The 74343 by Kenmore costs $1,400. In range-land, that certainly isn't cheap (you can find models for less than 400 bucks), but it's a very reasonable price for a nice-looking convection gas model with five burners and a decent oven capacity. Tack on the fact that its display panel is incredibly simple to use and that it makes perfectly golden-brown biscuits and juicy burgers with ease and the high-value 74343 becomes very easy to recommend.
Basic, but not in a bad way
Kenmore's isn't the best looking model we've ever tested, but it also doesn't have any blaring design flaws that distract from its overall appearance. It's a basic, stainless-steel range with an equally basic touchpad. And while it doesn't offer any standout design features, the 74343 will do a great job of blending in with most kitchens.
It's also particularly easy to use. The main point of access -- aside from turning the burner knobs or opening and closing the oven door -- is the display panel. Some of them have been incredibly stubborn, while others are super sensitive. The 74343's display is responsive and intuitive. It has a full number pad and the timer shows the time remaining in seconds and it's large enough to see from a fair distance.
This model doesn't come with a broil pan, a griddle or any other surprise accessories. For your $1,400 you get five burners that range from 5,000 BTUs (for simmering sauces) to 18,200 BTUs (for boiling a large pot of water). The center burner is oval-shaped so you could easily use a griddle if you happen to already have one at home.
The 74343 has a 5.6-cubic-foot oven and six rack heights. As far as cooking modes go, it doesn't deviate much from the standard broil, bake, convection bake and convection roast, but it does also offer a slow cook option designed for foods that you'd typically cook at a lower heat for a longer period of time, such as roast beef.
Broil, bake, roast, boil, repeat
Broiling is an underappreciated oven feature. The broil heat element is located at the top of the oven, and manuals usually suggest moving the rack to one of the top positions so that you're getting a steady supply of close-proximity heat. In that way, the broil mode is roughly comparable to grilling and when done right, can churn out perfectly delectable food.
I made three batches of six burgers using the broil mode and added a temperature probe to each burger to track the time it took for them to all reach a medium-rare/medium 145 degrees. We do this both to see how evenly the burgers cook and to compare the time it takes for all of them to cook against other ranges. As far as evenness, you can really see that the burger in the back right is more of a bright pink than the others.
It took this range 16 minutes and 34 seconds to hit 145 degrees, which is an average score. The $1,640 KitchenAid KGRS306BSS was the fastest gas range so far at less than 15 minutes and the $1,749 Whirlpool WEG730H0DS took the longest by far at more than 24 minutes. Even though the overall burger evenness and time to reach 145 degrees were just OK, the burgers were juicy and had great flavor.
The Kenmore 74343 made pretty solid biscuits, too. The double-rack traditional and convection biscuits are pictured above, with the traditional top and bottom rack on the top row of the collage and the convection top and bottom rack on the bottom row of the collage.
The bottom rack of the traditional biscuits are clearly undercooked and, while the convection double-rack biscuits are much more evenly baked, they are every so slightly overcooked.
The traditional single-rack biscuits, pictured above left, looked great, while the convection single rack biscuits, like the double rack tests, were a little overdone. Even so, Kenmore's biscuits were particularly consistent across tests and none of the tests failed outright.
All of this will also depend on your biscuit doneness preferences, though. If you like slightly toasty biscuits, convection bake will achieve that. If you like regular golden-brown biscuits, a single rack of traditional biscuits will easily get the job done.
For my final oven test, I cooked a chicken using the convection roast mode. Unlike most manuals that suggest sticking the rack in the center of the oven, this manual suggested sticking the rack in the bottom of the oven. I cooked the chicken at 425 degrees until it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. This simple recipe turned out quite well, although the $4,999 Dacor Renaissance double oven that we tested last year is still the reigning chicken champ.
The Kenmore 74343 excelled at the 5-quart boil test using its large 18,200-BTU burner. It reached a rolling boil in 9 minutes and 45 seconds, faster than any of the other ranges in our chart. The $1,650 LG LRG3085ST took the longest to reach a rolling boil at just over 15 minutes on a less powerful 17,000-BTU burner.
The range did pretty well at boiling a 3-quart pot of water on a small 9,500-BTU burner. It took 13 minutes and 25 seconds to reach a rolling boil. The $1,699 Samsung NX58F5700 was the fastest at 12 minutes and 45 seconds on a 9,500-BTU burner and the $2,800 GE PGS920SEFSS took the longest at 17 minutes and 45 seconds on a 9,100-BTU burner.
Should you buy this thing?
I really like the $1,400 Kenmore 74343. It isn't exactly a standout in any one category, but it is consistent across the board. It boasts solid design, features, usability and performance -- and it's on the lower end of the midprice range. So, even though we've seen more attractive models with a few more features , this is the most well-rounded gas model we've tested so far. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates good value (Bonus: it's currently on sale for $1,020).