Cons:Requires frequent cleaning, firmware glitch
The Bottom Line: Despite the minor flaws of the unit, it's a fine appliance for a modern kitchen
My wife and I purchased the Kitchenaid 568 unit as part of a complete kitchen remodel in 2002, so the unit I am reviewing is roughly 5 years old. With the exception of a Bosch dishwasher, the entire kitchen was fit with Kitchenaid appliances.
Recommend this product?
The 568's aesthetics are pleasing (we have the black cooktop with a stainless trim strip around the outside). It blends well with the tan/black/gold-mottled granite counter and tile backsplash we installed. I am a fan of the knobless controls, insofar as crumbs and other debris do not have anywhere to collect underneath the touchpads. The controls also "fade away" when the unit is not in use, as opposed to knobs which one has to look at 24/7.
Operation of the unit is simple, though with one trick that those allergic to reading the User Guides might get tripped up on. One just touches the burner's control pad in the center to turn it on or off, then adjusts the heat setting from one (low) to ten (high) to get the intensity one desires. The large burner in the lower left of the top has two-stage capability - you can energize just the internal burner for a small pot or pan, or the double burner for a large one. The small burner to the right of the large, two-stage one is a "quick-on" unit that will go from cold to full heat in a matter of seconds...make sure you're not leaning on that burner when you turn it on!
The trick comes with the "All Off/Lock" button below the other five pads. This button, obviously, causes all the burners to de-energize when pushed. If you push and hold (for 5 seconds), this will cause the unit to lock, disabling the control pads for the five burners until the unit is unlocked. This prevents the cooktop from being inadvertantly turned on, a useful feature when there's no vertical protrusion (aka, knob) sticking up to keep one from putting something on the unit that might turn on a burner. When we first installed the unit, we somehow locked the controls and couldn't find the manual...a call to Kitchenaid's "Cooktops for Idiots" got us back on track - one just needs to push and hold to unlock the unit.
The cooktop's controls also include an LED that signals when a particular burner is hot, a nice feature to keep the unsuspecting from laying something flammable onto a hot element.
While the ceramic cooktop is attractive, it is sometimes a chore to clean and, because it is black, it tends to need cleaning frequently. The slightest spill, even of tap water, on a hot element produces an ugly stain that doesn't always clean up with a damp cloth (after the burner has cooled, I might add). The good news is that the material used to make the cooking surface seems almost indestructible. I use a product called Ceramabrite to scrub the surface and it has yet to clean it completely. I even had a cat turn on a burner once - on low, thank heavens - with a plastic bag of candy on the cooktop. It melted the bag and some of the candy onto the surface but, with a lot of elbow grease the unit was clean and, miraculously, unscratched. Moral of the story: Keep the unit locked when not in use.
The other caveat is to be sure the bottoms of your pots and pans are as flat as possible. A couple of old pans I tried on the 568 developed hideous hot spots because they didn't fit snugly to the surface. If your cookware isn't up to snuff, you'll have to get new.
It's a bit of a stretch to call this glitch "ugly," but it's the only way I could shoehorn my review into this much-overused format....so sue me. The unit has behaved the past couple of years, but when we first got it, it would occasionally get "confused" insofar as the controls would fail to respond to any touch input. I attributed this to a firmware code dead-end, and managed to resolve it by going down to the breaker box and cycling power to the cooktop. That has never failed to fix the problem, but the problem shouldn't really exist in the first place. It's not a big problem, though, and easily remedied when it pops up.