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Which Hob Should You Have in Your Kitchen?

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Hob Gas Electricity Electric Ceramic

Thirty years ago there was a simple choice between just gas and electricity when it came to choosing a hob. In fact even the idea of a separate hob was somewhat of a novelty as most people had standalone cookers with rings on top. And for some people it was Hobson's choice as many homes didn’t have gas anyway.

Gas Versus Electricity

The battle between gas and electric hobs is one of controllability against convenience. Gas gives you virtually instant control over the temperature of the pan and for that reason it will always be the choice of chefs.

But there are lots of nooks and crannies around gas rings where dirt can hide and they have to be taken apart to be cleaned properly. Electric hobs simply need to be wiped over, scrubbed at worst.

There are still many households who don't have gas. Many small towns and villages haven't been connected to mains gas although they can elect to have gas delivered to a tank in their garden. But many modern apartment blocks in towns and cities don't have gas either because it increases the cost of the build. It's simply easier and cheaper for developers not to bother.

Modern Hob Choice

So what's the choice of hobs facing the modern kitchen renovator? Gas is still there, of course, largely unchanged. It's the electric hob that has changed in the last three decades as different ways of converting electricity into heat have been tried.

Original electric hobs had electric heating elements arranged in flat coils so that pans rest on top of them. It is still possible to buy these today, they are cheap and cheerful, but food can slip through the gaps in the coil so the quick cleaning advantage is somewhat lost.

Electric Rings and Ceramic Plates

The next innovation was to cover each ring with a metal plate. This prevented the food slipping through the gaps but slowed down the already tardy heating up and cooling down times of an electric hob.

The next step was to find a material that could take the extremes of temperature to cover the heating elements and eventually ceramic hobs came along. These have a single ceramic plate going across all the heating elements so the hob can be wiped over in one go. Ceramic tops are transparent to infra-red radiation and that's how the pans, and in turn the food, is heated up.

Types of Electric Ceramic Hob

Now ceramic hobs are firmly established but there are different ways of passing the heat to the pans. The first two types are electric elements in the traditional sense (i.e. a coiled wire) or halogen heating elements. The halogen lamp variants are a lot faster at heating up but more expensive.

The third main type is the relatively new induction hob. This uses electricity to heat a copper coil underneath the top. The energy is transferred by electromagnetism to the bottom of the pan, which heats up to warm the food. This gives the induction hob its major advantage over other electric hobs: safety.

The rest of the surface of an induction hob does not heat up, it’s only the part where the pan touches it. This makes induction hobs a far better choice for homes with small children. In comparison with other types of hob they are quick to heat up and cost less to run, but they are more expensive to buy in the first place. Also the pans must be iron, otherwise they simply don’t heat up, so you may have to invest in a new set.

Gas Hobs Get Some Bling

Coming back to gas, there are some innovations coming across from the electric hob market. It is now possible to get gas hobs that have the burners set on top of glass or stainless steel one-piece plates. This brings some of the convenience aspects of ceramic hobs to gas, but you still need to lift off the pan supports to clean around and beneath them.

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