What type of cooktop is best for you?
Now we're cooking with gas (or electric or induction).
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One of the greatest pleasures of buying a house was getting to choose my cooktop. For years, I was stuck with whatever hit-or-miss appliances my landlord decided to buy. As a trained professional chef, this drove me a little crazy. I’d be lying if I said any apartments (and even vacation rentals) weren’t seriously considered if they didn’t have a gas range.
But even when you own, you may be stuck with a cooktop you don’t love. Getting gas hookups to your kitchen could require major renovations, which don’t always come cheap! Luckily, today’s homeowners have more choices than ever when it comes to choosing the best type of cooktop—even if you don’t have gas hookups. Induction cooktops have been popular in Europe for decades, and they’re finally becoming affordable enough to consider in most households.
You may already have opinions about induction vs. electric vs. gas cooktops, or you may be starting from scratch. Either way, please make sure to do your research before making this hefty purchase. It’s a decision you’ll live with for years to come.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about each cooktop type, what each excels at, where they miss the mark, and a few features to look for as you shop.
What’s the difference between a cooktop, range, and stove?
Before we dive in, let’s clear something up: A cooktop is different from a range. A range (also called a stove) is a one-piece unit that contains a cooktop and an oven. It usually slides into a cutout space in the countertop, although free-standing models are available.
Its placement has to be very strategic, as you’ll need enough space to swing open the oven door. Most ranges feature cooktop knobs on the front of the unit sticking out right above the oven, although some models place the knobs in the back. That protects the knobs from getting bumped into, but it also means you’d have to reach over the cooktop to control the heat.
A cooktop, on the other hand, is built into your countertop. Since it doesn’t have an oven below, it’s easier to find a place for it in your kitchen. You can place both gas cooktops or electric and induction cooktops on a kitchen island, for example, and use the space below for cabinet storage.
If you’re remodeling to replace a range with a cooktop, it’s also important to consider where you’ll want to place the wall oven. The control knobs on cooktops are always located on top of the unit. That means they don’t stick out like a front-mounted range and you don’t have to put your arm hairs in danger to reach for them, either.
Both ranges and cooktops both come in gas, electric, and induction. If you’ve heard of duel-fuel, you don’t have to worry about that here. That term only applies to ranges that use a different fuel for the cooktop and the oven.
A quick comparison of induction vs. electric vs. gas cooktops
When our team tests ranges, they measure the maximum and minimum temperature of each burner and boiled water on each cooktop. We’ll get into more detail about each type of cooktop in a minute, but here are the general differences we identified between the fuel type options:
- Capable of very high and low temperatures
- Super fast water boiling
- Requires special cookware and may require recipe modification
- Higher cooktop temperatures
- Slower water boiling
- Lower cooktop temperatures
- Faster water boiling
Induction cooktops aren’t as well-known as gas and electric, but they’re gaining popularity amongst chefs and home cooks. If I were to remodel my kitchen today, I’d probably go with an induction cooktop because they’re safe and energy-efficient, especially when you buy from Energy Star partners like Bosch.
They also look pretty and sleek with their smooth, jet-black tops. And as a huge bonus, they’re also super easy to clean because the surface never gets hot. Induction uses magnetic fields to generate heat in the pan only, so you don’t have to worry about burning any food onto the glass surface.
That magnetic heating also means the pan heats more quickly and evenly than other cooktop types. That doesn’t mean your food will cook faster, but it will definitely feel like it! Induction also offers the highest and lowest heat options, giving you a very precise and wide heat range. Instead of having a low, medium, and high settings on the knobs, many induction cooktops offer a 1 to 12 scale.
The major downside to induction? It requires special cookware. The good news is your existing pots and pans probably work, and there’s an easy way to check: Simply hold a magnet against the bottom of the pot. If it sticks, you’re good to go!
All cast-iron and carbon steel cookware work on induction, as does our top-rated cookware set and most multi-clad stainless steel pans (like our favorite stainless-steel skillet). Unfortunately, many nonstick pans are made with aluminum. Unless they contain a magnetized base designed for induction, they won’t work here, so double check the brand before you buy.
Round-bottomed pans like woks aren’t an option, either, as induction requires contact with the entire bottom of the pan. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker since many of the top-performing woks are made with flat bottoms.
Most professional chefs would tell you gas is their preferred cooking method. Until I tried induction, I would have said the same! Cooking over an open flame means you can visually see when the heat is increased or decreased, and the response time is instantaneous compared to slow-reacting electric coils.
My favorite feature about gas cooktops is that you can use them without dirtying a pan. I regularly heat flour tortillas directly over the open flame, and laying a few peppers on the grates is the best way to char them and create roasted peppers and chiles.
On the flip side, it’s hard to get the exact same heat setting every time on a gas cooktops. You’ll also find they’re difficult to clean compared to glass-top electric or induction cooktops. You can’t just wipe off the surface, and it’s easy for food and grease to make their way underneath the cooking grates.
Of course, you’ll need gas hookups to even consider a gas cooktop, too. Depending on where you live and your home’s design, this may be very expensive or impossible. Gas cooktops also tend to be a little more expensive than electric or induction, but that initial expense may be worth it when you notice a decrease in your electric bill.
If you’ve been renting for a while, you’re probably intimately familiar with electric cooktops. These come in two basic styles: the old-school coil or flat, glass-top surfaces.
Coil-top electric cooktops are the most affordable, and they’re a fantastic option if you’re on a budget or buying a cooktop for a rental property. They’re inexpensive, can be used with any type of cookware, and last a long time. When it comes to performance, though, they offer the worst heat conduction of all the cooktop options and they’re difficult to clean (although using removable drip pans like this makes the process a little easier).
Glass-top electric cooktops are significantly easier to clean. Like induction, they feature a smooth, glass surface, but the surface actually gets hot as the coils below the glass heat up. Most feature illuminated lights to indicate when the burners are still hot, which is a helpful way to keep from burning yourself after you finish cooking.
They look cleaner and sleeker compared to coil-top cooktops, but they also break easily. We don’t recommend using cast-iron cookware on these cooktops, as the weight can cause the glass to crack. It’s also important to pick up your pans instead of sliding them around on the cooktop’s surface to avoid scratches and chips.
While electric is the slowest to heat of the three cooktop options, you may notice the heat increases more quickly compared to gas. That’s because there’s no gap between the heat source and the pot, so your pots and pans can go from cold to hot before you know it.
That makes the heat a little hard to control until you get to know your cooktop. It’s also important to note that you may initially save money by buying an electric range, but you’ll want to keep an eye on your electric bill. The cost of electricity may end up costing you more in the long run.
Other factors to consider before buying
Cooktops come in several sizes to fit your space, so make sure you measure twice before you go shopping. Bosch induction cooktops come in the standard sizes (36-inch, 30-inch, or 24-inch), but you may want to consider a cooktop as small as 12 inches or as large as 40 inches. Keep in mind that larger cooktops take up more space but they can accommodate larger pots and pans.
You likely already have a theme going in your kitchen. Whether you’re all about stainless steel appliances, farmhouse-style sinks, or a white-and-bright tiled look, you’ll want to consider how the cooktop will fit in. A stainless-steel gas cooktop would likely look best in a traditional kitchen setting, but perhaps black or white glass cooktops might fit in better with your design.
Number of burners
A standard cooktop comes with four burners, which may or may not be enough for you. If you cook a lot of multi-component meals or you like to meal prep for the week, you probably want a minimum of five burners. More burners can mean less space per pot, so it could be difficult to use a large stockpot for boiling spaghetti at the same time as a large skillet.
Some cooktops have specialty burners, too, like elongated burners for griddle pans, dual-ring burners with a stronger heat source wrapped around a weaker heat source, or warming burners. These may come in handy, depending on your cooking style and preference.
Every cooktop is different
No matter which direction you go, you’ll have to get to know your new cooktop. You probably knew your old setup inside and out, like the exact setting to use for simmering or how to set each burner for a hard sear. If you’re switching from one type of cooktop to another, there will probably be a learning curve. Give yourself time and patience as you learn.
Even if you’re upgrading the same type of cooktop, no two cooktops are alike. Our best advice is to get in the habit of preparing your mise en place before you start cooking. That means reading through the recipe steps, chopping all the ingredients, and having everything ready to go before you start cooking.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.