The kitchen hob has been in our lives for over 200 years, and the most common type for new homes is the electric hob. Here we look at the basics and what you should remember before making your purchase. An electric hob is easy to clean and heats up quickly. But it is the best hob for your kitchen? Check out the pros and cons.
With such frequent use, the hob is an important piece of kitchen equipment and you’ll need to spend time thinking about the most suitable place to fit it – not necessarily above the oven.
Where you want to site your hob may well determine which type you buy. If you want a gas hob – the most popular type of hob on sale – you’ll have to make sure you have a gas supply where you want the hob and if you’re planning to sit it on a central island, channelling the gas supply will be expensive. Some new-builds have no gas connection at all.
Built-in hobs are usually 60cm wide and traditionally have four burners. The dimensions for the gap into which a hob fits will be smaller than the hob itself, as the hob overlaps and stands proud on the work surface.
You’ll also see plenty of larger 70cm widths available with extra burners that can still fit into a 60cm cut-out by overlapping the work surface. If you have the space, there are 80cm and 90cm models available, too.
The most popular hob configuration is one large burner, two medium and a simmerer, but you can also buy domino hobs, with their distinctive oblong shape, which allow you to mix and match your burners according to your requirements. You can also add a single domino next to your standard hob, such as a wok burner.
Electric plate and electric coil hobs
Sealed plate hobs are less popular, now that energy efficiency has become so important to the consumer. Although they are among the cheapest to buy, they are the most expensive to run. The heating element is covered by a solid metal plate, which is extremely slow to heat up and to cool down. This makes it difficult to control the temperate and it takes time to go from a boil to simmering. They’re not as simple to wipe clean as a ceramic hob, either.
Electric ceramic hobs
The heating systems are hidden underneath the tough ceramic glass surface. Patterned zones on the glass surface indicate the size and position of the heat source. All have a safety device that prevents the ceramic glass from overheating. The smooth and easy-to-clean surface makes them a popular choice. However, heat distribution around the bottom of the pans isn’t as good as when cooking on gas.
Induction hobs heat the pan directly via a spiral copper coil beneath the glass surface, which transfers energy directly to the pan. The coil is not activated until an iron-based magnetic pan is placed on to it, so the glass itself does not need to heat up for cooking. When the pan is removed, the hob cools, thus reducing the risk of burns. Induction hobs are becoming increasingly popular as they are easy to use, highly responsive, very energy efficient and easy to clean.
Note: You may need to check whether it’s a good idea to get one if you have a pace-maker fitted because of the powerful electromagnetic field used. You may also find you need to discard some favourite old pans and invest in new, magnetic-based ones to use your hob.
Gas is still the most popular choice with home cooks, who like the fact the heat is visible, easy to control, fast, responsive and can be used with all types of pan. Most gas hobs have mains rather than button ignition, with many igniting as you turn the knob, taking away the need to press and hold an ignition button as you turn the knob. Gas hobs can be dismantled for easier cleaning, but they can still be time-consuming to keep looking their best. Go for a hob with a variety of burner ratings that will suit different types of cooking. If you use a wok frequently, a gas hob is a good choice, ideally one with a high-powered wok burner. You’ll need to get your hob installed professionally by a Gas Safe registered engineer.
If you’re a fan of gas but get fed up with mess and spillages that are difficult to clean off a traditional gas hob, this could be the option for you. Gas burners are mounted on top of ceramic glass, making the surface much easier to clean. But the glass does fingermark and show up grease and the burners can still be awkward to clean. The burners don’t heat up as quickly as on an electric ceramic glass hob, but you’ll get that precision heat and control of a normal gas hob.