Choosing a Cooker Hood
What Type of Cooker Hood Do You Need?
Depending on your culinary prowess, cooking on a hob can produce a host of tantalising (or not so tantalising) aromas. What you can smell are tiny particles of your food, made airborne by heat. The bad news is that these particles will happily spread throughout your home and condense, causing unwelcome odours to seep into cushions, and moisture to work its way into walls and porous furniture.
A cooker hood helps to solve this problem. They’ll suck up that smoke and airborne grease and ensure that your kitchen is clean-smelling and pleasant to cook in.
Cooker hoods come in a range of different shapes, styles and sizes, suited to all budgets, situations and tastes. To the uninitiated, the choice on offer can be bewildering. In this article, we’ll examine the options, and see which might be right for your kitchen.
Types of Cooker Hoods
Extraction Cooker Hoods
Extraction cooker hoods are those which suck up air and move it to the outside of a building. They thereby clear the kitchen of the smoke, steam and grease that cooking produces.
Of course, in order to do this, extraction hoods require an opening to the exterior of the building. This comes in the form of ducting run – a pipe through which vented air will travel on its way to the outside world. The thickness of this pipe is important; wider ones will be able to transport a greater volume of air before the pressure within builds to an unacceptable level. More powerful hoods will require thicker ducting; a 150mm-wide tube is often cited as the minimum requirement.
Other factors will play a role in determining the efficiency of a pipe. Shorter ducting with fewer bends will be more efficient than long ducting with many bends. Where possible, opt for inflexible ducting – this will offer smoother airflow, and therefore a more efficient hood.
Recirculation Cooker Hoods
Rather than removing air from the kitchen and sending it outside, a recirculation hood will purify the air and (you’ve guessed it) recirculate it back into the kitchen.
This has a few advantages. A recirculation hood will not require a ducting run, and can be installed without making alterations to the wall behind.
By the same token, there are some disadvantages to this approach. A recirculation hood requires charcoal filters to remove airborne carbon. These filters are what prevent smoke from being circulated around the kitchen. It will also cause carbon to accumulate on the filter, which will eventually render it ineffective. A charcoal filter will therefore need to be replaced regularly (if you do a lot of high-heat cooking on the hob, once a month is about right).
While smoke particles are a few microns wide, water molecules are many thousands of times smaller than that. A recirculation hood is therefore unable to filter water vapour. Consequently, it is unable to remove steam from your kitchen.
Styles of Cooker Hoods
A chimney cooker hood consists of a wide funnel which tapers off into a chimney. This chimney then extends upwards into the ceiling, mimicking a real chimney. It’s in this chimney that the ducting is stored. Of course, the ducting within this chimney does not have to go into the ceiling; it can just as easily disappear into a hole in the wall, disguised by the shape of the chimney. This variety of hood is immensely popular, and found in kitchens across the country.
Canopy hoods are designed to form part of a structure which overhangs the hob. The main body of the hood itself can then be disguised by a cupboard, or similar object, overhead. This allows you to lessen the visual impact a hood might have on your kitchen. If you’ve an older kitchen with a chimney above the stove, you may be able to fit the hood into its base, and run ducting all the way to the roof.
Ceiling hoods, as you might expect, are built directly into the kitchen’s ceiling. They have an obvious advantage – they consume far less space than other forms of cooker hood. That said, they also require more extensive modification to a kitchen – and are therefore mostly restricted to new builds and extensive redesigns.
Some designs of ceiling hood are made to mimic a light fitting – they’ll hang downwards, and catch smoke and steam on its way up from the hob. Some are even retractable, and will descend mechanically at the flick of a switch.
If a hob is built into an island unit in the centre of a kitchen, rather than adjacent to a wall, then a different sort of hood will be required – one which sprouts downwards from the ceiling, independent of the kitchen’s walls. This sort of hood is called, imaginatively enough, an island hood. Large and often imposing, an island hood will make an eye-catching centrepiece for any kitchen. For those who prefer something a little more discrete, a ceiling hood might be the better option.
An integrated hood is one which is built into a cabinet above the hob. They’re designed to blend seamlessly into the rest of the kitchen, and usually come with a door which can be opened upwards whenever the hood is required. They’re distinct from canopy hoods in that they are made to look like a kitchen cupboard, rather than sitting just underneath (and within) one.
Integrated hoods do remarkably well in kitchens where space is at a premium. Rather than dominating the room, as other sorts of hood tend to do, an integrated hood will blend seamlessly into the surrounding décor.
Of course, new technology has brought us new ways of sucking air from where it isn’t wanted. Amongst these technologies is the downdraft extractor. Instead of sucking air upwards, a downdraft extractor will channel it downwards into the space behind the hob. This frees up the space overhead for cupboards, windows, and decorative items.
Downdraft extractors mostly come in the form of a panel at the rear of the hob, just tall enough to peer over the lip of your pots and pans. Some can be concealed in a worksurface, and brought up when required in much the same way that a retractable ceiling hood might descend. They make an excellent alternative to an island hood, as they remove the need for a large structure that would otherwise block the view in the centre of the room. They also look the part when they’re in action - the smoke is sucked away into a thin slot, creating an interesting reverse waterfall effect.
What Size Cooker Hood Do I Need?
Your hood will need to be at least as wide as your hob in order to catch all of the air drifting upwards from your cooking. But the cooking doesn’t always end at the edge of the hob; larger pans might extend a little farther, and sometimes we might wish to place steaming saucepans to one side. Moreover, hot air doesn’t move directly upwards – rather, it’s buffeted from side to side throughout its trajectory.
As is so often the case, you’ll want a little bit of breathing room. Opt for a hood that’s a little bit wider than your hob. So, for an 800mm-wide hob, you might go for a metre-wide hood.
Things are complicated further when we consider that certain types of hob require a wider hood than others. In the case of ‘cold’ hobs, which generate heat inside the pan through induction, vapours are dispersed over a wider area, and so a wider hood is often called for. By contrast, ‘hot’ hobs, like gas ones, generate heat in a much smaller area, and so can get by with a slightly smaller hood.
Of course, we’ve aesthetics to consider as well – if you feel that a larger or smaller hood would look better in your kitchen, then go for one – it’s your kitchen, after all. But if you want to avoid having to replace the entire thing, or endure a roomful of smoke every time you fry a steak, it’s wise to plan ahead – don’t allow the look of the hood to impact its functionality.
How High Should the Cooker Hood Be from the Hob?
We must also consider the height of the hood. This is one area where we can make quite specific recommendations – for an electric hob, the hood should be at least 650mm above the hob; for a gas one, this number rises to 750mm. When considering height, you should be sure to measure from the hob to your ceiling to find out whether your new hood can fit in the gap. While many hoods are height-adjustable, the range of adjustment is usually quite limited, so make sure you get it right at the planning stage.