Are Induction Cooktops Worth It?

Published Categorized as Kitchen
Induction cooktop

My wife and I recently changed apartments and are now renting a spacious two-bedroom with an excellently-equipped kitchen.

Kitchen-wise, one of the biggest changes is that I now have an induction cooktop. Before, I used to have a smooth-surface electric cooktop. After only a week of cooking, I’m NEVER going back. And I’m going to spend the rest of this post telling you why.

Are induction cooktops worth it?

Induction cooktops are pricier than their gas and electric counterparts. But for many, they’re worth the price. These cooktops are 20% better at transferring heat to your food than electric cooktops and 52% better than gas. They heat your pans and pots in no time and cook your food faster.

I visited the website of one of the most popular consumer appliance retailers in the U.S. and compared the price of 20 (30-inch) cooktops: 5 induction, 5 electric radiant, 5 electric coil, and 5 gas. 

On average, an induction cooktop costs $1,640, which is twice as much than the second most expensive cooktop. Electric radiant cooktops cost on average $799 and gas cooktops cost $745. The least expensive type of cooktop was electric coil, which came at a comparably lower average cost of only $347.

Is the higher price tag justified? 

One of the websites I follow, Reviewed.com, tested a number of induction, electric, and gas cooktops in 2020 . They found that induction cooktops beat their peers on almost all comparison criteria.

Here’s the rundown:

Cooktop / CriteriaInduction CooktopsElectric CooktopsGas Cooktops
Source of HeatElectromagnetismElectric burners (radiant or coil)Gas burners
Efficiency of Heat Transfer to Food90%70%38%
Average Time to Bring 6 Cups of Water to a Boil3 minutes, 7 seconds5 minutes, 47 seconds8 minutes, 34 seconds
Max. Temperature665.5°F (352°C)741.8°F (394°C)428°F (220°C)
Min. Temperature100.75°F (38°C)92.2°F (33.4°C)126.5°F (52.5°C)
Source: Reviewed.com

Induction cooktops were as much as 90% efficient in transferring heat to the food in a frying pan. Electric cooktops came second with 70% heat transfer efficiency and gas burners came last with an efficiency of only 38%.

Translated into day-to-day cooking terms, this means that:

  1. You have precise control over the cooking temperature of your food;
  2. Your frying pans and pots will heat up and cool down much faster.

In the first couple of days, the induction cooktop took me a while to get used to. What was different?

I had much more control over the cooking temperature than I originally anticipated. There were also big differences in the heat I got on an electric stovetop compared to what the induction stovetop was giving me.

Both the electric cooktop in my old place and the induction one in the apartment I live in now have heat dials from 1 to 9. What was an 8-9 on the electric hob was actually a 7-8 on the induction one. I could literally tell the 20% difference in heat transfer efficiency as I cooked.

What amazed me was how responsive the induction cooktop was to changes in heat. Mind you, I’m using a thick and heavy stainless steel frying pan and pot right now. It would take me 3-4 minutes to get them to the cooking temperature I need before. Now, they heat up almost instantaneously (and cool down just as fast).

My Bosch induction hob has a seriously cool feature called “PowerBoost,” which allows me to bring 1 liter (4 cups) of water to the boil in two minutes and a half. The PowerBoost feature is a great time saver if you want to bring water to a boil fast or get your soup cooking quickly.

How Do Induction Cooktops Work?

An induction cooktop heats up your cookware through electromagnetic induction. 

Induction cooktops don’t emit heat. They transfer energy directly to your cookware that causes it to heat from the inside. Compared to gas and electric cooktops, this method of heat transfer is much more efficient.

The inside of an induction cooktop
The inside of an induction cooktop (source: wdwd at Wikimedia Commons)

An induction cooktop is made of a coil of copper wire underneath a ceramic plate. When you turn your induction cooktop on, electric current passes through the coil, which creates an electromagnetic field of energy.

If you put a ferromagnetic frying pan or pot on an induction cooktop, it will transfer energy to it—heating your cookware up from within. If you don’t, nothing will happen and the ceramic surface will remain cold, as induction cooktops have no electric burner or gas flame.

This makes induction cooktops very safe for families with young children. I have a friend who recently renovated his house and bought an induction hob for his kitchen. He and his wife have a young daughter who, as any kid of that age, is overly keen to do the same as her parents do in the kitchen, which includes cooking.

One day, my friend told me, his daughter had started playing with the cooktop. Had it not been an induction cooktop, that could have resulted in a serious injury to her skin. Because it was an induction cooktop—and no cookware was placed on it at the time—nothing happened. She could turn it up as much as she wanted, but the ceramic surface remained cold.

Which Pans Work on Induction Cooktops?

One thing you need to know about induction cooktops is that they’re not compatible with all cookware.

Any pan or pot that contains enough iron will work on an induction cooktop. Generally, cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel cookware are compatible with induction. Only some ceramic and non-stick cooking vessels work with induction stoves, and they’re usually labeled as “induction-friendly.”

When buying new frying pans and pots for induction cooking, it’s a good practice to always check if they’re induction compatible. Most cookware makers state this clearly with labels on the packaging and in the product descriptions.

The easiest way to tell if the cookware that you have today will be compatible with an induction cooktop is to use a magnet. Hold a magnet to the bottom of your frying pan or pot and observe what happens. If the magnet sticks firmly, your cookware is induction compatible. If the magnet only grabs softly or doesn’t stick at all, your cookware won’t work on an induction hob.

Are Induction Cooktops Safe?

The long answer short is, it depends.

Many consider induction cooktops to be safer than gas and electric cooktops. Since they don’t have a flame or heating panels, they present fewer fire hazards for the household. For the same reasons, they’re also safer for households with young children.

In fact, you can put your hand on an induction cooktop when it’s set to highest heat — and nothing will happen. Here’s a GIPHY that I made to demonstrate it:

Some home cooks worry about the safety of electromagnetic cooking as a whole. Personally, I don’t consider it an issue. Electromagnetic fields exist in abundance in nature. For examples, thunderstorms are the result of the build-up of electrical charge in the atmosphere. The earth itself has an electromagnetic field that makes compasses work (and helps birds find their way).

At the same time, man-made electromagnetic fields are all around us—and their safety continues to be a debate to this date. This includes light bulbs, power lines, AM and FM radio waves, television waves, Wi-Fi, and cellular networks. If you see this as harmful, how much more exposure (and how continuous) do you get with induction cooking?

At the end of the day, the choice is yours. The “safest” bet is an electric hob, since it doesn’t emit an electromagnetic field when in use, nor does it emit gas fumes in the air that you’re breathing in your home kitchen. 

Personally, I view induction cooking as more of a convenience for my home than a risk to my health. You are the best person to decide if the same applies to you.

Why Do Induction Cooktops Make Noise?

The first time I used an induction cooktop, I was surprised that it makes a noise that kind of resembles what you hear when flying at cruising altitude in an airplane.

That humming, hissing, or buzzing noise you hear? It comes from the electromagnetic energy that gets transmitted wirelessly to your cooking vessel, and the way it makes the iron particles in it shake.

I spent some time researching the topic and, after watching a few videos on YouTube, I can tell you that different induction cooktop brands and models tend to produce different noises. Some are louder, others quieter. When buying an induction hob, a good idea is to test what kind of noise it makes at the store, so that you decide whether you’re okay with it or not.

Mine is relatively quiet, but some cooktops I watched sounded as if you’re standing next to the high-voltage direct current transformers in an electrical substation. 

Will Induction Cooktops Consume More Power?

When it comes to induction cooktops, one of the top questions home cooks ask online is whether or not they consume more electricity than “traditional” electric hobs.

An induction cooktop will not consume more electricity than an electric hob. In fact, induction cooktops are more energy efficient than electric cooktops as they heat frying pans and pots almost twice as fast and are 15-20% more efficient in transferring cooking heat to the food in it.

If you’re equipping your home kitchen with new appliances and energy efficiency is an important buying factor for you as a consumer, consider putting an induction cooktop on top of your energy-efficient list.

When Did Induction Cooktops Come Out?

The first induction cooktop was made in America in the 1970s. It was developed by the R&D department of Westinghouse Electric Corporation. 

In 1971, Westinghouse Electric Corporation introduced the induction cooktop to the market under the name of “Cool Top Induction Range.” The first model had one heating element and its successor, the Cool Top 2, had four, each of which operated with 1,600 Watts of power.

It wasn’t until the 2000s when induction cooktops became widely available and generally affordable at the price that they are today. Before, most induction cooktops were actually made for commercial use in restaurant and hotel kitchens.

Since, induction cooking caught on in Europe and Japan, and some of the best induction cooktops in the world today are made by Bosch, Siemens, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi. In South Korea, the consumer appliance division at Samsung also produces induction cooktops. General Electric of the biggest makers of induction cooktops in the U.S. today.

Even though induction cooking has been touted as “the next big thing” in cooking for five decades, it hasn’t really caught on in the U.S. A report by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers in the U.S. says that just 1% of American stoves have induction stovetops. The adoption of induction cooking technology is higher among homeowners with built-in cooktops, where induction hobs have 15% share of the market.

If induction cooktops are so much better, why haven’t they caught on? Freelance writer Tyler Lynch gives a list of compelling reasons in a post for the New York Times’ Wirecutter blog:

  1. Induction cooktops won’t work with all cookware
  2. They are more expensive than gas or electric
  3. They haven’t been marketed that well
  4. American consumers aren’t the fastest at adopting new cooking tech

Finally, it could be a matter of timing. Most of the consumer-focused induction cooktops came out in the late 2000s, Lynch points out, “right before the housing market collapsed and the economy fell into recession.”

The Bottom Line

If you’re in the market for a cooktop that heats pans and pots quickly, consumes less energy than most, and is generally safe to use with kids around, induction cooktops are totally worth it. These cooktops are not for every kitchen—and every cook—and nor is their price tag.

But when it’s a fit, it’s really a fit. The control, convenience, and user experience of cooking on an induction cooktop are far better than any electric or gas cooktop I’ve used. This is true for even those gas or electric cooktops on the higher range; the ones that come with all the bells and whistles.

When in doubt, go American or German. Although most of the parts for these cooktops come from China these days, the assembly process, materials used, and quality control make a difference with the higher-end brands (especially with daily use). More often than not, so do the terms and conditions of the warranty.

By Jim Stonos

When Jim isn't in the kitchen, he is usually spending time with family and friends, and working with the HCW editorial team to answer the questions he used to ask himself back when he was learning the ropes of cooking.