In the market for a new cooktop or range? Here are some induction cooktop pros and cons for you to think about.
Induction cooktops are huge in Europe and the Far East. They aren't as popular in the U.S.--at least not yet. But the market is growing every year as people are introduced to induction (often through inexpensive portable burners) and fall in love with the power, precision, and easy maintenance of these cooktops.
Should you make the switch to induction? If you currently have an electric cooktop or range, it's a no-brainer: yes, you should absolutely make the switch, because induction is better in every way.
If you currently have a gas range, it's a harder choice because adding wiring for a 240V induction cooktop might be expensive.
Induction is not perfect: there are some real issues to think about. However, if you want power, precision, and control, induction is the best option available.
Here, I've listed the biggest induction cooktop pros and cons. I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones that come up over and over again in discussion forums and induction product reviews.
Use this table to jump to a topic if you don't want to read the entire article:
How Does Induction Work?
Induction cooktops use a conventional electric hookup (most commonly a 240V hookup and 50-amp wiring), but they do not actually produce heat. Rather, the heat is a result of magnetic induction.
An induction burner is a copper coil which becomes magnetic when electricity is passed through it (commonly known as an "electromagnet"). When a ferrous (that is, magnetic) pan is placed on the burner, the pan becomes magnetic. Heat is produced by the pan's resistance to the magnetism. (See this Wikipedia article for more information.)
The heat created is instantaneous. This is what makes water boil so quickly (almost twice as fast as gas in some models), which is what induction is best known for. The heat also adjusts instantaneously and stops instantly when it's switched off. This rapid response is what makes induction cooktops so precise and efficient.
Note also that the heat is produced only in the pan, not in the burner itself. This is why induction cooktops don't get overly hot--the heat that's there is primarily from the hot pan, and not the burner itself. This characteristic has a lot of positive implications, which are discussed below.
Induction cooking has been around for decades. The first patents were issued in the early 1900s, and induction cooktops hit the mass market in the 1970s.
Today, most major appliance manufacturers have an induction line, and most cookware manufacturers make induction-compatible cookware. They still comprise a small segment of the American market--somewhere around 5%--but their popularity is growing every year, and this trend is expected to continue as prices continue to fall.
Here's a short video demonstrating the magnetism of induction cooking:
Read on for a discussion of the most common induction cooktop pros and cons.
Precise and Responsive
Induction cooktops are very precise. This is partly because all the heat goes directly into the pan (very little heat loss), and partly because of the nature of magnetic induction, which is powerful and instantaneous. People have always preferred gas to electric stovetops for the superior heat control, but induction is even better. Heat adjustment is so quick and so precise that induction is a completely different ball game than other cooking methods. People usually find they have a learning curve with their new induction cooktop because of its amazing speed and precision.
For example, you can't turn a burner on to medium high and let a pan heat with some oil in it while you get your ingredients out of the fridge. That oil will be hot in seconds, so you have to have your ingredients ready to go.
Excellent Low-Temperature Control
In my opinion, the excellent low-temperature control of induction is what really sets it apart from gas. Induction heat can be precisely controlled to temps as low as 80F.
What does this mean? Well, if you're heating delicate food on a gas stove or want to keep something warm, you have to constantly monitor it, maybe removing the pan repeatedly or turning the burner off and on to keep it from getting too hot. You've done this so often, it's automatic. You're not even aware that you're doing it anymore--or that there might be a better way.
But there is.
Induction burners are capable of precise low temperature control. Most full-sized cooktops (and some portables) have a "Keep Warm" setting that really works; you don't have to worry about food overcooking or the bottom of the pan scorching. It's a great feature that doesn't get talked about a lot because people are so impressed with how fast an induction burner works. But the low temp control is an even neater capability, in my opinion, even if not quite as dazzling.
Gas will never be able to function as well at low settings because the flame, even a small one, is too hot; even high-end gas stoves that cycle the flame on and off at simmer temps are going to run hot-cold, hot-cold, and produce hot spots in the food.
Electric stoves may do this better than gas, but they lack all the other great features of induction.
So if low temperature control is important to you, induction is the best choice.
Induction Cooktops Are the Safest Type of Cooktop
When discussing pros and cons of induction cooktops, safety is one of the areas where induction cooktops really shine.
Induction cooking is inherently safer than other methods because the burners don’t get hot. In addition, induction cooktops and ranges
There's also no open flame as with gas, and no fumes given off (gas burners give off small amounts of carbon monoxide and other unhealthy compounds).
So for overall kitchen safety, you can not beat induction. There are a couple of other issues to think about, though...
The magnetic force of induction can interfere with some pacemaker operation. This isn't because induction is a mystical and dangerous force. It's just because the magnetism can interfere with the pacemaker's signals.
Whether this is a concern depends on the type of pacemaker involved. If this is an issue for you, consult your doctor. He/she will be able to tell you whether or not your pacemaker will be safe around an induction cooktop.
The electromotive/magnetic force from an induction burner probably isn't enough to interfere with a pacemaker except under extreme conditions. For example, if all four burners were in operation and the pacemaker were within a few inches of the stove top. Even so, better safe than sorry--so check with your doctor.
If you or someone in your household has a pacemaker, consult your doctor before purchasing an induction cooktop.
Some people are concerned about the radiation that an induction burner gives off. It's true that an induction stove gives off some radiation; this is true for all electrical appliances and unavoidable. Induction hasn't been studied at great lengths because it's a fairly new technology. But from what we know about the electromagnetic spectrum and what we know from the tens of thousands of studies done on other radiation-emitting objects (from power lines to cell phones), we can say with assurance that induction cooktops are safe.
For more information about this, check out the article, Is Induction Cooking Safe?, where I go into pretty extensive detail on this topic (probably more than you want to know).
Because the pan and not the burner is heated, induction cooking is extremely efficient. In fact, it is the most efficient way to cook, with less heat loss than both electric and gas (gas, by the way, is the least efficient).
This may not result in a noticeable difference in your power bill, but then again it may. But even if it doesn't, it feels good to know you're using the most efficient type of energy possible to heat your food.
Little Residual Heat
Because of the remarkable efficiency of induction cooking and because only the pans get hot (not the burners), there is very little residual heat. This has a few important implications.
A Cooler Kitchen
If having a cool kitchen is important to you, induction is the way to go. Even if its efficiency doesn't save you a noticeable amount, the cooler kitchen will save you dollars on your cooling bill in the summer.
If you can't stand the heat, get an induction cooktop...
Possibly No Need for a Vent
Some people say that because induction is so much cooler than other cooking methods, they haven't found the need to invest in a hood or venting system. Personally, I like the vent to carry cooking odors out of the house, but this is an interesting point nevertheless. If you don't already have a proper venting system and don't want to install one, you should definitely look into induction.
As discussed above, the small amount of residual heat makes induction cooktops much safer than gas or electric.
With their smooth glass surface and lack of knobs (in many cases), induction cooktops look great.
They add a modern flair to a kitchen and blend in seamlessly with the countertop. This lack of surface and controls makes the kitchen space feel larger and airier.
Induction cooktops and stoves are, if nothing else, sleek. They work in just about any decor, whether it's ultra-modern or farmhouse traditional.
And because they're so easy to clean, they make it easy to keep your kitchen looking great.
You may be able to get this look with conventional electric, but it lacks the "cool" factor, and certainly lacks the usability.
Easy to Clean
Last but certainly not least: One of the greatest things about induction cooking is how easy it is to keep the cooktop clean. Because no matter how much you might love to cook, you probably don't like the cleaning up afterward.
Why is induction the cleanest way to cook?
- The cooktop itself generates very little heat, so food and cooking splatters won't cook onto the surface and can be wiped off right away.
- With everything integrated into the glass-ceramic top, you only have one surface to keep clean--no burners or knobs to futz with.
- Because so little heat is generated, you can put paper towels or newspapers on the surface while you cook to collect spatters! So if you're doing something messy, the paper will soak up most of the mess. Here's a youtube.com video that demonstrates the paper-under-the-pan technique that is only possible with induction cooking:
We also have to look at the cons when considering induction cooktop pros and cons...
Induction ranges and cooktops tend to cost more than electric or gas technology, and is likely the reason they've been slow to catch on in the U.S. as a standard cooking technology. In the past couple of years, though, prices have been falling. You can now get an induction cooktop or range for not much more than conventional electric or gas, and in some cases even less. (Frigidaire and LG both have offerings at a great price.) You can also get a portable induction burner for less than $100 if you want to try induction out before investing in a full-sized cooktop. However, keep in mind that the inexpensive portables don't have the power, precision, and low-temp capability that a full-sized cooktop will have.
You also need to have induction-compatible cookware to use with an induction cooktop, so if you don't already have cast iron or compatible clad cookware, you'll have to invest in some.
Require Special Cookware
As already mentioned, you need induction-compatible cookware to use an induction stove--non-magnetic cookware simply won't work (the burners won't come on). So this is an added expense if you don't already have it.
Most new cookware, unless it is solid copper or aluminum, is induction-compatible. So although many people think this is a big concern, if you've bought a set of cookware in the last 5 years, it's probably induction-compatible.
Once again, for more information, see the Rational Kitchen Guide to Induction Cookware.
Although cooktops are made of a durable glass-ceramic composite, they will scratch and even crack if you set a heavy pot down too hard. Glass-ceramic cooktops have been around for awhile now, and they look good and work great. But you do have to be careful with them.
The great thing about an induction cooktop is that you can protect it with paper towels or newspapers, which not only soak up spills but also prevent the surface from getting scratched. You may not want to do this every time you cook, but if you're using an old cast iron skillet with a rough bottom, you can lay down paper first to protect your cooktop surface.
Try doing that on an electric stove!
Induction Cooktops Have a Learning Curve
One of the pros of induction cooking may also be a con. Because it's so new and different from gas and electric, induction can require a bit of a learning curve.
Induction units can seem quirky at first: requiring special cookware, being fussy about pan size, and shutting off automatically if you remove the pot for more than a few seconds. Also, the power boost feature unique to induction cooktops requires some getting used to.
Here are the biggest learning-curve issues with induction:
- Heat: You may also need some time to just get a feel for how fast and precise induction cooking really is, particularly if you’ve switched from electric. Induction is so fast that if you think you can walk away from a heating pan like you do with gas or conventional electric, you're bound to burn a few things before you know better!
- Touchpad controls. The touchpad controls are great in a lot of ways (their invisibility, for one thing), but they definitely take some getting used to if you've previously worked only with manual knobs. There's no getting around the fact that they're slower to operate. Some people really hate them, while others prefer them for the sleek appearance and ease of cleaning. There's a huge variety of touchpad designs, so be sure you get a cooktop that you find easy to use.
- Pan placement. For nearly all induction cooktops and ranges, your owner's manual will tell you that you should use the burner closest in size to your pan, and that the pan should be centered on the burner for best results. Why does it matter? It has to do with how the magnetic induction functions. If you use a pan too small for a burner or don't center it very well, the cooktop may not conduct as much power to the pan as it otherwise could. This isn't a hard thing to do, but you do have to remember that pan placement is more important with induction than with other cooking methods.
Induction Cooktops Lack the "Feel" of Gas
This isn't really a con; it's more of a personal taste thing. Some people don't like that there isn't much "tactile feedback" with induction burners. There's no flame and the burner doesn't glow, and you may miss having that feedback when you cook.
This is why Samsung put fake blue flames on their induction range--to provide some sort of feedback for people accustomed to cooking with gas.
I don't know if it's helped Samsung sell induction stoves, though. For me, the feedback thing is a non-issue. The sound of the food cooking in the pan and the smell of cooking food provides plenty of feedback as far as I'm concerned.
Induction Cooktops Require Electrical Wiring If Converting from Gas
If you already have an electric range or cooktop, then you already have the right wiring for induction, so an induction unit could be easily installed. But if you have a gas range and want to make the switch to induction, then you may have to have an electrician wire a 240V outlet into your kitchen. This would be yet another expense associated with converting to induction if you do so from gas.
Repairs Can Be Problematic
Statistically, induction doesn't break down more than regular electric stoves, so that isn't the issue. However, because induction is so new, a lot of repair technicians don't know how to work on them. If you read reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, you'll see that this can be a real problem.
This will change as induction gets more popular, but right now, it can be an issue.
Also, if you have issues past the warranty period, repairs can be expensive. Any appliance with electronic controls can potentially cost a small fortune to repair. Sometimes, the repair costs nearly as much as replacing the unit.
This is not an issue exclusively with induction cooktops and stoves. Most appliances have electronic controls nowadays, and probably all of them will within a few years. And they will all be expensive to fix when they break. It is something to consider when buying any new appliance in today's market.
Some people complain that their induction burners sometimes hum or buzz. In 7 years of using induction, I have never had this problem, but I've read a number of reviews where people have.
From the research I've done, I've found this can be caused by a couple of things:
- The fan inside the cooktop that cools the electromagnets. All induction cookers have fans to keep the internal components cool, and they run constantly during operation. The noise is often compared to the cooling fan on a computer. It might take some getting used to, but generally isn’t a deal breaker for most people. Inexpensive portable induction burners are usually the worst offenders, as their fans are made of cheap parts and not engineered for quiet operation.
- Cookware. Sometimes it's the pans you use that make buzzing or other noises. Usually, this is caused by warped bottoms or inexpensive clad cookware that may have some separation going on. Sometimes it can occur if you're using a small pan on a big burner. If you have buzzing, make sure your pans have flat, smooth bottoms, that the cladding is in good condition, and that the burner most closely matches the size of your pan.
In the End, Its a Personal Choice
The list of induction cooktop pros and cons is long; you can probably think of a few that I didn't. But the best method of cooking is, more than anything, a personal choice: what you prefer is the best type of cooktop for you. However, because induction is relatively new to the American market and a lot of people don't know much about it, you may owe it to yourself to find out if it's something you would like in your kitchen.