Are you cooking with gas? Or is electricity powering your meals?

There are so many decisions involved in buying cooktops, ranges and ovens. So shop around.

If you are planning a new kitchen, talk to a designer about finding stoves and other appliances that match your lifestyle.

Keep in mind cost, the amount of food you prepare regularly, simplicity of operation, and how much heat cooking will generate in the kitchen, especially in the summer if you don't have central air-conditioning.

Let's begin with the most unusual idea of recent years: Whirlpool's Polara refrigerated range.

Of course, ovens are designed to heat, but modern life demands something more out of traditional appliances.

Say you have a pan of frozen lasagna, and you are certain that it will not be thawed for dinner. Then you have to warm it through, and you are now looking at eating at 10 p.m.

The oven will stop baking at a preprogrammed time. If you get held up in traffic, it will kick into warming for an hour. If you get home late and decide to forgo the lasagna, the range will return to refrigeration for up to 24 hours.

The compressor for the refrigerator is in the storage drawer in the bottom of the oven.

Price: $1,899. Information: www.whirlpool.com.

About 30 percent of all ovens being purchased today are convection ovens, primarily because convection ovens cook faster and handle a lot of foods at once.

While conventional and convection ovens both use air heated by gas or an electric burner at the bottom of the chamber to cook food, a convection oven has a fan in the back that circulates the heat.

In this way, heat is more quickly and evenly distributed throughout the oven. Food cooks faster because it's more evenly surrounded by heat.

Say you are baking two trays of chocolate-chip cookies, and put one tray on the shelf above the burner and the second tray on the shelf above the first.

With a conventional oven, the cookies in the top tray take longer to bake because the bottom tray blocks the burner.

But because the fan in the back of a convection oven is circulating the heat, both trays will bake at the same rate. Because of this better heat circulation, convection ovens are considered superior for cooking, especially for roasting.

General Electric's "innovection" ovens include a fan that reverses direction to keep heat circulation even, instead of the cook's having to turn the direction of the pans.

Speed cooking has been the essence of cooktop/ range technology since 1999, when GE's Advantium Speedcook Oven had its debut.

The oven, which resembles a microwave and is 30 inches wide, uses three halogen lamps to reduce cooking time, and can roast a whole chicken in 20 minutes, with no preheating.

The oven takes its cue from the microwave, which is a bit different this year.

Both Sears Kenmore (www.sears.com) and LG Electronics have come up with $129 retail versions of microwaves with sidesaddle toasters able to accommodate even bagels.

Some manufacturers offer dual-fuel ranges for chefs who prefer gas cooktops and electric ovens.

Electric ovens provide balanced heat for even browning. Jenn-Air makes a $2,000 dual-fuel oven with a dehydration feature that makes it easy to dry fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. It also has two-speed downdraft ventilation that pulls smoke and cooking odors down and out of the kitchen (www.jennair.com).

GE's Profile dual-fuel oven, which comes with a warming drawer, costs $1,350 to $1,550 (www.ge.com).

The drawer can be used to keep rolls warm and be used to heat up take-out food. And because the temperature controls can be adjusted to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you can use the warming oven to proof bread.

The drawers are designed for installation below a cooktop or wall oven, so cooked foods can be easily transferred from oven to drawer, and proofed breads from drawer to oven.

The on-off switch and temperature controls are hidden in the drawer. Temperature also can be adjusted to 140 degrees for low heat, 170 for medium heat, and a maximum of 210 degrees.

There also is a separate control that regulates the humidity level. The price of a single drawer is about $600.

There has been a long-standing debate about the advantages of gas cooktops over electric because of temperature control.

The answer from manufacturers has been the smooth-surface electric-induction cooktop.

The electric cooktop uses magnetic principles to heat a pot instantly, but the cooking surface remains cool to the touch and uses less energy than a standard electric stove.

The stove only operates when a pot is on the surface.

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