Judith A. Wakefield
Indian River County Extension Service
Glass cooktops, sometimes called smooth tops, were introduced in the 1960's. The first cooktops were white and heated noticeably slower than stoves with electric coils. Now the cooktops are translucent glass so you can see the coils underneath the glass. Heat produced in an element is radiated to the glass ceramic top over it. The heated cooktop conducts heat to a cooking utensil placed on it. The Ceran glass provides much better performance than the white glass cooktops of the past. The glass cooktops are attractive and contemporary. They are durable and can withstand high temperatures, temperature changes and impact. They are scratch and stain resistant. Its smooth surface means no drip bowls or coil elements to clean around, black ceramic glass hides food soil, and the ceramic glass surface is resistant "but not immune" to scratches. The easy cleaning is probably the most important attractions to this type of cooktop.
Some glass top stoves have one or two special halogen elements (vacuum-sealed quartz glass tubes filled with halogen gas). These elements glow almost instantly when turned on. Halogen elements sometimes offer higher wattages than ceramic glass elements and have quicker heat up times. Halogen cooktops generally cost more than the typical glass cooktops. They use electromagnetic force to heat cookware of ferromagnetic material (magnetic stainless steel, cast iron). Molecules in the cookware vibrate causing the cookware to become hot which cooks the food. The cooktops remain cooler because only the cookware and food become hot.
The glass cooking area retains heat for a period of time after the element has been turned off. You can take advantage of this characteristic by turning the element off a few minutes before food is completely cooked and use the retained heat to complete the cooking process.
The elements of a ceramic glass cooktop will not respond to changes in heat settings as quickly as conventional coil-type elements. They take a little getting used to. Although they heat faster than the first versions, itís not quite as fast as coil burners or (of course) gas burners. Start with a lower heat setting then gradually increasing the setting until the optimum setting is reached is recommended. Boil overs are more likely to occur if cooking is started on HIGH then reduced to the lower setting.
Depending on the heat setting and the length of use, the cooking area may remain hot to the touch for up to 30 minutes after the heating element is turned off. Glass top stoves should have a hot surface light that reminds users that the cooking area is still hot, most do. The light will remain on until the area is cool enough to touch. Donít try to wipe off a spill with a wet cloth when the burner is still hot, you could be burned by steam.
Some people think they would need to purchase new pots and pans if they got a glass top stove. Not necessarily so. The right utensils reduce cooking times, use less energy and cook food more evenly. Optimum performance can be achieved by selecting medium to heavy gauge, flat, smooth bottom pots and pans with straight sides and tight fitting lids. To check the flatness of a utensil turn it over and check the bottom of the pan by placing a ruler across it. Rotate the ruler in all directions. There should be no gaps between the pan and the ruler.
Cookware should not extend more than two inches beyond the cooking area marked on the ceramic. Not all glass, glass ceramic, earthenware and other glazed utensils are safe for cooktop cooking. Some will crack or break with sudden temperature change. DO NOT use canners and specialty utensils such as crepe pans or woks with rounded bottoms or teakettles with ridged bottoms. They cause severe overheating which damages the utensils or cooktop. Warped, dented or ridged utensils cause slow, uneven cooking and may cause severe overheating, which damages the utensils, and the cooktop. DO NOT USE a wire grid, aluminum foil or foil pan (such as a disposable popcorn pan) on glasstops. A grid or foil can permanently damage the glass cooktop.
Follow the manufacturerís recommendations on cleaning ceramic glass cooktops. This will protect the ceramic class surface and will guarantee a clean cooktop when the heating element is turned on. There are special cleaners made just for glass cooktops. Some brands offer a scraper that you can order from the manufacturer. Do not use scouring powders or any kind of metal, plastic, or nylon cleaning pads or cleaners with bleach or ammonia..
If you do have burned on gunk, once the unit cools enough for the light to go off you can put a some of the cleaner on the spot, cover with a damp paper towel (so it wonít dry out) and let it set for 30 to 45 minutes to soak in. Scrub to remove any remaining stain. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
Correct and consistent cleaning is essential to maintaining a ceramic glass cooktop. If food spills, grease spatter, melted sugar, plastic, or aluminum foil or metal rub-off from aluminum cookware are not removed, they will be burned onto the surface and may cause permanent discoloration or damage to the cooktop.
Many stoves with glass cooktops also have self-cleaning ovens. These ovens are extra-insulated to safely withstand the high heat used to clean the oven. This extra insulation means less electricity is needed for baking. The cost of running the cleaning cycle is less than most people realize. It only costs about forty cents in electricity to clean a self-cleaning oven. Thatís less than the cost of a can of oven cleaner.
The easy cleaning of the new glasstop stoves and stoves with self cleaning ovens are especially helpful to busy families where both parents work. They do cost more than stoves with coil burners, etc., but save time every day. To many it is worth the extra investment. Having to scrub the stove top or oven are chores most of us would prefer to do without. We have to decide what our priorities are and determine when we need a new stove which is more important, the couple hundred dollars extra a self-cleaning glass top stove costs, or the time that will be saved in keeping the kitchen clean.