If you're thinking about buying a gas cooktop, here's what to consider.

Flame-failure protection

We think flame-failure protection is essential. If the flame goes out on a gas appliance the gas could continue to flow – and fill the room. Flame-failure protection will either shut the gas off or automatically reignite the flame. We think it should be standard on all gas cooktops … and we don’t recommend models that don’t have it.

Flame-failure protection comes in two forms. The standard version has two small rods sticking up next to the burner. One is for the ignition (all ignition systems are electric) and the other detects the flame. In models that use automatic re-ignition both functions are integrated into one device, so there's only one rod next to the burner.

To make sure a cooktop has flame-failure protection, check its manual – and do this before you buy.

Size and shape

Most gas models come with 4 burners, one of which may be a wok burner, which should be sited at the front for safe stirring. Some have 4 or 5 regular burners and an oblong (or fish) burner in the middle that's designed for large rectangular pans, a deep-fat fryer or grill.

Burners

Those with an aluminium or enamel surround that sticks out from the base can be difficult to clean as food tends to stick. Some models have burner caps that overlap this surround so they're easier to clean.

Gas burners are rated for the megajoules per hour (MJ/h) they use on maximum heat. Regular burners should have a good range of heat ratings, from low (around 3.5 to 5MJ/h) to high (up to 10 or 11). Wok burners use around 12 to 15.

Controls

Look for good-size knobs with a crossbar grip and an obvious pointer, that click positively into place. If the knobs have to be pushed down before being turned, you'll be less likely to knock them while cleaning and small children will find them harder to switch on.

They should be easy to understand with simple symbols and markings. Etched labelling is best, as paint can get scrubbed off over time. Run your finger over the labels. Painted ones feel slightly raised, while the etched ones feel flat.

In most modern hobs, you turn the elements from off through high to low. You can't turn the element off by continuing through low to off. This makes it safe to turn the element right down low, without risking the flame going out while the gas is still on.

Ignition

There are 3 main ways you can light a gas cooktop:

  • Manual: you use matches or a hand-held sparker.
  • Piezo: turning the knob creates a spark that ignites the gas.
  • Electronic ignition: you'll need to connect the cooktop to a mains power supply, but if there's a power cut you can still use matches.
Trivets

These are the frames on which you put the pots. They should be flat and stable on the hob. Those with non-slip feet are less likely to move about and won't scratch the hob surface. Check how much they move up and down and side to side – cast iron trivets tend to be heavier, sturdier and more stable than enamel ones.

If the trivets are close together you can slide pans around the cooktop without lifting them.

Cleaning

A good cooktop should contain any moderate spillage. Look for rounded depressions around burners, sunken hobs and/or partitioning ridges that minimise the spread of mess. Surfaces should be easy to wipe clean. Watch for joins and gaps – they're dirt traps.

Pan supports and trivets should be easy to remove and wash. Burner collars, knobs and burners should be easy to clean beneath.

Safety concerns

If a gas appliance is not burning properly it can produce carbon monoxide, a gas that can cause headaches and nausea, and possibly lead to unconsciousness or even death. It's important to ensure your cooktop is operating safely. Always make sure there is adequate ventilation.

If an appliance or connector leaks gas you could cause an explosion by lighting a match or even switching on an electrical appliance nearby.

There are Gas Regulations that cover the safe installation and use of gas appliances, and manufacturers and importers will be required to make a Mandatory Supplier Declaration that their appliances comply with the regulations. The declaration is on the Energy Safety Service (ESS) website. The ESS audits declarations, and consumers can check the declarations for their appliances.

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