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Chris Amirault

The State of Rangetops and Cooktops

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Half a decade ago, give or take, there were a few discussions about rangetops and cooktops in eG Forums, one of which included this statement:

What you see time and again with cooktops, when they're in the homes of serious cooks, is that the couple of inches of countertop surrounding them gets the crap beaten out of it -- especially in front if it's a drop-in cooktop as opposed to a professional-style cooktop aka rangetop. But if you're careful, certainly the performance of a DCS cooktop is going to be comparable to a DCS range.

There's a possibility that I will be researching cooktops and rangetops in the coming months, and I'm hoping that the last few years have brought us advances that allow a serious home cook the ability to install something that does the job and doesn't require four mortgage payments.

Anyone out there have experience with newer rangetops and cooktops? Gas, electric, induction... you name it.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I still have my sights set on the 30" Bluestar drop in cooktop, which is really the only thing I could do without losing serious amounts of storage. I thought about induction for a minute, but am afraid I'll beat it up and it won't look good someday. I'll keep my electric while I scheme a way to get my hands on a couple G's in this economy, reality TV, anybody, porn?

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I have my new kitchen sitting in the corner behind me ready to install.

After as much research as I could get away with both online and on foot I spent 2 months on auction watch online and got the 90cm Smeg electric oven, 5 burner Blanco gas cooktop and range hood for $1200 AU which was about $1300 better than the best retail I could find.

All unused in original packaging.

I have seen freestanding units that retail at over $6000 go for $3500 new.

I will have to cut out some granite to go from 60cm to 90cm but it will be well worth it.

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Probably the most significant development in cooktops for the home in the last five years is the mainstreaming of induction. When you can get a technology with a Kenmore label, you can say it's entered popular culture.

Of course, whether it's affordable depends on the size of your house payment: induction seems to start at about $1900 and rises steeply from there.


Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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I have a bluestar 30" drop in cooktop. I went with that because i didn't want to have to change the countertop after removing the old cooktop (and it was much less expensive than the rangetop).

It's basically awesome. It's has enough power to use a wok (not as good as my turkey fryer outside, but infinitely more convenient), and boils pasta water so fast it's crazy.

I will admit, it isn't easy to keep clean, but it's worth it.

It was expensive, but this and an outside vented hood were my only splurges in our new house


Edited by jmolinari (log)

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One thing that has happened is that "pro-style" cooktops have continued to get more expensive without getting better!

Having seen a few more of these things in operation over the years, I remain ever more firmly committed to the rangetop as a superior alternative to the cooktop. There seem to be more good rangetops available now than there were a few years ago. They're not cheap -- they average in close to $3,000 -- but it should be possible to get something heavy duty in stainless for closer to $2,000 by shopping around, getting a floor model, whatever.

Basically, if you have a rangetop, you can treat it like the top of a range. It's all metal and ready to be abused. It runs back to front, and it has a metal buffer zone on the left and right. If you have a cooktop you have this border of scratchable, stainable, possibly burnable countertop material all around the thing.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As soon as I saw the word "wok" in Jason's post, I realized how often I use mine (and thus would need gas or a dedicated wok burner). Jason, which Blue model do you have? The RBCT304BSS?

Steven, do you have any particular rangetop models that you'd recommend these days? Know anything about the BlueStar RGTNB304BSS?


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Maybe three years ago, I put a Thermador 48" rangetop in my new kitchen. It has four regular burners and a wok burner. Two of the the regular burners have the ability to run super low by cycling on and off. I have been very happy with all four regular burners.

The wok burner just doesn't have the power to do what I had hoped. Were I to buy again, I'd fill the space with more regular burners or a grill or something.

The unit has the front controls I like and the steel grating is plenty beefy without the faux industrial super grating poseur look. The price was better than some of the bigger name brands, and other than the wok burner, which was my fault for not researching more, I'm quite happy.

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Steven, do you have any particular rangetop models that you'd recommend these days? Know anything about the BlueStar RGTNB304BSS?

Although the company has been in business for something like 700 years, I've never actually touched a BlueStar rangetop. I've never heard anybody say anything less than great things about BlueStar, though.

Me, I'd be most likely to follow the approach of going to showrooms and buying an end-of-model-year unit, perhaps with a few scratches or dents. That's how we got our current DCS range for about half price. I went shopping with a basic list of approved brands but in the end got what was the best deal.

Woks are tricky. Some of the pro-style burners are actually worse for woks than some lower-rated residential burners. A lot has to do with the design of the grate. I know if I put a wok on my DCS it gets held pretty far from the flame because the cast-iron bars are like the infrastructure of a roadway or battleship, whereas we have some friends with a technically inferior KitchenAid cooktop that really gets the flame all over the wok in such a way as to produce some scary-hot temperatures. The best home cook of Chinese food I know gets excellent results from the crap range his landlord provided -- better results than I've seen from any high-end range. The few people I know who have paid for wok rings or wok burners have not been terribly happy. So I don't know. For wok-type cooking on my range I use a Sitram pan that looks sort of like a wok but has a flat bottom-middle part.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't have a cooktop, but I do have a BlueStar free-standing range. It's great with a wok, because all I have to remove the grate over the 22K BTU burner and the wok nestles squarely over the flames. (I actually have my wok pretty permanently placed like that.)

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I have a bluestar 30" drop in cooktop. I went with that because i didn't want to have to change the countertop after removing the old cooktop (and it was much less expensive than the rangetop).

It's basically awesome. It's has enough power to use a wok (not as good as my turkey fryer outside, but infinitely more convenient), and boils pasta water so fast it's crazy.

I will admit, it isn't easy to keep clean, but it's worth it.

It was expensive, but this and an outside vented hood were my only splurges in our new house

Ok, so hopefully this will be me replying to someone else next year.

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Chris, we installed a Blue Star RGTNB366BSS (36-inch rangetop, six burners) when we renovated our kitchen three years ago. We have been delighted with it. The 22K burner does a great job when we stir-fry, although one must still avoid adding too much cold food to the wok at one time. I also greatly value the Blue Star’s ability to hold a low simmer on all burners.

If you choose a Blue Star, consider whether the standard burner arrangement fits your cooking style. If not, you may be able to specify an alternate burner arrangement. If you can swing it, giving up an extra six inches of counter top yields a bonus of two extra burners.

If you get a powerful range, pair it with a comparably powerful ventilation hood. We do a lot of high-heat cooking and the 600 CFM Vent-A-Hood captures cooking oil effectively. In our previous house, a wimpy vent hood allowed an underpowered stove to leave a film of greasy gunk throughout the kitchen.

We looked at induction but options were much more limited three years ago. I am not a particularly gentle cook, so I was also concerned that banging and sliding pots and pans on an induction cooktop could scratch or crack the ceramic.

Good luck!

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I don't have a cooktop, but I do have a BlueStar free-standing range. It's great with a wok, because all I have to remove the grate over the 22K BTU burner and the wok nestles squarely over the flames. (I actually have my wok pretty permanently placed like that.

I have a BlueStar range--not a rangetop or cooktop--as well. But the burners are the same. Woks fit nicely once the grate is removed, partly because the burner units themselves are set lower than is typical and also because the surrounding area is bowl-shaped, which really lets the flame wrap around the wok, or any pan. It helps that they're open, not sealed, burners too. And has anyone mentioned that the entire top of the range is all cast iron? This guy gets hot.

If you read the endless GardenWeb blogs about BlueStar, you will read some complaints. The most consistent is that the ignition units are not reliable. So far (6 months in) I haven't had any problems, but another friend with a BlueStar has had a couple of duds needing replacement over the past 2 years. At least here in MA service has not been a problem. I needed something small when I first had the range installed and the distributor (Eurostoves), BlueStar, and the service company were all quick to respond and get it fixed. My friend would say the same.

On the other hand, about the same time I bought my BlueStar my sister bought a new Wolf rangetop and the gas flame blows out every time she opens one of the drawers beneath it. The Wolf service guy says its a problem with the gas pressure, the gas guy says the pressure is fine. So while they bicker and say it's the other guy's responsibility, six months later she's stuck with a rangetop that isn't reliable and that makes her nervous.



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The most consistent is that the ignition units are not reliable.

I actually just had to replace mine. I understood, though, that the current ones are more reliable? Mine was from that notorious batch of two years ago.

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As a general observation, ignition unit problems are the most common problems I hear about across all brands. The only hint of a problem I've ever had with my DCS has been an ignition unit on one of the burners that occasionally needs some coaxing. Once they started making gas stoves without pilot lights, this state of affairs was sort of inevitable. I would just plan, whatever cooktop or rangetop you get, on having the ignition unit be your first repair whether it happens after 1, 5 or 10 years.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I use a Viking 36 inch 6 burner rangetop. No real problems to date after 3 yrs of service. Occasional ignition problems of prolonged clicking but the burners light right up. This is not a constant problem and is worse after cleaning so moisture is an issue. The good part of this rangetop is that all burners are equal in BTUs. Max high 15,000 BTU, low setting 1000 and "varisimmer" as low as you can turn it down without it going out. It is paired with a 42"gallery_6878_3450_105524.jpg over sized hood with 600 cfm motor.

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As soon as I saw the word "wok" in Jason's post, I realized how often I use mine (and thus would need gas or a dedicated wok burner). Jason, which Blue model do you have? The RBCT304BSS?

Steven, do you have any particular rangetop models that you'd recommend these days? Know anything about the BlueStar RGTNB304BSS?

That's the one.

One downside to the cooktop vs. teh rangetop/range is that the burner grates are different, and you don't have the nice bowl shape available when you remove the grate like on the range top models,allowing the wok to nestle closer to the flame. This would be even better for woks, but that's the only real difference i can see.

So i could have a better wok support and spend an additional $1500, and have to cut my granite...or live with this. VERY glad i lived with this burner grate.

I still like the look of a range top better..but oh well.


Edited by jmolinari (log)

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Regarding woks, even though my range has grates that flip over to provide a bowl shape, that still results in the wok being too far from the flame. I just take the grate off and have the wok sit right on the burner. It gets a lot hotter much more quickly, and if you don't overfill the wok, you can get some good heat working.


Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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The most consistent is that the ignition units are not reliable.

I actually just had to replace mine. I understood, though, that the current ones are more reliable? Mine was from that notorious batch of two years ago.

I haven't had any ignition problems--yet, anyway.

As a general observation, ignition unit problems are the most common problems I hear about across all brands. The only hint of a problem I've ever had with my DCS has been an ignition unit on one of the burners that occasionally needs some coaxing. Once they started making gas stoves without pilot lights, this state of affairs was sort of inevitable. I would just plan, whatever cooktop or rangetop you get, on having the ignition unit be your first repair whether it happens after 1, 5 or 10 years.

When visiting the showroom to test the BlueStar, I inquired about the ignition issues I'd heard about, and the sales person told me the exact same thing.



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Well I just bought a new cook top. Being down to one burner was just too much of a pain :huh: Here's my thought process for the purchase and my thoughts now that it has been a while.

Gas was out since that would mean getting a propane tank and I didn't want the extra expense and hassle. I liked the idea of induction but decided to hedge my bets by getting an Electrolux hybrid. I think there was only one other brand that gave the choice of 2 induction + 2 radiant burners. With the hybrid I can still use non-magnetic pots and the cost is much lower than all induction. Having 2 burners for a decade or so (plus the Jenair grill) and only one for several months, I figure 80% of the time 2 induction burners will be enough.

The advantages of induction for me are: energy efficiency, fast response, high heat, throttles to very low heat, easier cleanup because the cook top stays fairly cool, and less heat sent out into the room. I did have to run heavier wire and install a 40 amp breaker.

The disadvantages of the hybrid are mainly the lack of 2 big induction burners, the cooked on spills around the radiant burners (so far that hasn't been too bad and I try to clean up before they get too nasty), and remembering not to pick up spilled bits of food with my fingers like I can around the induction burners :raz:.

Other features to consider: Burners with adjustable heating areas. Mine has 2 different sizes to set manually on the big radiant burner and 2 sizes set by a sensor on each induction.

With ceramic cook tops you need to consider if you want a metal rim around the pyroceram top or not. The rim makes it somewhat harder to clean up but should catch spilled liquid before it runs down the counter.

Now about the Electrolux specifically I have a few complaints. None show-stoppers but still... The 2 induction burners share RF generators at max "booster" power so if you try to run both on high, one will ramp down. The literature talked about many levels of control but that was only for the radiant burners. The induction only has 10 levels. So far that hasn't been too bad, but I would like more choices. Electrolux controls the retail prices so you can't really find a deal. There was about a month lead time ordering even though they were going to be drop-shipping. Then it didn't get shipped out on time and when it did show up for store pick-up the free All-Clad fry pan that was supposed to be included didn't arrive until several months later. I don't think that was the store's fault although it could have been. Certainly the local people seemed to be trying to bird-dog it.

Overall I'm happy with the price and performance but it isn't the most high end solution.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I guess I wouldn't buy an induction cook-top unless I was able to find one I could practice on to make sure I would like cooking with it. I could see myself being frustrated by it, but then some people are more adaptable than I am. We remodeled our 60's style kitchen about 20 years ago. The cabinets were well-constructed and the surface height was good, so we kept them (and built some more to match) and needed to replace the appliances in the spaces they originally occupied. The existing range was a 30" GE electric, in fabulous turquoise, but that was the only fabulous thing about it. My priority was to get high BTU's for wok cooking and good control to a low simmer for soups, which I make all the time, AND enough oven depth for a large pizza stone. We put in a gas line.

My choices among the lower priced commercial type ranges were very limited because of the 30" width. At the time, the only 30" combined free-standing oven/range with any power and with a reasonable sized oven was the lowest-end Viking. The grates are heavy duty cast iron, which I like, and there is a separate wok grate (same heavy cast iron) that can be switched for the regular grate for use with a round-bottom wok. It gets smoking hot. The oven gets almost to 500 degrees (cooks a pretty good pizza) and is reliable for whatever baking we do. My husband wishes he had an oven that went up to 700 degrees, but I think that's unlikely in a residential appliance. I can get a pot of pasta water boiling faster than any stove I have ever used and am totally spoiled that way. I get a pretty low, consistent simmer. Not perfect, but pretty good.

The Viking is quirky, and I agree about the ignition issues mentioned above. We had to have service for that, and for some failure of the oven once, but the repairs were not major. I would have loved to have the space for a 36" range, but basically I'm crazy about this Viking.

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I have the new Kenmore (Electrolux) induction range, and I LOVE it. I will never go back to gas. The precision and range of the burners is incredible, it's easy to clean, and not insanely expensive (I think we got ours for $2700). When I'm cooking something that will make a spattery mess, I spread paper towels and put the pan on top--imagine that! Cooking pasta is now a 15-minute project from the the glimmer in my eye to lifting the first forkful. It used to take longer than that just to get the water to boil.

The only thing I don't like about it is the exhaust fan makes a high-pitched whine. It got on my serious nerves for the first couple of weeks, but now I don't hear it anymore. Beyond that, it's perfection.

Edited to add: The low is so low that you can melt chocolate directly over the burner. The high is so high that I'm still learning how to deal with it. Used to be I could barely get a wok hot enough and it wouldn't stay hot enough once the food was added. The first time I tried it on this range, I incinerated everything within about ten seconds. And I was deliriously happy about it! The oven has true convection, too.


Edited by Dianabanana (log)

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