Pros: Ease of cleaning (on 5 burner model), cook/bake performance, style, durability, convenience, value.
Cons: Hard to clean burner seams on 4 burner and "bridge burner" models.
This review originally appeared for the discontinued 79213 (note the smaller oven, black plastic oven handles and black paint finish instead of dark graphite finish) This was an accident. I didn't mean to review the discontinued model. Since I intended to review this 79363 originally, the review has been moved here to the correct model and updated slightly.
This one beats KitchenAid, GE Profile and Bosch/Siemens for value and convenience. Even $5,000+ "professional" models from Wolf, Viking, Gaggenau, etc., don't have dramatically more usable power and some even make major sacrifices in convenience for their restaurant construction, looks and image. And because most people won't be hauling around 100 pound pots of water in their kitchen, the potential of chipping paint on home-use ranges won't require the solid stainless steel construction of these professional models.
For $1,500 this Kenmore Elite is a fantastic range. Made by Sweden's Electrolux/Frigidaire for Sears/Kenmore, the internal components not only rank high in Consumer Reports Magazine for reliability and cooking and baking performance, they are also easy to use AND clean!
The Kenmore Elite's sealed cooking burners are raised so spills drip away and don't get stuck under a seam and you can even pop the caps and burner head off if they get clogged and put em in the dishwasher along with the dishwasher safe (fully painted on both sides) grates without risk of rusting.
The seamless glass touch pad control panel means no soft plastic buttons to melt, scratch or damage and there's no ledges or seams to catch grease - just a convenient, easy to clean "bumper" to keep pots from hitting the controls. The glass is very durable. Just quick, easy wipe up.
The oven has self cleaning oven racks that are porcelain coated so you don't have to remove them during the self clean cycle. Regular chrome racks discolor and become hard to slide if you leave them in during self clean (even the manual says so) But don't drop a porcelain coated rack because it will chip.
Continuous grates (in 3 easy sections) cover all 5 burners which means you can slide heavy pots from burner to burner without lifting and moving it. A single recessed moat under the grates allow easy cleanup around the burners. Black, white and bisque models get color coordinated cast iron dishwasher safe (painted on both sides, won't rust) grates. Stainless Steel models get exposed, dishwasher safe cast iron grates! They look "professional" and won't burn, peel or scratch. But the rough surface can somewhat scratch your brand new smooth bottom pots and pans. Don't freak out - your pots and pans would get slightly worn over time anyway. Just check one out in the store first. Great feature.
A 4 burner sister model of this unit has a bridge burner which can be used to fire up the front and back burners on the left side plus a middle section all at once for long pots or for use with the heavy cast-iron reversible griddle/grill included(!) It's great for people who grill or fry a lot or often. But, the bridge burner model doesn't have a 5th burner. The cooking surface on the bridge burner model is also harder to clean because the burners aren't seamless - only the 5 burner model is. There is even a dual-fuel version of the 5 burner model with gas on top for precise cooking and electric in the oven which doesn't dehydrate like a gas oven. Because induction cooking elements aren't available on a range yet, dual fuel is the best of both worlds, for about $200 more than the all gas version.
The large oven has the usual upper and lower heating elements plus a convection fan and a 3rd element surrounding the fan. Circulated air heats the oven very evenly and cuts baking time by 25-30% with no burning, hot spots, turning or babysitting the food. You can bake multiple foods on all racks at the same time because the circulated air heats everything so evenly. Because the fan and 3rd element quickly and evenly gets things hot, it seals the exterior of the food faster trapping more moisture inside and preventing flavor crossover from, lets say, meat on one rack to an apple pie on another.
When you turn on a convection oven, all 3 heating elements (upper, lower and rear) come on to bring the oven up to the desired temperature. When that temperature is reached, the upper and lower elements shut off for the rest of the baking time and only the 3rd rear element surrounding the fan stays on and maintains your set temperature so that foods on the uppermost and bottommost racks don't get burned next to an element. The oven automatically converts traditional recipe temps and times down to the slightly lower convection times and temps needed to prevent overbaking. If, for some reason you want to, you can also disable the convection fan and rear element and use it as a regular oven.
If you like Tivo, you can even automatically set "stages" of cooking to happen one after the other while you're away from home and have it finish by the time you get home. Like defrost(200F), then bake(450F), then hold warm(170F).
Instead of a storage drawer, the electric warming drawer underneath goes to 220 degrees and works well for keeping food warm until guests arrive or for preheating plates. The drawer also has a "bread proofing" feature at 90 degrees which activates yeast so dough will rise without baking the bread itself.
Of the 5 cooking burners on top, 2 of them are "power" burners which is great for quick boiling, stir frying or searing meat. Both are impressive - one power burner is 14,200 BTU the other is 16,200 BTU (anything over 12,000 BTU is considered a power burner) Then there are 2 medium burners (9,500 BTU each) good for general cooking and 1 simmer burner (5,000 BTU which is good for delicate sauces or keeping things warm. Each burner is visibly bigger than the other so you can tell. The bigger size lets more gas out and also gives you better pot/pan bottom coverage so you won't have burn rings inside or unevenly heated foods. For contrast, most low end ranges have 4 medium 9,500 BTU burners standard.
The Total Package
All this plus killer sophisticated style with steel on graphite instead of the usual black. Beautiful. And when you order it in stainless steel, the painted burner grates come as exposed cast iron! Fantastic value if your frequent cooking and baking makes a mess and you want the least amount of cleanup.
It's my #1 pick above even the very nice GE Profile and Kitchen Aid and top end Whirlpool models. The KitchenAid broils slightly better (because it has electric AND gas broiler elements if you look up) and has a built in wok grate. The GE Profile door handle and oven window are more unique and elegant and matches the unique GE Profile microwave window. The GE also has a meat probe and a second oven drawer below (so will the Kenmore eventually). The GE profile's middle burner is only 6,000 BTU because it sits under an aluminum built in griddle. This Kenmore Elite's griddle is heavy cast iron and can survive life on top of 2 power burners. The top-end Whirlpool has a work surface light that looks really cool, but no 5th burner or warming drawer and it has knobs on the electric model that you have to work around when cleaning the glass touch control panel which makes it almost as useless as a plastic panel. The KitchenAid and GE Profile models suffer from vulnerable plastic control buttons and neither have self cleaning oven racks (GE does on limited models).
Warming drawer vs Oven drawer vs 2nd oven
GE Profile has an oven drawer, the Kenmore Elite will too eventually but for now only has a warming drawer. The only difference in a warming drawer and an oven drawer is one goes to 220 degrees, the other to 450. You can bake a cake, pizza or anything not very tall and do it decently. Maytag/Amana/Jenn Air have the big oven on the bottom and a small oven on top with a drop down door and window for convenience. But those corporate siblings have some reliability, cleanability and material quality issues. If you look under any warming or oven drawer, you will see either a 4 pass electric coil for warming or an 8 pass electric coil for baking. (imagine a letter S that goes on and on) Don't worry, electric warming drawers and oven drawers on gas models do not require a 220 volt line, only dual-fuel and all-electric models do.
Durability & Warranty
The Electrolux/Frigidaire components used in the entire Kenmore cooking line are very durable. (less so for E/F laundry, dishwashing and refrigeration) Sears service/parts is top notch most of the time. But the "Protection Agreement" which covers more damage than the regular 1 year warranty and goes between 3 and 5 years is not cheap. On the all-electric version, the protection agreement is an absolute must. On the dual-fuel, less so. On this all-gas model, it's not a must-have. Tip: you can use the service and cancel within the first year and get ALL your money back! If you cancel after one year, it's pro-rated.
If you need a good dishwasher, range hood, electric range, induction cooktop, wall oven or hybrid car, see my other reviews.