Today, there are so many different types of kitchen appliances people can buy and use, one might easily get lost in the array of available choices. When it comes to cooktops or stoves, they are, perhaps, one of the most important cooking appliances out there. We use them for the simplest of tasks, such as boiling water for tea, but also for harder ones like preparing a complicated dish for a dinner with friends or family members.
The most commonly used ones come with an oven attached to them which is a very convenient choice if you have enough space in your kitchen if you love to bake and roast, and if you use it often. If that is not the case, you might find yourself wondering what to do.
Luckily, now, there are many great alternatives to choose from, one of them being downdraft cooktops. Besides the benefit of extra space, they have a few other advantages to offer, so if you are in the market of buying one but are unsure of which one to pick or you are simply interested in learning more about these appliances, here is everything you need to know.
What Are They?
These stoves or cooktops do not have an overhead extractor fan or cooking hood. Instead, they come with and utilize a fan that sucks in all the smoke, fumes, and steam, sends them down through a pipe under the floor, and then out through a vent.
The Different Versions
There are two different versions of the exhaust system, both of which are activated via a switch.
Central Exhaust System – this version is set between the left and right burners, in the center, going down vertically. The fan is located beneath the surface and connected to an outside exhaust.
Active Exhaust System – this version is mobile. Once you press the switch to activate it, the vent lifts from the back to an upward position and when it is completely upright, it starts working on its own. The vent is connected to a series of ducts that send, as per government regulations, the exhaust outside.
What to Look For?
Since it is one of the appliances you will be using quite often, think very carefully about which model is most suitable for your needs and your kitchen space. The most important factors one should consider include.
1. Heat Output
One of the most common heat output measuring units is the British thermal unit or BTU for short. This is the first thing you will want to look at since it will greatly determine how long you spend in front of the cooktop while preparing your meal.
Most residential cooking appliances have a BTU range anywhere between 300 to about 20,000, although professional ones can go higher. When it comes to your downdraft cooktop, choose the amount of heat it provides based on how fast you want to cook. Regardless, make sure the maximum BTU is at least around 10,000 if not higher. For the optimal power and speed, go for a rate closer to 20,000.
2. Gas or Electric
There is really no right or wrong when it comes to a convenient power source, as both have their pros and cons. Opting for gas is great if you are looking for efficiency and speed since it creates real flames and can produce very high heat.
On the other hand, electric burners might heat up slower than gas ones but provide consistent temperatures, meaning they are the better option for jobs like simmering.
To learn more about what some of the best gas and electric downdraft cooktop models are, you can check out this review guide.
3. The Number of Burners
The number of burners ranges from just two all the way up to 5 and they also vary in size. Depending on the model you opt for, you can find appliances that also come with an area for grilling. Pick one that is most convenient for you, but do not go for a model that has less than 4 if you plan to cook several dishes at once often.
4. The Size
These burners greatly vary in sizes and shapes so before going out shopping, designate an area where you would like to place it and measure the available space. You can narrow your options this way since you will only have to look at models that will fit in the available amount of space that you have.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to have space underneath for the ventilation system to be placed.
Although they might not be as effective as some other ventilation systems, downdraft ventilation systems will still get the job done quite efficiently. For the most optimal results, pay attention to the CFM, capture area, and the duct run.
Cubic Foot per Minute (CFM) measures the number of cubes of air that could be removed in one minute. High output gas models generally have a higher CFM as do ones built for professional cooking.
The Capture Area is the size of the area where all the harmful substances are pulled into. This essentially means that the bigger the hood is, the larger the capture area, and the better and faster all the smoke and fumes will be eliminated from your cooking area.
The Duct Run should be as straight, horizontal, and short as possible to get the most out of the ventilation system. The more bending, elbowing, and length it has, the less efficient the venting becomes.
Electric burners are generally safer than gas ones since they change color to signify their temperature. Gas burners are probably one of the unsafest types since they use open flames, meaning that things can easily catch on fire if one is not careful enough.
The appliance can either come with knobs or digital control. Gas tops generally feature the former while electric ones vary depending on the model. Since they both work very well, the choice solely depends on your preference.
For extra space, great venting, and efficiency, downdraft cookers are the way to go. Consider what you are looking for, as well as the factors listed above to ensure you are getting the best appliance possible for your home.