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Cooktop Buying Guide

What do you look for when purchasing a new kitchen cooktop? Gas cooktops and electric cooktops are becoming increasingly popular when it comes to kitchen remodeling. A cooktop consists only of burners on the top and is usually installed into a countertop, providing home chefs with all of the luxuries that were once reserved for a professional stove. A cooktop does not include the oven portion on the bottom, as a traditional stove does, so combining this unit with a space-saving wall oven is the ideal solution to increasing space while upgrading or remodeling your kitchen.

Sizing Your Cooktop

Kitchen Cooktop

One of the most important considerations you will need to make when shopping for a new cooktop is the available space you have. Whether you are replacing an existing cooktop or are remodeling your kitchen area, knowing the dimensions you have available will save you the heartache and headache of having to return your new home appliance because it was too large or too small. Indoor cooktops are available in sizes ranging from 12-inch cooktops, which are perfect for smaller apartments to enormous 60-inch cooktop models for the ultimate cooking experience.

  • Available Space - When sizing your indoor cooktop you will want to measure an area where you want the cooktop to go. Take detailed measurements of the width and depth of your counter area and take into account the depth of your counter. This will make a difference if you want your cooktop to be recessed or set above the countertop.

  • Overhead Cabinets - When designing your kitchen, the last thing you want is to create a fire hazard. It is important to remember that whether your cooktop is a gas cooktop or an electric cooktop model it is going to put off a good amount of heat which could be dangerous if cabinetry is too low. This may not affect you if you have an overhead vent for your cooktop but could be an issue with built-in downdraft ventilation.

  • Ventilation - Ventilation is another important consideration when purchasing a new kitchen cooktop. While many modern ranges made for islands are available with built-in downdraft ventilation systems which pull the heat and fumes down and out through the vents, many homes will still require the more traditional vent hood. Depending on the style of ventilation you want or need, you will need to take into account the extra needed space before installing.
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Types of Cooktops

Cooktop Burner

When you make the decision to purchase a cooktop and oven combination instead of a traditional kitchen range, you will have a lot more versatility and options regarding your kitchen set up. Once you have determined the size of cooktop that is best for your kitchen and lifestyle you will need to decide what fuel type will be most beneficial for you. The type of cooktop you purchase, however, will depend on personal preference and the fuel sources you have available.

  • Electric Cooktops - As a general rule, while electric cooktops are cheaper initially than gas cooktops, they are more expensive to run in the long run. Many people still prefer electric cooktops, however, because they are easy to clean and offer a sleeker design which compliments many modern kitchens.

  • Coil Burners - Still the most common type of electric cooktop, coil burners are removable elements that sit inside the cooktop's cavity. Cleaning is simplified by removing the coil and then the drip pan which can be cleaned in the sink using dish soap or harsher cleaners for stains. The drip pans and coil burners are normally easily replaceable which is a major plus for many consumers.

  • Smooth Top - Smooth top cooktops are usually made of ceramic glass and feature radiant elements below the glass cooking surface which provide the heat source. The radiant elements from smooth top cooktops heat quickly and evenly, providing for a great cooking experience. The sleek design from smooth top cooktops is what most people think of when they picture an electric cooktop and enjoy the easy clean up it offers.

  • “...gas cooktops offer more precise temperature control than electric...”

  • Gas Cooktops - Though more expensive initially than electric cooktops, gas cooktops are generally more cost effective over time. Modern gas cooktops offer more precise temperature control than their electric counterparts and allow you to adjust temperatures almost instantly. Gas cooktops are available with natural gas and propane hook ups Many higher end burners from brands such as Fisher & Paykel and Capital offer extremely high-temperature settings for searing and boiling as well as low-temperature settings for cooking sauces and soups.

  • Induction Cooktops - While many people consider induction cooktops a form of electric cooktop, this is not exactly true. Induction cooktops utilize a series of magnetic coils which generate a magnetic field when a steel or cast iron pot is used on the cooktop. This magnetic field is used to heat the cookware without heating the surface of your cooktop. This induction technology allows the cooktop to offer faster cooking times, use up to 85% less energy and are much safer to use because the magnetic technology heats only the cookware, leaving the cooking surface safe to the touch.
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BTUs vs. Temperature

Unlike electric cooktops, where the power is measured in an industry-standard watts, gas cooktops are often measure in either BTUs(British Thermal Units/hour) and temperature interchangeably. Both measurements provide an assessment of the cooktops performance but can be confusing to understand.

“...depending on the burner configuration, a 1,200 BTU burner can achieve
a lower cooking temperature than an 800 BTU or even 300 BTU burner.”

Basically, a BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid from 60 degrees Fahrenheit to 61° F when the atmospheric pressure is constant. If all burners were the exact shape and size, BTUs would be an accurate measurement of the burner's performance. There are several other factors, however, that contribute to a cooktop burners performance, including the size of the burner and the distance from the burner to the cooking vessel. This means that depending on the burner configuration, a 1,200 BTU burner can achieve a lower cooking temperature than an 800 BTU or even 300 BTU burner.

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Cooktop Layout

6 burner Cooktop

Another consideration you will want to make when purchasing your indoor cooktop is the layout of the burners. Depending on the size of your cooktop, the burner configuration may be limited, especially on models smaller than 30 inches. On larger cooktops, however, you may have the options of adding, woks, griddles, grills and much more.

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Cooktop Features

Sealed Burners - Sealed burners provide for easy cleanup with gas burners by preventing food from falling under the burner and becoming trapped.

Recessed Cooktops - Many ceramic cooktops offer the option of being recessed into th countertop, allowing for a smoother look and the appearance of being built-in to the countertop.

Simmer Burners - Several manufacturers offer low temperature simmer burners, such as the Dual-Flow burners on Fisher & Paykel cooktops on gas cooktops which can provide more precise, low-temperature cooking as low as 140 degrees. This lower temperature setting makes it easier to cook delicate soups and sauces.

High-Heat Burner - The Dual-Flow and Power-Flo burners mentioned above also offer another great feature that is a great benefit on gas cooktops. High-heat burners offer the other end of the spectrum when it comes to cooking. With heat outputs reaching an amazing 17,500 BTU/hr, high-heat burners have the ability to boil and sear foods quickly.

Control Lockout - For homes with small children, the control lockout is a must have feature for your electric cooktop. This feature allows you to disable the range controls so you never have to worry about the little ones burning their hands on heated burners.

Heat Indicators - Another great feature with many electric cooktops, heat indicators remain lit even after the cooktop has been turned off to let people know that the burner element is still hot.

Configurations - Cooktops are available with a variety of options to offer the customized look and feel of a professional cooktop. Some of the great options you may find include griddle cooktops and wok cooktops which would allow for the preparation of a variety of foods, including stir-fries, steaks and even diner-style eggs and pancakes.

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