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Cooktop Buying Guide

A comprehensive cooktop guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy a new cooktop.


Getting Started

One of the most unique looking and commonly used appliance in the kitchen is a cooktop. A cooktop is a great addition to an island countertop or for those homes who have built-in ovens. When shopping for the right cooktop, you are going to want to keep a few things in mind to stay within your budget and style.

When it comes to choosing the right unit, you may want to begin with getting either gas or electric. If you have the opportunity to install either, make sure you weigh the pros and cons of the two.

Types

Electric Cooktops
Smooth ceramic cooktops have a sleek appearance and offer easy cleanup. However, you will need to use a special cleaner for the ceramic glass. Ceramic cooktops are available in a variety of colors to complement any kitchen design. The ribbon elements on a smooth-top cooktop heat quicker than the old coil elements and some are adjustable in size. Some sealed ceramic cooktops can be recessed so they are virtually flush with the countertop. Smoothtop cooktops have helpful features like variable-size elements, warming zones, and bridge elements.
Gas Cooktops
Sealed surface burners contain spills for easy cleanup. Many cooktops are designed with the sealed burners recessed below the surface of the countertop. Models are available with "gas-on-glass" where the sealed burner is mounted directly on the ceramic cooktop, combining the easy cleaning of an electric smooth top with the performance of gas. Sealed "simmer" burners allow you to cook delicate foods Precise temperature controls allow you to control the temperature for every cooking need. Most cast-iron, porcelain enamel-coated grates are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup.
Induction
These cooktops use electricity and electromagnetic technology to heat only the pan, leaving the burner plate much cooler than a gas or electric radiant burner. Since this type of current is used, you must use flat bottom, magnetic cookware otherwise no heat will be produced. Quicker, more efficient heating and a safer, quick-cooling cooking surface. Advanced technology allows the unit to automatically adjust energy output to the size of the pan bottom, regardless of its diameter. The most energy efficient cooktop currently on the market.

Video: Induction Cooktops

Features

Bridge Element
Combines two or three elements into one large cooking area which is ideal for oversized cooking.
Coil Heating Elements
Provide consistent and even heat on cooktop with a plug-in element that is removable for easy cleaning.
Downdraft Exhaust
Available on some cooktops, they are similar in function to a range hood. A fan draws smoke and odors down into the cooking unit and disperses them outdoors through a venting system.
Electronic Touch Controls
An electronic touch-control cooktop has no knobs and is available on electric cooktops. This type of cooktop offers other features as well: If an unoccupied element is left on, sensors in the cooktop will turn off the element. Sensors adjust the size of the element to the size of the pan being used. The control-lock feature for the elements is a safety feature to prevent accidental activation. A digital reminder timer alerts you when the cooking time is complete.
Electronic Ignition
An automatic system that instantly lights burners on gas cooktops.
Frameless Design
A smooth and seamless cooktop surface. Can be mounted flush with the top of the countertop or sitting on top of the countertop surface.
"Gas on Glass" Top
The sealed burner is mounted directly on the ceramic cooktop, offering the easy cleaning features of an electric smooth top with the performance of gas.
Modular Accessories
Some manufacturers offer modular attachments for their cooktops. These attachments are usually 12" to 15" and can come with either gas or electric units. Some examples of modular add-ons include a deep fryer, steamer, wok cooker, grill griddle, or burner.
Open Burners
This type of cooktop has large openings for burners. The opening is a little larger than the burner itself. The cooktop lifts open to clean spills that drain into openings in the cooktop.
Pan Presence Sensor
Detects when a burner element is left "on" and automatically shuts it off when not in use.
Pan Size Sensor
Automatically adjusts the heating element to the size of the pan.
Power Burners
Power burner cooktops will have at least one 14,000 BTU (or more) burner.
Sizes
Standard sizes for U.S. cooktops are 24", 30", 36", and 45". Professional series cooktops are available in these sizes: 30", 36", 42", 48", and 60".

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