Pros: A beautiful appliance and an excellent range.
Cons: Expensive! $3000
When we first moved into this house (six years ago) it was with the understanding that we would be remodeling the kitchen and updating the worn out oven and cooktop soon after…
Well, “soon after” turned into five years but in Feb of 2009 we finally did manage to get around to updating our outdated and too small kitchen and decided to replace the old wall oven/cooktop arrangement with a more space friendly slide-in range. Having previously been employed as a Brand Central manager with Sears gave me considerable experience with the sales and service for high end appliances so this helped me to narrow the field down considerably as we had literally dozens of different brands and models to choose from in our price range. In the end we finally decided upon the GE Café Dual Fuel Range (Model: C2S980SEMSS) and so far have really enjoyed having it in our home.
What is it?
The GE Café Dual Fuel Range is a range designed to run on both gas (the cooktop) and electric (the ovens). Why buy a dual fuel range? Why not simply choose one which runs on just either gas or electric? Some people prefer using gas for cooking on the burners due to the speed with which the heat is applied (instantly) as well as the degree of control and continuous heat which can be produced using gas for cooking. Conversely, many find that electric ovens are preferable over gas based ones for the better broiling and browning performance that electric ovens are capable of.
I am one of these people.
The GE Café Dual Fuel Range is a “slide in” range which is designed to be placed freestanding between two separate sections of cabinetry and countertops. This differs from a “drop-in” range in that a drop-in appliance requires a special cabinet to be installed to accommodate the range as the appliance is unable to stand on its own and due to the way that it fits into this special cabinet it is incapable of having a lower drawer for warming/storage. Both types of ranges are intended to promote the appearance of having a “built-in” appliance which is commonly seen these days in modern kitchen designs. We chose a slide-in model as we wished to avoid the additional cost associated with purchasing the extra cabinet which would have been required with a drop-in model and liked the idea of having a warming drawer/2nd oven available to us.
The range comes in only one color choice, stainless steel with black cast iron burners which fits in beautifully with the overall look that we were attempting to cultivate with our remodeled kitchen however if you are planning on coordinating your appliances to some other color then the GE Café Range is probably not for you.
The range comes with cast iron grates for the five burners, a non-stick griddle, a removable oven probe and three porcelain coated oven racks. It has five burners (four standard burners and one center oval burner) and technically two ovens as the lower drawer can also be used as an oven as well.
The Burners (Gas)
The burners consist of four relatively standard circular burners that vary in power from a 5000 BTU simmer burner (the smallest) and a 9100 BTU standard burner in back to the two 18,000 BTU “power boil” burners up front. While functional, this layout can cause some problems at times as the two largest burners have a wide enough flame dispersion radius to make it so that smaller pots (1 qt saucepans) will not be able to have the flames centered directly beneath the pan. Basically the flame ring from the largest burners is approximately 6” across even at its lowest setting and so pans which are smaller than this in diameter tend to have at least part of the heat from the burner “miss” them and heat unevenly. This can be resolved by utilizing the smaller burners in back for smaller pans however this can lead to an awkward arrangement if you have larger pots in the way on the front burners.
However when taken on their own the two “power boil” burners in front do an excellent job of applying fast, even heat to any pot large enough for their size. I have found that I can bring a gallon of water from room temperature to a boil in less than six minutes which is considerably faster than what my previous range could accomplish. And these burners are more than capable of applying the heat necessary for stir-fry cooking in our 14” wok, something I had previously been unable to do properly on our old gas range.
Keep in mind though that with burners as powerful as these that it is advised that you install an equally powerful ventilation system above the range in order to provide the level of exhaust needed to compensate for the heat, steam and potentially smoke that may be generated from cooking over extremely high heat. We went with a vent hood by Zephyr capable of moving 695 cubic feet of air per minute and frankly I wouldn’t even consider having anything less powerful paired up with the burners on the GE Café range.
The center oval burner is a bit of a mixed bag in that it is only capable of putting out a maximum of 6000 BTUs. This makes it ideal for braising or slow cooking dishes with square or oval shapes such as roasting pans or some Dutch ovens however the burner is a bit underpowered for use with the griddle that comes with the range. You see, you have the option of swapping out the cast iron grates for a non-stick griddle that then covers the center of the cooktop. The problem being that with only 6000 BTUs to work with it tends to take a long time (10 or more minutes) for this griddle to heat up to acceptable levels for cooking pancakes or browning meats. The griddle’s relatively small size also means that it is difficult, if not impossible to cook two rows of burgers or pancakes lengthwise meaning that choosing to use this griddle for larger meals could end up taking twice the time that you might require if you chose to use a $30 electric countertop griddle or one designed to fit across multiple conventional burners instead. Still for small jobs it does perform adequately.
The Ovens (Electric)
Despite its appearance, the GE Café range actually features two ovens. The Primary 5.0 cubic foot electrical convection oven and a smaller, 1.0 cubic foot non-convection oven which also doubles as a warming drawer. I have found through extensive use of the primary over the past year that I honestly love it in both the accuracy of the temperature controls as well as the speed with which it comes up to temperature. This oven can be pre-heated to a temperature of 350 degrees from stone cold in an average of five minutes, twenty seconds which is nearly fifteen minutes faster that the wall oven it replaced was capable of.
The temperature control is very accurate, holding to a variance of only ten degrees on average either above or below the target temperature according to my testing with a remote thermometer and has done an excellent job handling everything that I have thrown at it so far from broiling Steaks at high heat to slow-roasting spare ribs all day at 185 degrees. The option to use the built in probe thermometer has also proven quite handy when roasting larger dishes such as turkeys, prime rib, and hams.
The convection properties of the oven have worked marvelously for maintaining even cooking and browning of certain dishes without the need to rotate pans or move items to different racks. I have easily been able to bake 4 pans of cookies simultaneously across differing racks in this oven with every cookie turning out to be nearly identical in terms of browning and overall doneness at the exact same time, something that I have never been able to do so well in any oven that I had previously attempted this with.
However, the lower drawer which offers the ability to be used for both warming and baking is nowhere near as responsive or accurate as its bigger brother. Typically this oven/drawer can take twenty minutes to come to 350 degrees and my testing has shown a temperature variance of roughly 35 degree swings both above and below the target temp when in use. That being said, I have found this oven useful for re-heating/baking dishes such as casseroles and even one pumpkin pie during the busy holiday months so its ability to be used as a second oven cannot be completely discounted. Just don’t expect it to perform as well as the much larger and more easily programmed main oven in the range.
Cleaning the Stainless exterior is almost effortless so long as you remember two things.
One: Never allow sugars or starches to spill over onto the cooking surface! If you do, immediately stop cooking and move your pan to another burner and attempt to clean up the spill as failure to do so and continuing to apply heat to the area will cause the sugars/starches to caramelize and in turn discolor the steel in a manner which is extremely difficult to remove.
Two: If you want your appliance to maintain a pristine, “new” appearance then never use an abrasive cleaner or pad (not even a green “scrubby”) on the stainless as it will leave noticeable minor scratches in the surface. Gentle cleaners and soft cloths should be all that are required for most daily surface cleaning.
As to cleaning the oven, in general as someone who used to sell this type of high end appliance, I recommend manual cleaning over using the “Self Cleaning” feature as the insanely high temperatures generated by the oven in this mode tend to cause problems by damaging sensitive electronic components over time. While the manufacturer claims that it is safe to run the oven in this mode I know from experience that over time the continued use of the self-cleaning feature has caused numerous electronics failures in various ranges for many of my customers almost all occurring at some point past the initial one-year warranty period.
You have been warned.
The GE Café Range comes with a one year manufacturer’s warranty against defects which covers both parts and labor. As our appliance has had no need of service in the past year I am unable to comment personally on the speed or responsiveness that GE may have in handling warranty claims. I can say however that in the year that we have owned this range we have had zero problems with it and that it has performed as expected without issue.
Having spent a few years working in restaurant kitchens when I was younger spoiled me by allowing me the use of professional quality appliances and along with my later career of having sold appliances for a major retailer I feel that I am a bit more qualified than the average homeowner at evaluating this range in a real-world environment. With that being said and after having over a year’s practical experience with this range I have to say that I am completely satisfied with the purchase and would buy it again in a heartbeat.
The GE Café range and its dual fuel features have proven to be a perfect fit for both our home and for my cooking style and I would encourage anyone who may be shopping for a mid to high end range to take a close look at it.
However, if you are not interested in having a dual fuel appliance or if the kitchen in question is not equipped with both gas hook-ups as well as 220v electrical lines then GE does make essentially the same range available in both standard gas and electric models however I personally have no experience with these other models and would have to advise any interested parties to consult other reviews to obtain first-hand information on them.