Home Touch

THE RANGE RAGE

If you are at home near your range, there are a multitude of reasons why the stovetop has become a hot spot for gathering in today's kitchen.

"The kitchen remains the heart of the home," says Eliza Sheffield, vice president of marketing for BlueStar, a manufacturer of cooking accoutrements and ranges since 1880 in Reading, Pa. "There's a reason people say, 'hearth and home.' The 'hearth' has changed to include modern-day cooking appliances, but its importance in the home hasn't changed."

The range -- or kitchen stove -- is a stand-alone appliance comprised of four to 10 burners or cooking elements on top, with an attached oven for baking.

A recent survey by Houzz -- a home design website based in Palo Alto, Calif. -- finds that 32 percent of nearly 8,000 participants who are planning home kitchen renovations want a "chef's stove." For many, "dining out" really means "dining in," enjoying meals made on a restaurant-quality range from the comfort of their own kitchen, Sheffield says.

"People want to feel like a 'top chef' at home, and go beyond the basic range," she says. "Preparing food at home has evolved into 'cooking as theater,' where the cook is also having a social experience with family and friends."

Many homeowners feel a professional-looking kitchen is within range, due to a variety of hot options when it comes to functionality, finishes and size. Mainstream manufacturers, such as KitchenAid and Maytag, try to emulate the stainless steel designs found in the pro-grade profiles of BlueStar, Viking, Wolf and Dacor range brands.

When shopping for a range, consider your cooking and baking needs, floor space with gas/electrical outlet availability, and style aesthetic. Gas ranges allow for precisely controlled temperatures. While electric ranges don't have a flame, they also don't immediately cool down when the heat is lowered on cooking elements. An induction-style range uses an electro-magnet below a ceramic cook-top surface, which quickly transfers heat to pots and pans only.

Ranges vary in width from 24 to 60 inches, with price tags from under $1,000 to more than $4,000. Sheffield says BlueStar's 48-inch professional-style range is one of their most popular sellers, and starts at $7,600.

BlueStar's freestanding ranges are handcrafted and made of steel with up to 10 cast iron grates on top, depending on its size. More than 750 colors and finishes are available so customers can "build their own BlueStar," Sheffield says.

Many professional-grade ranges offer custom-color, textured finishes or stainless steel exteriors, with customizable knob colors. Stainless steel and metallic textured finishes can construct a contemporary culinary creation, while a rainbow of custom colors suit '50s chic- and Euro-inspired kitchens. Lilac-colored Radiant Orchid is Pantone's color for 2014, and BlueStar is set to satisfy people's purple penchant in their range options.

"Today's kitchens are floor to ceiling cabinets -- even the refrigerator is clad in cabinetry," Sheffield says. "The area surrounding the range is a place in the kitchen where homeowners can make a statement and the range can literally stand out."

Often, the range becomes a focal point of the kitchen with a larger, eye-catching backsplash on the wall between the range and the hood venting. A pot filler faucet plumbed into the wall behind the range makes this space one that really cooks, without having to leave the stovetop and go to the sink for water.

Customizable stovetops on ranges can support the way a home cook really cooks. A griddle for pancakes or charbroiler can be placed over burners, while a French top insert for simmering sauces or wok ring can lead to more global gastronomy.

Larger freestanding ranges have spacious single or side-by-side ovens, often pairing a convection heating element in a conventional oven for the uniform circulation of heat. For a baking bonanza, many of these ranges can accommodate full-size commercial baking sheets.

While an island is no longer uncharted territory in the kitchen, some homeowners opt for an industrial cooktop built into it. Instead of an integrated range, homeowners can cook on the island cooktop and bake in the wall ovens. Double wall ovens installed at eye level can offer twice the cooking capacity and generally run up to 30 inches wide. Double ovens can be ideal for occasions that require several different dishes to be cooked at the same time at different temperatures.

Modern in technology, Sheffield says these ranges also have a classic style, which inspires people to get back to their food roots in the kitchen. "People are hungry for the way their grandmothers used to cook in their kitchens," she says. "While these ranges are an investment, they are built to last and will pay dividends in good food."

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Heating up: BlueStarCooking.com, click the "Build Your Own BlueStar" link on the right.

(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at chooker@amuniversal.com or the Universal Uclick Editorial Department at -uueditorial@amuniversal.com)

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