Whether yours is a contemporary or country cottage kitchen, a range cooker will make a fabulous focal point. But this is a big buy – both physically and financially, so you really, really don't want to make a poor choice. Use this guide to buying the best range cooker work out which range cooker style, type and fuel type might be best for you.
Revamping your kitchen? Find out all you need to know about planning, designing and furnishing a kitchen in our ultimate guide. You can check out the best range cookers in our buyer's guide, too.
What's the difference between an Aga and a range cooker?
Range cookers come in two categories: the first is the cast-iron, heat-storage model that cooks using radiant heat – this category includes traditional Agas and Rayburns that will also produce hot water for the home. They can be powered by electricity, gas, LPG, oil or solid fuels.
The other type, the pro-style cooker, has its roots in professional kitchens. These usually include one or more ovens and expansive hob tops, and most come as dual-fuel models or electric only.
Traditionally, gas or electric range cookers are a similar size when compared to an Aga and have a similar look, plus both types create a focal point to a kitchen. However, there are many distinct differences:
- An Aga is designed to cook food using radiant heat, heating up cast iron and cooking food within at high temperatures.
- An Aga is designed be on all the time as a heating source for the home, as well as a cooking appliance. These days the heat level is more controllable compared to designs of the past, but the appeal of an Aga for a lot of people is the traditional feel and using it as a heating source.
- A range cooker is more suited to people used to cooking on a dual fuel or gas cooker because both work in the same way.
- Range cookers work on conventional modern cooking methods, such as electric, gas or induction, or dual fuel, rather than radiant heat, which can take some getting used to.
What are the main benefits of a range cooker?
Radiant heat cooker devotees love them for their ambient warmth, the way they cook to leave food moist and tender, and that they add value to the home. If you’re thinking of changing to a heat-storage cooker, cooking on it will be slightly different, so it’s a good idea to go to the demonstrations or one-to-ones offered by Aga.
There’s flexibility in that you can cook in the main oven and auxiliary oven at the same time at different temperatures, plus use the grill and warming drawers simultaneously.
Capacity is a big win for professional-style range cookers. They come in many sizes, from 60cm to 150cm in width, but most measure between 90cm and 110cm. Look for models to suit your needs – most come with at least two multifunctional ovens and a variety of options for your hob: mix and match with hotplates, griddles and French tops (which give graduated heat across the surface). Other great features include telescopic shelves to help you remove dishes from the ovens, rotisseries and storage drawers.
Design wise, there are a range of styles, colours and bespoke options available so you can tailor the cooker to suit your needs. Plus, you’ll often have a wide choice of colours – great for a fabulous focal point.
Which is the best range cooker to buy?
Range cookers offer great flexibility in terms of cooking capabilities, size, style and colour, with more functionality than many built-in designs, so finding a model to suit your needs and your kitchen space is easy.
Firstly, it is important to think about the type of kitchen you have – whether it is very modern, or more traditional – and choose a style of cooker based on the look you want to achieve. You can now buy a range that has all the same functions as a traditional design, including gas hob and large oven space, but with a sleek exterior design in modern colours, with simply designed controls. Or, if you prefer the classic look, these styles are available, but with modern cooking technology on the inside.
Next, think about the size of your kitchen. Regardless of the space you have, there will be a size to fit as most range cooker manufacturers now offer models between 90cm and 110cm wide. Each size comes with main and auxiliary ovens, grill and drawer, plus up to six hob burners.
How do you like to cook? Think about whether you prefer cooking with gas or electric, or a combination of the two. Also consider whether a gas or electric induction hob will suit you better, but remember that induction hobs require induction-ready pans, so this could become an additional investment. It is possible to include wok hobs or hot plates in the design too, or mix and match a gas oven with electric hob, or vice versa.
Before you buy, also consider the colour scheme of your kitchen and how a range cooker can compliment it. A range cooker is a big investment and something that will last for years so go for a colour that suits your style, your kitchen units and one that wont date quickly, ideally a shade that will still look good in 10 to 15 years.
One of the latest additions to Rangemaster’s Nexus models is the introduction of a proving drawer. The location of the proving drawer used to be used for storage, but a new function for cooking has been added and you can now choose to have a proving drawer instead of the storage drawer if you’re a keen baker.
What are the downsides to range cookers?
A pyrolytic cleaning function (burning off grease and residue at high temperatures) is less common on ranges, although catalytic liners and enamel coatings should make cleaning straightforward. Also, heat storage is often not needed in the summer – so you may wish to consider an on/off model.
While the main oven on many pro-style range cookers now has an A rating for energy or above (which rivals the efficiency of in-built ovens), its second oven sometimes has a B rating, so check before you buy.
How much does a range cooker cost?
Cast-iron ranges are made to last and the price often reflects that: the Aga Total Control (with an on/off switch) and the Aga iTotal Control model (that can be switched on and off remotely), for example, cost from around £10,395.
Professional-inspired range cookers start from £600 through to versatile American-style models that cost up to £20,000, with bespoke islands constructed in the same style as the range.