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Understanding Ranges

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I have used a very ordinary gas stove for two decades. We are redoing our kitchen and I am looking for a new gas range.

I am now semi retired and expect to get more into cooking. I am overwhelmed by the options.

One limit is that our kitchen area is limited so I am looking for a 30" range.

I looked at a Thermador gas range. The only place I could find reviews was on Consumers Report and there were reviews by users expressing great anger with this stove.

I looked at a Wolf range and the salesman pointed out that one of the burner could be ratcheted down to 300 btu allowing you to even melt choclate without burning it. This seemed very appealing.

It was a discontinued model that had a single convention gas stove that apparently is not quite as good as a dual but argued that the difference is only minor.

Here are my questions?

1. What is the material difference between a 500 btu burner and a 300 btu burner when actually cooking?

2. Aren't there diffusers that you could put over a 500 btu burner to lower the effective heat?

3. For a moderately skill cook, do I really need four 16,000 btu burners? It seems to me that generating that kind of heat requires considerable skill in terms of manipulating multiple dishes.

What is a good resource for thinking these kinds of issues through. I am prepared to spend what ever it takes to get a good range but I would like to use my money thoughtfully and I may not really need a high end range.

Any advise either directly on these issues or what other resources on the web are available for both thinking these issues through and for reviews on equipment.

Thank you
post #2 of 8
It depends how you cook and what you like to cook. I like to cook Chinese food and 16,000 just really doesn't heat up a wok like a wok should be heated.

16,000 BTUs really isn't that much for how I cook. It's about standard for home stoves. I wish I had two burners with more than that. You can get more heat with some professional gear, but you'll have to have some extra construction for fire safety and a vent with a high CFM and maybe a sprinkler system depending on the building codes in your area.

As to the lower burner output, I've got a low range burner on my stove. I use it rarely and would be better served with something with more oomph. The ONE thing I like about that burner is that it simmers well. There are plenty of ways to manage low heat such as double boilers and diffusers as you've mentioned so the low heat isn't something I'll look for in the one I get next time.

In a four burner set up, I'd want something like two 25,000 burners, a mid teens burner and something between 8 and 10,000 BTU for the small burner. A bridge burner would be nice for using a long griddle. Meaning that there is a 5th burner between two burners I can turn on to keep my cast iron grlll/griddle at a more even temp across the whole thing. I've also
oval dutch ovens that would work well on such a setup.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Do you have any thoughts on brands or particular models?
post #4 of 8
Not really. I don't have what I want and am not in the market to get that kind of a stove right now.

Certainly in a range, I'd go dual fuel as I prefer electric ovens to gas.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
post #5 of 8
I can hear and feel your frustration with home ranges. Right now I've got a real puddle of excrement at home--a GE gas range, beenusing it for 3 ykears now and I curse evry time I use it.

From a professional point of view I've bought and spec'd many commecial ranges: Garland, Wolf, Blodgett, US Range, etc, etc. For a typical 4 burner 30" range with a plain gas oven the market price is under $3,000. For this price you get a bomb-proof steel chasis, s/s cladding and 4 25-30,000 btu burners. Most home models start at double that price, with some pretty mickey-mouse construction/components, and every time I stray off to a store that sells home equipment and I start asking questions, I get very upset-- I can't get over the price. Every excuse/explantion/tall tale the salesman gives me regarding price gets a laugh and then promptly shot down--in flames. There is no reason why the home models are so high, other than George Orwell's motto of "ignorance is bliss" and a strong desrire to charge as much as you can get away with it. And I'm still cooking on my puddle of cra* at home too.....
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #6 of 8
Home models also have mickey mouse features like no standing pilots (which cost the typical home user $100/year or so in gas (and more in added AC costs)), zero clearance installation, UL listing, burners that can simmer less than a gallon, and more. That's not to say that there aren't a lot of crappy ranges out there, because there are, and that 'pro-style' ranges aren't horribly overpriced, because they are. But a restaurant range isn't really the same animal as one in a house kitchen.
post #7 of 8

Let's see if we can't address your specific questions before generalizing a bit.

1. "Material difference" between 300 and 500 btu burners: Very little, if any. The salesman suggested that the slower burner could hold couverture chocolate without scorching. Maybe. I doubt he's done it. I'd use a bain-marie, and so shoud you, and so should he. Besides, how often do you hold melted chocolate?

2. Diffusers? Yes, there are. Also a variety of tricks, like double boilers, to temper heat.

3. Do you need four 16,000 btu burners? Not at the same time, no. The greatest number of pans on high heat a skilled cook can handle is equal to the number of eyes or hands. In my case that's two. For almost everyone without a lot of high-pressure experience, it's usually the number of pans that can receive complete attention. In your case, that's probably one now, and two in a year or so.

Okay, let's talk about pro-style ranges in the home. The operative word is style. They are not professional ranges. They are insulated, they use a different type of pilot (a lot of restaurants leave the pilots off, btw), and they use a much smaller gas intake handling about 1/4 of the flow.

The intake diameter relates to the total output of the burners. You see, when a BTU rating is given by a stove manufacturer, it actually refers to the amount of fuel used and not the actual heat output of the stove -- not that those aren't usually closely related.

However, unless you're using a giant wok, or use 14" pans to sautee, as a home cook -- even a very good one -- you don't need that much flame or heat. In the first place, you shouldn't have more flame than the diameter of your pan. Once it's coming up the side, it's not doing you much good. Instead it's blackening the pan.

For a restaurant cook, different story. In a restaurant you want to come to heat as soon as possible, **** the consequences, and you're not the one washing the pans. At home, you have the luxury of allowing a pan to come up to speed a little slower. The kicker is whether the stove has enough power to bring your pan back up to a fast sear after a cold piece of meat comes in. And 16,000 BTU should be more than enough.

Pro style residential ranges are more complicated than actual commercial ranges and "regular" home ranges. Consequently they tend to need more repairs. But because of their cost there (a) aren't that many around, and (b) the repair people figure the owners are fair game. As you've found on your own, Thermadors are notoriously fragile and expensive to repair. Other stoves may fare better. Also, the situation may have changed over the years, but it used to be common wisdom that Viking repairmen's children had straight teeth and went to college without taking out loans. I think that's fairly typical.

On the other hand, pro style ranges often have some fairly neat gimmicks -- like real griddles and grills on the stove top -- that you can't get in a regular range. They also have killer styling and beaucoup prestige.

But when it comes to actual performance, don't kid yourself. A Wolf residential isn't much different from a Frigidaire or Maytag beyond marketing. In fact, few commercial manufacturers don't actually make the residential stoves using their names. Wolf residential, for instance, is made by Sub Zero. while Wolf commercial is made by Wolf. Typically the only components that cross the lines are knobs and badges.

As a consumer, buying a complicated, high-ticket item like a stove, it's easy to start inventing distinctions where there isn't really much of a difference. That's what marketing, hype, and sales people working on commission are all about. Now, I'm not saying don't get one. The styling, the gimmicks, the heavy duty grates, etc., they're all worth something. Just try and keep some perspective. Don't spend more than you can comfortably afford on a stove, it won't make you a better cook.

Bottom-line useful are:
  1. 1 slow burner;
  2. 2 fast burners;
  3. Easy to clean top (that is incredibly important), preferably with "sealed" burners;
  4. Same-height grates allowing you to slide pans from one burner to another;
  5. Self cleaning oven;
  6. Convection; and a
  7. Good broiler
After that, it's mostly a question of having the right assortment of pans and baterie de cuisine. Save some dough on the stove. Also, save some dough on the pans. You don't need copper, and you don't need the finest All Clad either. You don't even need a "set." Be canny.

What to do with all that money I just saved you? Get a couple of John Boos cutting boards, an excellent chef's knife, and a way to keep all your knives sharp. Get your wife a present. Don't deny yourself kitchen gimmicks. And towels, get plenty of microfiber towels. Those suckers kick @$$.

Good luck,
post #8 of 8

That's the best advice I have read online. Thanks. M

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