Cooktops have a long history. The earliest version dates back 4000 years ago in the Indus Valley and spread to Eastern Asia. It was used for the next 1000 years and became prevalent in Japan around 500 CE and was known as the “kamado.” In Europe, however, cooktops weren’t in use until the Age of Enlightenment when inventor Benjamin Thompson introduced a kitchen range with a cooktop.
Gas and electric cooktops were introduced separately in the 19th century. Induction cooktops were the latest innovation in the early 20th century but it didn’t catch fire with the American public right away. It first became pervasive in Europe and Asia during the 1970s before it became a hit in American homes.
Table of Contents
- A. Type
- B. Surface
- C. Feature
- D. Number of Burners
Opting for gas cooktops in your kitchen has a number of benefits. First, gas cooktops are incredibly fast when heating up and provide instant heat due to their powerful flames. Additionally, gas cooktops offer incredible control over the temperature that you use to cook your food and quick response time when you need to raise or lower the temperature. This means that you can cook at a precise temperature and don’t have to worry about burning your meal.
Temperature changes are almost immediate and will allow you to quickly heat up or cool down the pan you are using. When you turn off your gas cooktop you will notice that it cools down very quickly, which is ideal if you have small children in the home and are worried about them touching the stove.
Because of the way the burners are designed on a gas cooktop, you can use any kind of cookware without worrying about damaging them. You will need both electricity and gas to operate a gas cooktop, and if you do not have gas already accessible at your home then you will have to pay to have it piped to your house. If you do lose power you can still cook with a gas cooktop, you will simply have to light the burners with a match.
You have to make sure that you have some sort of ventilation in your kitchen if you have a gas cooktop as you want to make sure that there are not any hazardous fumes left after cooking. Gas cooktops are a little more expensive than electric cooktops are, but since they use a less expensive fuel they will generally save you money in the long run.
Electric cooktops are very popular, easy to find, and generally fairly inexpensive, making them a great choice for anyone who is looking for a new stove and is on a budget. They have the additional benefit of being very easy to clean, no matter if you opt for a cooktop that has coils or one that is smooth-top.
You do not need an ignitor to heat up your stove and as soon as you turn on an element it will begin to heat up, although it does heat up a lot slower than a gas cooktop tends to. In addition, adjusting the temperature on your electric cooktop is more difficult as it is significantly slower to respond. Many families with small children prefer electric cooktops because there isn’t any open flame that will be a danger to their children. They are incredibly efficient and easy to install at your home.
Some of the problems that you will experience when you choose an electric cooktop for your home is that if you lose power at your home you won’t be able to cook on your cooktop the way you can with a gas cooktop. Additionally, with some electric cooktops you have to be careful about the type of cookware that you use as you can scratch, damaged, or even shatter the cooktop if you are not careful.
Source: Home Depot
For a cooktop that will heat up faster than any other type, you will want to buy an induction cooktop. These come with a hefty price tag but also have a number of benefits. Instead of the whole surface of the cooktop getting hot the way that it does with a gas or electric cooktop, the heat produced by an induction cooktop is transferred directly to the cooking pot.
As soon as a pot is removed from the induction cooktop then the heating will stop. This means that the surface of the cooktop won’t ever get as hot as a traditional cooktop will. The main problem with an induction cooktop is that you need to have cookware that has been specifically designed for use with this type of cooktop.
This can be expensive for some people if they do not already have the right cookware to use. If you are annoyed or troubled by humming noises then an induction cooktop may not be right for you as it tends to click and buzz when the cooktop is used at high settings. You can help to avoid this problem by using very heavy cookware.
Coils on an electric cooktop offer very little stress for cooking and are incredibly affordable and durable. It is very difficult to cause problems with an electric cooktop that has coils since they can easily stand up to a lot of use. They are so durable that you don’t have to worry about how hard you scrub the cooktop to get up any cooked or spilled food.
In addition, you can use almost any household cleaner that you want and aren’t restricted to having to buy and use specialized cleaners. You can use heavy cookware on coil cooktops such as cast iron pans and you won’t damage them. While many homeowners want to update their coil cooktops to another kind when they are updating their kitchen, it’s important to remember that they are durable, reliable, and relatively inexpensive.
The coils on these cooktops generally heat very quickly, but they remain hot for a long period of time and don’t offer a lot of control over the temperature. If the coil’s connection to the power source in the cooktop becomes loose then you will have to deal with a failed burner. While placing groceries and other items on smooth cooktops can damage the surface, you don’t have this problem with coil cooktops.
Also called “radiant cooktops”, these cooktops have a devoted fanbase because of how easily they can be cleaned. While you will want to use special paste or detergent that is designed for ceramic cooktops, any spilled and burned food will easily wipe off. Radiant cooktops work by passing electricity through heating elements that are located under the ceramic top.
These heat up your cookware without drastically warming any air around your cooktop. The smooth ceramic surface looks very neat in your kitchen and will improve the appearance of any modern decor. You can even design your kitchen so that your countertop will be at the same height as the top of your cooktop, creating a seamless look. Since there are no cracks in the top of the cooktop, there isn’t any place that spilled foods can hide.
The main problem that comes from a smooth cooktop is that using the wrong kind of cookware on these cooktops can cause it to scratch or break. You have to use lighter cookware on smooth cooktops and make sure that you do not slide the cookware across the surface. Once you have the correct cookware you won’t have to worry about damaging your cooktop, but anything too heavy or with an uneven bottom can cause a lot of problems.
1. Downdraft Extractor
Source: Home Depot
If you do not like the way that having a range hood or a fan looks in your kitchen then you will want to consider installing a downdraft cooktop. These have a ventilation system that is built directly into the cooktop itself so that you don’t have to rely on a bulky hood to extract the steam and smoke that is produced when you are cooking.
There is a small vent either along the back of the cooktop or between the burners that will suck the steam and smoke away from your pots and pans and prevent it from rising to the ceiling. Not only does this eliminate the need for a bulky range hood that can take up a lot of space in your kitchen and be a bit of an eyesore, but it will free up the space above your cooktop for a pot rack, cabinets, or just extra empty space.
You can opt for a downdraft extractor on both gas and electric cooktops, but you may need to have ventilation installed just like you would with a regular fan or range hood.
2. Overhead Hood
When you cook you will release a lot of steam and smoke into the air of your kitchen and it’s important that you remove this to make sure that not only is your air clean and safe to breathe but that you don’t have any problems with your kitchen overheating or smoke setting off your fire alarm.
While some people do not like the look of an overhead hood, this is a great way to make sure that you safely and thoroughly remove all of the steam and smoke from your kitchen while you are cooking. If your cooktop doesn’t have a built-in downdraft extractor then you will need to make sure that you have the space and desire for a hood or a fan in your kitchen.
These can come in a variety of different sizes and styles, so you can easily choose one that will match the décor and style of your kitchen. Whether you want the overhead hood to be a main focal point or something that blends in is up to you, but you do need one to safely remove steam and smoke from your kitchen.
3. LED Display
Make it really easy on yourself when you want to see the time by choosing a cooktop that has an LED display. Rather than trying to read the time and having problems, when you choose one that uses LED then you can easily see the time from almost anywhere in the room, no matter how dark it is in your house. This feature doesn’t affect the function of the cooktop but does make it a lot easier for you to use it at any time during the day.
4. Speed Heat
Source: Home Depot
No matter how quickly your cooktop heats up there is probably going to be a time that you wish it would heat up a little faster. When you buy a cooktop that has speed heat elements then you will find that you can boil water or heat up your food in no time at all. Speed heat elements can be heated on low or high heat. You can use the high heat setting to get a pot of water ready for pasta or to heat up your wok to searing temperature so you can stir-fry in very little time, helping you hurry up your dinner prep and get food on the table fast.
Source: Home Depot
There are a few safety features that you want to look for when you are buying a cooktop so you can be sure that your whole family will be safe and that nobody will get burned. Automatic shutoff means that your burners will switch off on their own when cooking is finished if you have set the timer for a heating element to run by itself.
This allows you to put food on the stove and forget it but you won’t have to worry about the element remaining hot all day long and putting your family in danger. Another safety feature to look for includes a heat indicator. This light will remain on for as long as your cooktop is still warm, letting you know that you shouldn’t put anything on top of the cooktop and that no children should come by and touch it.
When most people picture a cooktop they think of a large, multi-heating element item that is installed permanently in the kitchen. While this is the most common type of cooktop that you can buy, you can also buy smaller, portable ones that will allow you to cook in a hotel room or to add an extra heating element to your home kitchen if you need additional space to cook. These generally only come with one or two heating elements on them and are either electric or induction.
Obviously they are not ideal to replace your whole cooktop in your kitchen, but can help out in a pinch when you need a little extra space to cook and to heat up food. Portable induction cooktops are going to be much more expensive than electric ones and require the same care and correct cookware as full-sized induction cooktops do.
7. Stovetop Griddles
Some cooktops come with a griddle built into them making it really easy to fry up eggs, pancakes, quesadillas, and other items. When you are shopping for a cooktop that has a griddle you will want to make sure that it offers enough space for the other heating elements so that you don’t feel like you don’t have enough room when you are cooking. These griddles are preferable to using a removable griddle that you put across the cooktop because they will heat very evenly and quickly. Because they are actually part of the cooktop and not a piece of cookware you won’t have to worry about scratching or damaging the heating elements on your cooktop when you use it.
Source: Home Depot
For the busy cook who wants to be able to keep an eye on their meal but doesn’t have the time or the inclination to stand by the cooktop all afternoon, a cooktop that offers Wi-Fi connectivity is a great choice. This cooktop will actually sync to an app that you can download on your phone or tablet, allowing you to monitor your cooktop from other locations. You can keep an eye on the heat of each burner and make sure that you are not going to be overcooking any food. This will also allow families with smaller children to make sure that their kids aren’t trying to turn on the cooktop and make themselves a snack.
9. Continuous Grates
Source: Home Depot
Gas cooktops come with the option of having continuous grates across the top, which creates a very professional and attractive look in your kitchen. This means that when you want to clean the cooktop or wash the grates that you will have larger and heavier grates to move, but many homeowners are willing to deal with these heavier grates because of the way that their new cooktop looks.
10. Automatic Re-Ignition
From time to time, on a gas cooktop, you may experience your burner flame going out. This can be really frustrating, especially if you are in the middle of cooking a large meal and don’t notice right away that there was an issue with your flame. If this has happened to you in the past and you want peace of mind that you won’t need to deal with this problem in the future then you will want to buy a cooktop that offers automatic re-ignition. This means that if your burner flame goes out for any reason while you are cooking that the cooktop will cause it to automatically re-ignite, saving you the difficulty and frustration of dealing with it yourself.
Source: Home Depot
Most people are comfortable using knobs to control the different heating elements on their cooktops. These turn easily, often are lit up by LED lights to make them easy to find, and can sometimes be removed to be cleaned. They are a great option and available on most types of cooktops, but if you have arthritis or other problems with hand strength then you may find that they are difficult to grasp and to turn.
12. Digital Touch Controls
Source: Home Depot
Fast and intuitive management of the temperature you’re using to cook with is really easy when you top for a cooktop that has digital touch controls. This means that with just the touch of a finger you can easily and instantly change the temperature that you’re using to cook. This is great not only for someone who is in a hurry or likes having the latest technology in the kitchen, but also for a user who struggles to grasp and turn knobs.
D. Number of Burners
1. 2 Burners
When you only have a little room in your kitchen for a cooktop and do not have a large family to cook for then a cooktop with only two heating elements may be right for you. These are going to be significantly smaller than typical cooktops which is great if you are cramped for space but it will take some creative cooking to make sure that you are able to create meals for your family. These cooktops are also a great option if you already have a main stove in your home and are looking for something secondary, as they will give you more space to cook.
2. 4 Burners
Most homeowners opt for a cooktop that has four burners or heating elements. This is the most common size which means that there are a lot of different options that you can choose from. For the average family, this size cooktop will provide enough space for cooking and will allow you to create delicious meals with very little trouble.
3. 5 Burners
Source: Home Depot
If you want a little extra room on your cooktop for cooking but don’t have a lot of extra space in the kitchen for a significantly larger cooktop then you may benefit from a cooktop with five burners. This extra burner can really make a difference in your cooking and provide you with a little extra space for heating up a meal. These types of cooktops are generally gas or induction, and it is very difficult to find an electric cooktop with a fifth burner.
4. 6 Burners
For the most professional cooking experience you will want to opt for a cooktop that has 6 burners. This provides you with ample room for cooking and is great if you have a large family or do a lot of entertaining at your home. When buying a cooktop this size you will want to make sure that your kitchen is large enough, as these cooktops tend to be much bigger than ones with four burners. Make sure that the cooktop won’t look out of place in your kitchen.