GE Profile PP945BMBB
GE Profile PP945BMBB

Best electric cooktop

Excellent performance, useful features and a stylish look make the 30-inch GE Profile PP945BMBB smoothtop electric cooktop easy to recommend. It includes two expandable heating elements to handle virtually any size of stovetop pot or pan. Gone are old-fashioned knobs, replaced by easy-to-use touchpad controls. Cooking performance is excellent, whether bringing water to a boil in no time flat or gently simmering delicate sauces. The PP945BMBB features a black ceramic glass top, but versions with a white ceramic glass top or black with stainless-steel trim are also offered.
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Whirlpool W5CE3024XB
Whirlpool W5CE3024XB

Cheap electric cooktop

The 30-inch Whirlpool W5CE3024XB is among the less expensive smoothtop cooktops available, but feedback indicates that it outperforms its price by a fair margin. Forget about fancy controls or features, and the design is about as plain as you can get, but cooking performance is excellent in most respects. The W5CE3024XB comes with a black ceramic top, but also comes in white and, if you want to splurge, with stainless steel trim.
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GE Profile PHP900DMBB
GE Profile PHP900DMBB

Best induction cooktop

The 30-inch GE Profile PHP900DMBB induction cooktop gets great grades in owner and professional reviews. Performance is top shelf, styling is well-liked, and features are abundant -- including touchpad controls with a child-safety lock and heating elements that automatically adjust to the correct pan size. Like all induction cooktops, however, it requires the use of cookware made from a magnetic material such as steel or cast iron. The GE Profile PHP900DMBB comes in black, but is also available in a version with stainless-steel trim.
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Thermador Masterpiece SGSX365FS
Thermador Masterpiece SGSX365FS

Best gas cooktop

The Thermador SGSX365FS is a 36-inch gas cooktop that earns excellent ratings from both professionals and owners. It has five heavy-duty sealed burners that range from 9,100 to 18,000 Btu, topped by continuous cast-iron grates that make it easy to slide heavy pots from one burner to another. This cooktop has a stainless-steel surface with illuminated knob controls. The Thermador does an outstanding job holding a precise simmer in tests, and boils water faster than most gas cooktops. Users love the quick and precise heat this cooktop delivers, though some find it difficult to clean. The Thermador SGSX365FS comes with a one-year warranty.
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Maytag MGC4436BDW
Maytag MGC4436BDW

Budget gas cooktop

If a high-priced cooktop won't fit your budget, the Maytag MGC4436BDW could be an ideal alternative. At less than $500 at typical retail, it costs less than half what many other gas cooktops run, and roughly a quarter of what the top-rated Thermador Masterpiece SGSX365FS (Est. $1,900) would set you back. Users like the performance and, especially, the value. The Maytag MGC4436BDW comes in white, but a version in black is offered as well.
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Est. $480 Estimated Price
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A cooktop is a great choice for a flexible kitchen design

A cooktop is essentially a range, minus the oven. What it lacks in functionality it makes up for in flexibility, at least in terms of kitchen design and layout. Cooktops can be installed anywhere ranges can; unlike ranges, cooktops can be built into kitchen islands, freeing up counter space, giving you more room to maneuver and making cooking a social activity. But you'll pay for that convenience -- you can easily spend up to $2,000 or more on a cooktop and still need to buy a separate wall oven in order to bake.

Like ranges, cooktops come in gas, electric and induction models:

Gas cooktops typically have four or five burners with at least one high-powered burner (for tasks such as boiling water) and one smaller burner (for simmering or keeping food warm). The heat output of each individual burner is measured in British thermal units (Btu). Most gas cooktops have sealed (one-piece) burners, which are easier to keep clean than unsealed models because there's no burner well for crumbs to fall through. Many gas cooktops -- even some basic models -- have continuous grates that fit together seamlessly so you can slide heavy pots and pans between burners. Gas cooktops are available in both 36- and 30-inch models.

Smoothtop electric cooktops -- by far the most popular type of electric cooktop -- have radiant burners under a layer of ceramic glass. They are easy to clean, although some manufacturers recommend using gentle cleansers to avoid damaging the cooktop's delicate surface. While most electric cooktops measure 30 inches wide, some 36-inch models are available. Most electric smoothtops have four burners of various sizes to accommodate different pots and pans. Some cooktops have one or more burners that can be adjusted (manually or automatically) to different sizes of cookware. Burners of different sizes will typically vary in power level, which is expressed in watts.

Induction cooktops have smooth glass surfaces, too, but they use electromagnetic elements that heat the pan directly rather than transferring heat from a radiant burner to the pan bottom. Cookware must be magnetic -- made of stainless steel or cast iron -- in order for an induction cooktop to work; glass and ceramic cookware won't do. (We have suggestions for induction cooktop-compatible cookware in our cookware report.) Popular Mechanics magazine does an excellent job of explaining in detail how induction cooktops work. In professional tests, induction cooktops excel at quickly boiling water and holding a precise simmer. Because the induction process heats the cookware material itself -- rather than applying heat with an exposed burner or cooking element -- these cooktops stay relatively cool to the touch.

Coil-style electric cooktops are still offered, though only at the low end of the price spectrum. These are harder to clean than smoothtop models, because food can easily fall below the burners, but they are easier (and cheaper) to repair if they break. And unlike smoothtops, you don't have to worry about scratching or breaking the unit's surface. Expert reviewer rarely look at these cooktops, but there's lots of feedback on user-review sites.

Cooktop review sources

Overall, we found ConsumerReports.org to be the best source for cooktop reviews. Editors report test results for more than 60 electric, induction and gas cooktops on their website. Cooktops are tested on their ability to boil water under high heat, and simmer tomato sauce and melt chocolate under low heat without scorching. However, rankings and test results are available only to subscribers. Reviewed.com is another helpful source. It does not review as many cooktops, but does a more complete job of discussing a model's high and low points. Again, coverage includes gas, electric and induction cooktops. J.D. Power and Associates' 2014 survey on kitchen appliances provides insight into brand performance, which is helpful, although individual cooktop models are not evaluated.

User reviews are helpful in evaluating how well a cooktop performs in the real world as opposed to a test lab. Cooktops don't get as much feedback as many other appliances, but there's still enough at sites like HomeDepot.com, BestBuy.com, Lowes.com and elsewhere to be informative.

One caveat, however: Many user review sites now incorporate feedback that was originally posted elsewhere -- most often manufacturer sites -- into their ratings. These reviews are just as valid as those posted directly at the retail site, and show enough balance to remove any suspicion of censorship, etc. However, the same feedback now can be found on multiple sites, inflating the number of reviews and somewhat skewing the ratings. Among major user-review sites, BestBuy.com and Amazon.com are among the few that don't intermingle the feedback from elsewhere with that of their own customers. We took duplicate feedback at various sites into consideration when evaluating user reviews to get as accurate a read as possible on actual user satisfaction with a given cooktop.

Elsewhere in this Report:  

Electric Cooktops
Electric cooktops are terrific performers and stylish additions to any kitchen. Editors name the best cooktops overall, and the best budget buys.

Gas Cooktops
Something about the sight of an open flame makes cooks crave gas cooktops. Editors find a gas cooktop from Thermador is tops, but also name some more budget-friendly options.

Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops are lightning fast and cool to the touch, but is one right for you? Editors explain what to consider, and identify a top performer based on user and expert feedback.

Buying Guide
What are the pros and cons of electric, gas and induction cooktops? Our Buying Guide explains the ins and outs, and what to consider when looking for the right choice for your kitchen.  

Our Sources
We used these expert and user review sites to find the best gas, electric and induction cooktops, as well as some great budget buys. The sites are ranked and rated based on their quality and helpfulness.

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