Bring the heat to your kitchen with this hob buyer's guide!
If you want to cook more than baked potatoes and roasts, you'll need to outfit your kitchen with more than an oven! A good set of hobs will let you cook stir frys, make curries and risottos and allow you to create all kinds of sauces, reductions, roux and gravies. In short, they're essential!
The trouble is, there are so many to choose from! If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't worry: This guide is here to help! Whether you’re a budding chef who wants to know what the best cooking appliances are or you just need basic hobs to get dinner on the table quickly, this guide will help you make an informed decision. Let’s get started!
Types of hobs
It's best to start with the four main types of hobs, which are divided by how they're powered. This is important because which you choose will affect how you cook with them and what features you have access to later on.
Gas hobs are the classic burner. In the home they're powered by a mains gas supply that needs to be installed by a registered gas installer. Their main strength is quick temperature changes. When you raise or lower the temperature with most kinds of hobs, it takes a few seconds for the burner to match your settings; with gas flames the change is instant. Gas hobs also tend to be more powerful than other types, so you can get to high temperatures fast.
However, gas hobs require proper ventilation as they produce small amounts of toxic gas, including nitrous oxide and carbon monoxide. Also, because the burners are large and come with pan supports, gas hobs can be more difficult to clean.
Solid plate hobs are what most people think of when they hear the words 'electric hobs'. They're large flat plates made from metal with an electric heating element inside. These plates heat evenly for consistent cooking that's very well suited to stews, casseroles and curries. Solid plates are the cheapest to install and are more energy efficient than gas hobs, making them a terrific budget option for new homeowners or landlords who own student rental accommodation.
The downsides of solid plate hobs is that they take a long time to heat up and cool down. This can make precisely adjusting temperature difficult. Also, because the hobs remain hot after you've finished cooking, you need to be more careful about keeping children away from them.
Ceramic hobs are very similar to flat plate hobs, as they both use electric heating elements. However, whereas the solid plates stick out from the top of the range's surface, ceramic hobs heaters lie underneath a flat pane of toughened glass-ceramic. This means they're much more attractive and easier to clean than solid plates are.
However, ceramic hobs are more expensive than solid plate hobs and they're relatively fragile. You should never store your pots and pans on a ceramic surface, for instance, since you risk scratching the material. Ceramic hobs can also shatter or crack if you drop a frying pan or something else heavy on them, although this is quite rare.
Induction hobs are like the upgraded version of ceramic hobs. They have the same flat, easy to clean glass ceramic surface, and they're powered by electricity. But they work through electromagnetic induction, rather than traditional radiant heat. This heating method comes with a bunch of advantages.
The first is safety. Induction hobs only heat things which are magnetic, so even if the hob is on you won't feel any heat if you lay your palm on the surface. This is a great feature if you live with small, curious children. Another benefit is energy efficiency. Magnetic induction is one of the most energy efficient cooking methods, which can save you money on your utility bills and reduce your carbon footprint over time. Despite being efficient, induction hobs can heat pans to extremely high temperatures very quickly, and they're precise and easy to control as well.
So what are the downsides? Well, as well as being just as fragile as ceramic hobs, they also won't heat every pan. The pan needs to be made from a ferrous metal (as in, either made from iron or steel). Aluminium pans, for example, won't work on an induction hob. They are also the most expensive type of hob you can buy.
Hob safety featuresCooking can be dangerous, so safety features are always a priority when it comes to kitchen appliances. Which safety features you need depends on what's fuelling your hobs, gas or electricity.
Flame failure device
Essential for gas hobs, a flame failure device detects when a burner flame has gone out and automatically cuts off the gas supply to the burner. This prevents gas from continuing to flow into the burner and potentially causing a gas leak or explosion.
Flame failure device
Automatic ignition, also known as "pilotless ignition" or "spark ignition," is another common gas hob safety feature. Traditionally it meant gas hobs that allowed the burners to be lit with the push of a button or turn of a knob, rather than manually lighting them with a match or lighter, but now it refers to hobs that will turn on as soon as you twist the dial. This feature helps to prevent dangerous gas build-ups.
Some gas hobs feature warning buzzers, which let you know that the burner has been left on for a long time. This stops you accidentally leaving the gas on when you don't mean to.
While a gas hob might warn you if it's been left on for a long time, an electric hob can go into standby mode, lowering its temperature automatically to a safe temperature, or turning it off entirely.
Some advanced electric hobs allow you to pause cooking if you leave the kitchen. At a push of a button, all the hobs are reduced to their lowest setting, which can help to stop accidents or overcooking your food.
Another advanced feature common in ceramic hobs with touch controls, turning on the hob child lock disables all the other controls. This stops little children from accidentally turning on the hobs if they're playing in the kitchen.
As well as features to keep you safe, some hobs come with additional features to let you cook meals more effectively. Here are a few of the most important:
Digital touch controls
Older hobs relied on knobs and dials, but modern ceramic and induction hobs use digital touch controls instead. allow you to easily adjust settings such as temperature levels, timer settings and power levels with just a few taps on the screen; some models even come with pre-programmed recipes so that you can quickly prepare meals without having to manually adjust settings each time!
Wok burners are designed specifically for stir frying foods at high temperatures with a wok. These burners, usually available only on gas hobs, have an extra flame ring in the middle to provide intense heat. They'll help you create authentic Asian dishes!
Vented hobs essentially have a cooker hood built into their surface. The vents run along the middle of the hob range which draw away smoke and odours while you’re cooking with electric fans. This keeps your kitchen smelling fresh after every meal and stops grease from building up along its walls!
A feature only found on induction hobs, the power boost lets you temporarily supercharge one of the hobs to bring water to the boil or get a frying pan ready for searing in very little time.
Like most kitchen appliances, there are plenty of brands competing to see who can make the best hobs. Some of the biggest include Bosch, Siemens, AEG, Neff and Zanussi. All of these brands make high quality cooking hobs, but each one offers a unique combination of features, so it's worth considering models from them all!
And so we've reached the end of our buyer's guide! Just as your kitchen is incomplete without a set of hobs, you won't be able to cook everything you need to with hobs alone. If you're outfitting a kitchen from scratch, you'll need an oven, too. If you need both at once, look out for deals on hob and oven sets. For advice on buying this other cooking necessity, read our oven buying guide.