Gas Cooktop Material

sail_awayFebruary 15, 2013

Probably the first appliance we will need to purchase is a gas cooktop, and it will probably be a Jenn-Air with downdraft. I know it's not a popular item here and, frankly, if I had it to do over again, I would choose differently. We've explored other options, but, with our layout, a downdraft is our only choice---other than having no venting at all. We are not going to be changing the layout, for budget reasons, so here we are.

Now I need to choose between a black cooktop and SS cooktop. I currently have a white cooktop which shows everything, but I'm able to use those white erasing pads (Mr. Clean?)to get off stubborn, burned on stuff, so it generally cleans up and looks okay. I like my white appliances and I think they are timeless, but I'm now leaning toward SS appliances because (1) I don't like the way the plastic trim on my wall oven and microwave have yellowed over time; (2) I'm not sure I like the new glassy looking white appliances; and (3) I think the SS may be better suited to go with our 20 year-old (NOT builder's grade) oak cabinets.

I'm worried that SS would be hard to clean without scratching.I use my cooktop a lot and my kitchen is a hard working kitchen, with plenty of stuff boiling over on the stove and burning on. I plan to put in a SS sink, and I won't obsess over every water spot (or even scratch, if it doesn't stand out)., but when I'm done cleaning up the kitchen at the end of the day I'd like it to look good. And I'd prefer to be able to clean quickly without too much effort.

So which is easier maintenance, and why? And, while i'm at it, how do you keep your cooktop clean and remove those stubborn, burned on spots?

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Just a note to say the NG Dacor SS 48K btu cooktop I bought a long time ago has stood up remarkably well to heavy cooking, spills and necessary cleaning. No scorch marks nor bad scratches nor rings of brown around the sealed burners. Some other GW recently posted a picture of his, and showed the same well maintained finish.

I don't know if Dacor still has this exact SS cooktop finish though. Manufacturers change finishes. It's been at least ten years. You might call them. If they do, I'd recommend you look at their cooktops.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 4:31PM
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Does Dacor have a cooktop with vented downdraft? I'm stuck with that, given the current layout which we are not changing. How do you remove burned on food?

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:45PM
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If you're going with a cooktop, you don't need one with a built-in downdraft. There are pop-up downdrafts that work with many brands of cooktops - you just can't use them with rangetops or ranges.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:22PM
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We've got the 6 burner black JennAir gas downdraft cooktop. It's about a year old, and I use it lots. It's a bit of a production to clean (compared to the electric flat-top range I had in our previous house), but I guess that's the same as any gas cooktop with grates that you need to remove to clean out where the food has spilled. The black does show a lot more splatters than I expected, but it does clean up beautifully. I use barkeepers friend glass cooktop cleaner and polish with a microfiber cloth.

hope this helps!

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 8:32PM
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weissman, We've ruled out the pop-up venting, as we don't have the room. Also, it adds considerably to the cost. I have heard they work much better, which would be nice.

mpg2004, Good to know that the black cooktop has been working out okay. I read somewhere here (in old threads) that the black would wear off on some black cooktops when they were scrubbed,leaving permanent white marks, but it doesn't sound like you've had those issues and that you can use Barkeeper's Friend on your stove,as that is one of my favorite cleaners for my cooktop now. Have you ever used one of those white eraser pads? For some reason I have a mental block right now and can't think of the name---I think the brand name is Mr. Clean, although I just use the generic one from Kroger's. Yes, gas cooktops are more work to clean, but I do enjoy having the gas for cooking---I'd never go back to electric, unless it was to try induction. I prefer gas, for now, so that I can still cook when we have power outages. (We have no good place to set up our camp stove in inclement weather, which is when we generally have power outages.)

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 10:56PM
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We're just about to pull the trigger on purchasing the cooktop, so I'm bumping this up to see if anyone else would like to weigh in. After finally seeing the black in person, I'm a little concerned because it looks more glassy than I expected. I imagine it will show every spec of dust, crumb, etc., plus I worry that it's more delicate than I expected. I may cross-post on the Kitchens forum to see if i get more responses.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 1:50PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Don't just assume that it would bust the budget to do something else for venting. I'd choose a very basic standard sized range and put the extra money into finding a better ventilation solution rather than wasting it on a POS like the Jennair. Get an actual HVAC pro in to assess the situation.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 2:36PM
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Maybe what you suggest wouldn't cost that much; However, to put in a range or in some other way add an overhead vent, we,would have to make a lot of changes to our layout. You know how one decision impacts something else? We have explored various options, and this is what we are able to do financially. As I've said before, if I had it to do over again, I wouldn't have put in a downdraft. However, I've been cooking meals in this kitchen for over 20 years and moslty enjoyed doing so. We have been doing the updates on our kitchen over time, as we can do so without debt. We have to make compromises along the way--for example, finding a granite that I do like but not as much as other choices, because it is more economical, etc. While it may not be a dream kitchen, it will be an upgrade from what I have now.

I'll try not to let your comment about the Jenn-Air rain on my parade because I'm still excited about making the changes we can and upgrading the kitchen a bit. If you have any constructive comments to make about maintaining the black cooktop vs SS cooktop, I'd be happy to hear them.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 9:34PM
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Sail-away -- I understand where you are coming from! We chose to replace our downdraft with another for the reasons you mentioned -- it works fine for how we cook and it would be a tremendous cost/hassle to change venting in a house that wouldn't support the rise in price for doing so when we have to sell. Besides, pretty much every house in our neighborhood has downdraft venting!

Anyway, we chose the black over the stainless b/c we thought it wouldn't show as much as the stainless. It DOES show every little splatter, but I'm not seeing them as much now as I did when it was first installed :) The surface is VERY durable and does clean up beautifully. I was afraid the stainless would require polishing like my fridge does to look its best. Having lived with the black for awhile now, my guess is that both would require about the same work to maintain -- so I would get the color you prefer.

hope this helps,

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 12:29PM
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mpg, Thank you SO much for your reply. I was a little discouraged/frustrated with the last response I got. I mean, really, if I had gone on one of the cooking forums and asked for a recipe for mac & cheese, would someone reply, "Don't make lousy mac & cheese, make roast chicken"? So it's nice to hear from someone who understands where I'm coming from and actually answers the question I've asked.

I know not everyone here is designing dream kitchens with lots of layout changes, etc., but sometimes it's hard to remember that. I see some of their ideas and occasionally get carried away with wanting to do all that, too, but then reality sets in. We're approaching retirement age, and I'm thinking of taking early retirement soon. I run a part-time business from home, as I care for a multiply handicapped child 24/7 plus need to be available to elderly parents. We have to be careful with finances (and have an aversion to debt), as we need to plan for our retirement, as well as for continuing to care for our child and, hopefully, provide for our child after we're gone. So I appreciate that, in general, people here are so helpful in offering ideas to fit the circumstances. And I do get some wonderful information and ideas from those who are dong far more comprehensive renovations.

What do you use to clean your cooktop---both for daily quick once-over and for getting off dried on stuff. The black doesn't look like my old white downdraft with what I assume is an enamel finshi. The black looks more like glass, so I'm worried about scratching it. Is your black Jenn-Air cooktop a fairly recent purchase, with the same type of material used for the top---to me, it looks like the material that is used on a smoothtop electric cooktop.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:48PM
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I'm not mpg but I'll try to help out a bit here.

Just looked up the cooktop and I believe that the cooktop surface is a glossy porcelain enamel rather than ceramic-glass (aka "smoothtop" surface.) Because of the curved and molded surfaces, it is probably a bit easier to clean than a ceram surface would be. With ceram/glass you can use a razor to shave the baked on stuff and then polish with a product like Cerama-Bryte (only citing it because that's the brand I happen to know. There are other brands and most are reported work well.) Using the razor blade is fine on a flat surface but would be harder to do with the curved and molded surface of the gas cooktop. OTOH, with the black or white surface, you could probably use BarKeeper's Friend which you probably would use with the burner caps, anyway. Have you looked at the user manual's section on cleaning?

As for stainless steel surfaces, I would bet they would scratch more easily. I believe Cooktops typically use 304 Stainless because it is one of the most rust and stain resistant. My experience with 304 surfaces is that it is noticeably softer than other kinds of stainless, such as 430. That means 304 can dull and scratch. If it is brushed finish, you often can buff out scratches using BKF and rubbing in the direction of the grain. That said, I've found the stainless surface on my current stove far easier to clean than the one it replaced because not much sticks to it. A lot of this may be the depth of the burner wells, though. When stuff boils/spills, splatters etc (and you think you aree a messy cook?), the depth of the well makes a big difference in how easily stuff bakes on (it doesn't) and thus affects how easily the surface cleans up.

Just looking at the on-line images, though, that Jenn Air 36" downdraft looks like it might have rather shallow burner wells.

Consequently, my inclination in your situation would be to go with the black surface even though the stainless might look a bit better with your oak cabinets. I thought about this a few months ago when I was stove shopping because I've got oak cabinets, too. When I bought my stove, I was considering induction (most of which have black cooktops). I tried a couple of photoshop mock-ups to get a sense of how things might look. The conclusion I reached was that a horizontal black black or stainless cooktop surface didn't make much of an impression one way or the other for me. I found it a lot more noticeable with vertical surfaces and, personally, I liked the vertical stainless surface a lot more than a glossy black when paired with the oak. But, again, not such a big deal with the horizontal cooktop. Probably, your countertop surface would be more of a determining factor.

Since you are going with a cooktop that drops into a counter, I'd say the black surface might be the better choice.

I'm not sure what the space constraints are. I can certainly appreciate the need to stay within budget. I can appreciate having a busy schedule and the attraction that at a new JennAir might drop right into the existing set-up with minimal fussing. I gather you've read the installation instructions. If you haven't, I recommend it to be sure that the new one will swap in easily without any structural mods. But one thing I would strongly recommend is -- if it is at all possible -- going to a place that displays and sells the JA and seeing how much it affects the flames on your burners.

If it looks to be a problem, I might suggest looking at the Bosch 36" five-burner cooktop (about $1k, I think) and a Fridgidaire telescoping downdraft vent (about $450, IIRC). I would at least check out the installation instructions to find out how easy or hard it would be to conenct to the existing downdraft's vent ducting. Pricewise, my recollection is that the cost might be a bit less than the JA 36" DD model. (Of course, going with a Bosch telescoping vent would be "better" but over $2k and that might well be beyond the budget.) I'm going on a rather hazy recollection of prices from my stove shopping expedition where I thought I saw a SS version of the 36" gas DD for something in the $1900 to $2000 price range. If you are getting a better deal (and I certainly hope you are), disregard this suggestion.

This post was edited by JWVideo on Mon, Feb 18, 13 at 22:16

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Jw, Thank you for such a helpful reply.I keep going back and forth between the SS and black cooktop,but soon I'll have to make the final decision. I think we will have Black Pearl granite, so the black would certainly look good, I think. Also, it's $100 less than the SS, so it would help with the very tight budget.

I didn't know about all the different kinds of SS. I was disappointed to see that the cooktop doesn't have the brushed surface. i guess I was hoping that, if there were scratches, they would be camouflaged somewhat by the burner grids.

I do know how the DD affects the flame on my current cooktop, and it's sometimes annoying, but I've learned to deal with it. I don't use the DD everytime I use the cooktop, either.

Our pricing for the cooktop is a bit better, and I think we ruled out various combinations of cooktops with the telescoping DD--both for increased cost and the logistics of putting it into our current setup.I will investigate your particular recommendation, but I think it would be much harder to get the telescoping DD to work with our current ductwork for venting than to hook up the Jenn-Air to our current configuration, which is pretty much identical. DH did that assessment, as he's very handy and mechanically oriented, and said the telescoping would be a big hassle, as well as too expensive. (Our cooktop is in a small island)

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:23PM
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We purchased our cooktop just over a year ago. The model looks the same as what's currently on the website. It is a shiny black, but I think it's more of a porcelain covered enamel than glass. I haven't scratched it in a year of cooking, at least! I think there are cleaning instructions in the manual, which you can view online at the JennAir website..

To fully clean it, I use barkeepers friend glass cooktop cleaner with a wet non-abrasive sponge. Any baked on splatters come up with just a little scrubbing. I do have some small stubborn stains on the metal part of the most-used burners, but they are not noticeable enough for me to try and figure out how to remove them -- I figure it's ok for the cooktop to look like it's in an actively used kitchen! When I first got the cooktop, I was having trouble cleaning it without getting lots of streaking, but I found the microfiber cloths from Costco (in the automotive section) work great at getting a streak-free finish.

Good luck with your decision!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:11AM
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Thanks for the quick response. The black, at $100 less, is starting to sound better. I'll check Jenn-Air's website for the manual,too .

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:39AM
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