Here is his final report:
TL;DR: gas cooktop, Samsung NA30N7755TG @ ~$1400.
Note that reviews do not seem very useful. Professional review websites do not review all the options, e.g., only reviewing 36″ cooktops, not 30″ cooktops, or they tend to parrot back Consumer Reports, or they have a clear bias without seeming to cover all aspects (e.g., everyone should go induction). Reviews on online stores (e.g., AJ Madison, appliancesconnection.com, amazon, and Home Depot) are not in high numbers, tend to be copied from each other, often are acquired through promotions, do not go into great detail, and are either 1-star due to failure or 5-star because there’s no failure. All cooktops seem to have failure issues…sometimes broken out of the box, other times completely failing after months or 1-2 years, but it looks like gas cooktops have fewer quality control complaints than induction cooktops.
I mostly used the above-mentioned four websites to shop around.
I would rather go with my gas cooktop top pick over my induction top pick, but the electrical engineer in me wishes that wasn’t the case. If we decided to re-wire that outlet for a 40 or 50 Amp circuit (it is currently 30Amps), then I would want induction instead.
The deciding reason between my two top picks is that the gas cooktop’s layout is just so much better, with a good burner in the front-right (the big burner is in the very center so I’m not as worried about scorching the wall). In comparison, the induction cooktop’s two front hobs are each only 6″ diameter, and our normal pans are 8″. So with the induction cooktop we would end up cooking on the large back hob 90% of the time. I am pretty sure I will find it very annoying to have to reach back to do stir-frying, flip pancakes, etc. I do wish the gas cooktop was only 4 burners, instead of 5, but I guess if they’re going to put the big burner right in the center then they may as well put burners in each of the corners.
Both of the below cooktops have the power I want. Neither seems to stand-out in terms of quality or brand-name. Both would fit (though we may want an extra half-inch of countertop front-to-back for the gas cooktop). Gas has open flame which I’d really rather avoid, while induction has a fan/noise which I would somewhat like to avoid. I am mostly ignoring the fact that we would need new pans for the induction cooktop, because it would be so much easier to keep clean that I would be happy to get new cookware. An unknown about induction is whether or not we would be ok with the controls (on/off/power setting etc)…I’m guessing we wouldn’t have a problem but some reviews are negative about induction cooktop controls.
For gas, there were three main points.
First, I wanted just 4 burners. Second, I wanted a high output on at least one burner, at least 18+k BTU. These two wants are hard to find together. Nice 30″ wide cooktops (i.e., ones with a high output burner) almost invariably have 5 burners, while 4 burner systems are almost invariably low-output. I care more about the high output, so that wins out over the number of burners.
The third main point was that space/installation constraints prevented several models from working…primarily spacing constraints to the back wall, or from the top of the counter to the top of the silverware drawer under the cooktop. The top of our silverware drawer is 5″ below the top of our current counter.
It would also be nice to have dishwasher-safe grates.
My final pick was:
Samsung NA30N7755TG (black stainless steel) or NA30N7755TS (stainless steel) for ~$1400. 5 burners. 22k BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates (according to Home Depot– Samsung says not so much). Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle and wok grate.
Note that it requires 2&7/8″ from the back of the cutout to the back wall.
It does not state how much countertop is required from the front of the cutout to the front of the countertop…we should be fine with the current countertop size but would probably be better off with another half-inch of countertop.
Consumer Reports gave a 36″ Samsung gas cooktop its top rating…and it looks like this is the newer version of the 30″ model that corresponded to that 36″.
My runner-up was:
Cafe CGP95302MS1 for $1400. 5 burners. 20K BTU center burner. Dishwasher-safe grates. Explicitly requires less than 4″ from countertop down to the top of under drawer. Comes with griddle. This model was roughly the same price as my top pick, the same layout, and the same space constraints, but it has a bit lower output, and it requires a total of ~5.5″ of counter-top behind and in front of the cutout, which means a total countertop depth of 19.5+5.5=25″, while our current countertop is only 24.5″….that’s probably not a big deal since an extra half inch of countertop might be nice anyway.
For induction, there are four main concerns.
I want just 4 burners or as close to that as possible.
I want a high output on at least one burner, at least 3500 kW with boost, and I wanted that burner to be 10-11″ diameter.
I want to be able to fit the silverware drawer, which is currently 5″ below the top of the countertop.
I want to keep the current 30 Amp circuit breaker, which eliminated most of the high-end (i.e., high output and large diameter burner) options. If we relax this constraint we get a lot more good cooktops to consider, but random websearching suggests that would add a few hundred dollars to installation.
Spacing from the front of the countertop, and from the countertop to the wall, can also be an issue…but it’s less of an issue than for gas cooktops.
This is a good FAQ: http://theinductionsite.com/selecting-induction.php
This website had a good collection of info
Induction cooktops have built-in fans that automatically turn on to keep the circuitry cool. They can also make noises due to motion and flex in the pans. They also require space for airflow in the cabinets below the cooktop…that shouldn’t be a problem for us because that volume is mostly empty and open.
My final pick was Bosch NIT5068UC for $1500.
-Bosch NITP068SUC for $2400, which meets all the requirements above, and has a somewhat nicer layout than the NIT8068UC…but $900 is a big price difference.
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