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Hot hobs The humble hob – previously underrated and under-used in the kitchen – has had a makeover and is now as integral to your cooking experience as your oven is

When it comes to cooktops, you no longer have to resign yourself to the traditional four burner, and the decisions you need to make extend far beyond simply choosing gas or electric. “The hob has become very much a centre-piece of the kitchen with the focus of the room changing to openplan and a place for the family, friends and to entertain,” says Bill Miller, sales and marketing director, Atag UK. “The hob is no longer just the add-on of bygone days.”

Modular hobs (made up of individual modules) enable you to create your own cook-station that is tailored to the way you like to cook. As well as the conventional burners, you can also select speciality additions, such as a wok burner, enabling the speedy creation of a tasty stirfry. If you’re a fan of barbecued food, you could include a barbecue grill module (charbroiler). Other options include a teppan-yaki plate, bain marie or steamer, French top, deep fat fryer, grilling hob and griddle plate. You can also mix fuel types, opting for a combination say of gas and induction plates (though do remember induction hobs will require the use of magnetic pans).

Define your needs When selecting your hob, it’s always wise to consider your needs before making a decision. Small families may feel that two burners are adequate, while large families could consider installing extra burners. Look out too for the latest in safety cut-out features and child locks. Cooktops have now become so advanced and functional that you can even select where the controls are placed. If you’re left-handed, controls at the front are more practical than those on the righthand side, which would involve reaching across the heat. Of course with a series of modular hobs, creating an ergonomic panoramic arrangement is easy, but Neff ’s T29V35 in-line extra-wide gas hob is set out with the burners in a line reducing the need to lean over cooking zones.

induction seduction Over the last year or so, induction hobs have become a real contender to replace traditional gas hobs. According to Mike Jarrett, sales director of Neff: “Though gas is still the dominant hob fuel in the UK, there are clear signs that induction is on the verge of a big breakthrough and this energy-efficient cooking method is definitely going to be a key product for the future.” Induction is particularly ideal for families with small children as the surface never gets hot, yet your pans are heated quickly. The hobs also begin to cool down as soon as the pan is taken away, meaning that they are very safe to touch. In fact, induction is quicker than any other type of hob, offering cooking speeds that are nearly twice as fast as gas. They are responsive too, and are also proving to be the most energy efficient of cooking methods. Since all of the energy generated is directed to the pan, heat isn’t needlessly lost or contributing to your electricity bill.

The sleek look of induction hobs also makes them very appealing. They fit effortlessly in with your kitchen and are extremely easy to keep clean. Because the heat only occurs within the pan, it means that spillages do not get baked on top. It’s also a continuous surface, so there are no obstacles to clean around. But it’s not just induction hobs that are benefiting from pared-down profiles; in general the trend for hobs is to be more discreet, with frameless and flush-fitting styles, alongside more streamlined supports and knobs. These will not only help to create a more seamless look to your kitchen, but will also help to make cleaning easier too.

Touch controls are also becoming as ubiquitous as differing sizes of burner, and are likewise refining the look of hobs. De Dietrich even offers this functionality on several of its gas hobs. Meanwhile, Siemens has developed the ‘touchSlider’ mechanism, which lets you accurately adjust the power level by gliding your finger over the control. In addition, Atag’s Iris Slide Control® induction hob offers a touch panel for easy programming, and has a number of other innovative features. A handy pause button will temporarily halt the cooking if you need to answer a knock at the door or take a phone call for example. Its clever Boost setting is also ideal for speedy suppers, heating the pan up quickly and bringing water to the boil.

enhanced functionality Among some of the other newer functions to look out for on induction models is a simmer burner. This enables a zone to automatically turn on and off at regular intervals which you determine, so keeping your food warm but without it boiling. Continuous cook zones are another highlight on induction; De Dietrich has developed Continuum hobs, which are perfect for accommodating larger pans or fish kettles. These hobs work by pressing two touch controls simultaneously, converting two zones to one larger zone, where inductors cover the entire surface area. However, the capacity for larger pans is not limited to induction models. Several manufacturers offer fish-kettle shaped gas burners, and some boast up to quadruple ring burners for an extra heat boost.

So whatever fuel you’re a fan of and whatever arrangement you’re after, there’s sure to be a hob to suit all your needs. Here we have a selection of the latest models on the market to help you find your ideal cooking combination. •••

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