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Choosing a cooktop for your kitchen

Updated: Sept. 30, 2010
An induction cooktop from GE. You'll have at least four cooking-mode choices to consider when you visit the appliance store. (Courtesy GE) An induction cooktop from GE. You'll have at least four cooking-mode choices to consider when you visit the appliance store. (Courtesy GE)
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By Jessica Tolliver
 

When choosing a new cooktop, consider all the options and special features on the market today to find the model that best meets your needs.

Types of Cooktops

When shopping for a cooktop, you'll come across several general types, including the following:

  • Electric coil. In the past, coil burners on electric cooktops have been slow to warm up and cool down, but recent advancements have improved the appliances' response times. Electric cooktops are highly regarded for maintaining low temperatures well -- an important consideration for cooking sauces and melting chocolate.
  • Electric smoothtop. Electric smoothtop cooktops include many of the same features as electric coil cooktops, but the burners are contained beneath a ceramic glass surface. The smooth surface features a streamlined design and is easy to clean because there are no crevices where crumbs and spills can collect.
  • Gas. Gas cooktops are quick to warm up and cool down. Many cooks prefer them because the heat source is visible and can be adjusted easily.
  • Induction. Induction cooktops use magnetic energy, so the surface of the cooktop never feels warm to the touch. Instead, a magnetic reaction between the burner and the pot or pan causes the cookware and its contents to heat up quickly. Induction cooktops are also particularly energy-efficient. They do, however, require specific cookware, such as steel or cast iron. With no crevices, the smooth surface is easy to clean.

Cooktop Sizes and Finishes

Most cooktops are designed to fit in a standard depth of 21 to 21.5 inches, though some professional-grade models are slightly deeper for an industrial look. When choosing your cooktop, you'll notice that most models are 30, 36 or 48 inches wide. (The wider cooktops often have five or six burners instead of the traditional four.)

In addition to the standard options of white, black and stainless steel, some manufacturers are now making cooktops in a variety of colors -- red, blue, yellow and green.

Cooktop Features

Cooktops today come with a host of features that offer added convenience. Consider the following when choosing your cooktop:

  • Touch-pad controls. These electric controls eliminate bulky knobs, which can be difficult to clean. Some touch-pad controls also include a child lock-out function for safety.
  • High-power burners. Some cooktops come with one or two high-power burners. These burners heat up to especially high temperatures -- some go as high as 15,000 BTUs on a gas cooktop or 2,500 watts on an electric -- allowing for searing and braising foods as well as boiling liquids quickly.
  • Continuous grates. Grates that run continuously across the cooktop make it easy to slide a heavy pot from one burner to another. Like smoothtop cooktops, they also better accommodate extra-large pots and pans.
  • Sealed burners. On gas cooktops, look for sealed burners. Sealed burners include a metal cap to cover the small holes where the gas and flames emerge. The cap also distributes the heat of the flame more evenly and smoothly.
  • Built-in ventilation. Some cooktops include built-in ventilation systems to vent any smoke that may occur when searing meat or cooking foods like bacon. A cooktop with built-in ventilation is useful if you do not want a vent hood over the cooktop.
  • Special cooking tools. Some cooktops include built-in grills, griddles or woks.When buying your next cooktop, consider all the options.
  • Understanding the available choices -- and ultimately deciding which features are most important to you -- will ensure that you choose the right model.

    Jessica Tolliver Jessica Tolliver writes about home decorating and maintenance for many magazines, including House Beautiful Kitchens and Baths, House Beautiful Home Building, Good Housekeeping Do It Yourself and numerous special interest publications for Better Homes and Gardens and Woman's Day. She is the author of two books on decorating, and she uses her microwave to disinfect kitchen sponges.

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