Blog by Beebe Cline

<< back to article list

Find the Right Cooktop for Your Kitchen

When designing the work areas in your kitchen, having a cooktop that is separate from your oven or ovens allows for greater flexibility. Choosing the right cooktop takes some research, though. Gas and electric have long been the two standard offerings, and while traditional gas cooktops remain a popular choice, you may want to look beyond them and the familiar electric coil option and consider induction or radiant heat. You can also look for different sizes, from compact 30-inch ranges to ones that are 48 inches or larger, as well as different bells and whistles. Finally, you can even install individual modular cooktops that allow you to customize your setup or create a separate area for steaming food or cooking with a wok.

In my opinion, it's really hard to compare gas and electric cooktops, because they're such different cooking experiences — it's like trying to compare a grill to a griddle. But no matter what your preference, here's a basic guide to the options.
Induction and radiant electric cooktops. It can be hard, or even impossible, to tell the difference between an induction cooktop and a radiant electric cooktop just by looking at them. They often look exactly the same, with sleek ceramic glass surfaces rather than exposed coil rings.

The main difference between the two is how they provide heat. An induction cooktop uses an electromagnetic field that heats the cooking vessel rather than the cooktop itself. Induction cooktops heat up instantly and provide very precise temperature control. Induction-compatible cookware is typically needed for induction cooking.

A radiant cooktop heats and cools down gradually, much like a traditional oven. It does not require specialized cookware. Though it's not generally as well known as a gas cooktop, many professional cooks favor it.
Circles marking the location of the "burners" are usually found on both induction and radiant cooktops, although there are sleek options in which the black ceramic glass appears to have no markings at all.
Gas cooktops. Traditional gas cooktops are still preferred by many, because having a visible flame allows you to control the heat output more precisely. Another difference between gas cooktops and electric ones is that gas cooktop power is measured in BTUs (British thermal units).
Drop-in gas cooktops. Drop-in gas cooktops sit on top of the counter. They traditionally have control knobs on top as well. Most drop-in gas cooktops have sealed burners and aren't as powerful as their range-top alternatives. They're usually 30 or 36 inches wide and offer a burner option only, not the integrated grills or griddles that can be found in range-top options.
Gas range tops. A gas range top differs from a drop-in cooktop in that it looks like a range that is missing the oven. They traditionally have control knobs on the front apron rather than on top. Gas range tops are usually more powerful than their cooktop counterparts, with more BTUs.

Range tops typically come in all the same cooking surface arrangements as their range alternatives. A 30-inch model usually has four burners, just like a standard range does, while larger sizes offer more options, such as griddles and grills. These units often offer a specific simmer burner as well. Some manufacturers allow you to choose from closed or open burner options.
Range tops with griddles or grills included usually start in a 36-inch size and go up to 48- and 60-inch models. The arrangement of the burners is typically customizable. A 36-inch range top has a 12-inch griddle, whereas a 48-inch or larger one might have the option of a 24-inch griddle.

A few manufacturers offer a 48-inch range top with a French top, which has concentric rings between the burners. These rings distribute heat across the entire space they occupy, with the hottest spot in the center and the cooler areas on the edges. This allows you to simmer, cook sauces slowly and have a few different pots on the surface at one time.
This range top has a unique feature: a raised griddle and broiler in one. It's a great choice if you want both options without giving up the burners.
Modular cooktops. Independent, single-function cooktops are wonderful for small kitchens and allow for more flexibility in a larger kitchen. They usually come in 12-, 15- or 24-inch sizes. Options include standard gas burners, a wok cooker, grills, induction burners and steamers.
You can combine independent cooktops to create your own custom large-scale cooktop or separate the different elements into independent cooking stations.
A single countertop steamer is very popular with those looking for healthy cooking options.
A separate steamer, grill or induction cooktop in addition to a traditional gas range is many a home cook's ultimate dream setup.