Cooktop Buying Guide

Installing a separate cooktop and wall oven offers a few distinct advantages over a range. For starters, you can mount the oven higher up in wall cabinets, so you don’t have to bend to pull out a large roasting pan or a hot tray of cookies. You also gain some flexibility with your kitchen’s layout—if you’re adding the appliances as part of a larger remodel, you can install a cooktop in an island instead of against a wall. 

You can also mix and match cooktops and wall ovens from different brands, securing the best performance across appliances. But before you shop for a new cooktop, you’ll need to zero in on size and fuel source, then turn your attention to performance and features. 

 

Factors to Consider

Size
Most cooktops are 30 or 36 inches wide, so we test models in these sizes. But you’ll find cooktops ranging from 21 to 48 inches. Many have five or six burners, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have room to use them all at once. Generally, most 30-inch cooktops have four or five burners, and most 36-inch cooktops have five or six. 

Fuel
For cooktops, both electric and gas are capable of delivering decent performance. But you may find it easier to judge heat by the appearance of the gas flame, and when you turn the knob from high to medium on a gas model, the pot and the food in it experience that change in temperature almost immediately. 

Electric elements tend to heat faster and maintain low heat better than gas burners. But burners need time to react, so pots and pans take longer to adjust to changes in temperature.

Induction cooktops use the same hookup as a regular electric model, but they use an electromagnetic field to directly heat pans, offering quick response and control. In our tests, induction tends to be the fastest to heat water and the best at maintaining a steady simmer. But you’ll need magnetic cookware for the induction elements to work. 

Cooktop Types

Choose from electric smoothtop, electric induction smoothtop, or gas. Each has its advantages.

Image of a smooth electric cooktop.

Smoothtop

Electric radiant smoothtops are the popular pick over induction, largely because they cost less. All the models in our ratings have at least one high-power burner. Most have expandable dual or triple elements that let you switch from a large, high-power element to a small, low-power element within it. 

There is a lot of residual heat, so when reducing the heat it can take a few minutes to settle at the lower setting. Smoothtops make it easy to clean up spills, but they require a special cleaner, and dropped pots and sugary liquids can crack the glass surface. 

Electric cooktops Ratings
Image of an induction cooktop.

Induction

Electric induction cooktops use magnetic coils below the ceramic glass surface to quickly generate heat directly to the pan, offering precise simmering and control. You’ll see these models in our ratings of electric cooktops. 

Magnetic cookware is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of a pot, it will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless steel cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t.

Electric cooktops Ratings
A gas cooktop.

Gas

If you prefer cooking with gas, we get it. The flame makes it easier to judge the heat, to get a feel for it, and to quickly move from a high setting to a low one.

Response time is particularly quick, especially when compared with a smoothtop. When you turn the knob from high to medium on a gas cooktop, the pot and the food in it experience that change almost immediately.

And you can strike a match to light most gas burners when your power is out. Of course, you’ll need natural gas or propane service at your house if you want to install a gas cooktop.

Gas Cooktops Ratings

Features Worth Considering

Some features really do boost safety and convenience.

Cooktop Brands

This higher-end brand offers a full selection of German-engineered kitchen appliances. Bosch gas, electric, and induction cooktops are priced from $800 to $3,300. Bosch is sold at Best Buy, Lowe's, Sears, and independent appliance retailers.
This midlevel mass-market brand sells a variety of appliances. The line includes gas and electric cooktops priced between $500 and $1,500. The appliances are sold through Sears, home centers, and independent appliance retailers. GE Profile: This midlevel mass-market line includes gas, electric, and induction cooktops priced from $700 to $2,000. GE Monogram: This higher-end line offers pro-style gas, electric, and induction cooktops that cost $1,400 or more. Monogram appliances are usually sold through independent appliance retailers.
The cooking line from this higher-end brand includes gas and electric cooktops priced up to $1,000 and electric wall ovens starting at $1,500. Jenn-Air was the first to introduce self-ventilated cooktops. The appliances are sold through Sears, home centers, and independent appliance retailers.
This high-end brand sells gas, electric, and induction cooktops that cost $800 to $2,100. KitchenAid appliances are sold through Sears, home centers, and independent appliance retailers.
This luxury appliance maker sells gas and electric cooktops that cost $1,450 and up. The appliances are sold through independent appliance retailers.
This luxury brand sells pro-style gas, electric, and induction cooktops that start at $1,700. The appliances are sold through independent appliance retailers.
This luxury brand sells gas, electric, and induction cooktops that cost $2,000 and up. Viking is considered the original pro-style brand. The company adds premium features to its ovens and cooktops, and offers the Professional and Designer series, both sold through independent appliance retailers.
This midlevel mass-market brand sells gas and electric cooktops priced between $600 and $1,000. The appliances are sold through home centers and independent appliance retailers.
This luxury brand sells gas, electric, and induction cooktops that cost as much as $5,000 or more. Wolf targets consumers who want a pro look and high performance. These appliances are sold through independent appliance retailers.
Other brands to consider include Frigidaire, Kenmore, and Maytag.
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