Cooktops vary in their methods of heat generation, with some models providing multiple options. The various methods include:
Gas is traditional and well-loved by many expert cooks due to its high heat output and responsiveness to changes. Gas cooktops are often very durable, though they require availability of a gas or propane supply at the home. They often come with gas ovens, which are not good for producing crunchy and crispy foods.
Electric cooktops generally come in two varieties: coil and glass-top (or "ceramic").
Electric coil stoves are an established design that has the heating element directly exposed to the pan. Glass-top designs have similar coils, but a single sheet of ceramic glass covers the entire surface. This makes for significantly easier cleanup, but the surface could be cracked if heavy cookware like cast-iron were dropped on it.
Cleaning coils and poor response have garnered a reputation of electric cooktops being somewhat outdated, but newer glass-top models aren't more than a step or two behind gas ranges in performance while offering the major benefit of easy cleanup for home cooks.
Either type of electric cooktop has the advantage of using the existing electrical connection that most homes have, although it will need a dedicated medium-voltage circuit installed by a qualified electrician. Those interested in purchasing one may want to consider that some new models have digital push-button controls rather than a knob to control the heat intensity. These may be more cumbersome to adjust while cooking.
Induction is the most energy efficient cooktop method which uses magnetic induction energy to produce heat, rather than directly applying heat energy. Induction allows instantaneous heating, which reduces cooking time and reduces room temperatures when compared to other conventional methods. Induction surfaces typically have a glass-top for easy cleaning, which cools much more rapidly when the pan is removed, unlike its electric counterpart.
Induction cooktops require flat-bottomed magnetic pots and pans. Aluminum, copper, and stainless steel will not work unless they have an iron coil embedded in their base. This coil can be determined by packaging, or by using a magnet and seeing if it sticks to the bottom. Cast iron and carbon steel work well.
Features and safety mechanisms such as pan detection, spill detection, temperature sensor - 'safety cutoff' and residual heat indicators (to indicate a surface is hot) are quickly becoming standard features. Other features include; electronic touch controls, child safety lock, unsuitable pan detection, preset temperature routines and programs, and power consumption optimization.