Whether you're renovating or replacing an existing cooktop, or buying one for a newly-built kitchen, you'll want to make sure you get it right the first time. After all, they're pretty tough to take back to the shop!

While they may not be as impressive as their induction cousins, ceramic cooktops still perform well. If you're thinking of going ceramic you're probably after the sleek cooking surface that's stylish and easy to clean – or you're impressed by the fact that they're generally excellent at cooking at low temperatures.

But there are a few other things you'll need to consider too. That's why we're here to help.

What are the options?

Ceramic cooktops are available as:

  • Ceramic radiant cooktops – use coiled metal elements under tempered ceramic glass
  • Halogen cooktops – use halogen bulbs to create heat
  • Semi-halogen cooktops – combine a halogen bulb with a coiled metal element

There aren't any noticeable differences in cooking performance, ease of use and cleaning between those three types.

Things to consider

Size and shape matters!

  • Do you want a square or rectangular model?
  • Make sure you have the necessary space on your bench to fit the cooktop, as well as ventilation space underneath. Measure your available bench space before you go shopping.
  • Check the specifications of the cooktop – there are minimum distance requirements for the bottom of cupboards or rangehood above a cooktop.

Laying it out

You need to consider the position and layout of the elements and their size in relation to the pots and pans you usually use.

Look for:

  • Elements that are well-spaced so you can use multiple pots at once and don't have to reach over one element to get to another.
  • A range of simmer, medium and large elements.
  • Simmer elements positioned at the front so you don't have to lean over other burners to stir a sauce
  • A dual element with two heat rings – for smaller pots you activate the inner ring, and for larger pots you activate both.

Rectangular models are generally more spaced out, but you can find square models that have good element layouts too.

What about my cookware?

Pots and pans should fit comfortably over the cooking zone and not cause restricted use of the other elements. Cookware should be flat and smooth, and the base should match the diameter of the cooking zone to provide good contact with the ceramic surface.

What else should I look for?

Smooth surface

Look for a surface that's easy to clean and a design without dirt traps. A good cooktop should be able to effectively contain spills – some ceramic cooktops don't have a lip or rim to do this, which makes them easier to clean but potentially messier.

Controls 

Control knobs should be easy to grip, with a clear pointer, and easy to remove for cleaning. Touch controls should be logical and not positioned too close to the cooking zones. 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. Keep in mind if you have kids they'll be easier for them to reach too. 

Power range

Electric elements are rated in kW. A good power range is 1.2 to 2.2 kW.

Residual-heat warning

The ceramic glass remains hot long after the heat has been turned off, posing a safety hazard. Look for one with a warning light that stays on until the cooktop has returned to a safe temperature. 

Automatic switch-off 

With this feature, if a heat setting is not set for a cooking zone within about 10 seconds after you turn on the cooking surface, the cooking surface will automatically switch itself off. This will also happen if a heat setting is selected and no contact has been made with a pot on the element after a similar time period. It's a good feature for peace of mind – particularly if you're one of those people who are constantly worried you've left the stove on.

Hired help

Call out a licensed tradesperson to install your new cooktop. They know what they're doing, so it's safer; and even if you think you can do it yourself, if something goes wrong you may void your warranty.

Cost

In our test, they range from about $600 to $1700.