Thoughts on replacing a 36” stove

I recently bought a new house and it came with a new stove. Or at least new to me, as the stove itself predated the house by many years. The initial checks done during the inspection were satisfactory; the burners lit and turned off without issue and the pilot lights seemed to be well shielded and adjusted.

On longer acquaintance this did indeed turn out to be the case for the cooktop, but the oven was a different matter. On the first attempt at roasting the meat was barely warmed; on the second the temperature shot well past the setpoint and only happening to glance at the oven thermometer managed to save the meal. There were no make or model numbers to be found on it, but by tracing the part number on the thermostat I was able to find that it was a Magic Chef range fro the late 1960’s / early 1970’s timeframe. My intent was to replace the thermostat, but a substantial search and calls to several local appliance parts suppliers identified that there were no new parts available, and the best option were a couple of “appliance junk yards” selling old appliance parts removed from scrapped units. The cost for a replacement thermostat unit (sold “as-is” with no guarantee that it would work) was far more than I wanted to invest in what was essentially an antique. Deciding to make do with what was there, I spent the better part of a weekend cleaning, refurbishing, and adjusting the burners and controls in hopes of clearing the fault, but it was to no avail and the muffins I tried to bake as a functional test came out as charred bricks (after having set off the smoke alarm). I enjoy baking, and with an oven incapable of doing so even after a fairly involved attempt at restoration it was time to look for a replacement.

The stove was a slide-in unit. From past experience, I knew that this would add significantly to the cost relative to a standard free-standing unit designed to go against a wall. It was also in a custom tiled peninsula area and was under a custom installed ceiling mount range hood, so changing the location would require a major kitchen remodel which was outside the scope of the project in terms of cost, timing, and interest.

Armed with the measurements of the old stove and it’s opening, I set off to the major appliance box stores. This is where I found that 36” wide stoves of any format are not normally stocked items. There were some models which could be special ordered, but the best information I found there was a moment of true customer service where the person I was talking to recommended to try a certain local appliance store instead.

After finding said store, I found myself surrounded by non-standard stoves. The majority were 48”, but there were a few 36” units to look at. Then I noticed the prices and had a major case of sticker shock. Based on 30” models I had expected to pay around $1500 for a new stove with lots of features, but I found the starting prices for very basic models to be well above that, with top-line models up around $8000. What was most telling was that the basic 36” models at around $2000 in reality were nothing more than slightly wider versions of the 30” stoves selling for around $300, while the price difference narrowed the further up the prices went.

For several day I considered what options were available. I could keep using the existing stove for a cooktop and get a countertop toaster oven for baking; I could get a 30” stove and find a way to fill the 3” gaps on either side; I could do a limited remodel of just the peninsula… All of these came with their own sets of problems, and I the end the only viable solution for me was to go ahead and get a new 36” stove.

Looking in depth at the offerings, there seemed to be 3 main areas: the overpriced basic models, a mid-range offering with relatively lesser-known brands offering many of the features of the top-end without the name, and the top-end models.

The fit, finish, feel, and overall quality of the basic models was far below their price point, and the reviews I could find were fairly scathing. After I had ruled them out, I asked the sales person I was working with why they even carried them – his response was that there were 2 main reasons: 1) people who bought top-end stoves when they built their houses but who are now moving elsewhere, taking their nice stoves with them, and need something to back-fill the hole before renting or selling the house and 2) having them where people like me can see them helps to sell the other models because there is a relatively small price change for a huge increase in everything else.

The top-of-the-line range was out of my price interest; Wolf, Viking, American Range, Thermador, … are names I have seen in magazines. I am sure they are very nice, but equally sure I didn’t want to pay for them.

The mid-range was promising. My first choice was a model by Frigidaire (I think) which was just over the pricing of the basic stoves. The oven itself was the same size as the standard 30” stove, and they had simply added a wider cooktop and put trim panels on the sides of the oven. Unfortunately it was not offered in an island configuration so I had to move on to other options. These were a touch more expensive and had offerings from NXR, Bertazzoni, and SMEG, all names which I had never heard before.

Initial preference went to the NXR offering. It had 6 equal sized dual burners and a larger oven then either of the others, as well as a slightly lower cost. Unfortunately when I went to buy it I was told that there were none of those models available anywhere in the country and it would be around a 6-8 week lead time before the next shipment would arrive from China. While I wasn’t in a huge hurry, I was ready to have an oven that worked, so I inquired on the other 2.

Neither the SMEG nor Bertazzoni were in stock locally, but both were quoted as being available at the distributor with about a week leadtime. Cost, features (5 variable sized burners, convection oven), and reviews were about the same, but when asked about the reliability and service support of them the sales person indicated that Bertazzoni had been in the area for several years and they had had very few issues reported, but SMEG was a relative unknown, they had only sold one, and were planning on discontinuing carrying the line after the few they had in stock sold. With no other information to go on, I opted for the Bertazzoni Master Series.

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