A range of kitchen cooktops

Whether you're designing a home or just remodeling, installing a cooktop is a simple way to add a sophisticated, customized finish to your kitchen. Kitchen cooktops (or hobs) are flat stovetops that can be fitted over an oven or into a countertop. While they may be more expensive than a traditional freestanding kitchen stove, cooktops can free up additional cabinet space and add versatility to your cooking area.

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The style and appearance of cooktops can vary significantly, with materials ranging from stainless steel and aluminum to ceramic glass and porcelain enamel. The size of the cooktop you purchase will depend on how much counter space you devote to its installation. Kitchen cooktops typically have four burners, but can also be larger to include extra burners or specialized features such as grills, griddles and wok burners. To satisfy all of your cooking needs, you'll also need to pair the cooktop with an oven.

Types of Kitchen Cooktops

Like many cooking appliances, cooktops can be powered by either gas or electricity, requiring a direct connection to a source line in both cases. Gas cooktops can be powered by either liquid propane or natural gas. Gas appliances are often preferred for their precise heating (using an open flame) and temperature regulation. Gas cooktops can include an electric starter for easier ignition, but there must be a circuit nearby to accommodate this feature.

Electric cooktops can accommodate more streamlined designs, often incorporating touchpad controls, warming pads and automatic shutdown. Electric cooktops are offered in several formats, with the most common heating elements including coil, halogen or induction burners. Traditional raised coils may involve more maintenance, but they are easier to repair, can be designed to prevent messy drips and lift up for easy cleaning. On the other hand, halogen and induction cooktops have flat, smooth surfaces that can blend well with the countertops when not in use.

Induction cooktops are a growing trend among consumers with an interest in safe, economical appliances. Induction burners use electromagnetic technology to channel heat directly through the cookware, leaving the stovetop itself cool. The burners respond to the size of the cookware and also sense when a pot has been moved, heating the area accordingly. To facilitate the transfer of energy, induction cooktops must be used only with cookware made of ferrous metals, such as iron or stainless steel.

Accommodating the Cooktop

Once you've decided what type of fuel to use, there are still other factors to consider. You must provide ventilation for the cooktop, using either a range hood (with or without and exhaust fan) or a downdraft system. A downdraft ventilation system will pull smoke downward through ducts with outside access for proper venting, reducing smoke and lingering odors.

You must also consider the overall kitchen design. Kitchen cooktops can be outfitted to suit any style. For a convenient, modern design, install the cooktop on a kitchen island with storage areas and seating, where you'll have immediate access to your cooking utensils while preparing a delicious meal right before your guests' eyes.