Adding an individual electric cooktop to your kitchen—separate from the oven—is an alternative to the conventional range that creates flexibility and convenience. Typically with this setup, the oven (or ovens) go into the wall, while the cooktop sits on a countertop or island, easing congestion in the kitchen and enabling a more fluid workflow.
Electric cooktops come with various combinations of wishlist features and match most decor, whether you prefer one with the classic radiant-coil appearance or an easy-care smooth style with a more modern look. If this sounds like a solution for your kitchen, read on to learn what to look for when selecting the best electric cooktop and why the models listed below are considered such quality options.
- BEST OVERALL: GE JP3030DJBB 30 Inch Smoothtop Electric Cooktop
- RUNNER-UP: Empava 30″ Induction Cooktop Electric Stove
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GASLAND 30″ Built-in Electric Cooktop
- BEST 30-INCH: Frigidaire 30 Inch Electric Induction Cooktop
- BEST 36-INCH: Empava 36 Inch Electric Stove Induction Cooktop
- BEST PORTABLE: Ovente Double Hot Plate Electric Coil Stove
- BEST SENSOR: Frigidaire Gallery 36″ Electric Induction Cooktop
Types of Electric Cooktops
Electric cooktops are available in radiant-coil and smooth-top models. Below are the relevant differences and features.
The burner on a radiant-coil electric cooktop is a spiral of flattened metal that sits inside or is suspended over an indent in the cooktop surface. A wire embedded inside the metal coil generates heat via electricity, bringing the burner to the desired cooking temperature. Heat settings range from low to high and, as the burner heats up, it glows orange to caution against touching it.
Generally less expensive than smooth-top models, radiant-coil cooktops can be peskier to maintain since they require carefully removing the coil and cleaning it and the drip pan separately.
There are two types of smooth-top electric cooktops: radiant and induction. Radiant versions operate similarly to radiant-coil models, but the coils lie under a sleek glass-and-ceramic surface. Radiant-heat smooth-top models take a bit longer to warm up, but cleanup can be as easy as a swipe with a damp sponge.
While induction smooth-top units look and clean up much like smooth radiant models, they use electromagnetism to transfer heat to conductive cookware (i.e., magnetic metal pots and pans). These cooktops, which tend to be pricier than radiant units, reach cooking temperatures and cool down much more quickly than other models.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Electric Cooktop
Keep these important factors and product features in mind when you shop for the best electric cooktop for your kitchen.
The layout and position of appliances and other elements in the kitchen will determine where to situate an electric cooktop. An electric cooktop requires at least 30 inches of clearance above the cooktop surface to prevent heat damage, which means placing one below an upper cabinet may be impossible.
Electric cooktops are typically embedded into a counter when installed, but depending on the depth of the installation, the surface of the cooktop can sit flush with the countertop or even below. Counters and walls that would sit at a height equal to or taller than the cooktop should remain at least 6 inches away from the cooktop to prevent heat damage. Keep in mind that induction cooktops only heat up conductive surfaces, so avoid locating the cooktop near any magnetic materials.
Cooking Surface Area
After establishing the areas where an electric cooktop can safely be located, measure these spaces to determine the maximum size cooktop that will fit. Also consider how many burners will be the most efficient for you. Consider measurements and burner requirements when choosing between full-size and half-size cooktops.
- Full-size electric cooktops typically have a cooking surface with four or five burners. Most full-size electric cooktops are either 30 or 36 inches, though some 24-inch and 45-inch models are available.
- Half-size electric cooktops offer a cooking surface with just one or two burners and typically measure about 12 inches in length. These work better for small kitchens, people who won’t typically use more than one or two burners at a time, or home cooks who want to add an extra cooking surface as an adjunct to a range. Some half-size electric cooktops are also portable: Rather than embedded, they sit on top of a counter and plug into an available socket. Portable electric cooktops are popular for RVs and at campsites.
An electric cooktop generates and transfers heat to cookware placed on the burners, but different types heat up differently. Models may have dials as controls or a digital touch screen to increase or decrease the heat. There may also be controls for built-in ventilation, warming elements, and setting a double burner to single or double size.
- Radiant-coil electric cooktops have an electric wire running through each metal coil that transmits electrical energy and creates heat. The heat radiates off of the metal coil, directly heating cookware placed on top. This method of generating heat is slower than induction smooth tops but faster than radiant smooth tops.
- Radiant smooth-top electric cooktops work like radiant-coil cooktops but have a tempered glass-and-ceramic pane on top of the heating element. This barrier makes these cooktops slowest to effectively generate and transfer heat.
- Induction smooth-top electric cooktops rely on electromagnetic force to increase the vibration of molecules in conductive cookware, heating the cookware and its contents. Induction cooktops heat up faster and cool down more quickly than their radiant counterparts.
Electric cooktops are a great choice for energy efficiency, because they require less energy overall than a full oven-and-stove combination. That said, an induction smooth-top model that heats up instantly is the most energy-efficient choice. Radiant-coil cooktops are less efficient as they take some time to warm up, but they transfer heat faster than radiant smooth-top cooktops, which are the least energy-efficient choice.
When adding an electric cooktop, take its appearance into account so that it will complement the kitchen decor.
- Radiant-coil electric cooktops suit appliances and decor that reflect the classic appearance of the exposed metal coils. The current trend in kitchen design considers this look outdated, so choose a cooktop in a more up-to-the-minute color and finish to stay in step.
- Smooth-top electric cooktops have a sleek, seamless look that suits modern kitchen decor. Choose one in a color and finish that complements the kitchen decor.
Maintenance and Cleaning
It’s important to keep a cooktop free of crumbs, sauces, oils and other spills. If these common cooking accidents linger, they can quickly build up, causing foul odors and becoming harder to remove over time. If these substances are allowed to remain, they can even damage the cooktop’s elements. Clean messes from an electric cooktop as soon as it is cool enough to touch safely—and keep these tips in mind:
- Radiant-coil electric cooktops are more difficult to clean and maintain than smooth-top products because the coils are exposed during cooking. To clean, remove the coils and drip pan from each element and wash individually with soap and water, then dry and replace.
- Smooth-top electric cooktops are easy to clean, but the glass-and-ceramic surface can be easily scratched. Avoid abrasive scouring cleansers and products such as steel, and don’t press or scrub overzealously.
Some electric cooktops come with built-in safety features, while others are more basic in design. If there are children in the home, the following safety features may be worth insisting on:
- Child locks prevent children from turning on the cooktop. This safety feature is more commonly seen in cooktops with touch-screen controls, but it may also be available in a more rudimentary way on models with knob controls, requiring the user to depress the knob before it can be turned.
- Hot-surface indicators are typically a light located near the individual burner, or near the control for that burner, that remains lit until the surface is considered no longer dangerous to touch, regardless of whether the element is on or off.
- On/off indicators are lights or visual displays that activate when an element is turned on and deactivate when the element is turned off. This simple feature can remind the user to turn off an active burner, but it can also mean that a burner is heating up.
Electric cooktops offer numerous goodies attractive to home cooks. Here’s a review of what’s available:
- Double burners are larger burners that offer the option to only use the inner element for smaller pans, or the entire element for larger pans, to conserve energy and heat cookware with the most appropriate distribution of heat.
- Warming zones often look like a heating element but provide much less heat, ensuring that food placed there will remain warm but not burn or overcook.
Timers enable a burner to turn off after a specific period, so that food won’t burn or overcook, helpful when cooking foods like rice or when reheating leftovers.
- Automatic pan-size recognition is a smart feature seen in more advanced products. Instead of selecting between two heat surface sizes, like with a double burner, the cooktop makes the decision on its own by analyzing the size of the cookware and automatically matching the heating surface size to the pan or pot.
- Melt settings enable the user to melt cheese or other delicate foods without burning or scorching. This is a helpful feature for those who make cheese sauces, as it can be challenging otherwise to control the heat of the melt.
- Power-boil elements rapidly heat water and other liquids to a boil using a higher heat output, to effectively use the entire cooktop.
Our Top Picks
The following products are considered among the best electric cooktops in terms of quality, dependability, and price.
Those who enjoy cooking and who sometimes need to pull meals together on the fly should consider this 30-inch-by-21.5-inch radiant electric cooktop. Two of its four radiant heating elements have power-boil capabilities to bring water and other liquids to a rolling boil in just a few minutes. The smooth, easy-to-clean black top is accented by white circles to indicate the element position.
This GE cooktop also features a keep-warm setting and a melt setting for versatile cooking and serving. Hot-surface indicators stay illuminated until the elements have cooled down to prevent burns, while on/off indicators remain lit while the element is on, a reminder to turn it off when done.
Energy efficiency and the ability to bring heat to cookware immediately make this Empava induction cooktop a quality contender for a busy kitchen. It’s also a solid option for a home with kids, since the cooktop itself doesn’t get very hot and cools quickly, while the hot-surface indicator and child lock add even more safety.
The electric cooktop measures 30 inches by 21 inches and has a smooth, black tempered-glass surface that suits a variety of decor styles. An automatic pan-size sensor heats the element to the size of the cookware atop it and turns off again when no pan is present. This cooktop also has a digital control and a timer that will automatically turn the element off when it reaches zero, allowing the user to set it and forget it.
For a lot of features at a reasonable price, consider this built-in electric cooktop. An automatic shut-off timer lends convenience, while precautions like a child safety lock on the digital control panel, overheating protection, and hot-surface indicators can bring peace of mind.
Measuring 30 inches by 20.5 inches, this radiant smooth cooktop has four elements, including a double burner and an extra-wide burner that can either heat up in a circle or extend to an oval area for oddly shaped cookware. Each element, set beneath a black tempered-glass surface, can be set to one of nine power settings to warm, melt, cook, and boil with the same element.
For a kitchen with room for a 30-inch-by-21-inch electric cooktop, this Frigidaire offers solid features. The radiant smooth-top electric cooktop has four heating elements, including a double burner that can be set to match smaller and larger cookware. Indicator lights notify the user when an element is on or off, and hot-surface indicators help deter accidental burns. The sleek black design is enhanced with white element highlighting and red accents on the control knobs, for a look that will suit various kitchen-decor styles.
For a kitchen that has space for a 36-inch induction cooktop, this Empava model may have all the desired functions and features. The ample 36-inch-by-21-inch surface area has five burners—including one large central element—that sense the size of conductive cookware to provide the precise diameter of heat. When the cookware is removed, the elements automatically turn off.
A hot-surface indicator will appear on the black tempered-glass surface when the cooktop is hot to the touch. Digital controls include a child lock for safety and a timer to help foods cook to perfection.
A portable electric cooktop can come in handy—for a dorm, traveling in an RV, camping, or for an extra cooking surface when preparing large meals. This Ovente model measures a mere 18 inches by 10 inches and weighs only 4 pounds, an easily mobile device.
The cooktop’s two radiant-coil elements have durable stainless steel heating tubes, controlled by two knobs on the front of the device. When a burner is turned on, the preheat indicator light beside the specific control knob will illuminate until the burner reaches the desired temperature (note that this is not an on/off or hot-surface indicator light). The cooktop also has a fire-resistant metal housing and nonslip rubber feet to help reduce the risk of accidents.
The smart design of this Frigidaire induction electric cooktop helps the kitchen function at its best. Its black tempered-glass surface, which measures 36 inches by 21 inches, has built-in sensors to make cooking more efficient. The sensors not only detect when a compatible pot or pan is on the element, but they also heat the area to the cookware’s exact diameter. When cookware is removed, the sensor will automatically shut off the element.
This electric cooktop also has a child lock on the digital controls, nine heat levels for a wide range of heat settings, and an automatic shut-off timer.
FAQs About Electric Cooktops
Continue reading for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about electric cooktops.
Q. How is an induction cooktop different from a radiant cooktop?
Radiant cooktops emanate radiant heat directly from the heating elements. Induction cooktops use electromagnetism to transfer heat into conductive cookware—pots and pans made of magnetic metal, such as stainless steel. Induction cooktops do not transfer heat to the element itself, making it a safer option for homes with small children.
Q. What are the common sizes for electric cooktops?
The most common sizes for full-size electric cooktops are 30 inches and 36 inches, though they also come in 24-inch or 45-inch models. Half-size electric cooktops are typically around 12 inches in size.
Q. How do I clean my electric cooktop?
To clean an electric cooktop, follow these simple steps:
- Ensure the cooktop is off and cool to the touch.
- Clean stray food from the surface with a paper towel or cloth.
- For smooth-top electric cooktops, use a mixture of hot water and soap with a soft scrub brush to remove stuck-on food. Never use steel wool or other abrasives, which can damage the surface.
- For radiant-coil electric cooktops, remove the coils from the cooktop to clean them individually with hot water and soap, plus a soft scrub brush for stuck-on food. Rinse and then dry with a paper towel or cloth, and replace the coils.
Q. How often do electric cooktops need to be replaced?
The average lifespan of an electric cooktop is approximately 10 to 12 years.