When you're in the market for a new range, it's easy to get overwhelmed. Gas vs. electric, smooth top vs. coils: It's tough to know which one is best. Comparing the smooth- and coil-top electric range differences can help you decide which will work best in your kitchen while meeting your needs and preferences.
How a Coil Stove Works
Coil-top electric range burners appear as a spiral of flattened metal. Electrical wire embedded in the metal conducts electricity to heat the metal on the coil burner. As the burners heat up, they glow orange. You can control the intensity of the heat by adjusting the temperature knob.
How a Smooth-Top Stove Works
A glass-top stove uses the same type of coil burner, but the burners sit underneath the glass and ceramic-top surface. The wire inside the metal heats the coils, which in turn heat the glass surface. Flat-top stoves show where the burners are located with an outline of the heated area.
Coil vs. Smooth-Top Range Price
Since every home improvement job has a budget, price is often a determining factor in buying a new stove. Traditional coil-top stoves are generally cheaper than smooth-top electric ranges because the technology is simpler. This makes them an affordable option when your money is limited, but both types of stoves come in a range of prices, so it's a good idea to check out both. The best electric range with coil burners could cost just as much as a lower-end smooth-top stove.
You can also replace the heating elements and drip pans on a coil-top stove fairly inexpensively if you have issues with it. If the glass and ceramic material on your smooth-top stove breaks, replacing it can be quite pricey. That means that coil-top stoves are cheaper to maintain if you need repairs.
Heat Conducting Efficiency
Exposed coil burners conduct heat more efficiently than smooth-top stoves. That's because your pans sit directly on the coils, and metal conducts heat well. If the coils aren't level, they may cause your food to cook unevenly. Coils are easily replaceable if they become damaged or no longer sit level.
With smooth-top ranges, the heat from the coils has to radiate through the top cover. The glass and ceramic material don't conduct heat well, so your burners and pans can take longer to heat than they would on a coil-top range.
Smooth range tops tend to cool down faster because glass covers the coils and glass doesn't conduct heat as well, which can make it a little safer with less risk of burns. The exposed metal on coil burners retains heat for much longer.
Ease of Cleaning
A smooth electric cooktop is made of one large, smooth, continuous piece of glass and ceramic. The heating elements are completely enclosed underneath the surface. That smooth surface means spilled food has no way to seep in or reach the elements, which makes the surface easier to clean. You do need to choose gentle cleansers, such as those made specifically for glass-top stoves, to prevent scratches, whereas the metal on coil-top stoves can handle harsher cleaners.
The smooth glass surface is also easier to scrub and clean since it doesn't have any cracks or crevices. You can easily run a soft cloth or brush over the surface to clean away spilled food faster. It can be challenging to remove cooked-on food remnants and burn marks as they harden and don't wipe off easily.
Coil stoves typically have drip pans underneath the coiled heating elements to catch spills. However, it can be difficult to get all of the spilled food off of the coils themselves because the metal is untreated, and the drip pans are sometimes tough to scrub clean, especially if you let the spilled food sit for very long. Drip pans are relatively inexpensive and simple to replace, so you can quickly refresh the look of the stove top if they get too dirty. Food can also get down into the stove below the drip pans, which can require more cleaning.
Stove Top Durability
Both flat-top and coil-top stoves offer a durable foundation for your cookware. The main difference in durability is the potential for breakage on a flat-top stove, which gives coil-top stoves the slight advantage in durability. While rare, the glass can crack or shatter completely.
The top of a flat-top stove is a strong, thick layer of glass and ceramic. It's a heat-tempered material that can handle the weight of most pans and the heat of the burners. But there's the chance of breakage, usually if a heavy item falls on the glass stove top. And if you don't clean it regularly, the glass top can become hazy or pitted.
There's also the risk of scratching a glass-top stove. If you use any abrasive cleaners or cleaning tools, such as steel wool or a wire-bristle brush, you might leave behind little scratches that make the stove top look dull or damaged. Some cookware, especially pans with rough patches or ridges 0n the bottom, can scratch the surface of your stove if you drag them across it.
Compatibility With Cookware
You can use any type of cookware with both styles of electric cooktops. They both have flat surfaces for your pots and pans, which lets them get good contact with the heating source. With flat-top stoves, pans like untreated cast iron can scratch the surface and are best to avoid. Pans with smooth, flat bottoms tend to cook the best because they allow for more contact with the burners.
Extra Feature Options
Coil-top burners have four standard burners, sometimes with some smaller and some larger. Cheaper smooth-top stoves have the same setup, but some higher-end models have different burner configurations to customize how you use the stove.
One feature is the double burner. It's a larger burner, but you have the option to use only a portion of the burner if you're using a smaller pan and only need a little heating space. This gives you more flexibility if you need larger burners but still want the option of having a smaller one.
Some smooth-top stoves also have a warming zone. It's essentially a fifth heating area, but it typically has less power running to it since it's meant to simply keep foods warm until you serve them. This is helpful for things that you want to keep warm without continuing to cook.
Stove Aesthetic Comparison
When you invest in something expensive like a new stove, you want it to look as good as it works. In coil vs. smooth-top range aesthetics, a glass-top stove wins with most consumers.
Flat-top stoves offer a sleek, modern look. The smooth, flat surface makes the stove top look seamless. An electric coil stove tends to look outdated to most people. Since food can easily spill down into the burners and leave the components caked with food, the coil top can also look dirtier than a flat-top stove.
- Bellingham Electric Appliances: Smooth Top Ranges: Pros and Cons vs. Coil Top
- West Coast Chief Repair: The Differences Between Ceramic & Coil Stove Cooktops
- Electric Range Reviews: Which One Should You Buy: Smooth Top or Coil Range
- Sears: A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Cooktop
- Fine Cooking: The Science of Cooktops
Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.