If there’s one item that instantly conjures up images of a welcoming, traditional kitchen, it’s the range cooker. Made from robust materials and offering a wide range of cooking options, it’s easy to understand the enduring appeal of this timeless design.
The latest models may still embrace their classic looks, but they also come with all the benefits of modern technology to ensure your statement feature is now easier to use and more energy efficient than ever.
What are the options for range cookers?
Made from cast iron, the archetypal range cooker was designed to be permanently switched on, with the heat constantly transferred into the ovens and hotplates, ensuring an even, gentle temperature at all times. Known as a heat storage range cooker, the ovens were always ready to cook and the range also provided a source of heating for the kitchen.
‘Today’s heat storage ranges offer far more control than their predecessors, however,’ says Katherine Lowe from Aga Rangemaster. ‘Although cast-iron range cookers cook food in the same way using radiant heat that comes from all four sides of the cooker as well as the top and bottom, it’s no longer necessary to have the range permanently turned on.
‘On our newer models, for example, each part of the cooker operates independently, allowing you to use just a single oven or one of the hotplates, and heat-up times are also much faster.’
If a heat storage model doesn’t appeal, a range cooker that operates like a conventional oven may be a more suitable option. Available in a wide range of styles, they combine all the latest technology with the traditional charm of a classic design.
How much does a range cooker cost?
A good-quality range cooker costs from around £1,000 but a feature-packed design can cost several thousand. Traditional cast-iron range cookers start in the region of £5,000 and go up to around £15,000, but when you consider they are made from hard-wearing materials designed to last for many years, they can be a great investment buy.
Are there different fuel types?
When choosing your range cooker, the first thing you need to consider is the availability of different fuel types in your area.
- Heat storage cookers can run on a wide range of fuel types, although electric models are the most in demand, with the majority only requiring a 13 amp power supply.
- The most popular option for the more modern style of range cooker is a dual-fuel design, which combines the instant heat of a gas hob with an electric fan-assisted oven.
- Steadily increasing in popularity are models that combine an electric oven with a state-of-the-art induction hob.
- All-gas models are also available and can be a good choice for keen bakers as a gas oven features different heat zones, allowing you to cook a range of dishes at the same time.
- Some range cookers can also run on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and you can choose from a specific LPG design or opt for one that can be converted with an LPG kit.
- If you don’t have access to mains gas, either go for an all-electric model or look out for a range cooker that can be run on an alternative fuel such as oil, wood or solid fuel (manufactured smokeless fuel, peat briquettes or compressed heat logs).
- Don’t forget that solid fuel and wood-burning appliances will require a flue to remove smoke and harmful gases, and you’ll also need sufficient covered storage space for your chosen fuel.
Can a range cooker also heat my house?
Some range cookers are designed to be used as the primary heat source in your home, operating the central heating and hot water from a back boiler built into the cooker. Esse and Rayburn both offer models that work in such a way, with the Rayburn 600 series capable of heating up to 20 radiators.
How do I choose the right design?
- Thinking about the type of meals and food you like to cook, as well as the largest number of people you usually cook for (such as extended family at Christmas), will narrow down your selection and ensure you choose a model to meet your needs.
- Consider if you’d prefer a single cavity oven or several ovens so you can cook at different temperatures at the same time.
- Make sure you compare the cavity sizes of ovens on different models, too, as the internal capacity can vary greatly from one manufacturer to the next, even on models with the same overall width.
What sizes are available?
The most popular widths are:
Many manufacturers now offer slimline 60cm models that serve up the same traditional charm of a larger model but in a more compact size. If space isn’t an issue, wider designs (up to around 150cm) can offer multiple ovens and make a real statement.
‘For bigger kitchens, your range cooker can be extended with a companion model, such as one of our 50cm-wide designs,’ says Mark Blewitt from Esse. ‘This gives you the freedom to complement your cooker with additional fuelling options. For example, many people opt for an electric main cooker and a smaller wood-burning model to enjoy two very different styles of cooking.’
Are range cookers energy efficient?
Modern range cookers feature an energy rating from A to G, indicating how efficient they are. Heat storage cookers aren’t rated in the same way, but the latest designs feature a whole host of features to minimise running costs.
Everhot’s Richard Frost says that although a heat storage range cooker will be more expensive to run than a conventional oven, with running costs of around £12 per week, it can also provide the heating for your kitchen so you won’t require any radiators in this space.
What are the latest features?
- Induction hobs Modern hob that works by creating a magnetic field between the hob and pan. Easy to use and ideal for young families as the induction plate is instantly cool to the touch once the pan is removed. You will need to use pans made from a ferrous metal – as a general rule if a magnet sticks to your pans they should work on an induction hob.
- Griddle Non-stick plates that can be fitted on top of the hob to provide a healthy, oil-free cooking surface.
- Bread-warming drawers Ideal option for keen bakers as this allows you to prove dough perfectly.
- Pyrolytic ovens Special self-cleaning program that heats the ovens to a high temperature to burn off any food residue, reducing it to a fine ash that you then simply wipe away.
- Slumber control Allows you to preset the ovens and hotplate on a heat storage range cooker to lower the overall temperatures.
- Easy-shut doors Ensures even heavy oven doors can be closed with a gentle push of the knee – ideal for when you’re holding hot dishes and don’t have a free hand.
- Energy-saving panel Removable panel that can be used to turn a large single oven into two smaller cavities so you only need to heat one section when cooking smaller dishes.