In professional tests, electric cooktops tend to outperform gas models, particularly when boiling water or cooking at low temperatures. Electric cooktops are available with either coil burners or smoothtop surfaces, which hide radiant burners below a glass or ceramic pane. Smoothtops are far more popular than old-fashioned coil models, and are also tested more frequently by major review sources. 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.
Professional reviewers and users alike rave about the electric LG LCE3081ST (*Est. $1,100).This 30-inch ceramic glass smoothtop cooktop has five heating elements, ranging in power from a 100-watt warming burner to a dual-power burner that goes from 1,400 to 3,000 watts. Two burners are adjustable in size; one expands from 6 to 9 inches, the other from 5 to 8 inches. This LG cooktop has touchpad controls located on the front. It also includes basic safety features, such as a hot-surface indicator light and a child-control lock. The cooktop is black with stainless-steel trim, and comes with a one-year warranty.
In professional tests, the LG LCE3081ST does an excellent job with low-power cooking, and it boils water quickly (though other models are faster). User reviews from HomeDepot.com and the LG website confirm these results. The 15 or so users who have rated this cooktop say it is attractive, easy to use and clean, and they like the large surface area. Most also report it heats up quickly, although a few users say the controls are difficult to master at first.
Another cooktop that earns praise from users is the GE Profile PP989DNBB (*Est. $1,380). This frameless 30-inch cooktop has a smooth black glass surface; versions in white or black with stainless trim are also available. It has four heating elements: one large front burner that expands from 6 to 9 inches with a maximum power of 3,000 watts, one 6-inch rear burner with 1,500 watts of power and two 7-inch burners with 1,800 watts each. There is also a bridge element that can connect the two 7-inch burners to form a single large heating area, suitable for a griddle. This unit has knob controls located on top of the cooktop rather than a touchpad.
One special feature of the GE Profile PP989DNBB is its three-speed downdraft fan, which provides built-in ventilation. This is a useful feature for a cooktop that's installed in an area with no existing ventilation, such as an island; however, as our report on range hoods notes, it won't do as thorough a job as a regular hood fan. The entire appliance is covered by a standard one-year warranty, but the glass surface and radiant heating units are covered for five years.
The GE Profile PP989DNBB cooktop hasn't been included in professional tests, but it gets very favorable reviews from several dozen consumers at AJMadison.com and Buzzillions.com. Users praise its fast heating, simple controls and variety of burners, including the high-powered burner. The downdraft fan is also a popular feature with users, although several note that it makes installing the cooktop more complicated. The most common complaint we saw about this cooktop is that it is difficult to keep clean; more than one owner notes that it needs to be cleaned after every use.
Toward the lower end of the price spectrum, the Kenmore 42732 (*Est. $710) is one of the top performers in professional tests, with excellent scores for both boiling and simmering. This is a standard 30-inch smoothtop electric cooktop with a white ceramic glass surface and dial controls; it is also available in black, bisque or black with stainless trim. The four radiant heating elements include two high-powered elements for boiling and one dual element that expands from 6 to 9 inches. The cooktop has hot-surface indicators and comes with a standard one-year warranty.
Though the Kenmore 42732 excels in independent tests, users at Sears.com (the only retailer that sells Kenmore appliances) give it somewhat mixed reviews. They praise it for fast heating, good looks and easy cleanup, but some users complain that the temperature is hard to adjust. We also saw several complaints that the ceramic top is easily damaged. Some users report minor scratching, while others describe cracks running across the surface -- in one case, without anything ever being dropped on the cooktop. A couple of users complain about the placement of the control knobs, saying they are too close to the high-power burner and tend to overheat when in use -- to the point of melting, in one case.
We also found good reviews for the modestly priced Whirlpool Gold G7CE3034XB (*Est. $700) smoothtop. This 30-inch cooktop has a black ceramic surface that Whirlpool claims is "manufactured without the release of hazardous metals into the Earth"; it is also available in white, biscuit and black with stainless trim. The largest of its four burners expands from 9 to 12 inches, with a maximum power of 3,000 watts; the two smallest burners, by contrast, measure 6 inches and 1,200 watts. It has a hot-surface indicator and removable, dishwasher-friendly knob controls mounted on top of the cooktop. Whirlpool backs this cooktop with a standard one-year warranty.
In professional tests, the Whirlpool cooktop matches the performance of the more expensive LG LCE3081ST at boiling and simmering, although it doesn't cook quite as well on high heat as the Kenmore 42732. User reviews for this cooktop are scarce, but we were able to find a handful of reviews scattered across retail sites such as Amazon.com and AJMadison.com. The few comments we found are all highly positive, saying the cooktop heats up quickly and is easy to use and clean. One reviewer at Buzzillions.com says it's "more like cooking with gas." We found no serious complaints about this budget-priced cooktop.