Cook tops and ranges, in their most basic form, are normally easy devices to use and maintain. Their main purpose is to provide varied amounts of controlled heat in specific places to cook food in the most efficient manner.The standard cook top, or range, consists of large heating elements, which are actually resistor wires that can generate substantial amounts of heat. The wire is most often nichrome wire encased in ceramic insulation with a steal sheath surrounding the ceramic.
Each cook top or range surface unit (burner) may contain 2 or 3 different elements with varying resistance ratings, mounted together. The surface units may be wired directly using terminals located at the end of the surface coil, or more commonly, be plugged into receptacles mounted under the range/cook top cover. This second type of mounting makes for easy cleaning access, but it increases the risk of burned connections.
In order to control heating temperatures, each heating unit will usually contain an infinite switch, which provides a number of heat settings using a system of heat and tension on bimetal switches. A less common temperature control is the fixed-temperature switch, which has the ability to control the heating of the elements to fixed temperatures. Push buttons or rotary dials allow for cooking temperatures to pre-defined levels which may include low, medium or high. Heat levels are established by applying different voltage levels to various coils with varying resistance levels.