Hobs

Buying Guide - Hobs

Fuel choices

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A gas hob is excellent for producing instant heat and for responding immediately to a change of setting: heat produced on a gas hob can be reduced as quickly as it can be increased.  The flame is always visible on a gas hob so it's very easy to adjust the gas hob to the exact heat that you require.  This immediacy makes the gas hob the number one choice for professional cooks.


A gas hob doesn't require natural gas provision.  Bottled gas (LPG) works just as well, and the gas hob heats and responds in exactly the same way as with mains gas.  LPG may not be as clean as natural gas, but for anyone with limited funds, buying a cylinder of propane gas every few months for your gas hob is a good way to help with the family budget.

There are three types of electric hob.  Most are now smooth and ceramic so when the milk boils over, it is unable to collect under the rings.  While you do have to clean up an overspill pretty quickly, spills are much easier to wipe up than they used to be.  The three main types of electric hob are:

The solid plate

This type of electric hob has been around for years.  However, it's still popular and is available as a built-in worktop unit or a portable freestanding unit.

The radiant spiral

This is also a longstanding favourite.  A relic of the 1950s electric cooker but now the radiant coils of the cooker are usually concealed beneath a ceramic hob, rendering this cooker easy to clean.

Halogen hobs

This type of heating is the newest of the three.  It's quick and clean, incorporating a halogen light under a ceramic plate.  Halogen hobs are the ultimate flat hotplate, with a ceramic glass top which glows when it’s switched on.  Halogen hobs are slightly safer than the other two hob types as you are less likely to put a plate, a cloth or - heaven forbid - your hand on a glowing red element.

Induction hobs are the most 'magical' of hob types, and have been around since the 1970s.  It is also one of the safest hobs on the market.  This is because induction hobs don't begin to heat up until a saucepan or metal casserole is placed upon them.  This means that there are no knobs, and hence no danger of forgetting to turn the cooker off.

When a saucepan is placed on the induction hob, a magnetic circuit is created.  When the saucepan is removed from the hob, the circuit is broken and the power is cut.  An induction hob only works with cooking pots that have a magnetic field.  This means that copper, aluminium and heatproof glass are unsuitable for induction hob cooking.

There is now an even more pioneering type of induction hob which is promoted as being 'zoneless'.  This is a great innovation as any size of magnetic container can be placed anywhere on the surface of the hob and sensors under the surface will 'read' the dimensions of the container and just heat that one covered area.  This is ideal if you wish to heat up a griddle and a couple of saucepans of different sizes.  Induction hobs of this kind put pay to moving things around like pieces on a chessboard.

Hob sizes

Until a few years ago, gas hob and electric hob models only had four burners, but with larger kitchens and more adventurous cooking, gas hob models in particular have become more versatile.  A standard five burner gas hob will have one large burner (usually in the centre), two smaller ones and one very small burner for simmering.  These gas hob models generally come in 700 millimetre widths.

Glass-covered gas hob models are a good option, and are popular because of their ease of cleaning.  They are usually a little larger, starting at 750 millimetres and going up to 900 millimetres.  This flexibility of size is one of the joys of a built-in gas hob.  It's possible to have a gas hob, an induction hob, or halogen hobs in a size to suit you, as opposed to being governed by the overall size of the appliance.  Providing that you have the space on your worktop, a large gas hob is always a good choice.  In the kitchen, it is always better and safer to have too large a cooking area.

Features

digital cameraThe quickest and most efficient hob in terms of electricity is definitely the induction hob.  An induction hob will be more expensive than a standard electric hob, but they are more versatile and are more economical in terms of energy conversion.  An induction hob has been found to use 90 per cent of its energy input, compared to an ordinary electric ring-type hob that uses only 65 per cent.  This is an important point to bear in mind when you consider the cost of fuel and the cost to the environment.


Induction hob cooking is faster than cooking using conventional hobs such as the gas hob.  In addition to flexible cooking zones, they feature timers and child safety locks.  Another family-friendly feature is the ability of an induction hob to go cold as soon as a pan is removed from the heated surface, unlike a gas hob where the flame will continue until the gas hob has been switched off.  Some models are even capable of detecting the presence of a spoon or knife on the surface and will not start up the electromagnetic field, unlike a gas hob where the flame will continue to burn regardless.  Induction hobs often possess a booster feature which can heat water faster than your average electric kettle.  These hobs will also turn themselves off if they detect overheating - a great feature for easily distracted cooks and something a gas hob cannot do .

The well-loved gas hob has a strong following, with more gas hob models being sold in the UK than any other kind.  The gas hob's ease of use and relative cheapness in comparison to induction hobs and halogen hobs are just two reasons for their popularity.  Gas hob types produce high and instant heat, and this means that they are now being widely manufactured with additional high-powered burners for woks and barbecue griddles, as well as rectangular burners for fish kettles.  A good safety improvement available on the more modern gas hob is an all-in-one pan support, which eliminates the chance of small pans tipping over on the gas hob.

The majority of modern gas hob models have electric ignition, and some have a re-ignite feature that cuts in if the flame goes out.  This is a great advance in preventing a potentially dangerous build-up of gas around the gas hob.  Today's gas hob models are much safer appliances than they used to be, and of course they can be invaluable in the event of a sudden electricity cut.  It's also possible to buy a gas hob with a tempered glass cover, thus combining the speed of a gas hob with the easy clean properties of ceramic hobs.

Halogen hobs sit happily between the speed of a gas hob and the easy to clean properties of a ceramic hob.  Unlike induction hobs, halogen hobs use infrared heating technology and therefore do not discriminate against the type of saucepan used.  This means that halogen hobs are compatible with your existing pans.  A halogen hob distributes the heat evenly under the pan and often comes with a heat-waste indicator and an automatic cut-off in the event of an unexpected temperature rise.

The introduction of touch screens has moved gas hob and electric hob cooking on to a whole new level.  Using the same principle as microwave controls, a gas hob touch screen makes the work surface much easier to clean and is therefore much more hygienic: there are no fiddly knobs to offer accommodation for germs.

A recent advance in gas hob models is the duel fuel gas hob which provides you with the immediacy of a gas hob, with say, an electrical feature such as a deep fat fryer.  These types of gas hob are known as domino hobs, and you can have a whole range of electrical units as well as the deep fat fryer.  You can mix and match your gas hob preferences to suit your cooking requirements.  Only the size of your worktop is your limit.