How to Pick a Gas, Electric, or Induction Cooktop

The 3 most popular types of cooktops vary in the cooking style, cleaning needs, and overall aesthetic

Cooktop_Arthur_Apartment_Cooktop_2Arthur and Kate’s kitchen renovation on the Upper West Side

If you seek flexibility and a custom look in your kitchen, you may want to consider a cooktop and wall oven instead of the all-in-one range. Why not go the à la carte route and up the efficiency quotient? A separate cooktop gives you more choices for size and placement to suit the unique configuration of your cook space. What’s more, you can double up on cooking stations—say, one on a counter against a wall and one in an island—a big help if you have multiple chefs in your household or you entertain often. You’re then free to place that wall oven where you want, too, and even double up.

Which cooktop type is best for your kitchen?

There are three main cooktop types most commonly used today: induction cooktops, gas cooktops, and electric cooktops. Besides the type of power you may already have in your kitchen, there are other factors offered by each of these cooktops that will drive your decision. Next, we’ll dive into the key differences between the three major types of cooktops in American kitchens.

Induction cooktops

Enthusiasm for induction cooktops has rapidly increased in the last few years, thanks to their convenience and precision in heating. Induction cooktops are sometimes called “electric induction” because electricity powers the energy source. But don’t be fooledthis isn’t your grandmother’s electric cooktop!

Induction cooktop stove in a white contemporary kitchen Gina and Dan’s induction cooktop in their Philadelphia-suburb kitchen

Pros of induction cooktops

In these units, heat occurs between the interaction of the cookware with electromagnetic elements under the glass top. This is probably the most efficient way to cook since there is no flame or exposed coil that dissipates energy; instead, heat is transferred directly to the pan. Plus, since it’s the pan that heats, any part of the surface not in use remains cool, greatly reducing the risk of an accidental burn. Another pro: some induction cooktop models include touch and swipe controls for extremely accurate temperature control. For cleaning, a seamless and smooth glass surface means easier maintenance with the swipe of a cloth. No corners, grates, or coils are present to capture baked-on food.

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Limitations of induction cooktops

Induction cooktops may require a different set of cookware than you already have: glass and ceramic won’t do. How to tell? Apply a magnet to your metal pan’s bottom. If it sticks, the pan works.

Gas cooktops

A gas cooktop is a classic style sought after for its classic good looks, responsiveness, and the touch of drama it brings to cooking. Gas cooktops provide instant heat that’s easy to adjust. Models today typically include five burners: two on each side, and one in the middle. Most of these models will offer one high-powered burner to quickly boil water and one that goes very low to simmer or to warm foods. Look for sealed burners to simplify maintenance and continuous grates that let you slide over a heavy pot. For gas cooktops, all types of cookware are suitable.

white kitchen cabinets with marble backsplash and countertop and gas range with hood and island with marble countertop and recessed lighting after renovationA gas cooktop in a Bed-Stuy kitchen renovation with Sweeten

Limitations of gas cooktops

With gas cooktops, you still need to be careful of the open flame needed for cooking. Additionally, this style only works only an overhead ventilation system. As with ranges, do not place the cooktop under a window or near a door as drafts are a fire hazard.

Electric cooktops

Yes, you can still find electric coil cooktops, and they still operate with radiant heat; however, they’re now at the super-budget end of the spectrum. If this style is for you, seek out electric cooktops topped with glass surfaces for a sleek, contemporary look and easy care. Also, look for an option for touch controls (though classic knobs can still be found too.) Seek out electric cooktop models with four elements, with at least two of the elements offering expansion to a larger cooking surface. An indicator will tell you when the surface is still hot.

Limitations of electric cooktops

Although these are a good choice for the budget-conscious, keep in mind it will take a while for this cooktop to cool down once you’ve turned off the heat.

Consider: Where to place your new cooktop

First, take into account any existing electric or gas lines. For example, if you are remodeling and wish to move your cooktop to a work island, you will have to pay an electrician for the power to be run to that new location. When placing the cooktop unit on a countertop, keep it clear of upper cabinets and plan for landing space on at least one side of the cooktop. If installing in an island, position the cooktop so the chef can face the room and its guests. Avoid potentially drafty areas, such as near a window or doorway. The open space under the cooktop is handy for storing cooking pots, so plan for a cabinet with wide doors. A drawer won’t work due to the power lines, but an open slide-out shelf will work, and still allow access to those lines.

Consider: Ventilation options

Remember to plan for how you will vent from the cooktop. Like with ranges, do not place the cooktop under or near a window, as drafts are a fire hazard when food is cooking on a burner. An island cooktop can take an overhead vent projecting from the ceiling (and a gas cooktop requires overhead venting), but then the vent will stand out in the kitchen, possibly more prominently than you wish. The alternative, for electric induction only, is a downdraft vent. Concealed in its location along the back of the cooktop, a downdraft vent rises electronically from its recess with the flip of a switch. It then pulls cooking fumes downward into a grate and recirculates the air after removing odors and moisture. When not in use, the vent can be electronically lowered back into the recess in the surface where it is installed. Some cooktop models come with this feature included, or you can purchase and install a vent separately. Downdraft will never be as powerful as overhead, but it does help to eliminate odors and airborne moisture and grease when cooking.

Consider: Size and functions

If you are replacing an existing cooktop, you may be stuck with that model’s size unless you have budgeted to replace the surrounding cabinets and countertop too. Happily, manufacturers offer gas, induction, and electric cooktops in a range of dimensions that include more features as the width increases. Where once four burners were the norm, more homeowners are opting for six burners, which offer greater flexibility—like expandable heating elements that can handle extra-large pots, or griddles, or a super low-heat warming burner—so you can have more pans cooking all at once. You can still enjoy a super-size experience if your kitchen is small. Both gas and electric units with 5 burners come in a 30-inch size, which will fit in many small cook spaces. Electric radiant cooktops with a glass surface topping four burners can also be found in 24-inch widths.

If you’re thinking of renovating a kitchen, our budget guidelines is a must-read. 

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