Pro Style 36" Range Selection

Tom2013December 5, 2012

For a couple weeks now I have been researching 36" ranges. This turns out to be one of the most difficult items I have ever researched for a home. First let me say that my background is engineering, not cooking. In fact I am a terrible cook but I am always trying to change that, and no I don't expect the range to be the single most factor to turn me into an good one. I am data driven and usually start by looking at CR Magazine although I do know that some of their testing is flawed when it comes to real world applications. On the other hand there are some parts of their testing that should be given some consideration. Here is what I have come up with in my quest to find a good range. I would like for people to reply to help me make a choice
Burner BTU- What I have read is that claimed burner BTU does not always mean that the highest claimed BTU will give you the best delta T. My only explaination for this is that it could be the open burner vs closed or the pattern of the flame.
Simmer Mode- This seems to be a huge topic and CR does some pretty good testing on this. Although they don't test very many 36" models I think there probalby isn't any difference between a brands 30 and 36" model. This could be investigated further once models are selected by looking at the parts breakdown for the range.
Baking and Broiling-Again I think this should be comparable to a models 30" ratings.
Brand Names- Kitchenaid which is not popular at all on this website, probably due to the fact it is too mainstream and not based on data. Based on the data it is a clear winner. The other thing going for it which some people consider a negative and I am not sure why is that it is mass produced. A mass produced product usually means that there is more reliability data and the manufacturer can get more feedback and fix problems because they will find out about them sooner since they have so much product being tested. The next reason would be spare parts. Parts should be more available and probalby cheaper.
Viking- Wow, I was very close to buying one. I loved the look but it seems to be plagued with electrical problems. Just do a seach and this is a pretty universal problem across the board on many websites. CR magazine has a video where they purchased two identical models that both failed due to electrical failures.
Capital-I love what I see but can't find much real data.
Wolf-Data is close to Kitchenaid
Bluestar-People seem to love them on this site but the data shows them to be on the lower end.
American-Again data not so good
Bertazoni-About the worst in terms of data
DCS,Thermador,Dacor-middle of the road for data
What am I missing? I wish CR had rated Capital because I really like what I see. If I just go by data, it is a clear choice but I am sure there is more to this but it is hard to sort through emotional attachements to brands vs real world comparisons.

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The fact that KitchenAid ranges are not popular on GW AF has nothing to do with the fact that they are too mainstream but that they have mediocre performance and recent reliabilty problems regarding self-clean ovens.

Most people here like KitchenAid for American style dishwashers and one of the more liked freestanding refrigerators. KitchenAid stand mixers made in Greenville Ohio are also very popular on this site even though there are many more obscure options made in Europe available.

Mass produced items in theory should be more reliable. A Lexus LS460 is a niche vehicle while a Ford Explorer V6 4WD is mass produced.The LS460 is the highest ranked car on CR for reliablity while 4WD Explorer is the least reliable vehicle. Subaru,a niche Auto Manufacturer,is the top brand in the 2012 Consumer Reports Ratings. That being said I am not a big fan of CR. It is part of my decsion making process but when buying a car I listen to Motor Trend and Can & Driver just as much.

Most parts that need replacing on a pro-style range are not proprietary. You can buy non-branded parts on-line from appliance parts stores cheaper than buying branded parts from the appliance manufacuter.It does take a little research but saves you money. That holds true with KitchenAid,Wolf,or Amercian Range.

Everyone is free to listen to the lab nerds at Consumer Reports or the home cooks/appliance geeks at GW. There is a reason why Bluestar and Capital have a fanatical following here on GW. And it is not because the board randomly chose a brand(s). Porsche also has a fantatical following and it is not just because it is a small niche foreign brand.

IMO 36" Pro-Style Ranges

1)Capital Culinarian
2)Bluestar RNB
3)American Range Performer Series

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 4:19AM
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Thankyou very much for your feedback. As far as reliability I have thought about the self clean issue althoug I have also read that this problem is resolved. Considering how many Kitchenaids are sold and the relatively small number of complaints, I am not going to consider the reliability as a big issue. The performance is more of what I want to understand. The 30" Bluestar performs poorly in performance testing against the Kitchenaid according to CR. How are you assessing performance? I am really looking for a good reason to buy a Bluestar or CC but had ruled out Bluestar solely based on CR performance testing. Do you know if the 36" Bluestar has the same burners as the 30"? I like the heavy duty look of the BS and CC but can't make the purchase based on looks. Thnaks again for your help.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 8:27AM
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Whirlpool/KA have said the issue has been resolved but I have seen little feedback from actual users on this forum and other similar cooking forums to confirm the self-clean issue is resolved.

I am basing cooking performance on the fact that I actually cooked on the Bluestar, Capital,KA,Thermador,and Wolf before I purchased my Capital. And the experience of others cooking on this forum as well as other forums about cooking confirm this analysis.I eliminated KA as well as its cousin JennAir based on performance. And I purchased my Capital despite its looks. I prefer the look of Bluestar/Wolf or the more tradition commercial design. I have not cooked on the American Range but the limited amount of reviews I have read from actual owners is very good.

Yes,burners on the 30 and 36 are the same for Bluestar. CR's cookie oven test and water boil test don't matchup with experience from actual owners and users.

BTW I will add that in order for the Culinarian to simmer at 140 degrees the electricity in your house needs to grounded. If not the air/fuel mixture needs to adjust to a hotter simmer for the spark ignitor to not constantly cycle on/off.And you may need the Factory to send out a tech under warranty to adjust the air/fuel mixture to achieve that 140 degree simmer.

BTW II I looked at both Bluestar and Capital when making my final decision but purchased a 36" Capital self-clean based on the fact I found a great deal on a damaged box model.

BTW III Some of my local stores and regional distributors have live ranges for you to test run. Bluestar has cooking demonstrations throughout the country that may allow you to do a little cooking yourself. Wolf has more limited cooking demonstrations.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 2:05PM
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Adding to what deeageux said, I will add that the reason CR testing downgrades the likes of Blue Stars may be as simple as the pans they used. This was something I happened on when I first got my NXR range and tested out its "dual stacked" 15k-btu-hr. burners (which are sourced from the same manufacturer that Wolf uses for sealed burners). Like many "pro-style" burners, these are set-up to favor using larger pans when you want maximum heat.

CR does its tests using what they think of as a standard set of commonly used cookware. So, when you look at the time to boiling 6 liters of water (one of the CR tests for rating high-heat performance) you will find that CR reports the larger "pro-style" burners are often much less efficient at heating that stock-pot than the smaller "power burners" from the major manufacturers. A larger diameter pan can change this and possibly significantly.

Here is a concrete example. One of the first things I did with my new NXR was to boil 6 quarts of water to make some pasta for dinner. (There is an old thread here from 10 or 12 years where several dozen GWers reported on doing their own tests and in which I participated, so I repeated what I remembered of those tests.) The first time I ran this test, I used my trusty old Kirkland 12-quart stockpot which is 8 inches in diameter. I suspect that it is very much like the pots that CR uses in its stove testing. On my previous stove, a GE dual fuel range with two 12k-btu-hr burners, it used to take just under 18 minutes to bring the water from tap temperature (about 50F) to just starting to boil (195F at my altitide). On my new NXR's 15k-btu-hr burners, it took over 22 minutes with that pot. However, with a different and wider stockpot --- this one with a 10.5" diameter base, the time dropped to just under 15 minutes. Another run used a 25 quart stockpot/canning kettle with a 13.5" diameter base and took only about 14 minutes and a couple of seconds to boil that same quantity of water. My recollection is that my old GE took 17 or 18 minutes to do that boil with the same big pot.

What is going on here is the tried and true maxim that matching pan to burner size will enhance the efficiency of heating.

The first test would say that my new NXR performed much worse than the more common major-makers' stoves in high heat. But, with a pan better matched to the burner size, my new stove significantly outperformed the previous stove.

This does not mean that CR's testng is necessarily bad. It only means that it may not tell you what you want to know about the products you are looking at. It can be hard to decipher the preferences in the testing because CR does not give more than the most bare bones description of the tests and it reduces everything to graphical buttons which cannot provide the level of detail that some folks may want. For that, you have to come to sites like GW and sort through the threads. Here preferences and biases are forthrightly stated, sometimes, and, other times, you have to do your own assessing.

Hope this helps.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Thu, Dec 6, 12 at 15:14

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Oh, and one other follow-up comment. My recollection is that the Kitchenaid stoves and wall-ovens that had the problems with self-cleaning (as well as the Whirlpool branded equivalents) were the more mid-range KDS and KGR models rather than the much more expensive pro-style KDP stoves that Tome2013 seems to be looking at. My recollection was that the self-cleaning cycles could produce two problems. One was tripping an over-temperature circuit breaker in the system (for which you have to open the back of the stove and re-set it) and the other was toasting the controller boards on the front panels of the stove or wall oven. The fix was to install a larger capacity cooling fan for the electronics. When I was shopping a couple of months ago, I was told that the new fan was installed on the production line and was being retrofitted to existing stock that was already in the stores. I could be wrong about this, so it does bear checking into.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 3:27PM
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"I eliminated KA as well as its cousin JennAir based on performance"

deeageaux -do you mind giving some details on what in performance was unacceptable in the KA Pro? was it the burners themselves not heating high enough, or the ignitors clicking, or rolling simmer failure, or reduction sauce high heat? Or was it a slow oven, noisy fan, uneven temperatures?

thank you OP for asking these questions and thanks jwvideo for updated information on the newer pro style KDP fan and more.

Nina08 here on GW has a pro Kitchen Aid I believe. maybe she will chime in with some cooking/backing feed back as will others.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 4:16PM
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some people on this forum are open burner snobs - they refuse to acknowledge that those of us with sealed burners are able to cook :-)

This post was edited by weissman on Thu, Dec 6, 12 at 18:05

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 4:41PM
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I really appreciate everybody's responses. I have looked for demos on the ranges but I can't seem to find any. Does anyone know where to find information on this. I am in the Rochester New York area.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 5:12PM
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You can look at BTUs and burner configuration but cookware is the mediator between the flame and the food. If you understand the properties of the cookware, you can work around almost any area of weakness and maximize strength in a range. If you use a pan made of heavy gauge aluminum or copper, it won't matter what shape the burner is. A cast iron pan will sear because it can hold so much heat. A copper simmer plate or something like a simmer mat that will hold the pan off the surface and allows air through will mitigate a poor simmer. You can also simmer in your oven if the temperature can be set low enough. For you to compare simmers, you have to know the BTU rating on the low end. Some companies do not make this available but give the rating in temperature which is made up and a meaningless number. By doing that you cannot compare. If they can give the upper rating in BTUs, they can give the lower number. It would be laughable to give the upper rating in temperature. There is almost no difference in output between sealed and open burners of the same rating in BTUs.erc There is a little splay to the flame but for me it is a benefit because I use bigger pans.

One of the reasons I chose Wolf DF was the oven. You can work around burners on the high and low side but if the oven is uneven, you are out of luck.

I do have a friend with a KA range who loves it. Have you considered Bosch? Some people on this forum like it.

One of the differences between KA and Wolf is the fit and finish. I have a KA 48 inch frig and the doors are of two different depths because the gasket are different depths. They replaced the door but then decided the gaskets were just that way and nothing could be done. The customer service is miles apart as well.

CR is one part of assessing a product and GW is another. You can get an idea of how an appliance works in real life and how you will be treated as a customer.

You might enjoy this website.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking for Engineers

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:13PM
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You didn't mention GE Monogram--many on GW poo-poo the Monogram line, but we are very pleased with ours. Stacked burners similar to Wolf's, love the reversible grates, 18k BTUs on all 6 burners and all have X-Large pot/pan setting as well as simmer setting. In local showroom, during demo session, the GE Monogram simmered lower than the Wolf sitting right next to it. No annoying cycling on and off of the burners either. Love our Monogram double ovens too.

As far as demos in showrooms, do you have a Fergusons showroom near you? They often have "live" ranges/rangetops, ovens, fridges and DWs. That would be a good place to start.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2012 at 10:14PM
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