The first decision you will most likely make regarding your stovetop is whether to go for gas or electric. Gas burners are used in professional kitchens and have a strong following with home users as well, mainly because you have immediate control over the level of heat. Also, safety cut out switches have eliminated the fear of leaving the gas on by mistake. Note: just because you have a gas stovetop it doesn’t mean you need to have a gas oven. It is common these days to mix the two and combine a gas stovetop with an electric oven.
Metal hotplates are the most cost effective cooktop choice. Ceramic hotplates have a glass-ceramic surface with the heating elements under the glass surface. Because the entire surface of the cooktop is a sheet of glass these cooktops are easier to keep clean. The hotplate is red only when it is on, but most ceramic cooktops include a heat light when the hotplate is off so you don't burn yourself.
Gas burners, metal and ceramic hotplates all get hot and pass that heat to the pots and pans sitting on top of them. Induction instead uses electromagnetism to generate the heat directly in the base of the pot or pan through the glass-ceramic surface they are sitting on. There is no actual hotplate that gets hot, and when you take the pot off an induction stove the surface of the cooktop is cool to touch.
However induction stovetops are not cheap, especially as you may need to buy new cookware — you need to use 'ferrous' based cookware, such as cast iron or stainless steel with an induction base. The markings on an induction cooktop are basically there to indicate where the sensors are under the surface.
Things to consider
• The spacing of the burners or hotplates on the cooktop makes a difference if you want to use a number of large pots or pans at the same time. This is particularly important if you are getting a stove with a wok burner — make sure there is enough room around the hotplate to fit other cookware.
• Cooktops are also available with a range of specialist burners including fish burners, teppanyaki plates, BBQ grills, and deep fryers. It is also possible to buy cooktops with both gas burners and electric hotplates.
– For easy cleaning take note of the screws and edges — the fewer the better. Gas cooktops should come with solid cast-iron trivets.