Gas Cooktop Review
Why Buy a Gas Cooktop?
The top performers in our review are the GE Cafe, the Gold Award Winner; the Wolf Transitional, the Silver Award Winner; and the Thermador Masterpiece, the Bronze Award Winner. Here’s more on choosing a gas cooktop to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 appliances.
A gas cooktop is a great consideration for both kitchen renovations and new homes. Having a separate cooktop and wall oven combination uses space efficiently and distinguishes your kitchen from those with older styles and common ranges.
The best cooktops have a wide range of features, and with a variety of sizes available, they allow for unlimited customization. We considered 36-inch gas cooktops, one of the most common sizes. Most manufacturers make similar models in both 30 and 36 inches with comparable capabilities and a slight price difference. If you’re choosing between the two common sizes, it’s a good idea to take your largest pot into the store so you can see how it fits and visualize how it works running several burners with a large pot on the cooktop.
Gas vs. Electric vs. Induction
For many homeowners, the choice between a gas, electric or induction cooktop is largely dependent on the availability of the power source. If you have easy access to a gas line and the required electric outlet, there are reasons to consider each of the options.
Gas cooktops provide a lot of heat and give you the satisfaction of seeing what’s happening below the pan. Most have electrical ignition with no pilot light, and newer models have closed burners to prevent debris from falling below the burner and cooktop surface. Like their electrical counterparts, the grate surface often covers the entire cooktop, which means moving pans across it is easy. Gas cooktops tend to struggle when cooking at low temperatures. Many manufacturers now feature low-Btu simmering burners to combat this difficulty.
Electrical cooktops allow for finer temperature adjustments, including lower lows and sometimes higher highs. The most common electric cooktops have radiant elements below a glass surface, but some ranges have a coil or solid disk elements available as well. Flat bottomed cookware tends to work best on electric cooktops, and heavy pots like those made of cast iron can easily scratch glass ranges.
Induction cooktops have a similar appearance to electric cooktops but most efficiently use energy; however, they come at a higher initial cost. These ranges use magnetic fields to heat pots and pans, and as such, they require magnetic cookware. You can test your cookware for compatibility using a magnet. Another benefit of induction cooktops is that the top surface remains cool everywhere except the pot.
When installing a gas cooktop, there are several other considerations to take in to account. Gas cooktops need ventilation, and your cabinet design needs to allow for one of two methods of venting: a downdraft or hood vent. Downdraft ventilation is built into the cooktop and draws air from the surface down through the vent system and ducting below. A vent hood is a classic design for venting and allows for greater air movement to prevent excessive smoke and odor.
Depending on your where you live, your cooktop may need to be installed by a licensed professional. You also need to consider the unique cabinet design required to account for the depth of the cooktop or countertop cutouts. If your kitchen doesn’t already have the required gas and electrical lines to the cooktop area, it may require significant remodeling.
Gas cooktops are generally considered a high-end appliance. As you consider purchasing one, you should plan for the potential costs of ventilation, plumbing and installation, in addition to the cost of the appliance.
Gas Cooktops: What We Evaluated, What We Found
During our review of 36-inch gas cooktops, we found features that significantly added to the value of the appliance. All the best gas cooktops have a primary burner for quick boiling. The hottest burners reach close to 20,000 Btu, which makes searing and boiling easy. A high Btu output is important for recovery, or the time it takes for a pan to return to high heat after you add ingredients. Gas ranges tends to have difficulty reaching low melting and simmering temperatures, so we also looked for models that have a low Btu burner for delicate cooking, and these reach as low as 5,000 Btu.
Some gas cooktops have lightweight plastic knobs that have a low-quality feel and don’t stand up to high heat from pans placed too close to the control panel. Instead, heavy-duty metal knobs are preferable. Some manufacturers incorporate backlit knobs, which look nice and are easy to locate in low light, and a hot-surface indicator light.
Unless you’re doing full-scale renovations, your kitchen setup may limit your options. Some homes use liquid propane rather than natural gas, so we looked for models that included LP conversion kits. Likewise, cooktops require ventilation, which can prevent carbon monoxide buildup as well as issues with smoke and odor. If you can’t install a vent hood directly above the cooktop, a downdraft model draws air from above the pots to below the unit for exhaustion.
Some cooktops feature bridge burners, which are burners shaped to evenly heat elongated or roasting pans. Another useful feature we found was an integrated griddle. These replace a portion of the grates with a cast-iron griddle, giving you direct high heat right next to the flame.
Gas Cooktops: Our Verdict and Recommendations
The GE Cafe has the highest Btu output available on the primary burner. It also has most of the features we were looking for, including continuous dishwasher-safe grates, metal knobs with backlights, a child lock and a precision burner. For these and other reasons, it earns our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award.
The Wolf Transitional and Thermador Masterpiece, our Top Ten Reviews Silver and Bronze Award winners, have high Btu outputs, and each has a sleek design. They also have the best warranties – a two-year full and two-year limited warranty respectively – outperforming the rest of the group’s limited one-year warranties.
While the Bosch 800 Series 36-inch cooktop didn’t make the top three, as the number four ranked gas cooktop its price and wide range of features make it a great option for individuals on a budget. If you aren’t too concerned about features and are mostly interested in getting high heat, the KitchenAid Pro Dual-Tier and Maytag Dual-Stack both are both good options. See our individual gas cooktop reviews for more information on each model.