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The Great Range Debate
We spend more of our waking time at home in our kitchens, than in any other room in the house. Kitchens have morphed, over the past decade, into communal cooking, eating and living space – the hub and heart of the home. Those with the room have, wisely, moved noisy appliance like washing machines and tumble driers into a utility room, so that we can enjoy more of our family time without the din from these god-sends of domestic life.
A kitchen renovation is not a simple thing anymore. This room is now more “on display” than any other in the house and so people are spending vast amounts to ensure that they have not only the right lifestyle balance, but the right look too.
Most kitchen appliances are integrated, occasionally you may still see a dramatic “American Style” fridge freezer but on the whole, in order to generate the clean look and feel, appliances are hidden away. As a result, the choice of cooker can often make or break the aesthetic and feel of a kitchen, so it is well worth spending some time on this often overlooked choice.
Let’s start with lifestyle
The golden rule for ovens is – always buy the biggest one that you can fit.
If you are a busy single or an urban couple then you will be fine with a simple double oven and hob combination (either as a single unit or split). If you have a family, even a small one, then you will be very disappointed if you do not choose to have a range. That extra oven, grill and hob space reduces cooking costs but add so many options for larger family occasions too. I would recommend always going for a minimum of a 100cm rather than the 90cm, the difference is actually a lot bigger than you think in terms of cooking space, but 10cm less worktop is generally neither here nor there.
Gas: Very easily controllable and usually the cheapest to cook with, added to which it gives off water vapour as it burns, so you’ll get moist cakes and succulent roasts. Gas can be delivered everywhere via LPG canisters too, if there is no mains gas on offer. If you cook with a wok, then gas is the only type of heat which is actually hot enough to be effective. You will need to consider a dedicated wok ring on the hob as a standard single burning ring will not provide the oomph needed for a good stir-fry.
Electric: This has come a long way over the years. Even with induction hobs, the instant heat is still not quite as instant, or as controllable as gas, but the ovens can get much hotter, they are also more consistent, and fan ovens offer a more even heat.
Combinations or multi fuel: Generally this is translated into gas hob and electric oven, often thought to be the best combination.
Aesthetics style and price
A good cooker is not to be skimped on. We all know the mantra “buy well, buy once” however, everyone has their budget ceiling for such things.
King of the kitchen
There is no doubt that the hold of the ultimate Range Cooker crown is Aga (http://www.agaliving.com/). This enormous cast iron range is beloved by town and country dwellers alike. Aga also own Raybury, which can be used to heat the water in the house too, as a bonus. Nobody has ever heard of an Aga owner who is a bad cook, but these enormous wonders which seem to be of a bygone age, that are the height of modern luxury do have a number of drawbacks.
- They need to be placed on a solid concrete base as they weigh a ton or more.
- Wonderful in Autumn, to Mid Spring as the kitchen will be toasty, but in the summer months, these beautiful beasts give off a lot of heat, so most Aga owners have additional cookers and hobs to use for 4/5 months of the year.
- They cost a lot to buy, a lot to service and a lot to run.
I would never put anyone off buying a traditional range cooker, yet I would suggest that they look at an Everhot (http://www.everhot.co.uk/) too. It looks like a traditional cast iron range, keeps the kitchen toasty, comes in similar sizes and configurations but, as it is not made entirely of cast iron, it does not need a concrete base, and it produces all of this power from a 13 amp plug. I have no idea how they manage it, but it certainly should not be discounted, added to which, their 3 oven version is about £2,500 – £3,200 cheaper than the other big players.
Multi, Gas or Electric Ranges
French manufacturer, Lacanche, or the British Falcon, are still deemed to be the most up-market of the multi fuel ranges. They are almost “professional” ovens and hobs; undoubtedly chic, yet they are also nearly as expensive as those mentioned above, without the advantage of warming the entire kitchen.
Which is where Rangemaster (http://www.rangemaster.co.uk/) and Smeg come into their own, being beautifully made and very reliable. At half the price of the French and British high end offering, and with styles to suit most kitchens, these should definitely be on most people’s short lists if they can afford one.
Of course, it is possible to buy a very good range cooker from Curry’s or similar for under £800. The brands on offer are all household names of some repute, but just don’t buy on price alone. You want quality, you want style but most of all, you want it to look and feel like home.
Given that kitchens are, by their very nature, hot, steamy and occasionally smelly places, it is always best to avoid soft furnishing, and select tiles which are ageless and paints which can be easily wiped clean. Of course, when considering window dressings, kitchens are places where solid shutters come into their own. Purely Window Shutters have an extensive range to choose from, which would complement all styles of kitchens from the ultra-modern to the more traditional.