The stovetop has become a hot spot for gathering in todays kitchen for a multitude of reasons. For one, it remains the heart of the home.
By MARY G. PEPITONE
Theres a reason people say hearth and home. The hearth has changed to include modern-day cooking appliances, but its importance in the home hasnt changed, said Eliza Sheffield, vice president of marketing for BlueStar, a manufacturer of cooking accoutrements and ranges.
The range, or kitchen stove, is a standalone appliance with four to 10 burners, or cooking elements, on top and an attached oven for baking.
A recent survey by home design website Houzz found that 32 percent of nearly 8,000 participants who were planning home kitchen renovations wanted a chefs stove. For many, dining out really means dining in, enjoying meals made on a restaurant-quality range from the comfort of their own kitchen, Sheffield said.
People want to feel like a top chef at home and go beyond the basic range, she said. Preparing food at home has evolved into cooking as theater, where the cook is also having a social experience with family and friends.
Many homeowners feel a professional-looking kitchen is within range, thanks to a variety of options when it comes to functionality, finishes and size. Mainstream manufacturers, such as KitchenAid and Maytag, try to emulate the stainless steel designs found in the pro-grade profiles of Viking, Wolf and Dacor range brands.
When shopping for a range, consider your cooking and baking needs, floor space, gas/electrical outlet availability and style aesthetic. Gas ranges allow for precisely controlled temperatures. While electric ranges dont have a flame, they also dont immediately cool down when the heat is lowered on cooking elements. An induction-style range uses an electromagnet below a ceramic cook-top surface, which quickly transfers heat to pots and pans only.
Ranges vary in width from 24 to 60 inches, with price tags from under $1,000 to more than $4,000. Sheffield said BlueStars 48-inch professional-style range, starting at $7,600, is one of their most popular sellers.
Many professional-grade ranges offer custom-color, textured finishes or stainless steel exteriors, with customizable knob colors. Stainless steel and metallic textured finishes can construct a contemporary culinary creation, while a rainbow of custom colors suit 50s chic- and Euro-inspired kitchens.
Todays kitchens are floor-to-ceiling cabinets. Even the refrigerator is clad in cabinetry, Sheffield said. The area surrounding the range is a place in the kitchen where homeowners can make a statement and the range can literally stand out.
Often, the range becomes a focal point of the kitchen with a larger, eye-catching backsplash on the wall between the range and the hood venting. A faucet plumbed into the wall behind the range eliminates the need to go to the sink for water.
Customizable stovetops on ranges can support the way a home cook really cooks. A griddle for pancakes or charbroiler can be placed over burners, while a French top insert for simmering sauces or wok ring can lead to more global gastronomy.
Larger freestanding ranges have spacious single or side-by-side ovens, often pairing a convection heating element in a conventional oven for the uniform circulation of heat. For a baking bonanza, many of these ranges can accommodate full-size commercial baking sheets.
While an island is no longer uncharted territory in the kitchen, some homeowners opt for an industrial cooktop built into it. Instead of an integrated range, homeowners can cook on the island cooktop and bake in the wall ovens. Double wall ovens installed at eye level can offer twice the cooking capacity and generally run up to 30 inches wide. Double ovens can be ideal for occasions that require several dishes to be cooked at the same time at different temperatures.
Sheffield said these modern ranges also have a classic style, which inspires people to get back to their roots in the kitchen. People are hungry for the way their grandmothers used to cook in their kitchens, she said. While these ranges are an investment, they are built to last and will pay dividends in good food.