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I often see ovens with their control panel behind the elements, mostly in US American settings, like in the picture below.

Where I live, the controls are always in front of the appliance. It seems unnecessarily dangerous to me that one has to reach over the pots or pans on the stove to regulate the heat.

Is there some historic or technical reason to this?

range with controls and dials at the back of the cooking area

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    one word ... children – jsotola May 15 at 16:08
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    I have hurt myself many ways with a stove/oven but never once has it been because the controls were in the back. – eps May 15 at 22:11
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    Just had a quick look on the website for a UK department store chain and every free-standing oven appeared to have the controls at the front so it's possible that the location of the controls might depend on local regulations. There seems to be a fair few free-standing ovens and "fitted" hobs which are of the induction type – SpacePhoenix May 16 at 13:56
  • While stove shopping this week I noticed that front-controls are less common and more expensive; I chalked it up to market segmentation to create a "prosumer" product. – dandavis May 16 at 20:19
  • I, (Netherlands,) have never seen a rear controls free standing stove for sale, nor seen any used in houses in the Netherlands. The closest I have seen is a side control panel in a 'build in' cook top, and the owner is really unhappy as it is in the wrong position. No children where ever harmed by the front controls in these households. (Also because mothers kept tiny ones outside the kitchen when she was not at the stove.) These days the stoves come with protecting measures like having to hold the knob till the fire has taken, in gas stoves. – Willeke May 17 at 12:12
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It's much more difficult for a small child to "play with the controls" and turn the stove elements on in that location.

Having lived with stoves like this for a long time, I've never burned myself reaching for them.

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    Very much this! Small children tend to be inquisitive and like to fiddle with things that move. When the controls are within reach... – FreeMan May 15 at 15:07
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    (Former) in-home appliance repairman here... This is absolutely the reason. Which leads to simple (and, IMNSHO, poor) interface design. It is entirely possible to make front controls that are childproof without being difficult to use. It comes down to design and manufacture costs. (You’d also be surprised how many ovens are improperly installed — without an anti-tip anchor in the back.) – Dúthomhas May 15 at 19:52
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    Not just kids. Having turned my kitchen table into a desk, I managed to bump a front mounted nob of my stove on accidentally using the back of my wheelie chair a few weeks ago. Fortunately my sloth prevented an accident in that case: The knob was for one of the rear burners I never use; and a few years ago I stopped bothering to actually plug them in after pulling them out to clean crumbs/etc from the reflectors. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight May 15 at 21:38
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    Not just kids. I've had a dog turn on burners with front-mounted controls. – A C May 15 at 21:55
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    @Tim I don't think left handed people have problems turning a knob with their right hand... if anything, they can now hold something heavy on their left hand while turning the stove on with the right. – Nelson May 17 at 0:45
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It’s an old or perhaps a better word is classic design - there are some advantages like if you spill something it won’t go all over the controls.

However disadvantages include having to reach over a spitting or steaming pan but it is always down to what you learned on or are used to.

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10

In addition to the useful comments already posted, the design prevents accidental turn on's due to leaning up against the stove to stir a pot, etc.

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5

Aside from the major parental control feature, already mentioned, this allows the oven door to extend all the way up, granting a more spacious oven chamber opening for inserting taller things if needed.

Probably too minor to make enough of a difference to most, but sure does look more "dedicated" and potentially a selling feature to some.

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3

At first I thought that it would reduce usage of copper wiring, by keeping all the circuit runs as short as possible.

Having the controls at the back put them close to where the power feed enters, simplifying the design.

While copper is expensive, that's a more recent cost increase. Back in the day copper was cheaper, which is why it was used for pipes and hot water cylinders.

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    Other than my dog having turned on the other kind once, this : simplified construction. – Mazura May 15 at 23:12
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    Simplified construction of the units with top back controls fits with the significantly lower price of the models with controls at back. Of course if this type is perceived as cheaper, then the manufacturer may be implementing other cost saving differences to achieve the customer expected price point. – Jim Stewart May 16 at 17:16
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On a gas appliance you would have the controls on the front because reaching over flames is a hazard in itself.

On an electric stove, it does not really pose a problem to reach over hot elements if you are careful enough.

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  • I am mentioning gas appliances because you said "US". Although they are available over the world, electric ranges are much more predominant in the US (and Canada) than gas appliances. Many Americans (the continent) have never seen a gas range outside of a commercial setting. – sleblanc May 19 at 22:42
2

In the USA there are two types of electric range like this: standalone and slide-in. This is a standalone. A standalone has finish metal panels on the sides so it can be located in the open. AFIK standalones always have the controls on the top back and slide-ins have the controls on the front.

The slide in is generally more expensive and is used in higher end kitchens. The lack of a high control panel in the back allows more space for installation of a fancy back-splash behind the range. Also having the controls on the front is reminiscent of the appearance of a traditional high end gas range

We have a slide-in of this type and I find I have to step back and bend my neck to read the writing on the controls to make sure I am operating the burner I wish to. However with a standalone in the event of spattering hot grease (or worse) it does appear that it would be dangerous to reach for the temperature control.

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    There are front-control standalones out there, but by and large, this is true – ThreePhaseEel May 15 at 17:24
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    Interestingly, for the (natural) gas range we have (USA, about 7 years old), the stopvetop controls are at the front of the unit and the oven control is on the back, like in the picture above. That probably has more to do with gas piping than anything. Even though the stovetops knobs do have a "push and turn" to turn on the gas, we have occasionally leaned up against them by accident and turned the gas on slightly. Thankfully the smell of the natural gas alerted us in short order to remedy the situation. – Milwrdfan May 15 at 18:44

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