Cooktop Buying Guide

Today's cooktops supply generous helpings of good looks and cooking convenience in sleek forms suited to an array of installations. Review these buying tips before you select a model for your kitchen.

Meant to partner with wall ovens, cooktops make for versatile kitchen layouts. Opting for a cooktop allows you to locate cooking operations in a perimeter countertop, island, or peninsula (with storage space below) and position a wall oven elsewhere in the work core to maximize efficiency.

Cooktops range from 30 to 48 inches in width and are commonly found in white, black, stainless-steel, and bisque finishes. Inset into a countertop, a cooktop offers a streamlined silhouette that doesn't intrude, no matter its finish. So, even a basic white model can complement old-world and modern kitchens alike.

The sleek appliances are available in gas, electric, halogen, induction, and modular models. Gas remains a popular choice for its quickly adjusted flames and fuel efficiency, while electric models are becoming more in demand thanks to their easy-clean surfaces and high-tech features. Halogen cooktops rely on quick-heating bulbs for heat. Induction cooktops, which stay cool to the touch, employ electro magnets that heat pots crafted of magnetic materials. Modular cooktops might combine gas and electric heating elements and/or offer varying configurations of burners, grills, woks, and deep fryers; some customizable types come with empty bays awaiting chef-style additions.

A cooktop's low-profile design creates safety concerns, so look for smooth-top ranges equipped with front controls to eliminate reaching across hot burners; lights that indicate burners are on; sensors that switch off not-in-use burners; and safety locks that ensure burners stay off when you're wiping up spills or when little tykes are about. 

Much like ranges, cooktops supply ample utility at every price point but deliver more flexibility and features as costs rise. Here's an overview of what your money will buy.

Standard cooktops, which range from $350 to $750, are 30 or 36 inches wide with four to five burners or heating elements. Lower-end electric cooktops sport traditional coil elements; at $500 and above, you'll find smooth-top ceramic-glass surfaces with ribbon heating elements. Gas cooktops might have standard burners or burners set within a continuous grate that allows for easy moving of pans from burner to burner. You'll also find cooktops with simmer and high-output burners and indicator lights.

Midrange cooktops, costing between $750 and $1,500, have the features mentioned above but offer more high-tech features, including electronic touch controls, power-boil burners, low-simmer burners that maintain low temps for cooking sauces, automatic reigniting (gas models), and warming zones for holding foods at temperature until serving. Electric cooktops might be equipped with bridge elements and different-size heating elements that can be adjusted to suit different pan sizes.

Top-of-the-line cooktops, priced between $1,500 and $5,000, are available in 30-inch, 36-inch, 42-inch, and 48-inch widths with four to eight burners or heating elements. Modular and induction models appear in this range, as do professional chef versions equipped with fryers, griddles, grills, and woks plus melt burners for scorch-free chocolate-melting and dual-stacked burners, with one burner offering two tiers of heat so cooks can easily switch between boil and simmer. High-tech overflow alarms, temperature-limiting controls, and child locks ensure safe operations.

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