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A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.
Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated
to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.
Stove and ovens are probably the two most common cooking methods worldwide, and have been for centuries. The design may differ across time periods and between countries, but the basic functionality of each has remained much the same for centuries.
A lot of people associate the two together as a single unit, and in many cases they’re correct; the most common type of “stove” is what would technically be referred as a “range”. It includes both a stovetop and an oven, and is what you’ll find in most pre-furnished homes or available for easy purchase.
But there are some unique pros and cons to each of the two options, with potential reasons to buy one separately for various reasons. Whether it’s because you want to keep your stove and oven separate (such as having an outdoor wood fired oven, but an indoor stove) or some other unique arrangement, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re getting into with each tool before you choose which one you keep and which one you can do without (or use in a different than normal sense).
So, let’s do a quick breakdown of the unique benefits of each cooking device to get a clear picture or what you’re gaining and losing with each one, and whether it’s better in general to buy one or the other, or if it’s always going to be better to get a range no matter what.
When Should You Use a Stove?
Your stove is one of the most versatile cooking implements you can use, largely because it’s so simple.
A stove is, for our purposes, a “stovetop”. Several burners (usually four, but sometimes more) that produce heat in some manner, and can be used to cook things in some sort of container. There is another kind of stove; the wood fired or gas powered kind used primarily as a heat source rather than for cooking, but that’s not really what we’re here to talk about today, since those have mostly fallen out of favor and could be considered just a different word for “oven”, which is part of why this discussion can get surprisingly complicated.
There are a few main types of stovetop: gas powered stoves, which create an actual flame using natural gas (usually) or propane (occasionally), electric stovetops which can be either the old heating coil style or the more modern glass top variants, and induction stoves which heat the pan directly using magnetism.
All of these function pretty much identically for our purposes, and can cook the same kinds of foods. You get a lot of mileage out of a stove, and can easily make most kinds of meals using this bottom directed heat.
The interesting thing about a stove is that it can essentially do anything an oven can do…but you’re not always going to get the same output for the input. You can make baked goods on a stovetop, for instance, and the results might come out quite good, but you’re definitely going to have to work harder for them since stoves simply aren’t designed for the main task an oven is made for: baking.
When Should You Use an Oven?
As mentioned just above, the main use of an oven is for baking, and some would say that’s their only use due to the design.
An oven is by definition a closed space, which uses convection to cook food; the heating coils heat the air, which then convects around the interior and warms everything at once.
This fairly even heating is the main strength of an oven, and allows it to be used for fairly delicate foods which would be impossible (or quite difficult) to cook with a direct heat source applied to the bottom of the container you’re using to cook.
You can see the main difference quite easily with a simple cornbread recipe. Cooked in an oven, your cornbread comes out thick and fluffy, with plenty of air pockets and a fairly light crust. On the other hand, a skillet cornbread on your stove is going to be thinner and crispier, with a very thick exterior crust and a harder exterior with a more chewy middle. Both are good, but they’re barely recognizable as the same thing.
Mind you, some of this is due to slight changes in the batter composition, but it’s mostly the cooking method that creates such drastic differences in results as the ingredients are largely the same. You would never be able to achieve the light and fluffy texture of the oven baked cornbread using standard stovetop cooking methods.
This means the oven has a clear niche it fills in creating baked goods with greater ease, though it can’t be used for as wide a variety of purposes as your standard stovetop; it’s harder to make every meal in the oven than it is on a stovetop.
So, putting it all together: which is the most important to get? Or should you always just get a range?
Honestly, I’d lean towards the latter. Trying to find a stove or an oven on their own is kind of like pulling teeth. Not just in the usual sense (that it’s difficult), but in a more important way: unless it’s necessary, you shouldn’t do it.
Mostly if you try to buy a stove or oven on their own what you’ll find is heaps of tabletop stoves, camp stoves, toaster ovens, and things of that nature. You can find outdoor ovens a bit more easily (mostly in the form of pizza ovens), but these are extremely expensive, so unless you have a good reason to buy them, they’re not great replacements for an indoor oven.
If you do buy one separately though, by that metric I’d say always get an indoor stovetop and an outdoor oven, mostly due to the fact that the outdoor equivalents of a stove are significantly worse than what you can get for an indoor option.
And if you do get one, and induction stovetop is likely to be your best bet, as they can be built straight into countertops and tables (Since there’s no danger of heat radiation setting fire to wooden surfaces).
For the most part though…stick with a range. It’s not going to be that much more expensive in the grand scheme of things, and is going to save you a bunch of hassle. There’s nothing stopping you from having a range AND an outdoor oven or anything.