Any range will cook your food. But after talking to a bunch of experts and comparing more than 60 models, we think that these are the most important features to look for in a freestanding gas range:
Any decent range will have, at a minimum, a 13,000 Btu power burner, but you can expect 17,000 or 18,000 Btu on the better models. The stronger burners heat up your cookware faster, so you’ll save a couple of minutes waiting for water to boil or for a pan to get hot enough for a good sear. Most readers have told us that they prefer to have the strongest burners in the front row of the cooktop for easier access. But we’ve heard from some people who would rather have one strong burner in the back row so that they can boil water where kids can’t reach the pot.
Most gas ranges also have a 5,000 Btu simmer burner. Most manufacturers are mum about how low this burner turns down, but Frigidaire told us that theirs can get as low as 500 Btu, and we’d imagine it’s a similar figure on other brands’ stoves. On any model, this burner is useful when you need to simmer, hold, or melt and want to minimize the risk of scorching.
If you spend more than $700, gas ranges typically come with a center griddle that’s handy for cooking eggs, bacon, pancakes, or grilled cheese without a pan.
Continuous grates are a nice feature because they make it easy to slide cookware around the surface of the cooktop and help keep larger items balanced better than smaller, single-burner grates can. Most people seem to agree that continuous grates just look nicer, too. Any stove that costs more than $700 usually has this feature.
Capacity matters a little bit, but most ovens are larger than 4.8 cubic feet, which is plenty of room for a huge 26-pound Thanksgiving turkey, a 16-inch pizza stone, or all but the very largest sizes of baking sheets or roasting pans.
Every oven comes with at least two racks, but some pricier models have three, which offers a bit more loading flexibility.
If you’re spending more than $700 on a gas stove, you should absolutely expect the oven to have a convection fan. If you choose to turn it on, you can cook at lower temperatures for less time. Large batches of cookies will bake more evenly, pastry crusts get flakier, and roasted meats and veggies are both crispier on the outside and juicier on the inside.
Almost all gas ranges come with a broiler. In mid-tier and high-end ranges, it’s an overhead broiler in the main oven cavity. Cheaper models usually have a dedicated broiler drawer beneath the oven, which can be difficult to reach and often doesn’t work as well as integrated broilers. If you expect to use your broiler a lot, you might want to avoid models that cost under $700.
We think that a self-cleaning mode is worth having, particularly a high-heat (aka “pyrolitic”) mode. Repair technicians tend to believe that high-heat cleaning will shorten the lifespan of your range by burning out the heating element or damaging the electronics. But it’s also by far the easiest way to clean an oven. Manual cleaning is hard, unpleasant work, even if you use a (smelly) cleaning spray. Some ranges have a steam-based, pseudo–self-cleaning feature, but it’s not very effective, according to most user reviews. Here’s our take: If you spend more than $700 on a range, it should have a high-heat cleaning mode. If you’re worried about damaging your appliance, use it sparingly or not at all.
Build quality and design
The more finish options there are, the more flexibility you have in outfitting your kitchen. We gave a slight preference to those with at least three options, one of which should be stainless steel.
For the models we were able to check out in a store, we looked for knobs that felt securely fastened to the front of the range, without too large a gap between the dial and the body. We checked for oven doors that opened smoothly but not too lightly, racks and drawers that glided, and a tightly laminated control panel. And we jiggled the grates to see how secure they were on the cooktop and how easy they were to remove for cleaning. (All of the units we saw were floor models, so they may have seen more wear-and-tear than a range in a typical house.)
Reliability and customer service
Reliability and customer service are difficult to pin down. But here’s the standard we’ve set for our picks: Owner reviews shouldn’t reveal any clear, consistent pattern of widespread defects, design problems, or egregiously bad product support. For this reason, we favored slightly older and more-popular models because they tend to have more user ratings, so we know more about them.
Over our years of reporting on appliances, we’ve also gathered feedback from repair technicians about the brands that they think are the most reliable. But this is highly anecdotal and not especially consistent, so we don’t weigh it too heavily in our decisions unless there seems to be a consensus about a brand or product.
A wok grate, temperature probe, or any other cooking accessory can be cool and useful, and many ranges come with one or more of these as a toss-in. But you can buy any of them separately, too.
Extra cooking modes like delayed starts, food-specific presets, or scan-to-cook modes are all fine, but we doubt that most people ever use them. We didn’t go out of our way to avoid models with these kinds of cooking modes, because they’re hard to avoid, but we didn’t favor them, either.
Wi-Fi connectivity won’t baste the turkey or turn the cookie sheet. Maybe you can think up some edge case where connectivity will come in handy a couple times per year, but we don’t think this is a useful feature. Not too many freestanding ranges offer it, anyway.