The countertop: past, present and future

Definition: “Countertop” is a term given to an electrical or gas appliance that has been built-in or placed on a kitchen work surface.

The first freestanding gas cooker, with an integrated gas hob, was invented and produced by Northampton-based James Sharp in 1820, 192 years ago. Since then, the kitchen countertop has undergone several transformations, evolving into the efficient appliance that we take for granted as an integral part of every modern kitchen.

Freestanding worktop

In the 1830s, technological advances led to the possibility of separating the cooker and hob into two appliances. Therefore, the hobs could be inserted into the kitchen countertops wherever the owner wishes, regardless of a kitchen.

Electric burner

The gas hob was widely used, by those housewives who could afford to buy and maintain one, until the invention of the electric hob in 1910. The technology used by the gas hob was developed only a limited amount during the time when the appliance was unrivaled. with just the addition of a flame failure device and automatic ignition they are remarkable.

The poor household electricity supply initially made the electric hob very unpopular. However, the 1930s in Britain saw the need for local authorities to start building decent housing for the low-paid factory workers needed to respond to advances in the industry. In the suburbs of the cities, especially around London, widespread development began which saw the creation of a large number of new housing. Electricity was the fuel of choice for this newly built home, and with this choice, the gas hob began to lose popularity; the electric plate becomes standard.

Spiral elements

The first electric hobs used a spiral element that was very slow to heat and cool, as well as being difficult to clean. The initial wave of models evolved into electric cooktops that used cast iron plates to cover the item underneath and were easier to keep clean. Cooktops, however, were just as dangerous as their predecessors, and burns were common as cooling and heating times were still slow.

It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that glass ceramics significantly advanced the performance of electric hobs. The designs of the ceramic hob mirrored those of the cooktop, save for the fact that the black glass panel of the ceramic hob was much more efficient at transferring heat (it changed the temperature almost instantly) and was attractive and easy. to clean.

Hob induction

Advances continued in the late 1970s with the invention of the induction hob. This revolutionary device used electromagnets, instead of elements, to generate heat. Two magnetic currents were sent, in opposite directions, around a magnetic coil, conducting an electromagnetic current that heated the pot placed on top of them and its contents.

Induction hobs could provide heat twice as fast as gas or ceramic hobs, consuming only half the energy. This obviously made them attractive to consumers, coupled with the fact that their fast cooling time prevented a large number of burn accidents.

Reintegration of the hob

Since the 1990s, induction hobs have been gaining popularity. One might assume that such a safe, cost-effective and eco-friendly gadget has now completely eclipsed its predecessors, but surprisingly this is not the case. A large part of modern homes still use gas or electric hobs in their kitchens. The trend is also moving towards the reintegration of countertops with kitchens, particularly as high-end style kitchens, which do this as standard, are highly sought after (although they are currently too expensive for the average home, making them becomes an aspirational characteristic).

Few modern brands integrate an induction hob into their range of mid-priced appliances as standard. Perhaps as concerns about fuel sustainability grow and technology advances, induction hob prices could drop for the consumer in the future.

Modern design

Cooktop design has advanced by leaps and bounds in the last decade, making it more stylish and versatile than ever, whether built-in or freestanding. The countertop has become a focal point for the modern kitchen and as such is often complemented by an attractive metal hood or backsplash, beautiful, but often killer to keep clean.

As more and more homes experiment with cooking the world’s food, countertops have responded to demand to accommodate this with clever design features like wok-sized electric hobs. Those who love gadgets and gisms may want to purchase a touch screen control hob (instead of traditional dials) or a multi-zone split induction hob to allow cooks to use multiple pots of different sizes with ease and safety.

Who knows where induction technology could lead the cooktop in the future? Countertops have made many changes in the last 200 years, so many more are sure to follow.

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