Oven vs. Stove: What's the Difference?

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Kitchens have always played host to a very eclectic vernacular. Non-powered refrigerators were once called iceboxes; dumbwaiters used to shuttle food trays between floors. Cooking something in a microwave is to nuke it.

But one appliance in particular tends to invite confusion: Your range, which comes with some slightly jumbled meanings. Is it a stove, or oven? What about the cooktop? What’s the difference between all of these elements?

Appliance manufacturer Maytag has a breakdown, and it’s actually pretty simple. An oven refers to the enclosed cavity that uses gas or electricity to raise the air temperature. A cooktop is the heating surface with burners for pan cooking.

When placed together into one appliance, the unit is called a range or stove. The terms are used somewhat interchangeably, though range is slightly more accurate—stove can also mean a heating element used to warm a living area.

Most people have ranges, though some kitchen layouts separate the cooktop from the oven. A wall oven is a built-in appliance, often at eye level, that can sometimes appear as a double enclosure so you can cook at two different temperatures simultaneously.

You use a cooktop for boiling, searing, or frying; an oven is for baking and roasting. Both methods in one unit are a range, though stove is a common alternative. And if you’re a lousy cook, everything goes in the bin, otherwise known as the trash.

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