Kristen Hicks on August 12, 2016 3 Comments Table of Contents Why You Should Consider A Cooktop Differences Between Ranges & Cooktops Types of Cooktops to Choose From Factors to Consider While Shopping Customer Reviews of Popular Brands From simple tasks like making tea to more complicated endeavors such as preparing risotto or grilling a steak, the cooktop is one of the most important appliances in any kitchen. In many homes, the cooktop is actually a range that comes attached with an oven down below it. These are great, and for the most part, will accomplish the same tasks. But, what if you don’t need an oven or you want save storage space in your cabinets below? This is where a built-in cooktop can help you. Whether you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen or just want the ability to cook on your kitchen island, finding the best cooktop for your home is not an easy task. You have lots of options, brands and models to consider. Our guide below will layout all of the information you need to know while shopping, in hopes of helping you make the best buying decision for your particular situation. Click Here To Shop For A Cooktop Why You Should Consider A Cooktop Maybe you’re thinking of remodeling your kitchen or you suddenly have to replace an old appliance, there are many benefits to going with a built-in cooktop instead of a range. Here’s a quick list. Flexible design options — Allows you more options for design, both in terms of aesthetics and convenience. You can place the appliance where it makes the most sense for you, such as on a kitchen island. Less heat in the kitchen — Buying a cooktop means you’ll deal with less heat in your immediate area any time you are using both the cooktop and oven at the same. Allows more storage space — Unlike a range, a built-in cooktop doesn’t come on top of an oven. This allows you to preserve your cabinet space below and use it for storage purposes. This is a great place to keep your pots and pans, for example. Buying your cook top separate from a stove will usually cost you more than purchasing a combined model, but the benefits of keeping them separate may just outweigh the added cost for many consumers. This is wholly dependent on your specific lifestyle, kitchen space and budget. The Difference Between a Cooktop & Range Ranges and cooktops are very similar in nature, yet very different when it comes to design, form and function. To help you figure out which one would be best for you, let’s take a closer look at the differences and similarities these two appliances share. Similarities: Both of these cooking appliances are available in a wide variety of sizes, but they are most commonly found in 30 to 36 inches. They also share the versatility of being able to use gas or electricity, or perhaps a combination of both. You will also find many of the same features available in both types of appliances, including much of the same cooking surfaces, grates and zones. Ventilation is another similarity these two share. Most ranges and cooktops will require a separate appliance to help exhaust fumes and odors, such as a range hood or over-the-range microwave. However, you can find some units that have built-in downdraft ventilation. Differences: A range is going to be more of a “slide-in” appliance that consists of a cooktop with a wall oven down below. It is installed within your cabinetry for a seamless, built-in appearance. A cooktop, on the other hand, is considered a “drop-in” appliance that allows you to install it directly into your countertops, yet still keep cabinet space down below. Most importantly, a cooktop does not include an oven. The knobs that control each unit are also located in different areas. On a range, the knobs are going to be located on the front of the unit. Whereas on a cooktop, the knobs will be located on top of the unit near the grates. This is a notable difference to consider, as families with small children may prefer a cooktop that have the knobs located in an area that is harder to reach. Another difference, which is largely dependent on the specific model you buy, is that ranges are often more versatile in how they operate, the features available and the overall cooking power they offer. This makes them the preferred choice for commercial purposes and home chefs, but not necessarily the best option for everyone. The Rangetop: You can also choose to buy a rangetop, which is very much a hybrid between a range and a cooktop. With the versatility and cooking power of a range, this device does not include an oven down below. A slide-in device that drops down into your countertops, a rangetop will hang over your cabinetry a bit and has the knobs located on the front of the unit. Types of Built-In Cooktops The main two categories of cooktops are gas and electric, but there are several different types of electric cooktops to consider if you go that route. Keep in mind, if you don’t already have a gas hookup in your kitchen, then you’ll need to stick with one of the electric options unless you’re willing to pay extra to have one put in. Gas Cooktops Click Here To Shop For A Gas Cooktop Gas cooktops are the preferred choice of many chefs and cooking enthusiasts. They allow for very precise heating, so it’s easy to know how much heat you’re applying to your food at any given moment and you can quickly move between heating levels. You don’t have to wait for gas burners to heat up – just turn the stove on and you can immediately start cooking. On the flip side, when you turn it off, it’s all the way off. You never have to worry about burning yourself on a stove that’s slow to cool. Gas cooktops also beat most electric models in terms of energy efficiency. Gas cooktops can be a pain to clean though. You have more parts to deal with so have to take apart and clean multiple elements. And, as previously mentioned, if you choose to purchase a gas cooktop when you don’t already have a gas hookup in your kitchen, you’ll end up paying a lot more to get that set up before you can actually use your new cooktop. Benefits: Can cook with precise heats. Lets you change the heating levels quickly. Heats up and cools down in no time. To Keep in Mind: Hard to clean. You need a gas hookup. Coil Electric Cooktops Buy a Coil Electric Cooktop on Amazon Coil electric cooktops are one of the most affordable options you’ll find. When you turn them on, the electricity heats metal coils in a spiral. The coils are pretty resilient and hard to damage and you can use any type of cookware on a coil cooktop. They’re slow to heat up and, like gas cooktops, they’re difficult to clean as you have to deal with multiple parts (the coils and the drip pan, in this case). If affordability is your priority though, they’re probably the best choice. Benefits: Affordable. You can use any type of cookware. Durable. To Keep in Mind: Take a long time to heat up. Heat levels aren’t as precise as with gas. Difficult to clean. Smoothtop Electric Cooktops Buy A Smooth Electric Cooktop on Amazon Smoothtop electric cooktops are popular with many consumers because they’re simple to use and easy to clean. They’re also a popular choice for those concerned about aesthetics – they have a nice, sleek look that fits in with many types of kitchen designs. Many come with special features, like a low-heat setting for keeping dishes warm or a bridge element that connects two burners for when you have an especially large dish you’re using (like a casserole dish). They’ll cost you more than a coil cooktop and they’re more easily damaged. If you don’t clean up spills pretty quickly, you can end up with stains on your cooktop that are difficult to clean up. And you’ll want to avoid using glass or cast iron dishes with a flat cooktop so they don’t scratch the surface. Benefits: Nice, sleek aesthetic. Easy to use. Easy to clean. Often come with special features. To Keep in Mind: Cost more than coil cooktops. Easily damaged and stained. Have to avoid some types of cookware. Induction Cooktops Click Here To Shop For An Induction Cooktop If you like staying on top of the latest technologies, then an induction cooktop may be the best choice for you. They use electro magnetism to cook your food directly, without actually heating the surface. They’re the safest cooktop, especially for homes with children in them, since there’s no chance of burns. They don’t require any time to heat up, yet cook faster than both gas and other electric cooktops. They can easily rival (and even surpass) gas cooktops in the level of precision they offer and they’re the most energy efficient of all your cooktop options. The main two downsides of choosing an induction cooktop are cost and the type of cookware you need. They’ll be one of the most expensive options you come across, and you may have to buy all new dishes to use on them since they only work with certain types (metal cookware, specifically, anything attracted to a magnet). Those that live in hot climates or have small kitchens will appreciate that induction stoves don’t heat the room at all. While many cooks are hesitant at first because they like being able to see the flame on their gas cooktop, most are won over once they actually start using one. Pretty much every induction cooktop we researched got stellar reviews from users. Benefits: The fastest option – it can boil water in a minute and doesn’t need any time to heat up. Safe for kids – the surface stays cool to the touch. Doesn’t add extra heat to the room. Offers great precision. Most energy efficient option. To Keep in Mind: Expensive. Only works with some types of cookware. Factors to Keep in Mind When Choosing a Cooktop Your habits, budget and personal priorities will all play a role in determining which cooktop is the best one for you. These are some of the main factors we would recommend that you keep in mind while shopping or browsing your options. 1. Size Most cooktops will fall into the 30-36 inch range and have four or five burners. For most kitchens, that should be plenty. For home chefs that often make more complicated meals and have several burners going at once, a larger cooktop may be worth the extra cost. Your cooktop will take up space on the counter, so keep in mind how much space you have to work with and how much of your kitchen counter space will be put to use. If you’re replacing a cooktop, you probably have specific dimensions you need to stick with to make installation as easy as possible. If you fall into this category, be sure to measure your old unit or search online for the model number to give you precise dimensions. A smoothtop electric cooktop can be used as extra counter space when not in use, but only if you’re good about remembering to remove anything that’s on it before lighting it. 2. Cost The cost you’re looking at with a cooktop will depend on a variety of factors. You can expect large cooktops to cost more. Electric cooktops with lots of special features will also come with a higher price tag. Induction cooktops are pretty expensive across the board, unless you consider a portable model. Don’t forget to factor in long-term costs as well though. Chief amongst those is energy costs – induction will cost you less in terms of your monthly energy bill and other electric models will cost you the most. If you have to replace parts like the grates on a gas cooktop or the drip bowls on a coil one, that will cost you too. And of course, a cooktop that doesn’t last long will need to be entirely replaced once it stops working, so researching the durability of the models you consider can save you money in the long term as well. 3. Durability In spite of being one of the cheaper options, electric coil cooktops actually perform pretty well in terms of durability, particularly in comparison to electric smoothtop cooktops. In general though, the brand and quality of the cooktop you purchase will make a big difference in how long you can count on it to last. Do some research to figure out the reputation of the brands you are considering, as well as read reviews on each particular model that you think may work best. Be sure to pay special attention to the maintenance requirements per the model you buy. With proper maintenance and regular cleaning, you will help ensure that your cooktop lats for years to come. Additionally, if you go with smoothop model, try to avoid using dishes that will scratch the surface. 4. Ease of Cleaning Smoothtop and induction cooktops win in this category. They’re flat which makes wiping them down to clean them a pretty simple process. Smoothtop cooktops will become much harder to clean if you don’t take care of spills quickly – they’ll burn into the surface and you will have to put a little bit of elbow grease into it later on. Both gas and coil cooktops have several pieces you’ll have to take care of separately each time you undertake to give them a good cleaning, which requires some time and work. Typically, the grates on gas cooktops are going to be dishwasher safe, but this will vary from model to model. If easy cleaning is a top priority for you, then induction cooktops will be your best bet. They have the smooth surface that’s easy to wipe down, without the risk of the heat burning the spills and making them more difficult to clean. No matter what type of cooktop you end up buying, the instruction manual will include cleaning instructions. 5. Venting If your cooktop is installed somewhere without a range hood or over-the-range microwave above it, you’ll need to figure out a venting alternative to help exhaust the steam, odors and fumes that are generated while you cook. A downdraft exhaust system can take care of the problem. They’re not usually as powerful as overhead models, but they can help clear out the fumes from your kitchen and move them outside. 6. Safety With its ability to warm food without the surface ever becoming hot to the touch, an induction cooktop will be the safest option hands down. Gas cooktops do use open flames, so you have to be careful about what you leave close to or on the cooktop. If you’re not paying attention, a dishtowel or oven mitt can easily catch fire. Electric cooktops usually change colors when in use, as well as while they’re cooling. This will let you know when they’ll be hot to the touch. Both electric and gas cooktops can be dangerous if you’re not careful in how you use them. Safety is always going to depend on your own actions and how you use the device, more than the type of cooktop itself. For a lot of consumers, the type of cooktop you’re most familiar with will be the safest choice between the two because you already know how to use it and what to avoid doing. 7. Controls Some higher-end electronic smoothtop cooktops do away with the knobs you see on most cooktops in lieu of digital controls. These offer convenient one-touch activation, have a sleek, high-tech look to them, and are easier to clean than knobs are. A cooktop that has knobs for controls is perfectly functional, but if you want something that looks a little nicer and is a bit easier to use, then a model with digital controls may be a worthy upgrade. 8. Extra Features Many cooktops, especially higher end models, will come with extra features that add convenience or functionality. Here are a few to keep an eye out for: Power Boil Burners: If you hate waiting for soups or water to boil, a power boil burner helps your food get there faster. Warming Zones: Some electric cooktops include warming zones or settings where you can keep your already-cooked food just warm enough, without worrying about burning it. This feature will keep it ready to serve, but never overcooked. Control Lockout: If you have kids in the house that you don’t want messing with the cooktop, a model with a control lockout function will allow you to limit who can actually use the cooktop. This can go a long way in regard to overall safety. Cooking Modules: Some manufacturers produce modules that expand the types of cooking you can do with your cooktop. These can include a wok cooker, grill, steamer, deep fryer or griddle. Popular Brands of Cooktops The brand you choose to go with for your cooktop will affect the quality and durability of the product you end up with. Before settling on any particular cooktop, it’s good to gain a clear picture of what to expect from each brand. We analyzed customer reviews for different cooktops on the market from each of brands below to give you an idea of their reputation with customers. 1. Avanti Better known for their line of mini fridges and wine coolers, Avanti does have one popular portable induction cooktop that gets great reviews from customers. The cooktop is small and affordable, so for customers that are curious about induction, but not willing to make the splurge for a larger induction cooktop yet, it offers a good chance to try the technology out. 2. Bosch Bosch offers gas, electric and induction cooktops. Most of their models get good reviews – especially the induction cooktop, which gets almost uniformly positive reviews. Some of the reviewers for their stainless steel gas cooktop are less impressed, as the steel burns easily from typical use and the company won’t do much about it. On the whole though, their cooktops seem to get good marks for performance. 3. Dacor Dacor offers a wide variety of stylish electric, induction and gas cooktops. Some of their models tend to fall on the higher end of the price range, but the reviews suggest they’re worth it. Dacor customers say their cooktops look great, work well, and are easy to clean. They’re a brand with a solid reputation for quality. 4. Fagor Fagor sells both gas and induction cooktops. Their induction models get very positive reviews. Their gas models fall on the more affordable end of the price spectrum, and response to them is a bit more mixed. Reviews vary based on the model. Most reviewers like the look of their Fagor gas cooktops, but some have problems with how certain models function, like having a hard time getting the flames to go low enough for a simmer. 5. Frigidaire Frigidaire offers a wide variety of both gas and electric models. While their line of products are a bit pricier than other brands listed here, the reviews for their cooktops are almost uniformly positive. With many of these customers praising how durable their stovetops are, as well as the number of features available. This is certainly one brand worth considering at the beginning of your search. 6. General Electric General Electric is always one of the leading brands when it comes to home and kitchen appliances. They offer a wide variety of cooktops, of which are available in almost every type, size and finish you can imagine. The reviews from customers are overwhelmingly on the positive side. You would be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t consider a GE cooktop during your search. 7. Jenn Air Jenn-Air cooktops are a pretty well-known name in the world of cooking. They sell gas, electric, and induction cooktops, some of them with downdraft exhaust systems. Most of the reviews we found for their various models leaned toward the positive, with some complaints about durability. We did also come across some complaints about the downdraft technology not working well, so keep your expectations realistic if you choose to go that route. 8. Kenyon Kenyon makes a number of affordable electric cooktops – most of them smaller models with just one or two burners. Reviews of their cooktops are positive. Customers like the elegant look of them, say that they work well, and find the size convenient for small spaces like apartments or office kitchens. 9. Kitchen Aid Kitchen Aid sells many high-end gas, electric and induction cooktops with predominantly solid reviews across the board. We did come across some complaints in the reviews that generally seemed model-specific – such as an electric cooktop with burners that are hard to see the outline of or units that need a lot of repairs for the cost. While they have a good reputation on the whole, it’s smart to check out the reviews of any particular model before you buy. 10. NuWave NuWave is another popular brand. While they don’t have the depth of products that GE or Jenn Air has, they have one portable induction cooktop that is extremely popular. Like any “As Seen On TV” product, the reviews for the Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop (PIC) are very polarized. You either love it or you hate it. The vast majority of the reviews are positive. It is easily one of the best portable cooktops available. However, if you are looking for a large or permanent installation for your kitchen, then this is not the best cooktop for you. 11. Smeg Smeg makes a number of gas and electric cooktops. Their cooktops fall on the higher end pricewise and, while the number of reviews we found for their cooktops was limited, the ones we did find were glowing. Reviewers said their Smeg cooktops looked great, worked well and they were happy that they went with this brand. Smeg is well-known for their line of retro refrigerators, of which get fantastic reviews, so it’s not much of a stretch to think that their cooktop units would be the same of the same quality. Definitely worth considering, but be sure to seek out reviews for each model you are considering. 12. Summit Summit makes affordable gas, electric, and induction cooktops. Reviewers tend to describe their Summit cooktops as basic models that get the job done. Many praise the cooktop for being a good value for the price. There were a couple of models that got mixed reviews, but most were predominantly positive. This may not be the most well-known brand, but if you are looking for an affordable option without all the bells and whistles, then Summit is worth checking out. 13. Verona Verona is another reputable brand in the world of cooktops and ranges. makes a wide variety of stylish electric and gas cooktops. Most of the reviews we found for Verona cooktops were positive. Customers like the aesthetic of their cooktops, usually find them easy to install, and praise many models for being great for small spaces. Verona is most certainly one of the brands that should be at the top of your list. Conclusion If you’re in the market for a new cooktop, you’ve got a number of solid options to choose from. It’s important to take some time to really consider how your cooking habits will influence how you use the appliance, what you most want to get out of one and various features that you will use (or not use). Taking the time to find the best cooktop for your kitchen will make the time you spend within it more convenient and enjoyable, as well as go a long way in helping you achieve the look you want for your kitchen.