Electric cooktops are available with either coil burners or smoothtop surfaces, which hide radiant elements below a glass or ceramic pane. Smoothtops are far more popular than old-fashioned coil models, and are the only type now typically tested by major review sources. They've also dropped in price to the point where opting for a coil-type electric cooktop only makes sense if your budget is exceedingly tight. Induction cooktops look similar to radiant smoothtops, but use electromagnetic rather than radiant heating to cook food; you can find out more about those in their own section.
In professional tests, electric cooktops tend to outperform gas models, particularly when boiling water or cooking at low temperatures. However, electric cooktops stay hot longer than gas models after the power is turned off, and smoothtop models -- while generally easy to clean -- are susceptible to scratching or fracturing. If you think you'd prefer a gas cooktop, those are also covered elsewhere in this report.
When it comes to smoothtops, there's often a startling divide in opinion between experts and users. Cooktops that are well-liked by the pros are sometimes detested by users, while cooktops that draw good and ample feedback from their owners receive mediocre or worse ratings from experts, or are not tested at all.
But that's not the case with the GE Profile PP9030DJBB (Est. $1,170). While we'd be happier if user ratings were based on more reviews, there's enough feedback on this 30-inch black smoothtop and the GE Profile PP9030SJSS (Est. $1,300), which is identical save for the addition of stainless steel trim, to say that things look rosy in that regard -- better than 4.6 stars at HomeDepot.com when the more than 25 reviews for the two versions are considered together.
There's no quibble at all in expert testing. The stainless steel version has gone to the lab in one large, independent review and emerged with flying colors. It earns top scores in cooking under high and low heat, and earns extra credit for its useful features, including expanding elements.
The GE Profile PP9030DJBB is a five element cooktop, and it includes a center 9 inch/6 inch Power Boil dual element with an output of up to 3,100 watts. There's also an 8 inch/5 inch dual element with an output of up to 2,200 watts, two 7 inch, 1,500 watt elements, and a 6 inch 1,200 watt element. A SyncBurners feature acts to bridge the two 7 inch elements, letting you heat large cookware, such as a griddle, evenly. That, along with the addition of a keep warm mode and a melt setting, give the PP9030DJBB the versatility needed to handle most cooking situations.
The cooktop's contemporary look is enhanced by the digital glide-touch controls that let you set heat levels precisely with one swipe. There's a built-in timer, and that can be set to time the entire cooktop or to time each element independently. For safety, there's the usual hot surface warning indicator, but also a lock-out control to prevent accidental activation by a curious child or a rambunctious pet. Some functions, such as LED brightness and touch-control feedback and alarm loudness, can be customized to some extent.
While you can spend well over $1,000 for an electric smoothtop, our research reveals that if you are willing to do without some bells and whistles, such as digital controls, you can find one that performs nearly as well for a lot less.
A prime example is the Whirlpool Gold G7CE3034XP (Est. $750). In one large independent review, this Whirlpool cooktop performs well enough to earn a Best Buy rating. While most user feedback you see at retailer sites originates at the manufacturer's site, there's a lot of it. For example, HomeDepot.com hosts just over 200 user reviews, and those owners rate the cooktop at 4.5-stars.
The Whirlpool Gold G7CE3034XP is a white 30-inch cooktop. It's also available in black as the Whirlpool Gold G7CE3034XB (Est. $700) or in black with stainless steel trim as the Whirlpool Gold G7CE3034XS (Est. $800).
Despite the relatively low price, this Whirlpool cooktop does well in testing and is well-featured. One notable plus is a dual-element 3,000 watt burner that can be switched between 9 inches and 12 inches to accommodate different sized pots and pans. That burner also has an AccuSimmer mode that allows for more precise low-heat cooking for preparing sauces, melting chocolate and similar tasks. The rest of the burner lineup includes a 10-inch 2,500 watt burner and a pair of 6 inch 1,200 watt burners. For safety, a hot surface warning lights when any of the elements are in use.
On the downside, you won't find the digital controls found on some more upscale models, such as the GE PP9030DJBB. However, the color coordinated knobs are dishwasher safe, and the ceramic glass cooktop cleans up with a wipe. That said, while the majority of owners report high satisfaction, many of those posting lower scores do so over challenges of keeping their cooktop clean.
Though the Whirlpool cooktop is modestly priced for an appliance with this level of performance and satisfaction, if your budget is tighter still, we found some smoothtop cooktops that are regarded nearly as highly, yet cost even less.
Reviewed.com gives the 30-inch GE JP3030DJBB (Est. $550) a great deal of respect. It's not the best, nor the most feature-rich cooktop it's tested, but Kori Perten says that "You'd be hard-pressed to find a better deal," adding that "the JP3030DJBB isn't just one of the most affordable cooktops we've tested—it's also pretty darn good at cooking your food." User feedback isn't as plentiful as for the Whirlpool cooktop, but reflect good satisfaction -- a 4.2 rating at HomeDepot.com based on just over 50 reviews.
Without a doubt, other cooktops are faster performers, but Perten says that the GE's ability to bring six cups of water to a boil in just over 7 minutes is "good enough" There are certainly missing features compared to the G7CE3034XP -- most notably expandable burners. However, a melt setting and a keep warm setting adds some versatility. Perten says that the four burners -- two 8-inch, 2,500 watt Power Boil elements and two 6-inch, 1,200 watt standard elements -- have "excellent temperature range, from mild lows to screaming highs." The GE JP3030DJBB is black, but the same cooktop is available in white as the GE JP3030TJWW (Est. $585) and in black with stainless steel trim as the GE JP3030SJSS (Est. $630).
The Frigidaire FFEC3024LB (Est. $480) is cheaper still, and our Best Reviewed pick for those on the tightest of budgets. It has even fewer features than the GE cooktop, yet delivers good cooking performance according to reviews. One large independent reviewer notes that it's the cheapest 30 inch electric smoothtop it tests, yet performance is good enough to merit Best Buy status. "Brisk heat and super simmering make this a top pick," it reports. Users like it, too, and it earns a 4.4-star rating based on nearly 80 reviews hosted at Lowes.com.