cooktop buying guide: how to buy a cooktop to fit your needs
For many, the cooktop is the heart of the kitchen and home to an array of tasty creations. A built-in cooktop is versatile in the kitchen and provides a distinctive look as it can be installed in a variety of ways. Cooktops come in many sizes and styles, featuring innovative designs to make cooking more convenient. That’s why we’ve put together this informative guide to help you in the decision-making process.
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A built-in cooktop or rangetop opens up an array of options in kitchen design. The variety of sizes available and flexible install enhances the value of a built-in cooking for anyone looking to maximize kitchen space. Built-in cooking also provides a more distinguished, seamless look in the kitchen.
Installation configurations could include:
– Install into counter with cabinets below (gain storage space)
– Install into counter above a built-in wall oven (ultimate built-in appearance)
– Install into island (provides convenient access to cooking area)
– Install near refrigerator or pantry (speed up food prep time)
In general, traditional freestanding (and built-in) ranges are 30″ wide which limits the number of burners and cooking options that can be offered. In contrast, built-in cooktops and ranges are made in a variety of sizes including 15″, 30″, 36″ and 48″. Convenience features such as downdraft ventilation, induction cooking and electronic touch controls are offered more in built-in cooking versus traditional 30″ ranges.
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Cooktops and rangetops differ in size, style and features. Cooktops are available in gas or electric and require specific counter cutout for installation. Counter must surround the cooktop on all four sides for installation to work. Cooktops vary in length and depth but are mostly limited to 30″or 36″ width.
In contrast, rangetops are mostly available in gas and must be installed into both the countertop and cabinet. Rangetops require counter to surround on 3 sides (rear and sides), while supported by a cabinet below. They offer more of a commercial style with burner controls on the front and high-output burners. Rangetops are offered in 30″, 36″ or 48″ widths and can often be ordered to include a griddle or grill in addition to burners.
Most rangetops are installed with a stainless steel trim piece that finishes the built-in appearance. This trim is required when the rangetop is installed into an island and often used when installed against a wall with a tile backsplash. Back guards, ranging from 3″-24″ high (some with shelves and hooks) can also be ordered to complete your ideal kitchen design.
Over the last few decades cooktops have been designed in a variety of widths including 12″, 15″ 24″, 26″, 32″, 45″ and 48″. However, in the last several years, cooktop sizes have been mostly limited to 30″ or 36″ wide. Designed for installation in a standard 24″ deep counter, cooktop depths vary from 19″-22″. Excluding knobs, burners or grates, general cooktop height is 2 1/2″ – 4″. Always confirm measurements and installation requirements prior to purchase to ensure a proper fit.
When replacing a cooktop, two sets of dimensions should be considered: the cutout and overall dimensions. Overall dimensions refer to the cooktop’s exterior dimensions while cutout dimensions refer to the countertop cutout required for installation. Overall dimensions are always larger than cutout dimensions. Finding a cooktop with dimensions that best match the size of the existing setup will result in the easiest installation.
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A commonly asked question is “what’s better, gas or electric?” There’s really no right answer to that question. Each fuel source has advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences in relation to your unique cooking style can help guide you towards the cooktop that best fits your needs.
Gas cooking is generally preferred by professional and aspiring chefs due to the fact that burner output can be precisely controlled. With the aid of electronic ignition, gas burners can be lit quickly and provide instant-on/ instant-off burner control. Most gas cooktops also feature power burners that reach high temperatures used to achieve rapid boiling, and simmer burners that maintain low temperatures ideal for sauce preparation.
Though true in the past, a common misconception regarding cooktops today is that the performance of electric cooktops is inferior to gas. Electric cooktop burners, which run on 220 volts, can achieve the same high temperatures as their gas counterparts. Some models also feature electric simmer burners that can maintain low temperatures. One difference is that electric cooktops (with the exception of induction) cannot go from high to low heat instantaneously as they require time to heat up.
One advantage to choosing an electric cooktop is the option of a ceramic glass surface. Ceramic cooktops are the easiest to clean & maintain and will retain their new appearance longer than any other cooking surface in the industry. Though expensive & fragile when first introduced decades ago, today’s ceramic cooktops are extremely durable, scratch resistant and affordable.
For those who desire the ultimate in electric cooking, induction is highly recommended. Though induction cooktops require the use of iron cookware only, induction heat allows for the fastest burner heat in the industry, the lowest burner temperatures for simmering, and infinite control on the burner heat. Induction surfaces offer unique safety features and are the absolute easiest to keep clean.
Cooktops are mostly available in black, white, or stainless steel colors. Some manufacturers still offer cooktop models in bisque, but selection is limited.
Electric ceramic cooktops, or gas cooktops with ceramic surface are available in black, true white, white or bisque. The color “true white” is a pure, bright white glass while “white” is more of a speckled gray. In some models, black cooktops can be ordered with a stainless steel trim. Depending on style, the stainless trim may cover all four sides of the cooktop or it may trim the front and back / side edges only. The terms “framed” or “unframed” are also used to describe whether or not a cooktop has a stainless steel trim.
Rangetops are predominantly stainless steel but often allow customization of knob colors, accents & bezels to enhance the products design & finish. Some manufacturers (such as Viking) offer custom colors. In models that are custom colored, the cooking surface is generally stainless steel and the custom color is used as an accent. Back guards are also available as an additional accessory to a rangetop. Back guards range in size from 3′-24″ inches high and can include shelves & hooks convenient for kitchen organization.
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Induction, a new innovation in ceramic electric cooktops, utilizes a unique scientific principle that provides numerous cooking, cleaning, and safety benefits.
Essentially, an induction burner acts as a high-frequency magnet. Cookware used on an induction cooktop must have ferrous iron content – in layman’s terms – a magnet must be able to stick to it. The magnetic field generated by the induction element reacts with the iron in the cookware which transfers heat and energy into the cooking vessel.
Induction is able to deliver the best cooking performance in electric cooktops. Induction burners yield the quickest heat-up time in the industry, with some reaching boiling temperatures in mere 90-seconds. Induction can also achieve the instant-on/ instant-off convenience of gas burners and allows for a wide range of burner heat control.
Induction cooktops offers a degree of safety that is exclusive by design. Because induction heat only reacts with ferrous iron, it is not hot to the touch. A young child could place his or her hand on an active induction burner and not be burned; though a ferrous iron pot on that same burner could reach boiling temperatures in 90 seconds.
For those concerned about cleaning and maintenance, the induction cooktop is the absolute easiest to clean and maintain. Because induction heat only reacts with ferrous iron, food spilled on the cooktop will not bake onto the surface as it would with a traditional gas or electric cooktop, making it much easier to keep clean.
What are some new and unique features on today’s cooktops?
More space can mean more burners
The larger the cooktop, the more burners it could have. To maximize cooking versatility, consider what size will work best and what burner configuration is ideal:
- 30″ cooktops – 4 burners
- 36″ cooktop – 5 burners; 6 burners or 4 burners and warming zone
High Output Burners
The majority of gas cooktops feature burners that can reach up to 14,000 BTUs with power burners that reach as high as 18,000 BTUs. Cooktops with specialty wok burners can reach as high as 30,000 BTUs. Electric burner elements are designed to reach boiling temperatures as quickly as gas fueled burners. Maximum BTU output and number of burners offered varies by brand and model.
Simmer burners on gas cooktops can go as low as 140 degrees. Though more difficult to achieve on an electric cooktop, the use of thermostats help to ensure smooth and consistent low temperatures. Low burner heat is ideal for preparing sauces, chocolates, and delicate items that are susceptible to scorching at high temperatures.
Electronic Touch Controls
A touch control cooktop allows for more precise, digital controls for burner management. Touch controls eliminate the need for knobs, which makes the cooking surface easier to clean and also gives the kitchen a seamless, integrated appearance.
Some deluxe cooktops and rangetops feature control knobs that individually light up when activated. This not only adds a beautiful aesthetic touch your kitchen but can also help identify if burners have been turned off after use.
If a gust of wind or draft in the house extinguishes a low gas flame, the cooktop will sense it and re-ignite the burner automatically. This safety feature is designed to keep natural gas from leaking into the house in the event that the gas flame is unintentionally extinguished.
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Most expandable elements are 6″, 9″ or 12″ round. They are offered on electric cooktops only and used to accommodate various sized pots on the same burner area.
Dual burners use an inner burner ring and outer burner ring to accommodate various sized pots on the same burner area.
Some electric cooktops feature an interconnected bridge burner. This allows for even heat along the entire cooking surface, ideal for using a griddle or oblong dish.
A low output burner (gas) or low watt burner element (electric) is used to provide a warm zone where food can be kept warm until is ready to be served.
Gas cooktops with continous, interlocking grates allow for convenient transfer of pots and pans from one burner to another. Continuous grates also provide a more integrated appearance with the countertop.
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For the ultimate in cooking customization, specialty cooktops (or integrated modules) take the cake. For those who want more than the traditional setup, or perhaps are limited by space, these specialty cooktops provide an opportunity to have a little bit of everything.
Many manufacturers offer two-burner cooktops available in both gas and electric. These cooktops range in size from 12″-18″ wide, depending on the model. Offering all the same features as a full-size cooktop, these 2-burner surfaces are ideal in galley kitchens, wet bars and other areas where space is a consideration. In addition, those who enjoy cooking on both gas and electric surfaces don’t have to compromise – they can have both! These units can be installed side by side.
15″ Deep Fryer Module
The accurate temperature control of the Wolf 15″ Fryer module will enable you to seal in that great flavor of the food without absorbing any unnecessary grease. The extremely deep fryer can handle large portions of small food items or even a whole chicken. The Wolf 15″ Fryer comes with one large and two small fryer baskets.
15″ Electric Steamer Module
From a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit to boil, you can keep food hot for long periods of time in the 15″ Wolf Steamer module or defrost food easily without drying out or losing its flavor. With a two-gallon capacity this unit can hold up to 14 cups of cooked pasta and includes one solid and one perforated stackable insert pan.
15″ Electric Grill Module
With the 15″ Wolf Grill module you can grill steaks and all sorts of food indoors and without the hassle of lava rocks or briquettes. Two 1400-watt heating elements – front and back – enable you to cook on one side of the module while keeping other items at serving temperature. For ease of cleaning, unwanted grease is drained into a removable collection pan.
15″ Multi-Function Burner
For true wok cooking, the burner of the Wolf 15″ Multi-Function cooktop sculpts the gas flame into a plume, focusing heat in the center of the wok, then dispersing it outward for precisely controlled cooking. The low-profile grate fits nicely with any Wolf gas cooktop and can accommodate your largest stockpot. The powerful burner exceeds 22,000 Btu/hr.
Most manufacturers offer a one year limited warranty on their product. For as little as $50 or $60 Warners’ Stellian offers a Product Protection Guarantee designed to keep your new cooktop or rangetop preparing your family’s meals for years to come. Our Product Protection Guarantee covers all functional parts and labor on your new appliance for up to two, three or five years. return to top
We hope you have found this buying guide to be useful and informative and we appreciate the time you took to read through it. If you have questions that were not answered by this guide, please feel free to contact us.