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