French Cooktop: Do I need one?

In the culinary world, french cooktops are a staple to any upscale food establishment that serves delicate. They have become increasingly popular, so much that many some designer brands  have built them into their residential appliances. The recent introduction of french cooktops into home appliances is popular and leaves many wondering, “What is a french cooktop? Do I need one?” Here we will explain the functions of the cooktop and offer suggestions for buying.

First, here is what a french cooktop looks like. This is a Subzero-Wolf product. The french cooktop is the circular plate in the middle.

So, what is a french cooktop?

Resembling rings like a planet’s, french cooktops consist of  steel circular plates with different areas that represent various heat zones. Basically, they are a circle inside of a circle inside of a circle. (Jeez, that’s a mouthfull!) French cooktops are used to keep dishes warm without burning them, and for simmering sauces and other delicate foods (like chocolate) that are easy to burn.

These cooktops originate from French cooking  (who would have thought?!) where sauces and soups would be simmered while waiting for all dishes to be completed. French cuisine consists of many flavors that are served as soups and sauces. This cooktop offers the ability to heat delicate foods such as these sauces while also keeping other food warm. Because let’s face it, we have all been there: serving a wonderfully cooked meat with a cold sauce. How did it get so cold in 5 minutes! French cooktops save the day.

Traditionally in France, cooked dishes would be hung over a low fire while other dishes were prepared. When french cooktop were born, chefs were provided with an easier and more efficient way to control the temperatures of food.

The various rings heat up to different temperatures to ensure that the food placed each ring is controlled by the temperature. Many people wonder, “where does this come in handy?”

Have you ever tried melting chocolate in the old-fashioned way, with a pan inside of a pan of water? For a normal, unexperienced cook, the chocolate rarely melts how you want to, and easily burns. French cooktops make this easy, so you can melt chocolate directly in a pan without getting that mucky melty residue.  (Both your guests and your chocolate-covered strawberries will thank you!) These cooktops are also great for heating up dairy and other foods that are hastily burned on a typical cooktop. Temperature of the rings will vary, between a high heat (middle area) to a simmer (outer rings).

Finding additional posts on what a frenchtop does is relatively difficult – but eHow explains it well,

“A French cooktop is an unusual but handy feature that works like a dream during busy holidays and for creating slow-cooking masterpieces. Most commonly used by professional chefs, the French cooktop is also useful for the domestic kitchen if you know how to use it. Described by as the “heart and soul of the range,” the French cooktop looks a like a Japanese teppanyaki, and it’s made from a 22-inch single enameled plate of cast aluminum or cast iron.” – Taken from eHow’s post “How to Use a French Cooktop”

Read more: 

How do I use a french cooktop?

Subzero-Wolf UK posted this pretty informative video on how to clean and use the frenchtop:

This video pretty much explains it all for us.

Where do I get one?

H&H Appliance Center sells the following brands that offer frenchtop ranges: BlueStar and  Wolf.  Commercial units are also available from various brands that H&H does not sell.

Is it for me? 

Screen shot 2013-08-19 at 3.36.47 PM

There are a few things to remember when purchasing a french cooktop. They are:

1. After use the surface starts to loose its’ silver color and turns a type of bronze color. Many people do not like this, but this natural and will absolutely occur if used. One way to hide this is to buy a cover for the cooktop. Other people like this quality as it adds to the uniqueness of your cooktop.

2. Because the cooktop does not change color or light up like normal gas ranges, it is difficult to measure how hot it is. This can pose a threat to small children who will touch the surface, especially since there are no warning signs to show when the surface is hot. Consider this when buying a french cooktop in a home with children. 

3. French cooktops only work with gas ranges – so if you have electric, you’re out of luck.

4. Are you cooking a lot of sauces, desserts, soups, or fragile foods? If so the french cooktop is for you. Otherwise, it’s great to bring pasta to a boil quickly, but not neccessary for every home chef. 

What are your thoughts on french cooktops? Would you ever consider integrating this feature into your next range purchase?

Have more questions? SFGate also provides a great overview of french cooktops here. Still have questions? Feel free to contact us or leave a comment!


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