A hob in kitchens is essentially the heating element of a range packaged in a unit that fits into an opening in a countertop. Here again, you have a choice between gas and electricity, and there are advantages to each. When comparing power sources, it helps to know that gas burners are measured in Btus (British thermal units); electric burners in watts. The higher the rating, the more powerful the burner. For the sake of comparison, you can estimate that a 2,400w coil burner delivers approximately the cooking power of a 15,000 Btu gas burner. Standard dimensions for cooktops range from 30 to 48 in. wide, and prices vary widely.
Basic electric coil models start at around £200; gas models at about £300. Glass cooktops will run you closer to £500, and the upper range for any type can easily reach £1,000. Electric Traditional resistance coil cooktops are slow to heat, cool and respond to adjustments. Still, they’re less expensive than other types of cooktops and have many fans. For one thing, tests recently conducted by Consumer Reports showed that when compared to gas burners of comparable ratings a coil burner still holds the (speed) record for bringing a large pot of water to a near boil.
Ceramic glass cooktops in kitchens (often called smart-tops) have a smooth ceramic-glass panel that covers the entire cooking surface. These sleek and easy-to-clean units can be found in nearly 25% of the homes in North America. Burner options include radiant – ribbon, halogen and magnetic induction. Radiant-ribbon burners are similar to resistance coils but have a greater surface area, which means they heat up and cool down much more quickly than traditional coils. This is the most common type of smooth top burner. Halogen burners use a halogen gas bulb for heat. They offer precise control, rapid heating and even cooking, but they’re more expensive than radiant-ribbon burners and aren’t available in as many models.
Magnetic induction elements convey heat from an induction coil directly to the pan in the kitchen. Response to adjustment is almost immediate and cooking times are reduced by up to 20%. Induction burners require that you use cast iron or steel cookware. Another nice cooktop feature is electronic controls, which replace traditional knob or dial controls. Because these respond to fingertip pressure, they can be easier to operate for people with manual difficulties. They’re also easier to clean because the control panel is a flush surface.
Gas cooktops are fueled by natural or liquid propane gas and are available with open or sealed burners made for kitchens. Open burners have an opening around the burner through which spills fall onto a cleanup tray below Some open burners have metal rings that help catch spills. With sealed burners, a continuous metal tray encloses everything except the burner head. Spills are contained on the cooktop surface, making cleanup easy A good gas burner (or set of burners) should provide very high and low heat: 15,000 Btus is about the high mark for professional-style burners; 500 Btus is great for a gentle simmer. If you’re planning to run a cooktop on propane rather than natural gas, make sure that conversion is possible, and ask whether it will result in any loss of power.