So what do people get for their extra thousands of dollars if they buy such brands as Viking, DCS, Wolf, Thermador or Dacor?
Viking ranges, for example, are available in a 14-color palette that includes Lemonade, Mint Julep, Cobalt Blue and Eggplant. The hands-down favorite finish is stainless steel, which gives the aura of a commercial kitchen ready to produce coq au vin for dozens of diners.
Many of the higher-end burners go up to 15,000 BTUs, compared with the more typical 11,000 to 12,000 on a regular range. (A BTU is the amount of energy required to increase the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit.) That means the pasta pot comes to a boil more quickly, meats sear better and stir-fries achieve the desired crisp-tenderness.
A Viking demonstration, for example, shows how the range can melt chocolate set on a paper plate laid directly on the burner without scorching either the chocolate or the plate.
On top, gas for better heat control. In the oven, electric, which cooks more evenly and works well for self-cleaning. Some even offer electric ovens with steakhouse-quality gas broilers.
These electric ovens have fans that blow the heat around, ensuring even cooking in all corners of the oven. That means baking three sheets of cookies at a time or six pizzas or nine turkey breasts. It also takes 10 percent to 15 percent less time at a temperature that's 25 degrees to 50 degrees lower.
High-end ranges go beyond 30 inches wide to 36, 48 and 60 inches, and can include two ovens.
Two of the most intriguing are French tops (a flat surface that has a "bull's-eye" of heat at the center with progressively cooler rings around it, so the pan can be positioned at just the right point) and the warming drawer (a wondrous separate area that keeps cooked food warm and moist without further cooking).
Separate the range to have a cooktop on the island and a double oven set into the wall to eliminate back strain. Mix-and-match burners with grills, wok rings, griddles.
These high-end trends are trickling down to more modestly priced lines. Many have added a stainless-steel option to the staid white, black and biscuit. Some offer convection ovens and have beefed up the grates to resemble the pricier cooktops.