Fix your favorite foods and prepare delicious new recipes with the addition of a sleek, stylish cooktop to your kitchen. Installing a separate cooktop gives you maximum flexibility with a wide range of placement options. Whether you want to install the unit in your kitchen island or countertop, they fit seamlessly into nearly any environment and offer a number of benefits that will boost your cooking performance.
Before you can begin putting in the right pinch of this and dash of that, you'll want to choose a model that best suits your cooking style and kitchen setup. Keep these questions in mind as you shop:
• What are the benefits of each type of cooktop?
• How often do you cook, and how much food do you generally prepare?
• Which type of cooktop is the best fit for your kitchen setup and décor?
• What design elements are included that make cleanup easier?
• What special features and options would you like to have at your disposal?
Types, Style and Performance
Cooktops make a great addition to any kitchen, providing you with a high-quality cooking surface perfect for preparing savory meals. The most common cooktop types are gas and electric. Some models feature a modular design that can accommodate both gas and electric heating elements as well as optional accessories such as grills, griddles, woks and more. Advanced technologies such as halogen-based heating, which uses halogen lights as a heating source, and induction cooking, which generates magnetic fields to heat cookware, are also available. Cooktop widths generally range from around 30" up to 45", though larger and smaller units are available.
Gas Cooktops: Gas-powered units heat food quickly and include different-sized burners ranging from more than 16,000 BTUs for high-output heat all the way down to under 500 BTUs for a delicate simmer. Standard gas burners average about 9,000 BTUs per hour. Look for upswept cooktops that contain spills and are easy to wipe down for fast cleanup. With most models now featuring pilotless ignition systems, startup is virtually hassle free. You can also purchase units with reigniting burners that automatically relight if the flame goes out. Look for a model that has sealed burners, which prevent liquid messes and food debris from getting below the cooktop for simple cleanup.
• Gas power provides fast heat and precise control
• Porcelain-enamel, tempered-glass and stainless-steel surfaces are most common
• Continuous grates allow smooth movement of cookware without spilling
Electric Cooktops: Electric cooktops allow you to easily generate a wide spectrum of heat levels. With electric units, you can select from a variety of available heating elements in a range of prices. Coil elements are the most economical and heat up quickly for fast cooking right away. Radiant heating elements are placed beneath a smooth glass ceramic surface, providing a stylish cooking area that is easy to care for. Solid disk elements are less common and feature heating elements embedded in a cast-iron burner for consistent heating and simple cleanup. Look for models with indicator lights that let you know the burners are on for added safety.
• Choose from coil, radiant or solid disk heating elements
• Indicator lights on some models tell you at a glance if a burner is on or hot
• Flat bottom cookware maximizes heating effectiveness
Modular Cooktops: Modular units can accommodate gas or electric heating elements and are compatible with a variety of custom cooking accessories, such as grill assemblies, woks, griddles and deep fryers. With modular cooktops, you can perform a wide range of cooking functions and customize the configuration to match your typical cooking routine. Some models come with heating elements and accessories included, but others provide open bays that let you select precisely which accessories you want. Modular cooktops are ideal if you cook many different dishes and like to have a wide range of options.
• Accommodates gas or electric elements and various accessories
• Units with open bays allow you to customize them to suit your preferences
• Covers for open bays provide a sleek look when the unit is not in use
Halogen Cooktops: Units with halogen bulbs feature graceful glass ceramic surfaces. Within seconds of being turned on, the heating elements begin to glow, letting you know they're active and ready to cook. Burners tend to cool down quickly, reducing the chances of an accident. Look for models with hot-surface indicator lights for added safety.
• Burners heat up quickly and glow to let you know they are active
• Heating element indicator lights alert you to danger
Induction Cooktops: Though generally requiring a larger up-front investment, induction cooktops are highly energy efficient and make cooking safer because the surface never gets hot. Magnetic fields heat only the cookware itself, leaving the surface of the unit cool to the touch. The surface of induction cooktops is smooth and easy to clean.
• Elements heat up quickly and are highly energy efficient
• Magnetic cookware is required for operation
| Cooktop type
|| Features to consider
|Gas||Natural Gas||High fuel efficiency; quick warmup times; wide range of heat settings||Sealed burners facilitate cleanup; pilotless ignition for easy startup|
|Halogen|| Halogen bulbs
|| Burners glow when in use;
Smooth surface for easy cleaning
| Indicator lights let you know when surface is hot
|Induction|| Magnetic field
|| High energy efficiency and fast heat-up;
Cool surface prevents accidental burns
| Magnetic cookware required
| Radiant, Coil and Solid Disk Electric
|| Variety of heating elements;
May include expandable elements
| Radiant and solid disk units are easy to clean;
Indicator lights show when cooktop is hot
|| Gas or Electricity
|| Selectable power source
Accommodates helpful cooking accessories
| Open bays let you customize cooktop;
Covers for open bays enhance appearance
Downdraft Venting: Cooktops that include a built-in downdraft vent eliminate the need for a range hood by drawing smoke, steam and cooking odors down and away from your kitchen for fresh, clean air.
Electronic Touchpad Controls: Touch-sensitive controls with digital displays make it easy to select precise cooking temperatures and make operation more intuitive.
Wok/Griddle: Some units accommodate a wok accessory, opening up a whole new range of recipes, from vegetable stir-fry to shrimp lo mein. Other models give you the ability to whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes by providing space for a griddle.
Simmer/High-Heat Burners: Select a unit with a simmer and/or high-heat burner to expand your cooking repertoire. Simmer burners easily handle more delicate foods like savory sauces. High-heat burners provide increased heat that can boil water rapidly or quickly cook other items.
Dual Elements and Bridge Elements: Electric cooktops sometimes offer dual elements, which allow you to select between two differently sized elements (6" and 9", for example) to provide the most efficient heat for the size of cookware you're using. Other cooktops have bridge elements that sit between two of the main burners to accommodate oblong or oversized pots and pans or a griddle.
Additional Burners: Most standard cooktops include four burners, but some models include one or two additional burners that allow you to prepare more items at one time for high-volume meal preparation and large gatherings.
Grills: Add a grill to your cooktop for increased performance that allows you to cook up juicy burgers, steaks and more right in your kitchen.
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