Your options include:
- Gas burners
- Electric coils
- Glass ceramic surfaces
- Modular burners
How they heat: Better know your Btu. British thermal units measure the heating power of gas cooktops and ovens. Technically speaking, a Btu is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit-or about the amount of heat produced by burning one wooden match. The higher the Btu capacity, the hotter the cooktop or oven can get.
For everyday cooking, 9,000 Btu should suffice. But if you plan to do a lot of sautéing, stir-frying, or other high-heat cooking, you'll want to top out at 12,000 or more. Commercial burners can go as high as 20,000, and some designed for home use can hit 15,000. With that kind of heat, you can get 8 quarts of water boiling in six minutes.
Also consider what kind of precision you can get at the lower end of the heating scale. You may want some burners, for example, that can go down to 5,000 Btu and cycle on and off so that you can simmer without scorching.