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choosing a range cooker

OK - you're refitting your kitchen. You've chosen cabinets, furniture and even lighting. One thing you're struggling to decide on is what will arguably be the centrepiece of the room - the range cooker. Range cookers come in a variety of sizes, styles, fuel types and with such an impressive array of features - from multifunction ovens to rotisseries and griddles - it's hard to decipher exactly what you need.

Luckily, here at Rangecookers.co.uk, we can help you with your choice. So, first things first

the budget - what will your money buy?

The cost of a range cooker varies dramatically, starting with an entry level model from Flavel at around 600 through to a mammoth cooking machine from renowned French cooker manufacturer Lacanche, considerably more expensive at no less than 12000. Generally speaking though, range cookers can be grouped into entry level, mid level and high end.

Brands such as New World, Indesit and Flavel manufacture entry level cookers - perfectly serviceable and with ample cooking capacity, they sometimes lack the features that come in useful - multifunction ovens, wok burners etc. These cookers won't be built to quite the same standard as more expensive models, but will nevertheless offer excellent value for money to the casual home chef.

A step up on the range cooker spectrum brings you to brands such as Rangemaster and Stoves. Typically costing between 1500 and 2000, these manufacturers offer excellent range cookers, built in the UK to high standards using quality materials.  An increase in cooking features is evident in line with the increase in price - powerful wok burners, multifunction ovens, timer functions and  telescopic shelves start to make an appearance as standard at this price point.

An increase in budget introduces Britannia, Rangecookers and Falcon into the equation - spanning the gap between domestic and commercial cooking. This is evident in the chef top griddles and rotisseries that appear on various models in the collections. Build quality steps up a notch too, noticeable in heavier control knobs and more rugged pan supports.

At the top of the spectrum you'll find the really posh brands like Lacanche. Using the finest quality materials these classically French models are built, often by hand, to an extremely high standard and offer equivalent cooking power and similar features to commercial cookers- indeed, they can often be found in the home kitchens of many renowned names in the culinary world. Manufacturers such as Lacanche have a wealth of cooking heritage that shows in the products they manufacture, and their cookers can often be created to the customers specifications.

a question of taste

Stylistically speaking, range cookers are either traditional or contemporary. Traditional range cookers exude an air of warmth and cosiness - think thick, lustrous enamel, sturdy oven doors - often with arched bakers-oven style windows - and robust cast iron pan supports. Such cookers offer the benefit of efficient cooking and modern cooking features to complement their Aga-esque appearance - models such as Rangemaster's Classic Deluxe and the Redfyre Electric cooker are typical of this farmhouse style.

At the other end of the stylistic scale you'll find sleek contemporary cookers combining clean, architectural lines with high gloss enamel or deep stainless finishes. Full glass oven doors feature heavily, as does brushed aluminium trim, both complementing smooth ceramic or induction hobs.  Key examples of such models are the Rangecookers Appliances Ethos cooker, the Rangemaster Professional Plus or the Mercury collection.

range cookers sizing

If you're replacing an existing range cooker, or are working to a predesignated space in your new kitchen, then size will play an important part in your cooker choice. Standard nominal range cooker sizes are 90cm, 100cm and 110cm, with a limited number of models available in narrower and wider sizes. A point of note is that the nominal width refers to the space that the cooker is going to fit into - the actual cooker will be slightly narrower to facilitate ease of fitting.

responsiveness of gas? efficiency of electric? dual fuel?

In addition to choices of size and style, you will also have to decide on a fuel type. Range cookers are available in all gas, all electric or dual fuel. All gas, as the name suggests, are powered by mains gas or in the case of a small number of models, log (bottled) gas.

All electric cookers combine electric ovens with either ceramic hobs, or increasingly more efficient and safe induction hobs. Although more efficient than gas, electric cookers require a larger electrical feed - up to 60amps for induction models. Dual fuel cookers combine electric ovens with the power and controllability of gas burners, and are the most popular choice largely due to the 'best of both worlds' combination.

Cooking style plays a large part in fuel type choice - gas cookers are usually the choice of traditionally skilled, old-school chefs and require greater involvement in the cooking process, whereas electric cookers offer greater efficiency and convenience. Another important factor to consider is availability of mains power. Some rural areas don't benefit from a mains gas supply so will be limited to all electric cookers or utilising log gas in place of mains gas. Conversely, there are occasions whereby a large enough electrical supply isn't available, making gas cooking the only option.

cooking features

As already mentioned range cookers offer varying numbers of cooking features depending on the brand and specific model. Some are certainly worth paying extra for, whereas others aren't but are nice to have if the model you like comes with them.

Multifunction ovens are extremely useful and allow the user to select the way in which the oven cooks the food - fanned, conventional, top or bottom heat etc - depending on the dish being cooked. Multifunction ovens are found on an increasing number of mid to high end range cookers and offer a greater level of versatility than static or conventional ovens. A pyrolytic cleaning function, although expensive and hard to find on most models, really will take the work out of oven cleaning by heating the cavity up to a high temperature and burning the residue off the oven liners, leaving a pile of ash to be swept out.

Telescopic shelves are useful but not essential, and Rangemaster's Handyrack is worthy of mention - a shelf fitted to the inside of the oven door in such a way that brings the food out when the door is opened. Again, useful but not essential.

It is worth considering if you really will use the features offered as generally speaking, more features equate to higher cost.

anything else to consider?

A large number of websites display range cookers online - some more successfully than others - but there is no substitute for getting to grips with various models and trying different manufacturers out to get an idea of build quality and finish. Naturally, the expert Rangecookers.co.uk team is always available on  01244 402975 for an objective opinion, or why not visit our range cooker display centre in Chester to open and close a few doors and turn a few control knobs!