Whether you love to cook or hate the very thought of it, there aren't many households that can do without a cooktop. Whatever style you're after, from a basic electric model to a high-tech piece of induction art, there are several big decisions to make so you don't get burnt buying the wrong model for your kitchen.
We're here to guide you through those decisions, and help you pick the cooktop that's best for you.
How big is big?
One of the first things you'll need to consider is how much space you have, taking into account your kitchen's design. This will determine the size of the cooktop you'll need. If your kitchen is limited on space you're probably after a 60cm four burner/element cooktop. But if you do lots of cooking, have a larger kitchen, or just more space you're willing to sacrifice, a 90cm five or six burner/element cooktop would be the way to go.
The different types of cooktops
Next step, burner options. There are three main types of cooktops to choose from. Let's take a look:
If you're after instant heat control then a gas cooktop
is for you. Not to mention it's generally cheaper and more environmentally friendly than cooking with electricity.
- Provides visual feedback when you raise and lower the flame.
- Variety of designs and finishes, including enamel, glass and stainless steel as well as enamel or cast iron trivets.
- If you love to cook stir-fries many come with a specially designed burner for woks.
- Some rectangular cooktops with five or six burners have an oblong shaped burner to use with a grill or hotplate for barbecuing.
- Cast iron trivets can be bulky and difficult to clean.
- While they're more stylish glass and stainless steel finishes require more effort when cleaning.
You'll need to check that mains gas is available where you live. If it isn't and you really are set on a gas cooktop then you can use bottled LPG with many models but keep in mind this is more expensive than mains gas.
If you're after a sleek and stylish design then a ceramic cooktop is worth considering. They're also particularly useful for cooking foods that require very low temperatures, such as melting chocolate.
- They have a continuous surface with few to no dirt traps so they're easy to clean.
- Not as instantly controllable as gas.
- Slower to respond to changes in the temperature setting.
- Spills can bake on, so you need to wipe them up quickly and there's often no lip around the edge of the cooktop to contain spills.
The ceramic glass holds the heat, so you'd need to take care with delicate foods and be careful once it's switched off. Many come with residual-heat warning lights that stay on until the surface reaches a safe temperature.
For extraordinary heat up and instant response to temperature changes then look no further than induction cooktops.
Induction works via a magnetic field that essentially turns your cookware into the heating element. Food is cooked via the heat of the cookware, not from the cooktop itself.
- Fastest cooking method and just as controllable as gas.
- The cooktop doesn't get hot.
- Generally more expensive than ceramic or gas cooktops.
- You can only use certain types of cookware that are compatible with induction. Suitable cookware needs to have a ferrous base.
See our induction cookware buying guide for more information.
What about freestanding cookers (or upright cookers)?
These combine your cooktop and oven in the one unit and can come in gas or electric configurations. See our freestanding buying guide, for more information on this type.
Besides ceramic and induction are there any other electric cooktops?
Ceramic and induction are by far the two main types but there are two cheaper options. They aren't as widely available but you may still find some floating around in stores.
These cooktops utilise a coil element to heat the cookware. The coils can be a hassle to clean. Some can be unplugged and removed while others have a hinge so you can lift them for easier access to the drip trays underneath.
These cooktops have a solid metal disk for each hotplate that's slower than all other types to heat up and extremely slow to cool down which also makes them the least controllable.