I LOVE my Wolf Electric Cooktop!
Recommend this product?
When I started reviewing appliances for Epinions after my kitchen remodel two years ago, I decided that my Wolf 36" Electric Cooktop is easily the most reliable and my favorite appliance of the bunch. My Wolf cooktop was purchased and installed in my kitchen island, along with a 36" telescoping range vent (separate review to come). In this review, I'll walk you through my decision to buy a Wolf cooktop, some of its many desirable features, and some tips for installing the appliance in your kitchen.
Side Note: Test Drive Your Cooktop: I wouldn't buy any appliance without seeing it in person first. You won't find the Wolf brand at Sears, Lowes or Home Depot. To check it out, venture into more specialty appliance stores and high-end kitchen retailers. Some vendors actually have working models for demos and comparison.
Choosing your cooktop
Since the cooktop is of paramount importance to any cook (aside from their knives), it's not a place to skimp on features. So how did I choose the Wolf Electric Cooktop over its many competitors? When I compared the Wolf to similar models by GE, Kenmore and Whirlpool (for starters), I noticed that its unique element configuration and cooking technology put it in a class of its own. Here's some insight into my decision:
Gas or Electric? Cooks who prefer gas stoves are generally blown away by BTUs (heat capacity) and the flame's responsiveness to temperature changes. While I won't deny these facts, I have used a smooth top electric range for over a decade, and prefer them for these reasons:
1) Ease of cleaning: smooth cooktops are a breeze to clean with nowhere for grease and food debris to collect
2) No retrofit required: you don't need to add a gas line if you previously had electric
3) Performance: newer electric models have high-tech elements which heat up quickly and efficiently
4) Caveman Quotient: I don't need an open flame to feel like I'm really cooking!
My Criteria for Choosing an Electric Cooktop:
*Price (the Wolf name doesn't come cheap)
*Size & Element Configuration (at least five elements with multiple diameters)
*Touch Controls that are easy to operate and clean
*Power and Performance
*Ease of Cleaning and Durability
*Price: The Wolf 36" Electric Cooktop is definitely a splurge (topped in price only by induction models). Since the Wolf, at around $1800, is at the top of the price range, I needed to justify its purchase. What I found was a combination of features which made it stand out from the rest.
*Size and Element Configuration: This model's layout is generous and versatile with five elements, including a triple-zone (12" diameter) and a dual zone. Almost all my cookware sizes match an element on the cooktop, including my wok and paella pans. The only element the appliance lacks is a bridge, which connects two elements for heating a large griddle or grill pan (I've managed to work around this one). Wolf electric cooktops also come in 15" (2 element) and 30" (4 element) sizes.
*Touch Controls: I love the touch controls, which work effortlessly and intuitively. Two light touches turn each element on, and one touch turns them off. All the elements can also be extinguished simultaneously with a single touch. Another touch (press down for 3 seconds) locks the entire unit for easy cleaning and child-proofing. Lights indicate elements which are still hot.
*Power & Performance: Gas stoves, you've met your match! Wolf puts high-tech at your fingertips. Glowing ribbon elements use high-frequency pulsation technology to heat quickly and steadily. You may be surprised at how quickly the range responds to temperature changes. Low simmer and melt settings are useful for soups, rice and chocolate. Medium keeps my pressure cooker humming steadily. Medium-high is ideal for sauteing and frying, and high brings liquids to boil rapidly.
*Ease of Cleaning and Durability: My former cooktop, a smooth glass Whirlpool, also performed well. But the old ceramic top didn't hold up well over time and showed many scratches and discolorations. I am ecstatic to report that after two years of daily use, my Wolf Electric cooktop is as shiny and unblemished as the day it arrived. Simply wipe clean with a sponge and cream cleanser. Stubborn spills can be scraped off with the razor blade tool (comes with the appliance). Hard to believe, but the blade does not mar the surface in any way!
Cookware tips: As with all smooth rangetops, your cookware should be medium to heavy weight and have a level bottom for maximum efficiency. I use my decade-old set of All-Clad cookware and Analon, Circulon and KitchenAid Saute pans.
Must Read Tips for a Smooth Installation Experience
If you've ever done a kitchen remodel, or even gotten a new appliance, you may have learned the hard way that the best laid plans can go awry. Therefore, I'd like to mention some details to be aware of, in case you decide to purchase the Wolf Electric cooktop (or another electric cooktop) for your kitchen. I highly recommend reading the Planning, Reference, Installation and Design guides (all four of them) at wolfappliance.com below before buying!
Framed vs. Unframed: The framed model rests on top of your counter. For this model, your countertop fabricator will need to cut a hole in the counter to fit the appliance (this can be cut on your premises). The unframed model, which appears flush with the countertop surface, actually rests below the surface on a lip. To install this version, the countertop maker must grind the lip on the counter at the factory before it arrives at your house.
Cabinet modifications: You will need to modify the drawer depths to accommodate a blower if you choose a telescoping vent (instead of a range hood). Another option would be a large cabinet with pull-outs modified for depth if required. (Make sure you tell your kitchen designer to make the appropriate modifications during the ordering process!)
Venting: We decided on telescoping kitchen hood which retracts below the counter when not in use. The model has an external blower which was installed in the crawlspace underneath the island. Plan for the vent appliance dimensions before you order anything!
More Installation Coordination Suggestions:
1) Even though it might seem tedious and daunting, read the installation manuals for your model and note any special instructions for placing the cooktop on the counter and in the cabinet or drawer bank. You will need to communicate the appliance specs to your cabinet and countertop providers before they are ordered.
2) Keep in mind that you will actually coordinate four trades to make sure installation goes smoothly: your appliance vendor, countertop fabricator, cabinet maker and the installers.
From Thanksgiving Dinner to Mother's Day Brunch, this Range is Home for all your special dishes. Are you tempted? I recommend you check out a variety of brands and models and decide for yourself. I definitely do not regret splurging on this well-used and well-loved appliance in my kitchen. The Wolf brand is synonymous with home kitchen and professional ranges, and I am pleased that so far, it has lived up to its reputation for a quality cooktop which is worth its cost and more!
Appendix: Technical Specifications for the Wolf Electric Cooktop
Please see website for exact dimensions and complete information: http://www.wolfappliance.com/products/detail.aspx?cid=10&productid=38)
Overall Dimensions: 36" W x 3.5" H x 21" D
Maximum Element Power:
(1) Triple-Zone: 2700 W / 2200 W / 1050W
(1) Dual-Zone: 2200 W / 750W
(3) Single-Zone: 1800W, 1500W and 1200W
Element Outer Diameter (approximate):
Single-Zone 8", 7" and 6.5"
Recommended Cabinet Width: 39"
Minimum Height Clearance: 4"
Minimum Cabinet Depth: 22.75"
Countertop Cut-Out:* 34 3/8"W x 19.25" D
240 V AC / 60 Hz / 50 amp
208 V AC / 60 Hz / 40 amp
Conduit: 4' flexible 3-wire
9.4 kW at 240 V AC
7.1 kW at 208 V AC
Note: *If the 36" cooktop is to be used in combination with additional cooktops or modules with a filler strip, the cut-out width increases to 35".
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Amount Paid (US$): 1800