Range Controls and Cook Modes
Electronic controls are among the standard range features on most ovens, including those in the budget segment. All the cheap ovens we researched, but for the Amana AGR3311WD, feature an electronic touch pad for the oven.
One virtue of an electronic touch pad is the large number of possible oven-temperature settings; the Kenmore 70402 and Kenmore 90112, for example, offer 105 options between 170 and 550 degrees Fahrenheit (as with the cheap oven in the Frigidaire FGF348KS, settings can be changed in five-degree increments). One frequent complaint about the Amana AGR3311WD is that the dial for the oven temperature is marked in 50 degree increments, which makes for lots of guesswork when a precise oven temperature is called for. Do note, though, that if the electricity goes out, you won't be able to operate any part of an electric stove, including the cheap oven; on a gas range, you'll at least be able to get the top burners going with a match.
Additional range features, such as automatic oven shut-off and time delay, give cooks lots of flexibility. But these are rare features in the bargain stove market. Among the models on our list, only the Hotpoint RB57DB boasts a timed- and delayed-bake function. Both the GE JBS55DM and Frigidaire FGF348KS feature a Sabbath mode on the cheap oven, which overrides the automatic shut-off so that the oven will stay on for more than 12 hours.
Most kitchen layouts are designed for cheap stoves that measure 30 inches across. All the freestanding ranges we researched meet this standard.
Another indicator of size is oven space, measured in cubic feet. Experts at CNET correlate oven size with the number of people living in the home: 2 to 3 cubic feet for one or two people; 3 to 4 cubic feet for three or four people; and more than 4 cubic feet for four or more people. Even so, a small family with a big baking habit might want to opt for a larger cheap oven. The good news for frugal shoppers is that all of the 30-inch ranges on our list provide at least 4 cubic feet of oven space; the GE JBS55DM boasts the largest cavity (5.3 cubic feet) and the Kenmore 70402 has the smallest (4.2 cubic feet).
Durability rarely surfaced in the reviews we read for cheap ovens, perhaps because users were posting about newly acquired stoves. But according to the experts at ATD Home Inspection
, the life expectancy of a gas range slightly exceeds that of an electric range (15-17 years compared with 13-15 years). We did, however, note a few reports about a faulty electronic ignition on the Amana AGR3311WD, which apparently sparked but didn't light the gas flame. The smooth ceramic cooktop on the GE JBSDMWW presents a durability quandary of sorts. Some consumers grouse about the high cost of replacement if it breaks -- an unlikely but occasional occurrence. One consumer reports at Lowe's that a dropped bottle shattered the cooktop and the repair almost equaled the price of a new stove.