02.What to look for
All cooktop types
Size and shape: The most popular is a square-shaped cooktop, approximately 60 cm wide. You can also get rectangular models with burners/elements in various configurations.
- Make sure you have the necessary space on your bench to fit the cooktop, as well as ventilation space underneath (measure the available bench space before you go shopping). Stores should have brochures with the specifications. There's a minimum distance requirement for the bottom of cupboards or rangehood above a cooktop — check before buying.
- Consider the position and layout of the burners/elements and their size in relation to the pots and pans you usually use. Configurations that are spaced so that you don’t reach over one burner/element to get to another are generally easier to use — usually on rectangular units. Simmer elements/burners should be at the front so you don't have to lean over other burners to stir a sauce, say.
Controls: Look for control knobs that are a good size, ideally with a crossbar so they’re easy to grip, and a clear pointer.
- The symbols and markings should be easy to read and understand, and their layout should match the burner/element configuration as intuitively as possible. If they’re close to the front of the cooktop they’ll be easy to reach — but for children too, so your family make-up may influence what you choose.
- Look for a surface that’s easy to clean and a design without dirt traps. A good cooktop should be able to effectively contain reasonable spills — some ceramic cooktops don’t have a lip or rim to do this. As a rule, enamel cooktops are easier to keep clean than ceramic or stainless steel.
Knobs should be easy to remove for cleaning underneath.
Burners: Gas burners are rated in megajoules per hour (MJ/h) — the amount of energy each uses on its maximum setting. Four-burner cooktops should have a good range of heat ratings, from slow (low heat: around 3.5–5 MJ/h) to fast (high heat: up to 10 or 11 MJ/h), with wok burners around 12–15 MJ/h. Burner sizes vary from around 4–7 cm in diameter. Wok burners should be at the front for accessible continuous stirring of food. Single-piece burners are easier to clean and maintain.
Safety: Knobs that have to be pushed down before they can be turned on means you won’t accidentally knock them while cleaning, and are harder for children to operate.
- If the flame goes out while the gas is turned on, gas can escape into the room. Some cooktops have a flame-failure feature for this reason — the gas either automatically cuts out or automatically reignites.
- If you want to use a gas cooktop in a high-rise building of 25 m or taller, you may have to get a model with flame-failure protection — see photo, right. Check with your local council.
Trivets or pan supports should be flat and stable on the hob. Those with rubber feet are less likely to move about than those without, and won’t scratch the hob surface.
- Trivets without large gaps allow you to slide pans around the cooktop without lifting them.
Ignition systems include mains- or , battery-powered electronic ignition, piezo (pushing a button produces a spark) and manual (matches or a burner lighter). If you get one with electronic ignition, make sure you can also light it with a match in the event of a power cut.
- Electric elements are rated in kW: a good range is 1.2–2.2 kW. Many electric cooktops remain hot long after the heat has been turned off, which is a potential safety hazard. They should have a residual-heat warning light that stays on until the cooktop has cooled to a safe temperature.
Element size: Your pots and pans need to be within, or close to, the diameter of the induction hotplates. Cookware that overhangs won’t heat properly around the edges, and pans that are too small won’t be recognised.
Safety switching: Look for models that automatically turn off or down in the event of overheating, and ones that turn off if a hotplate has been left on for an extended period of time.
For people with a disability
When choosing a cooktop, consider the following features that can make a cooktop easier to use.
- Knobs with a crossbar are easier to grip and turn than smooth, round knobs. Make sure they don’t require too much force to turn them.
- Symbols and markings should be easy to understand: words (off, simmer, high) may be easier to understand than symbols. They should also be bold, easy to read and in a colour that contrasts well with the background.
- A ceramic radiant or gas cooktop that doesn't have large gaps in or between its trivets ,may be ideal for someone lacking strength in their wrists because you can easily slide the pans on and off the elements (though ceramic cooktop manufacturers recommend you don’t do this because you may scratch the surface).
- If you’re buying a gas cooktop, look for one with an ignition pushbutton, rather than a knob you have to press and twist. A cooktop with automatic gas cutout or reignition is also worth considering.