Barbara Newell: The heat is on: the lowdown on cooktop ranges

Barbara Newell


Barbara Newell

Barbara Newell


Barbara Newell

I will be replacing an electric coil range. I realize that I have choices. I have found a radiant cooktop range. Honestly, I bought it second hand, which is why I made this choice: economics.

I remember my mom standing at her 1952 gas range and creating everything from homemade chili to massive holiday diners. I remember when I was old enough she allowed me to light the range — with her guidance of course.

These days there are basically five types of cooktops:

- Gas

- Convention coil

- Induction

- Halogen

- Radiant

We must not assume that gas is better than electric. Today’s cooktops can do better and outperform gas.

Coil cooktops are probably the next best known besides gas. These two have been standbys for many, many years and we believe we all have “on the job” experience with them. So, we will talk only about the remaining three types of cooktops:

- Induction: This type of cooktop is great in performance. These are not as commonly found on the market as they were in the past. These units work by heating the cooking utensils, (only two choices, iron or steel), through a magnetic field. With the pot or pan in place, the magnetic field passes through the cookware causing molecules to move, which in turn creates heat. This type of heating is very efficient and like gas, when the temperature is lowered, it is immediate.

- Halogen: Quick heat is what you get with halogen. A high intensity halogen light heats and radiates energy to the cookware. This type of element has lost popularity in recent years, mainly because the newer ribbon-type radiant elements do the same job just as quick.

- Radiant: The red glow — popular and affordable. There are two types of radiant elements: standard and ribbon type. The standard one heats up slower than the ribbon type of radiant element and does not have precise temperature control. Ribbon type radiant elements do perform better than the standard type and are much more desirable. With radiant heat the surface of the cooktop will get hot and stay hot for a while with radiant.

Besides types of heating elements, you can also choose, in many cases, different modules. Some module types are griddles, steamers, woks, deep fryers and rotisseries. You may also choose different size smart elements that automatically choose the correct element size based on the size of the cookware. There is even an oval choice element for large cooking ventures.

If you are changing your type of cooktop, keep in mind that all cooktops should be vented and you have several venting choices: overhead range hoods, built in downdraft vents and pop-ups types. Some older ventilation systems may no longer be adequate.

More factors that may come into play in choosing your type of element could be heating speed, temperature recovery, energy usage, cleanability, cookware recommendations and surface temperatures.

With so many choices on the market it is wise to research first, visit the dealer and ask questions second, and last but not least — compare.

Barbara Newell is a freelance writer and owner of Barbara Newell, Inc., Inspections, Consulting, Mold Testing and Home Watch. You can reach her at, or 495-7857.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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