Home Cookin’: Next-Generation Ranges, Cooktops & Wall Ovens

More double-oven ranges and more ranges and cooktops that have five burners or cooking elements exist than ever before, complicating your cooking-appliance purchase decision. Less complicated is deciding upon a gas wall oven, because the selection is drying up fast.

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To appliance nerds like us—and plenty of regular folks, too—the sharp looks and slick concept of double-oven ranges strike our fancy. Knowing that consumers now are seeing 20–30 such models in stores, we grilled manufacturers and industry experts to uncover numerous facts that you must consider before you make a split decision.

MAKE IT A DOUBLE? If you haven’t shopped for a freestanding range during the past 2 years, you’ll see that manufacturers are producing more units that have two ovens. Our walk through the massive showroom at Nebraska Furniture Mart in Kansas City, Kansas, found at least one 30-inch (the common size) double-oven range under the brands Frigidaire, GE, GE Café, GE Profile, KitchenAid, LG and Whirlpool. We spoke with representatives of 21 manufacturers or brands, and, among the 11 more mainstream of these, eight make double-oven ranges, to the tune of 29 total.

Maytag introduced the double-oven-range concept to the U.S. marketplace in 1999 in the form of its Gemini range. The range was expected by the company to be well received. (The suits at Maytag played up the Gemini to investors.) The range carried an MSRP of $1,400, quite a premium at the time for a range that was sold under a mainstream brand.

Among the latest batch of double-oven ranges, the first models also were priced among premium units. For example, GE’s double-oven models start at $1,499 for electric and $1,799 for gas. But prices for double-oven ranges have dropped into the midrange. LG sells an electric double-oven range for $1,199 and a gas model for $1,399.

The two oven cavities of a double-oven range are operated by separate controls, so consumers can bake at two different temperatures and prepare, say, a turkey and a pie simultaneously. The manufacturers promote the claim that the flavors of items in the two ovens don’t mix. One manufacturer, Samsung, backed its claim with the fact that a focus group was unable to pick out muffins that were baked on their own from muffins that were baked in one oven cavity of a double-oven range while slamon cooked in the unit’s other oven. Alan Wolf, who covers appliances as a senior editor for trade publication TWICE, tells Consumers Digest, “I haven’t heard any negatives or complaints about double-oven ranges” in regard to retention of flavors within the oven cavities.

What’s more, the companies’ promotion of the fact that flavors won’t mix might be a moot point.

“Foods can be cooked in the same oven with little or no aroma or taste transfer,” says independent appliance consultant Joy Daniel, who worked for Sharp Electronics. “One can bake fish and have a veggie casserole in the same cavity and not have a noticeable flavor change.”

What might prompt complaints is the low position of a unit’s main oven.

“The food is down low on a double-oven range,” says Jack Bishop, who is editorial director of America’s Test Kitchen, which tests some 10,000 recipes each year. “Not only does it mean bending down and the physics of getting a 22-pound turkey up, but the oven is out of your line of sight, so you’re not really paying attention to what you’re baking or roasting,” Bishop observes.

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Another challenge with a double-oven range? Since the main oven cavity is smaller than is the oven cavity in a single-oven range—and that of a wall oven, for that matter—Bishop says your current collection of pans and bakeware might be too large for use.

“Are your roasting pans going to fit inside [the main oven of] a double-oven range? They just might not,” he says.

This particularly might be the case with regard to oversize pans, and Bishop suggests that you measure these before you shop for a double-oven range. Bishop prefers 2 inches of free space on either side of the pans in the oven for best cooking results. GE spokespeople set the space at 1-1/2 inches.

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