The centerpiece of many kitchens is the cooktop or range where meals are cooked and prepared. The choices abound in the marketplace today for electric coiltop, smoothtops, gas ranges, and dual fuel ranges. With prices starting at around $500 for an electric coiltop and working up to $4000+ for a gas range, which model is best and offers the most features. Surprisingly (or not), the most expensive brands are often the most repair prone with Viking gas ranges leading the way with nearly 1 in 3 needing some kind of issue fixed. HotPoint gas and electric ranges are the most reliable and coincidentally some of the cheapest on the market. That being said, you really need to do your homework when buying a gas or electric range/cooktop since cost is not the determining factor on quality. The leading brands are HotPoint, Kenmore, Jenn-Air, GE, Maytag, LG, Frigidaire, Bosch, Whirlpool, Viking, Thermador, DCS, Wolf, and KitchenAid.
The most basic cooktops are the electric coil models that are slowly being outdated by newer smoothtop versions. The electric coil cooktops are still the best value for your money, although many people stay away from them since they look old and oudated. Hotpoint makes very affordable electric coil models for less than $400 and smoothtops for less than $500. The smoothtops offer bridge elements where you can have oversized pots or pans easily accommodated as part of the cookware rests on multiple heating elements. Even expandable elements are great on smoothtops allowing you to increase the heat based on the size of your pot/pan. You will also find warming elements that let you keep items warm while others are cooking. Safety features like hot-surface lights warn you when the cooktop is "hot" and not to touch it. Gas ranges don't boil water as fast as electric cooktops, but they can be more efficient in many ways. Look for gas ranges that have continuous grates so you can move cookware around the burners without worrying about spills or messes. Other features are things like auto-reigniting burners, sealed burners, and burners set into ceramic surfaces. Electric smoothops are easy to cleanup versus gas ranges while gas models allow you to adjust the flame and get the desired heating levels much faster than with electric models. The dual fuel ranges are gas ranges with electric ovens which is what many cooks and chefs prefer. No matter which style you go with, you'll want controls that are easy to manage and understand and a cooktop that heats quickly and cook efficiently. We found some great consumer reviews and opinions online at sites like Sears and Amazon.com with real customer feedback. Also, Consumer Reports rated 67 ranges and cooktops in a recent survey in which the results clearly show that price doesn't necessarily equate to quality. JD Power and Associates also rated appliances and so we found some results for ranges from them. Some sites like Gardenweb.com in their 'kitchen appliance' forum offer great reviews and owner feedback on high end 36" gas ranges from manufacturers like Thermador, DCS, and Wolf. The stainless steel construction makes these appliances look commercial and professional although they aren't always the most reliable.
Best Electric Smoothtop:
When it comes to performance and value in an electric smoothtop take a look at the Kenmore 96412 ($750) which is sold in Sears stores. It receives superior marks for boiling water and cooking at high temps and low temps. It's a stainless steel beauty that is priced just right compared to the more expensive Jenn-Air JER8885QA ($1400) or the Kenmore Elite 9912 (Sears) for $1400. All 3 rated the highest in the CR test, but for the money, the 96412 from Kenmore is the clear winner. Even the Kenmore 96112 rated fairly high and it is priced below $600. If you are on a budget, then go with the Hotpoint RB787WH for $450 and with their stellar repair history you are getting the most "bang for you buck".
Electric Coil Range:
Once again the Kenmore brands and HotPoint lead the way in this category. The Kenmore 94212 ($530) is the top rated electric coil model with the HotPoint RB757WH ($350) coming in as a CR "best buy" for price and performance combination. The Kenmore range boils fast, bakes quite well, and has 2 high power burners and 2 low power burners. As for the Hotpoint electric coil cooktop, you can't beat it for the price. If you own rental homes these are the perfect solution for a simple, yet reliable cooktop that will last with minimal problems. Kenmore appliances can be found in Sears stores or online.
Dual Fuel Range:
Dual fuel ranges offer both gas ranges and convection ovens for fast cooking options. They run about $1500 to $4000 and the top brands are Bosch, GE, Wolf, Dacor, Viking, and KitchenAid. We were a little surprised to KitchenAid appear in this category with their new Architect Series which goes for $4250 (more than the Dacor and Viking). KitchenAid has a bad reputation for repairs and so it's left off the "top picks" list this time until we see that the appliance performs as well as others like the Bosch HDS25 ($2000) or the GE Profile JSB918WEK ($1700). GE gets high scores for capacity and it's cooktop performance but it did have trouble boiling as fast as the others in this field. The Wolf dual fuel range was the priciest at over $5000 and didn't live up to their reputation as being a top maker of residential ranges with commercial features and looks. The Viking ranges were rated low for capacity which I would have thought was the complete opposite since you think of Viking as being industrial with room for lots of cookware.
Top Rated Gas Ranges:
GE seems to be the top brand in this category and although the Termador Professional outscores the GE JGBP85WEJ, it also costs about $3200 more. The GE goes for around $850 and is solid across the board on all features tested. You get 1 high power burner, 2 medium power burners, and 1 low power burner to accommodate your cooking needs. Reviews show that GE is second only to HotPoint in terms of reliability in gas ranges and this model looks great (stainless steel) and performs all duties. The HotPoint RGB745WEH is only $550 and besides not cooking at high power as well as the competition, does surprisingly well at baking and boiling.