Gas is the serious cook’s benchmark fuel for its nimble heating response. The flame on a gas cooktop seamlessly adjusts from steak-searing high to chocolate-melting low and back again. The open-grate system doesn’t retain much heat, so the temperature transitions are nearly instantaneous.
Continuous grates let you slide cookware between burners; heavy cast iron provides even heating. Many grates are porcelain-coated, and some can be cleaned in the dishwasher, although most manufacturers suggest soaking and hand-scrubbing. Cleaning up spills with sealed burners on the full-size gas cooktops I researched means removing the grates and sponging out the depressed spill-collection areas.
Give serious thought to your ventilation choice if you are buying a gas-fueled cooktop (see “Breathe Easy With the Right Range Hood
#215) because in addition to cooking odors and moisture, you’ll want to remove the carbon dioxide, soot, and PCBs generated by gas combustion. If efficiency is a concern, it’s worth noting that only between 35% and 40% of the combusted fuel’s energy potential is used for cooking. Unlike the gas stoves of the old days, all the models shown here have electronic ignition rather than a standing pilot light, which cuts down on fuel consumption and pollutants.
While 30-in. and 36-in. models are the most common, gas cooktops are available in sizes ranging from simple four-burner 24-in.-wide units to 60-in.-wide cooktops. The largest units use the extra real estate for additional burners and/or specialty surfaces such as wok burners, griddles, or grills. Basic models are among the most economical cooktops on the market, starting at around $450, but prices can exceed $3000 for units with features that emulate the appearance or performance of restaurant-grade cooktops.