Do you want to know how to choose a gas cooktop?
As with everything in life, we all have different requirements when it comes to the perfect gas cooktop.
Features will differ in priority from one individual to the next due to individual needs and preferences.
In this article I will go over some of the most important considerations when deciding on the best option for you.
In this article I will discuss:
How to choose a gas cooktop
Different gas types
A consideration quite often overlooked when deciding on gas appliances, is what type of gas will be used.
In general, you get two different kinds commonly available, natural gas and LPG.
Natural gas is as the name describes, naturally occurring and can be found in underground rock formations.
Natural gas is mostly methane. It is extracted by drilling a well and piping it out. Natural gas is usually supplied to residences via underground pipes.
On the other hand, LPG, or liquefied petroleum gas, comes from the crude oil distillation process.
It is mostly propane and has the property to be liquified under high pressures. It can therefore be stored much easier in tanks compared to natural gas, which cannot be easily compressed.
When deciding on cooktop size, there is basically two factors to take into consideration.
The first is the size of your kitchen countertop, and the second is your desired number of burners and the types of cookware you are going to use.
Firstly, the cooktop you buy should fit into the cutout in the counter.
It’s possible, though, to modify this.
General sizes in width of cooktops are 24”, 30” and 36”.
You do get smaller cooktops as well as bigger, but they are less common.
In general, the more burners, the larger the cooktop.
The depth of your cooktop is determined by the depth of your counter.
Secondly, the number of burners will depend on your requirements.
Do you often cook in several different pots and pans at the same time?
Do you often cater to larger crowds or is it just for a small family?
Most of us only require 4 burners.
If you have the space and financial resources, get a bigger model.
Take note of the space between the burners, though.
That will decide how many dishes you can cook at the same time due to the size differences in different cookware.
Burner size and layout
You basically have three categories of burners when it comes to heat output and size.
Large and wok burners
These are larger in size with a higher heat output.
They are used when a lot of heat is required and you are using larger types of cookware like woks and large pans.
They are great for stir-frying and boiling.
The downside is that you don’t have as much control over the heat output and it is also recommended to limit the use of nonstick cookware over these high heat burners.
It is, however, the case that more companies are switching over to double ring large burners which is basically a large and smaller burner in one.
At lower heat settings only the inner ring switches on and as you increase the heat, there comes a point where the second outer burner kicks in.
These burners give more versatility in that you have more control at lower heat settings.
Medium burners are smaller with less heat output and more control over the heat.
These burners are used more for general cooking with a good compromise between heat output and control.
On the other end of the range you have simmer burners.
They have an even lower heat output than the medium burners with more control over the output.
They are great for low heat cooking, when making sauces or melting butter or chocolate.
When choosing a cooktop, you generally want to have at least one large high output burner in the 12 000 to 15 000 BTUs range, a couple of medium burners in the 7 000 to 10 000 BTUs range and a simmer burner around 3000 BTUs with the ability to be dialed down to about 1200 BTUs.
The larger your cooktop the more options you have.
Layout is also important.
You generally want your larger burners at the back and medium and simmer burners in front.
The most obvious reason for this is that you don’t have to lean over boiling dishes to stir your sauce being simmered.
BTU stand for British Thermal Unit and it is the unit of measurement of heat generated by a burner.
There are some different materials and designs when it comes to how and with what the cooktop surface is manufactured.
Many cooktops are manufactured with stainless steel.
It has many advantages like high heat tolerance without the risk of warping or melting and cleans easily.
Stainless steel is also favored currently due to its aesthetics and appeal when it comes to modern kitchens.
Cooktops made from tempered glass stand out from the rest.
The grates are still usually made from cast iron and the cooktop surface is made from glass.
Glass tops clean easily but care must be taken not to drop anything heavy on them for the risk of cracking or breaking.
For use when frying or grilling, some cooktops incorporates a griddle. This adds versatility to your setup.
When larger cookware is being used and where you require a larger more even surface when cooking, continuous grates is the best option.
It adds stability to the cooking surface with cookware not tipping over easily and you can slide cookware over the surface, especially heavy cookware.
Open and sealed burners
When looking at the burners, there are two options: open and sealed.
In general, sealed burners are being used more in residential cooktops while open burners are more common in cooktops being used commercially with it being the preferred choice by chefs.
The main reason for this is that with open burners you have more control, more heat and the option to use the flame itself.
The drawback is that with open burners food particles and sauces can drip directly on the burner if you are not careful.
Open burners are therefore also harder to clean.
Sealed burners on the hand does not give you that cooking versatility but has the benefit of being easy to clean.
Your decision on which to buy will depend on your individual cooking needs.
If you just want a hot surface to get the job done and don’t want to struggle to clean, then sealed burners would be the best option.
If, however, you want to give your inner chef freedom to create and experiment and your cooking skills are or becomes more advanced (and you don’t mind the cleaning) then the open burners would be the choice.
All my recommendations, though, features sealed burners, given that this article targets gas cooktops for residential use.
Controls and knobs
Unlike their electric counterparts that can have a digital interface, gas cooktops usually have knobs that you must physically turn to adjust the output.
When selecting a gas cooktop, make sure the knobs are clearly marked and easy to turn even when wearing gloves.
The ignition process should also preferably be two stage for example where the knob must be pressed first and then turned to ignite the flame.
This is just a safety feature to avoid accidental ignition.
Where there are children, be sure to childproof the gas cooktop (or any other gas appliance for that matter).
There are several third-party devices available with most working on the concept of sliding in behind the knobs to prevent ignition.
Others have a cap that covers the knob and prevents access.
It also helps in this regard to have the control knobs on the top of the unit instead of the front.
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When investing in a gas cooktop, as with all other quality appliances, reliability is very important.
You are most likely going to use the appliance for several years and the last thing you want would be for it to fail you when you least expect it.
The general rule of thumb is the longer the warranty by the manufacturer, the better the product.
Longer warranties mean the manufacturer stand by their product and that is already a good indication.
Reliability also goes hand-in-hand with quality materials being used in the manufacturing process.
When looking at the warranty, make sure it covers the gas cooktop for as long as possible.
Further to this, make sure it covers most of the cooktop, and not only the burners, for example.
Gas, being a highly combustible compound, makes gas appliances more dangerous.
Therefore, when buying a new gas cooktop or range, have a qualified professional install it.
Also make sure the cooktop has a flame failure device.
This device automatically cuts the gas flow if it detects no flame is present.
This prevents a room being filled with highly combustible gas with the possibility of it being ignited.
Some cooktops come with a re-ignition feature where the flame is automatically re-ignited when it goes out.
A cooktop and oven or range are very prominent features of a kitchen.
Go online and Google for the word “kitchen” and in most images the first thing you will notice is the oven and cooktop.
It is the center around which the whole kitchen pivots and therefore when deciding on a gas cooktop, careful consideration should go into the choice of design and style.
When remodeling a kitchen, be sure about style and know what other appliances are going to be present, as well as the layout of the kitchen.
Also, what type and color of kitchen cupboards are going to be used or are already present?
Is there going to be a range head or kitchen exhaust?
What type and color floor does the kitchen have?
What color and type of countertops are there?
All these features need to be considered when deciding on a gas cooktop to ensure the harmonious balance in the kitchen design and style.
Unfortunately, nothing in life is free.
The same holds true for gas cooktops.
Your budget will play a major role in the decision-making process.
You can pick up gas cooktops for less than $190 and the more expensive ones can go for anywhere from $2500 and up.
A good quality gas cooktop that will not break the bank will be in the $350 to $1300 range depending on the number of burners.
How easy it is to clean
As opposed to other cooktops, cleaning gas cooktops is a bit more difficult.
When choosing, make sure the cooktop has removable grates.
The cooktop should also be equipped with a catchment area for spills.
One thing to remember with gas cooktops is to clean a spill as soon as possible.
Spills can clog up the burners and impede gas flow.
The spill can also harden over time with being exposed to an open flame and this may cause it to be more difficult to remove.
There are numerous gas cooktop manufacturers out there and each of them have several different models with different sizes, power settings and other features.
Use this guide to help you choose which one is the best for you.
I have also compiled a list of the top manufacturers of gas cooktops along with a list of the best gas cooktops, that you can read here.