Having a cooktop that is separate from your oven allows for greater flexibility when working in the kitchen. Some research must be done when choosing the right cooktop for you. Gas and electric have long been the two standard offerings, but now induction or radiant heat options are becoming popular. You can also look for different sizes, from compact 30-inch ranges to ones that are 48 inches or larger. You can even install individual modular cooktops that allow you to customize your setup or create a separate area for steaming food or cooking with a wok.
Induction and radiant electric cooktops. It’s quite difficult to tell the difference between an induction cooktop and a radiant electric cooktop just by looking at them. Both have sleek ceramic glass surfaces rather than exposed coil rings.
The main difference between the two is how they provide heat. Circles marking the location of the "burners" are usually found on both induction and radiant cooktops, although there are sleek options in which the black ceramic glass appears to have no markings at all. An induction cooktop uses an electromagnetic field that heats the cooking vessel rather than the cooktop itself. It heats up instantly and provides very precise temperature control. However, Induction-compatible cookware is typically needed. A radiant cooktop heats and cools down gradually. It does not require specialized cookware.
Gas cooktops. Traditional gas cooktops are preferred by most people. Having a visible flame allows for better heat control.
Drop-in gas cooktops. Drop-in gas cooktops sit on top of the counter. Most have sealed burners and aren't as powerful as their range-top alternatives.
Gas range tops. A gas range top differs from a drop-in cooktop in that it looks like a range that is missing the oven. They traditionally have control knobs on the front apron rather than on top. Gas range tops have more BTUs than a gas cooktop option. Range tops typically have four burners, just like a standard range does, while larger sizes offer more options, such as griddles and grills. These units often offer a specific simmer burner as well.
Modular cooktops. Independent, single-function cooktops are wonderful for small kitchens and allow for more flexibility in a larger kitchen. Options include standard gas burners, a wok cooker, grills, induction burners and steamers. You can combine independent cooktops to create your own custom large-scale cooktop or separate the different elements into independent cooking stations. A single countertop steamer is very popular with those looking for healthy cooking options. A separate steamer, grill or induction cooktop in addition to a traditional gas range is many a home cook’s ultimate set up.