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Jun 12, 2008 02:44 PM

Professional Reviews of Ranges

We are getting ready to purchase a 48" professional style range. There seems to be tons of anecdotal evidence from people on this site and elsewhere on-line, with as many opinions as there range are companies. Is anyone awate of an objective side by side analytical review of all available commercial style ranges having been performed by anyone (maybe a trade magazine or specialty website)? Something more serious than Consumer Reports that really gets into the pros and cons of the various lines (Wolf, Thermador,Viking,Dacor,etc.) as well as the European brands....

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  1. You should also post your question on gardenweb (they have a forum on kitchen appliances that is pretty extensive). If there is such a source for reviews, someone there may likely know of it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: baloo

      Specifically the Appliance Forum. Been going there for years and have received lots of good advice. Here's the link:

      My personal opinion? Read, read, read and then go shopping. Bring some pans you normally cook with and see how they fit on the surface. It's a personal decision that should not be taken lightly. The showroom folks should have some hooked up so you can do some testing.

      I bought a 30" DCS all gas range (no self clean) in 2002 and love it. Left it behind at the old house as I was able to buy the 30" DCS dual-fuel model. Fabulous performance for such a compact machine. Great simmer (all burners), great high output (16,000 on four burners; 17,500 on the center burner) and easy to keep clean.

    2. Here is a link to a now somewhat old article that originally appeared in the American Express member magazine. It is by David Rosengarten, who compared the performance of several "professional" ranges at the time. BlueStar was the big winner, and these days the link to the article can only be made through the BlueStar website AFAIK.

      As others have noted, you can get more info on the Garden Web Forums than just about anywhere else, sometimes with links to other sources.

      3 Replies
      1. re: johnb

        It's comical that people still point out that article. It's five years old and the product has completly changed since then.

        1. re: Docsknotinn

          No it hasn't. Same basic working parts. Except for the addition of the 22k burners, which is even better (they are a very similar design in any case). Oh, I forgot, they've added colors!

          But of course as usual you'll split hairs and find some reason to criticise.

          I agree it would be better to have a more recent valid comparitive test. If you know of one, post it. Until then, that "comical" article is the only game in town. It's not perfect, but it's certainly way better than opinions posted here. I noted its shortcomings (age) when I linked it.

          BTW, I'll add to what others responded below and note that you are 100% wrong in your assertion below that CR bases its ratings primarily on polls. Whatever its faults may be, and it has some, CR is primarily a product testing organization, and among other things tests kitchen appliances. They tell you when they are commenting on something based on their polls, such as life insurance, auto reliability, and so on where testing is impossible or impractical.

          1. re: johnb

            100% wrong in your assertion below that CR bases its ratings primarily on polls.
            No one here is discussing life insurance, cars etc. Just high end ranges. Of course all you have to do is actually read the CR report on those products and they disclose exactly what I said but since you admidt to the same it seems a completly inane point;

            "They tell you when they are commenting on something based on their polls where testing is impossible or impractical "

            That's eaxctly what I said.
            Whoops! LOL
            In regards to your five year old article it clearly denotes that there were concerns about the simmer feature on the BS even on the 18k burner that was being used then. The 22K burner is not suggested for simmering by BS so I'd say the product has changed considerably. At the time of the article the highest out put burner was still capable of a functional simmer.
            Quite obviously that is of concern to some along with the fact that you wind up with a simmer only burner.
            Your choice may have been the best for you but other products clearly suit other buyers much better.
            In either event I completly agree with the last posters that indicated some of theese products are less functional at a much higher price.

      2. My brother cooks on a Wolf and he loves it. The first thing I look at is the burner configuration. I want no break in the cooking surface. In the kitchen of my dreams lives a 60" Blue Star RNB Heritage Classic (also available in 48"). I used to dream of a 6-burner Russell Range cook top with the serpentine continuous grates but Russell is gone now.

        1. If you are looking for professional reviews IMO Garden Web is not the place to search. There are far more professionals on this site that actually work in this industry and use many of theese products.
          A single objective source of SXS comparisons does not exist that I know of. Not even Consumer reports has actually done hands on testing of many of the products they form an opinion about.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Docsknotinn

            On the contrary, Consumer Reports tests EVERYTHING on which they report, and they buy everything retail, too (vs. getting samples directly from manufacturers).

            1. re: ricepad

              On the contrary, Consumer Reports tests EVERYTHING on which they report, and they buy everything retail, too (vs. getting samples directly from manufacturers)
              ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Consumers reports relies almost solely on "readership surveys" for items like this. The problem with that is people are biased so they are getting feed back and they do not even know if those polled actually own the product.

              1. re: Docsknotinn

                While I won't say it's the end-all reviewer for everything, Consumer Reports does buy and test items like this that they publish ratings for. They don't use readership surveys for ratings.

                They do survey the readership to attempt to ascertain frequency of repair, which may or may not be a good gauge of that depending upon how they tally it. They won't use that data for repair info if they don't get sufficient response from people who have owned a given brand. But they also take a brand as a whole which in the case of appliances may not account for variances in different model lines, etc. (One model or line of a given brand may be more reliable than another, but they won't separate them in that way.)

                I have found this free site useful in that it does a roundup of over reviews for a number of product categories and presents a summary: Ratings from Consumer Reports are often included in the articles, but in product categories where CR is not particularly useful they leave them out (even in some cases where CR has published reviews on that category). In the case of this thread, I'm not sure it's useful. There's an article on ranges but I don't think they get into the Wolfs and Vikings....

                1. re: CrazyOne

                  Thanks for stating that in a more succinct manner than I was able to. If you can get a copy of the article CR did on Commercial style ranges IIR they openly stated that they did not test all of the brands. They did test one Viking but that was a long time ago. Most here tend to focus on the repair "ratings" which are based on the readership surveys. You can find that directly on the CR web site.

                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                    They rate what they test though, not what they don't. No need to imply otherwise. They may write some content about other items outside the scope of the testing, but those items will not figure into the ratings, either positively or negatively.

                    The frequency of repair comes from the reader survey. While you can't 100% rule out false responses, they do take pains to normalize this, and the survey (perhaps you haven't seen one) is quite detailed and not something anyone would likely fill out falsely on a whim/grudge. Note, it's only sent to certain paid subscribers, not just everyone. Back when I used to subscribe I recall not always getting one.

                    Again, this is not necessarily to say it's the end all be all. But the *ratings*, where there's a list from best to worst, with any other models (if any) they found to be particularly good buys for their cost singled out, are based on testing. The ratings are NOT not the repair history. Indeed, the ratings are based on performance in the tests without regard to repair history. Repair history is noted in the content if a high-scoring product appears it may be unreliable, but it will not actually be rated lower in that case.

                    1. re: CrazyOne

                      They may write some content about other items outside the scope of the testing
                      That's splitting a rather fine hair. They absolutly write about products they have not tested and form an opinion whether or not they "rate" them. If you get a copy of the CR report on commercial style home ranges CR openly admidts they did not purchase all brands due to the cost. With some brands they tested one model then they "rated" the one sample product. The issue with that is many view that as a rating of the entire company. They don't test each model so how helpfull their information is really depends on the actual model you are looking at as well as the age of the report.

                      "While you can't 100% rule out false responses, they do take pains to normalize this, and the survey is quite detailed and not something anyone would likely fill out falsely ."

                      As I stated earlier CR relies 100% on readership surveys for that information and there is absolutly no way to verify they are accurate.
                      In short I agree with you CR is not the be all end all. IMO CR should be used as a source but taken with a grain of salt depending on the actual model of appliance you are considering as well as the time frame CR tested the brand you are looking at. Some of the data that gets quoted here about Viking is from a report that is ten years old. I assume this is why the OP is asking for something more serious than CR.
                      CR has had some serious issues with integrity. IE creating 500 new viruses to test software.

                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                        Oh, I don't disagree with CR being a bit more tarnished than in the past. Also questionable car testing for example. Appliances, though, they tend to come up with a decent set of tests. But yes, it doesn't help when they don't test what you are looking for, in this case pro-style ranges.

                        My guess is that despite the frequency of their mention here, it's a small niche, and not one that meshes much with CR's typical readership. With such expensive items, it would take a lot of funding to buy several of them and test for a relatively small audience (as opposed to, say, cars, where they are even more expensive but a much larger number of people would be interested in some of them). So that would leave some other outfit who wouldn't mind testing demo units as provided to them by the manufacturers. Perhaps these high-end range manufacturers are not interested in subjecting their wares to a comparison test? There appears to be a lack of recent info out there about these, apart from individual anecdotes, but it seems rather unlikely that someone hasn't at least tried to put such a test together....

                2. re: Docsknotinn

                  For CR's latest report on ranges, they actually *tested* 66 models, and did not rely merely on a reader survey.

                  1. re: mpalmer6c

                    From the OP;

                    "Something more serious than Consumer Reports that really gets into the pros and cons of the various lines (Wolf, Thermador,Viking,Dacor,etc.) as well as the European brands...."

            2. Although it's not exactly what you're looking for, when we redid our kitchen a few years ago we found the book "Great Kitchens: Design Ideas from America's Top Chefs" to be very helpful. It shows in detail the home kitchens of a variety of famous chefs, including the ranges and other appliances they use. I figure they can buy pretty much anything they want, so if they use a particular brand of range there must be a reason. The book is available on Amazon, and maybe elsewhere.

              22 Replies
              1. re: FlyFish

                Can you tell us the author of the book and publisher?

                  1. re: FlyFish

                    Sorry. We have been out of town for the past few days and I am just now back online. I will check out the Great Kitchens book...sounds interesting. I guess I am just dismayed that some magazine with clout that appeals to people with this type of range...Saveur perhaps...has not gotten the manufacturers to each lend them a similarly configured unit so they could put them through their paces side by side. It seems that if one is going to spend over $10k for an appliance there ought to be some objective guidance available. I fear that they must think that a high percentage of buyers don't really care and are purchasing either for looks or name snobbery. I don't mind paying for the best so long as I have a way of really knowing it is the best and worth the price difference from the others.
                    Thanks again to all who responded.

                    1. re: roanoker

                      Why would the manufacturers agree to do that? They've got little to gain -- an objective test will show that their fancy stoves don't cook most things any better then a mid-range model does. They've got plenty to lose -- an objective test will show that their fancy stoves don't cook most things any better than a mid-range model does, and that they've got fewer features that most people actually like, that they're less reliable. They're a status symbol, and the transparency of doing actual testing detracts from the mystique that allows them to sell them at amazingly inflated prices. Most of the people who buy these things don't cook on them any differently than they would on anything else.

                      Why would the magazine do it? Any magazine targeted at potential buyers of these things doesn't want to annoy its advertisers, so it would run a fluffy piece about how wonderful all of them are, weighted on advertising dollars of course.

                      1. re: dscheidt

                        I absolutely agree with this. I have been doing a lot of research on ranges for the past few months and I am coming to the realization that I can spend a hell of a lot less on a range then these Pro Models demand and still get all the same functionality. I am starting to view this the same way I do extremely high end stereo equipment - that once you've passed a certain level of technology and price point, all the money in the world is not going to sound any different to 99.99% of the population - it's just about status and people kidding themselves. And I don't give a rap about status - I need a range that performs well.

                        1. re: flourgirl

                          So flourgirl if not the pro-styles what are you starting to look at now and with what brand do you think you will ultimately go?

                          1. re: flourgirl

                            Right now I'm considering a Bosch 700 series. The 30" ranges in this series are running in the $1600-$1900 range which is more along the lines of what I was looking to pay. The main concern I have is that while the few reviews I can currently find all sound good, they haven't been around long enough to get any feedback on repair records etc.

                            1. re: flourgirl

                              I noticed that the August 2008 Consumer Reports has range reviews. It's in the stores now.

                              Oh, they did do functional tests such as time to boil. And no, Viking didn't rate particularly well.

                              1. re: mlgb

                                Thanks! I think I'll make my way down to Borders tomorrow and take a look at it.

                                1. re: mlgb

                                  And no, Viking didn't rate particularly well.
                                  That's subject to interpretation. CR did not rate the products in a lump by brand. They grouped them by class. 30" gas, 30" dual-fuel etc. Nothing over 36" was rated.
                                  In 30" DF ranges Bosch received the highest rating of 71. Wolf received a 67.
                                  In 30" AG The highest rating was a 64 with Viking receiving a 62.
                                  For 36" AG & DF (they put theese two groups together for some reason) Thermador was the winner with a score of 68. Viking received a 56.
                                  Kitchen Aid bombed.
                                  In 36' AG cooktops Viking was the winner with an over all rating of 84 while Bosch bombed. In most cases the spread from brand to brand is really pretty minimal. This seems to suggest that you can not judge any brand over all but must judge each individual model. Something that CR does not do.
                                  Here is the exact statement from CR regarding brand repair history;
                                  "We lacked enough data to include Viking gas ranges or any dual-fuel brands".

                                  1. re: Docsknotinn

                                    "This seems to suggest that you can not judge any brand over all but must judge each individual model. Something that CR does not do."

                                    Uhhh...except that they DO. Listing the specific model number tested. In some lines they will rate multiple models of a brand.

                                    1. re: mlgb

                                      In some lines they will rate multiple models of a brand.
                                      They do list multiple sub-model numbers under some headings. For example under the 36" gas & dual fuel if you look at Viking they have three model numbers. All three are for the same model with or with out a grill/griddle. CR is simply telling you the variations available of the model they tested.
                                      Every Viking range tested was a VGSC (self cleaning) with sealed burners. The results could be dramaticly different for a VGIC or VGRC model with open burners in the same category.
                                      It's an interesting read but not of much real value unless you are shopping one of the exact models tested.
                                      Consider the swings in Bosch who is the top rated choice in a 30" DF range while it is nearly at the bottom of the 36" AG cooktops. If you are looking at a Bosch 30" AG range then theese results would be of little use as CR did not test a 30" AG Bosch range and there is no consistency between the other results for Bosch.
                                      The best part was the laugh I got from CR telling me to trim the char off my steak. Oddly enough I now have a craving for a nice steak.....Pittsburg rare!

                                  2. re: mlgb

                                    So I checked out the range reviews in CR and even though Bosch didn't come out on top for the 30" gas range I'm still leaning that way. I've looked at the other models that scored higher than the
                                    Bosch and they just don't move me. So I think the Bosch still wins for me in terms of form/function/price.

                              2. re: dscheidt

                                Agree. I thought about buying one of the professional-looking models at one time, and decided they're just a showpiece. In actual use, some are actually inferior to standard models -- what's with only one burner that can be turned to simmer?

                                1. re: mpalmer6c

                                  I assume you're referring to:

                                  I think that's an erroneous conclusion. Feel free to poll over at THS to see if the Bluestar owners agree. I have one and I don't.

                                  1. re: ted

                                    I agree--that is definitely an erroneous conclusion, and it seems to get repeated here very frequently. All of the burners go to a simmer. The dedicated simmer burner just goes incredibly low (mashed potatoes don't stick to the pan on it) and is made for a smaller pot.

                                    1. re: ted

                                      If you look on the inside of your range under the grates on the left side there is a label. It is plainly marked that the simmer burner is 9k. It's a very weak burner for a high end product.
                                      mccer1 stated that "all of the BS burner go to a simmer" and that is just not accurate. BS clearly states that the 22k burner will not maintain a normal simmer temp. There are some trade offs with BS just as there are with other brands.
                                      Ultimatly you have to shop and do your own testing. It's all about which system is best for your needs not which others may feel is the best for their own reasons.

                                      1. re: Docsknotinn

                                        I did just that- mine's 10k BTU and works just fine for what I choose to use it for. And that isn't just simmering. YMOV (Your Mileage Obviously Varies).

                                        It's silly to try to hold up your thumb and come to the conclusion that it won't do a "normal" simmer temp. As if all pots were the same size and had the same amount in them. And judging by your conclusion, they're all small.

                                        On Sunday, I steamed some tamales on the 22k burner. With it turned down all the way, it held just the slightest boil to keep them going. We've had the same experience with chili, etc in our Lodge dutch oven.

                                        It's a mechanically-simple cooking machine. No expensive boards, etc to replace. Oven holds a full-size sheet pan- very few of the other ranges in this class do- definitely not Viking or Wolf, maybe DCS. Star burners flat out rule for even heat on any size pan. Lift off the top grate and the burner bowl works perfect as a wok ring. That's what worked for me, regardless of the high/low output of the burners, and having 6 on a 36-inch ranges just gives you that much more flexibility.

                                        1. re: ted

                                          It's silly to come to the conclusion that it won't do a "normal" simmer temp

                                          BS doesn't recommend the 22k burner for simmering. If they did the simmer burner really would be wasted space. Why pay 4k+ for a range with one or more burners at 9-10k (depending on model) when you can get that on a standard consumer range for 1/2 the price?
                                          IIR BS defines simmer as maintaining a temp under 200 degrees on a standard size pot. Naturally it will simmer a 22 quart stock pot. The same is true of the even higher BTU commercial burners. That's probably not what the average home owner buying has in mind when they ask about simmer. Obviously BS recognizes that and that's why they disclose that on their web site.
                                          You make a solid point about the BS oven. If you want the capacity for a full size sheet pan even the 30" BS range oven has that capacity as does Five Star. Viking does not. However the Viking and Five Star offer self cleaning which BS does not. It's all personal choice. Many of the commercial brands in AG models are mechanicly simple, no mother boards etc. The BS broiler is also very nice. 1850 degree Vs Vikings 1500 and 1800 for Five Star.
                                          Five star, Viking and others feature full range burners not High out put and dedicated simmer burners. Five Star utilizes burners that run from 350 BTU to 21,000 BTU on every burner!
                                          There is no one perfect brand. Choosing one is simply a matter of choosing which will fit your needs better.
                                          The star burner Vs circle burner debate has existed a lot longer than CH has and will probably continue for many years in the future.

                                          1. re: Docsknotinn

                                            FYI, I was curious last night. Made mushroom risotto for dinner. Left the last 1/2" of stock on the 15k burner turned all the way down through dinner until I was cleaning up (say 30-45 minutes later). Dropped in the BBQ thermometer- 179F (first photo).

                                            Then I dumped the stock and added about 2 quarts of tap water to the pot. Put it on the back 22k burner, turned it all the way down. Walked away from it for an hour. Second photo is that pot at 179F.

                                            I'll admit that our back 22k burner is better adjusted than the front one and turns down lower. But that to me qualifies as a simmer on either 15k or 22k.

                                            1. re: ted

                                              Thank you Ted. All this discussion of "the power of simmer" is getting hilarious, and just plain silly. Nonetheless, I've been thinking of doing a little test of this stuff on my BS, and I may yet.

                                              Your burner is probably not "better or less better adjusted." All BS burners, AFAIK, can have their low power adjusted--you can do it yourself, with the set screw inside the center of the whachcallit shaft that the knob fits on. This is one reason I have a good laugh at these claims that the BS can't get low enough to simmer--you can adjust your simmer flame right down to nothing if you want to (it has no effect on the high end output AFAIK). I even have one that I have adjusted so low that if I turn the knob all the way down it will actually go out--I can "baby" it and get a really low simmer if I want.

                                              Another feature found on BS and seldom if ever on others is that the height of the grates on the BS is individually adjustable. Hence, the heat reaching the pot can also be lowered by that means if one wishes to do so.

                                              Even if it were true that the BS's simmer flame is not as low as others, I think it's off the mark to argue that one should thus sacrifice burner power to get an (allegedly) lower simmer flame. Why? Because there are many simple ways one can reduce the flame power getting to one's pots at a particular time if one wants to, but no power on earth will get you more flame if you need it and the range wasn''t built to deliver it in the first place.

                                              1. re: johnb

                                                I actually have tried tweaking ours, but I was a little nervous that I'd turn the screw too far. For whatever reason, the back 22k as delivered turns down lower.