Induction vs electric cooktop is the key question when you're looking to buy a new smooth-top stove. They look the same, with their flat glass-ceramic surface, but the experience of cooking on them is very different. And you’ll notice pretty quickly that there’s a big difference in how much they cost. We think the speed, responsiveness, and safety of induction makes it worth its premium price.
In this guide, we'll answer all your questions about induction cooking and touch on the reasons why we think induction cooktops and induction ranges deserve a boost in popularity, from their responsiveness to their energy savings.
And did we mention that induction's the fastest way of all to boil pasta water? Let's dive in.
Pros and Cons of Induction vs Electric Cooktops
As we said, we're fans of induction, but there are still reasons why you might prefer electrical. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Induction Cooktop Pros and Cons
- Boils water faster than gas or electric
- Cooks quickly
- Very responsive
- Precise temperature control
- Multiple safety features
- Easy to keep clean
- Energy efficient
- More expensive than electric
- Only work with magnetic cookware
- Works best with flat-bottomed cookware
Electric Cooktop Pros and Cons
- Boils water faster than gas
- Easy to clean
- Heats up slowly
- Works best with flat-bottomed cookware
- Food can burn onto the surface of the cooktop
Good to Know: Even though it'll take a while for water to start heating, ultimately water boils more quickly on an electric stove than on a gas range. But neither works as fast as an induction stove. That's one big reason many home cooks want to make the switch. It's also why you see induction burners in many restaurant kitchens.
Why Chefs Prefer Induction Cooking—and We Think You Will Too
Chefs love the same things you’ll adore about induction cooking. Every second counts in a professional kitchen, so they appreciate the speed with which things cook. And even more, they rave about the absolute control over the heat setting that they get from an induction burner. When they’re whisking delicate sauces like Hollandaise or melting chocolate, they can be sure the heat will stay at a temperature that prevents the sauce from curdling or chocolate from seizing.
And as we all know, restaurant kitchens get hot! The fact that induction cooktops don’t give off any additional heat the way a gas or electric stove does is another thing pros love. If you live in an apartment or have a smaller kitchen (or heck, if you just tend run hot), you'll appreciate it just as much.
Induction vs Electric Questions, Answered
What's the difference between an induction and electric cooktop?
Most electric cooktops now have a smooth glass-ceramic surface with elements below the surface. These so-called radiant elements heat up and radiate heat through the cooking zone to the cookware, which in turn heats up your food. If you’re preheating a pan before searing a steak or cooking something with a short cooking time, like an omelet, it'll take a few minutes for the pan to get hot enough to add your food.
Induction cooktops have the same smooth top as electric cooktops, but below it are coiled copper wires. When an electric current passes through these metal coils, it creates a magnetic current, which heats up pots and pans directly without heating the surface of the cooktop. Because of this direct heat transfer, induction cooktops heat up pots and pans much faster than gas or electric cooktops do. That means you won’t have to wait several minutes for a skillet to get hot before you brown your pork chops or your butter starts to melt. Even a large pot of water for spaghetti can come to a boil in less than 15 minutes.
Because induction elements react instantly when you turn them on and off, induction cooktops are much more responsive than electric cooktops. You get ultimate control over the heat level on an induction cooktop. As soon as your soup comes to a boil, you can lower the heat setting and reduce it to a simmer before it starts boiling over or spattering.
Induction elements also give very precise temperature control. Select a setting and the heat remains steady. If you’re cooking a marinara sauce or pot roast, the heat stays at a constant simmer so you don’t have to continually stir and/or adjust the heat up or down. When you’re melting chocolate and butter for brownies, the heat stays so low that the chocolate won’t become grainy or the butter turn brown.
An induction cooktop also has a safety advantage over an electric cooktop. If an induction element is turned on by mistake, it won’t heat up unless there’s a pot on top of it so you don’t have to worry about accidental burns. And even when it’s operating, an induction cooktop stays cooler than an electric one. The surface of the cooktop doesn’t get heat up, although it can get absorb heat from contact with a hot pan.
Needless to say, induction as a heat source is also safer than the open flame of a gas cooktop. There's also no possibility of accidental gas or carbon monoxide leaks.
Induction cooktops use about five to 10 percent less energy than electric cooktops and are three times more efficient than their gas counterparts. That’s because heat is transferred directly to the cookware and none is lost into the air. It'll cost you less to run the cooktop as well as operate your heating system. Although the savings to your household may be low, the more popular induction cooktops become, the bigger the energy savings on a national level, which is ultimately better for the environment.
Will my pots and pans work on my induction cooktop?
That depends. In order to work with induction, cookware must have magnetic properties. If a magnet sticks to the bottom of your pot or pan, it'll work on an induction cooker. That covers most types of stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron.
One other note: While magnetic pots and pans may heat up, they’re unlikely to distribute heat evenly unless they have a perfectly flat bottom. Turn your cookware upside down and place a ruler across the bottom. If the edge touches the pan evenly across the entire surface, it’ll heat up uniformly. Any pans that have a flat disc attached to the bottom are preferable.
What pots and pans will work on my electric glass cooktop?
While a cooking vessel doesn’t have to be magnetic to work on an electric cooktop, it does need to have nice flat bottom that makes good contact with the glass-ceramic surface in order to give good results. If it doesn't, you'll need to be vigilant about stirring or rearranging food to make sure it heats or browns evenly.
How do you clean an induction or electric cooktop?
For the most part, their smooth glass surfaces can be wiped clean—easy! There aren't any grates, coils, or burner pans to remove, soak, and put back in place.
However, on an electric cooktop the glass-ceramic surface gets hot so splatters or boilovers can burn onto the cooktop. That's much less likely to happen on an induction burner, which doesn't retain heat in the same way. While the area directly under a pot on an induction cooktop can get hot from contact with a pot, it won’t reach as high a temperature as the surface of an electric cooktop.
On either surface, wipe up spills with a wet sponge or paper towel as quickly as you can. Avoid using glass cleaners like Windex, which can leave streaks, or abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that can cause scratches.
If you allow spatters to remain on an electric cooktop, they can begin to cook onto the surface and become harder to remove or even bond to the glass. To remove burned-on residue, use a razor blade or a glass scraper made for this purpose, holding the blade at a 45-degree angle. The Scotch-Brite Glass Cooktop Cleaning Wand is another handy tool for stubborn messes.
To polish the glass cooktop surface and get rid of smears, use a small amount of a glass-ceramic cleaner made by EZ Brite, Weiman, Carbona, or Affresh and a soft, clean cloth.
Do induction cooktops use radiation?
Induction cooktops create non-ionizing or low-frequency electromagnetic radiation. There's no association between this type of radiation and any health issues.
Are induction cooktops noisy?
Some people find that induction burners click, hum, or buzz. The sounds can be caused by the cooling fan or by lightweight or warped cookware that doesn’t completely cover the burner. It's less likely to happen with heavy, high-quality pans that match the size of the burner. While the noise can be disconcerting initially, it's perfectly normal and not loud enough to interfere with conversation.
Is there any difference in the durability of the glass-ceramic surfaces on electric and induction cooktop?
The cooktop surfaces on electric and induction ranges and cooktops are made of the same glass-ceramic material. It can withstand changes in temperature and is highly resistant to scratches and cracks. However, it isn't totally scratch- or breakproof. To prevent scratches, you should be gentle when using cookware like cast iron skillets that have a rough bottom that could mar the glass and particularly careful not to drag any type of cookware across the surface. If you drop a very heavy pot on the cooktop, it's possible for it to shatter. Luckily, that's pretty rare.
In our experience, electric and induction stovetops that have stainless steel trim fare better over time than those with glass-ceramic edges. If you're concerned about potential breakage, look for a model with sturdy trim.
Our Top Induction Cooktops and Ranges
Our number-one choice in an induction range is the very reliable GE Profile PHS930YPFS, which has four cooking elements plus one for keeping food warm or melting butter. It’s a slide-in model, but it has finished sides; you can leave it exposed on one or both sides, which gives you more flexibility in planning where to install your range in your kitchen. It also has the Hestan Cue guided cooking system, which works with Hestan cookware to perfectly tune the temperature of your pot or pan for your recipe. You'll never burn anything again—it's really very cool.
For a gorgeous top-of-the-line product, you can’t beat the Miele HR16222i. It has lots of unique features, including the ability to boost power to each of the elements, a guided cooking system called MasterChef with preprogrammed recipes, and a wireless temperature probe.
We think that overall the best induction cooktop is the Bosch NIT8069UC 800 series. All four of its elements are high powered but can also be used at very low heat and each one has 17 heat settings.
If you’re looking for the most technologically advanced induction cooktop you can buy and money is no object, you’ll love the Thermador CIT30XWBB. Rather than having cooking zones or burners, it automatically senses a pot anywhere you place it. You can use the entire surface area for cooking with five pots and pans of any size simultaneously in any position.
Our Top Electric Cooktops and Ranges
Our number-one recommendation is the Café CES700P2MS1 slide-in electric range. For starters, it'll give your kitchen a pro-style look for a lot less than many high-end brands. It features a power boil element and can be connected to Wi-Fi so you can program it remotely.
If you're looking for a cooktop rather than a range, our top pick in a 30-inch size is the sleek GE JP5030SJSS. It has a high-power element for quick boils and searing steaks as well as a bridge burner that connects two elements to form one long one; it's great for when you want to use a griddle or a fish poacher.
The Bosch Benchmark NETP668SUC is our recommendation if you want a 36-inch cooktop with five burners. It features a unique countdown timer, which allows you to set a timer for individual heating elements. You won’t have to worry about burnt rice or stringy beef stew.
Hands down, induction ranges and induction cooktops are a better choice than electric ranges and cooktops in every category except price. And the prices of induction cooking appliances have been dropping so that you can now buy one for around $1,000.
When you cook on induction, you’ll find that pots and pans heat up faster and your spaghetti water boils more quickly, even compared with gas cooking. Plus, you‘ll have precise control over whatever you’re cooking so your chicken never overcooks, your tomato sauce doesn’t scorch, and your pudding doesn’t curdle. Plus, clean-up is easier and you’re less likely to wind up burning yourself by accidentally touching the hot cooktop.
Because induction stovetops are more energy-efficient than electric or gas stoves, you’ll also save a little on your utility bills, too. If you can find the money in your budget for an induction range or cooktop, we think it’s well worth the cost.