Updated: June 8, 2015
Cooktop Reviews:Cooktops, much like kitchen designs over the last few years, have changed dramatically. They are not just available as the basic 4-burner models - now you can get grills, smooth tops and different burner configurations that suit your style. Cooktops tend to be more expensive than a range, but being able to install them in a variety of places within your kitchen is what draws people to them. Modern kitchens usually have a kitchen island which is where most people like to have their cooktops. Gas and electric cooktops are the most popular types, but the induction cooktop is slowly gaining as customers have found them to be very efficient.
With induction cooktops, only the pan is heated through electromagnetic technology, while your burner plate stays cooler compared to gas or electric radiant burners. The advantages of induction cooktops are efficient heating (cook quicker) and they cool down the cooking surfaces much faster. Consumer Reports tested induction cooktops and found they bring water to a boil much faster than traditional gas or electric cooktops and they are capable of keeping an exact simmer. Of course with these added benefits to induction cooktops comes the larger price tag of $1500+. You must use magnetic cookware with induction cooktops or else no heat will be produced (cast iron and stainless steel cookware is recommended).
Features you will find in almost any general cooktop are - flexibility with interchangable burners and grills, precise temperature control, easy to clean with frameless edges, and many offer downdraft exhaust (great for kitchen islands). Ceramic cooktops are available in electric or gas. Some advantages to the electric cooktops made of ceramic include easy to clean, multitude of colors to match your kitchen decor, ribben elements heat as quickly as the old coil elements, can install flush to countertop, the electronic touch-control cooktop eliminates knobs and sensors in the cooktop will turn of an element if it's left on. Many come with digital reminders on cooking times and the one feature that stands out to us is the sensors adjust the size of the element to the size of the pan being used for efficient cooking. Top features of gas cooktops include sealed surface burners that help contain spills, some models have "gas on glass" where the sealed burner is mounted right on the ceramic cooktop, great temperature control, often have 1 or more high powered burners with 15,000 BTU's - great for high temperature cooking with a wok, frying or just boiling water really fast. Lastly, the cast-iron, porcelain enamel-coated grates are dishwasher safe for easy cleanup on gas cooktops (although I think I waited to long to clean my and now even the dishwasher can't save them from all the stains). Below we go in depth into the top selling models in gas, electric and induction cooktops with only the best listed. The top cooktop brands are Bosch, Wolf, Viking, Jenn Air, Thermador, GE, KitchenAid, Whirlpool, Kenmore, Amana, Miele, Dacor, DCS, Gaggenau, and Maytag. Sears is a great department store for cooktops as well as home improvement stores like HomeDepot or Lowes. You can browse the best selling cooktops here.
Best Cooktops - Gas or Electric:Starting with the top 30-inch electric cooktop, reviewers consistently rated the GE 30 in. Profile JP989 ($969) as excellent (see all GE cooktops here). The GE offers black on black coloring and is an electric downdraft cooktop with ribbon radiant elements. The CleanDesign ceramic-glass cooktop has 4 ribbon elements plus a Bridge Element for oversized cooking pans. Users like the ceramic-glass cooktop because it's so easy to clean and it looks great. Comes with hot surface indicators, dishwasher safe knobs, control lock capability, and a powerful exhaust system that effectively pulls smoke and steam away from the cooking area. The Kenmore 42732 ($450) got excellent reviews as well for less than 1/2 the price of the GE cooktop. The Kenmore is a smooth electric cooktop (30-inch) with consistently performance on searing or simmering foods. Comes with a 4 radiant burners on a ceramic glass top. Experts say the GE may have some high end features, but the better value is the Kenmore 42732. If you desire a slightly larger cooktop, then consider the Wolf 36" Electric Cooktop. Wolf cooktops rank right up there with Viking, Thermador, and Miele in terms of quality and performance. The Wolf 36-inch cooktop come with 3 trim options - classic stainless, carbon stainless, and platinum stainless for a stylish design and features 5 elements and 8 heating zones. Each element has a convenient 1 touch simmer setting and 1 element has a "melt" setting (perfect for chocolate or butter). Owners say the 12-inch diameter triple heating element is just what they need for great temperature control on larger pots and pans. For a cheaper options, but not necessarily any less useful, consider the Kenmore 42742 ($600) - another 36-inch smooth electric cooktop. Home chefs love the low-power burner on this model which keeps sauces and small pots warm.
Switching over to gas cooktops, we found the Thermador 36" Steel Gas Cooktop w/ XLO Star Burners to be a favorite of all cooks. Priced below $1300 you get quality performance on this 36-inch cooktop with 3-in-1 Star Burners which are an innovative way to boil water faster and heat evenly. The burner layout is why most people go with this model since it can handle virtually any shape or size of pots/pans. The cast-iron grates allow for continuous movement as you move one pot from boil to a simmer. The 200 BTU ExtraLow feature is great for simmering with no burning. Don't want to spend over $1000 on a gas cooktop, then go with the reliable Maytag MGC6536 ($650) that comes with a 10 year warranty. Much like the more expensive Thermador, this Maytag has continuous cast iron grates so you can slide pans between cooking zones. You get 5 burners, one with special searing capabilities and one for low-power simmering. If you are truly looking for a budget gas cooktop, the Magic Chef CGC2536 comes in with good reviews at a cost of just $350. We recently bought the Kenmore Pro gas (6 burner) cooktop from Sears. It works great so far (1 year old). We had to get a new downdraft for it, but otherwise it was money well spent. The Dacor gas cooktops were the other brand we had considered.