Cooktops are great way to spread out the cooking duties if you can afford the counter space. This means your oven will be built into a wall area elsewhere instead of housing the burners and oven in one unit. The advantage is that you don’t have to bend to put food in the oven.
The widths for countertops are as varied as they are for ovens - 24”, 26”, 30”, 36”, 42”, 48” and 60” sizes and come in a variety of finishes and colors. Stainless steel is still the fashion leader, but white, black, and neutral biscuit are also standard.
How your kitchen is wired or plumbed makes a difference in choosing gas or electric cooktops. Most gas cooktops now come with a starter that is electronic, so both gas plumbing and electric wiring must be in place. Electronic starters use less energy than a continually-lit pilot light.
Additionally, a compatible exhaust or venting system must be matched to the cooktop design and should be turned on anytime the cooktop is used to minimize odors, moisture, grease and gases.
Gas cooking has long been the preference of gourmet chefs, who enjoy controlling the fire and cooking at high temperatures. Better gas cooktops will also have an adequate simmer burner that can cook sauces and delicate fare. Diffuser plates can help you control low temperature cooking.
The BTUs (British Thermal Units) have been steadily going higher and higher for home chefs who want professional-style equipment that delivers higher temperatures. Generally, anything with an output of 15,000 BTU or higher is going to produce professional results. However, most home cooks can happily do with less, as the expense of high output, plus the additional venting required, makes it questionable whether the extra output is worth the extra expense. Gas cooktops have different burners of varying BTUs within the same unit, anyway.
Electric cooking is considered cleaner cooking. The cooking surfaces have evolved from the removable burners to flat surfaces which are easy to clean, although traditional coils are still available.
Sealed burners are great for keeping spills out of your electronic components.
The ultimate in electric cooking is induction cooktops. Priced double to triple the cost of electric or gas, induction cooktops are also the “greenest” cooking top in terms of energy expense. Induction cooktops have a coil of copper that creates an energy field when an electric current runs through it. Cookware containing some iron content (magnetic properties) is required, which together with the coils creates the heat energy for cooking. Complete control is possible for particular chefs, as the burners can adjust from heat delicate enough to melt chocolate to heat so high it boils water faster than gas.
Amazingly, the only heat in induction cooking is through the pan itself. The coils are not exposed and the cooktop is easy to clean. The coils turn themselves off within about 30 seconds of the cookware being removed.
Spills over areas untouched by the pan won't scorch. Controls are glass touch controls, rather than knobs. Cleaning can be done with a damp cloth or sponge.
Generally, electric cooktops don't require as high a level of exhaust venting as gas cooktops. Smoke, grease, odors, and moisture still must be vented through an exhaust system, however. New innovations allow some electric and gas models to come with downdraft options that vent properly for the model's specifications. This also allows more flexible placement of the cooktop which doesn't have to be directly under an exhaust hood. The cooktop with downdraft exhaust can be place on an island or anywhere allowed by building codes.
No matter what your kitchen design, a cooktop offers all the capabilities and versatility you need for your preparation needs.