As you fetch the ingredients for tonight’s holiday dinner and begin mentally planning the prep, you stop and wonder whether there’s much of a difference between an oven and a stove. If you want to learn which is which and when to use one versus the other, I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
Is an oven the same thing as a stove? No, ovens and stoves are not the same, although ovens can be part of a stove. The differences between stoves and ovens come down to placement and intended purposes.
If you’re still a little confused, that’s okay. Ahead, I’ll provide plenty of clarity by talking more about ovens and stoves and pointing out the differences.
Let’s get started!
What Is an Oven?
An oven is a kitchen appliance with a hollow, large chamber and multiple shelves. You insert the food on a shelf in the oven, set the temperature and the time if you wish, and your meal will cook.
Compared to using other appliances like the microwave, the way an oven cooks is controlled and consistent.
How ovens generate heat varies. Most are electric or natural gas ovens, but others use coal, wood, or fuel combustion.
The usage of ovens in some form goes back to 29,000 BC in Central Europe. In those days, people cooked inside of yurts, a type of Mongolian tent. The yurt would include a boiling and roasting pit for cooking food.
By 20,000 BC, in Ukraine, ovens now had hot coals in them, although they were still crude cooking pits. The people of the time would enwrap their food in leaves, sort of like how we put food on a cooking tray to cook it in an oven today.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the first ovens that even somewhat resemble today’s ovens came into being. These were coal ovens with cast-iron bases.
In the 21st century, we have access to a wide range of oven types. These include everything from double ovens to wood-fired pizza ovens. Even a microwave is an oven, as is a toaster.
What Is a Stove?
Okay, so that’s ovens, but what’s a stove?
Stoves are cooktop appliances with a hot cooking surface that provides direct heat. They’re technically called kitchen stoves since there are so many types of stoves out there.
To use a stove, you turn on one of the burners, allow it to heat up, and then put a pot or pan over the burner. Stoves feature knobs or handles for controlling each burner.
Modern stoves might have a digital display that shows the time so you can keep track of how long you’ve been cooking.
You have to monitor your food’s cooking progress to ensure it doesn’t burn. When you’re done, you can move the food to a flat surface to cool while you turn off the burner.
Stoves can be used on their own to prepare meals or in conjunction with an oven. These recipes are usually known as stovetop-to-oven and include steak, salmon, and more.
A stove uses one of two types of heat sources: electricity or gas. Gas stoves came about in the 1820s; prior to that, gas didn’t exist. Electric stoves were introduced in the late 1890s.
The first stoves were from 221 BC during the Chinese Qin Dynasty. They were made of clay. Then, in Japan during the third century, kamado stoves appeared, which were similar.
In the 1790s, Sir Benjamin Thompson set the groundwork for what would become today’s stoves with his inventions. He started by revolutionizing fireplaces, then created kitchen ranges.
What Are the Differences Between Ovens and Stoves?
Now that you better understand ovens and stoves, I want to delve into the differences between the two appliances that I highlighted in the intro.
If your kitchen has both an oven and a stove, the placement of the two appliances will make it easy to tell them apart.
A stove’s cooktop is usually flush with your kitchen countertop or raised a little higher above. This installation makes cooking on your stove easy.
The placement of an oven can vary. Some are built into the stove (which I’ll talk more about in the next section) and are thus underneath the cooktop. To use the oven, you’d normally have to bend down or at least bend over.
Ovens can also be installed in walls adjacent to the stove, usually with a higher positioning than when they’re built into the stove.
Stoves and ovens don’t cook the same way, or you wouldn’t need them both.
To reiterate, to cook in an oven, you set the oven temperature, turn on the timer, insert food into the chamber, and then allow the food to cook for the allotted time (or less).
Stoves don’t usually have timers, although some do. You also can’t set the temperature on a stove like you would in an oven.
If you have an infrared thermometer, you can hold the thermometer over each burner and measure its temperature that way.
However, many people don’t do that. Instead, they determine the level of food doneness by how golden brown the meal looks.
Due to the disparate ways that ovens and stoves cook, you use them to prepare different types of meals.
If you want to broil, roast, or bake food, then you put it in the oven. For example, when making almost any kind of dessert from cheesecake to cake or bread, you can’t bake them on a stovetop. These sweet treats need to go in the oven.
That’s also true of meals like casseroles or pizzas.
If a recipe calls for stir-frying, boiling, or searing, then you’d need a stovetop. You can make pasta on a stove, but you’d bake lasagna in an oven. Heating rice is great on a stove, as is a nice, seared chicken (although you can also cook chicken in the oven depending on the recipe).
What Is a Range?
In talking about the differences between ovens and stoves, I’d be remiss not to mention ranges.
Ranges are ovens and stoves in one convenient appliance. On the top of the range, you have your cooktop stove with the dials (or knobs) and burners. Underneath that is the oven.
According to Word Detective, “early ranges were so-called because they usually had more than one oven and usually at least two cooking spots on top, furnishing a ‘range’ of places to cook.”
Some people refer to only stoves as ranges, but this is incorrect. A range has an oven as well.
Ranges can be quite beneficial. Rather than have to flit from one side of your kitchen to another, going back and forth between your stove and your oven, they’re both accessible in the same part of your kitchen.
This also frees up further wall space in your kitchen that can be used for more cabinetry or counter space.
Owning a range is also a cost-saving measure. HomeAdvisor quotes the price of a new oven at $350 to $15,000 with installation and labor costing an additional $50 to $100 an hour.
With custom installations you may need to hire an electrician to do the wiring as well.
Ranges, according to Consumer Reports, cost $1,500 to $5,000; you can get a quality range for around $3,000. These prices do not account for installation and labor, of course.
You might spend slightly less money or just as much money for a range as you would an oven, and you get a stove to boot.
Do All Kitchens Have Stoves?
No, all kitchens do not have stoves. Depending on the region your home, apartment or flat is in, a stove might be a rare appliance in a kitchen.
When you were touring houses and determining which one you might make a bid on, you were probably paying more attention to the size of the house, number of bathrooms, its proximity to a school, and how large the bedrooms are.
You were impressed with the kitchen at the time, but you didn’t inspect the room much. Then, on the first night of living in your new house, you realize as you go to make dinner that your kitchen doesn’t have a stove. There’s an oven, but no stove.
Although this is something you’ll likely want to rectify down the line (such as by purchasing a range), for now, it’s not the end of the world.
Here is a list of appliances you may own that you can use instead of a stove, at least until you can aquire a stove.
Yes, that’s right, I said a waffle iron. If you’re only using your waffle iron to make delicious, fluffy waffles, you’re missing out!
Waffle irons also come in handy for all sorts of other recipes. These include omelets, mozzarella sticks, pizza, cinnamon rolls, hash browns, grilled cheese, bacon, soft pretzels, and quesadillas.
You have to reimagine how you perceive some of these foods, as they’ll be shaped like waffles with the classic griddle marks, but they taste great!
Until you can save up for a permanent burner, a portable version will do. You can then use the burner in the same way you would a traditional stove. Try preparing oatmeal, pasta, or chicken braised in red wine.
Microwaves don’t tend to heat food evenly, but in a pinch, they’re better than nothing. And no, I’m not talking about microwaving only popcorn or frozen dinners, but real meals.
My recommendation is this: get to know the power settings on your microwave. Also, cook for less time than more. You can always add a few seconds to your food if it’s not quite cooked thoroughly, but you can’t take away time once half your meal is charred!
Cooking in a Crockpot requires some pre-planning since it can take hours for your meal to be ready, but the low-effort, delicious results are oh so worth it.
You can make nearly any meal in a Crockpot, from pasta dishes like baked ziti to sloppy joes, soups, Korean beef lettuce wraps, turkey, sausage, or chicken.
Don’t forget dessert! Yes, that’s right, the slow cooker might become your new favorite place to make fudge, cinnamon rolls, and pudding.
Can You Use an Oven and a Stove at the Same Time?
Whether yours is a range or you have a separate oven and stove, can you run both appliances at once?
Yes, you can use them both at the same time. It’s recommended that the temperature range from the stove to the oven (or vice-versa) be about 50 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit between one and the other.
You should be extra cautious when you have both the oven and the stovetop burners on at the same time. When cooking on the stove, don’t lean too close to the oven, as it will give off uncomfortable heat.
As you take out your cooked creation from the oven, don’t place the tray or cake pan on a burner that was previously on. The heat from the burner could continue cooking your food!