Choosing an Induction Cooktop (Buying Guide)

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Induction cooking is growing in popularity in the United States because manufacturers have lowered the prices of the units and consumers see the advantages of induction cooking. The faster boiling and cooking times, responsive temperature control, energy efficiency, and safety are a few of the reasons people are keen to try this method of cooking.

In this article, we run through some of the things to think about before investing in an induction cooktop.

Factors to Consider Before Buying an Induction Cooktop

Types of Cooktops

If you have decided to buy an induction cooktop, the next step is to decide whether you want a portable, built-in, or full-size range unit.

Portable  

Portable units have either one or two burners. Of course, single cooktops are more easily transported and stored. The size of a single burner cooktop is around 14x11.5x2.5 inches (LxWxH). Double induction cooktops are generally 23.6 x 14.1 x 2.6. These units can be placed on a countertop cart or table.

Before you invest in a double burner cooktop make sure you are aware of the power-sharing arrangement. Some cooktops divide the total maximum power evenly between the two burners, while others have varying power levels (for example, 700 and 1100 or 500 and 1300). Although this information is stated in our product reviews, it can also be found in the instruction manual (see the manufacturer’s website).

Frying pan and vegetables in modern with induction stove

Built-in

Built-in induction cookers have between two and five cooking zones. They range in width from 20 to 41 inches. Some people opt to have these units professionally installed while others decided to install a built-in unit themselves. Either way, you’ll want to verify the dimensions of the cooktop, the space available to drop the unit into, and the electrical requirements (120V or 240V).

stainless steel induction range

Full-size

Full-size, freestanding induction ranges have a cooktop and either one or two ovens and are generally 30 or 36 inches wide. As with the built-in units, check the electrical requirements and make sure you have enough room for the model you want to buy.

If you think you want a full-size induction range but aren’t sure, you can buy a quality single burner unit and try it out. If you don’t like induction cooking, then you can use the hob as an extra burner or keep a dish warm. The upside is you won’t have made a poor investment!

If you decide to buy a full-size unit, take a look at the size of the burners and the distance between them.

Stainless steel and black induction ranges are much more prevalent than white ones. Most residential full-size induction ranges have a sleek, modern design.

Video -  Induction Cooktop Choices

Design of the Induction Cooktop

Induction cooktop design is one factor to consider. All portable induction cooktops have a housing, a glass/ceramic surface, a control panel, and internal components.

Some units have a frame around the cooking surface while others do not (edgeless).

single burner induction cooktop
single burner induction cooktop on white background

There are two styles within each category (frame and edgeless). First, is a tablet-like unit with the cooking zone and control panel on the same level. Second, is a cooking zone with a control panel that is slanted at an angle from the ceramic-glass cooking surface. The image below shows both designs.

The settings on the control panel are adjusted by using a touch sensor, press button, or dial knob. The basic units have temperature, power, and timer. Some units have one-touch settings for boil, simmer, and keep warm.  

Temperature/Wattage Settings

A common temperature range is 100°-460°F with anywhere from 10-20 power levels depending upon the unit. Examples of temperature intervals are 15, 20, and 25 degrees.

The default temperature and power settings are listed in the user manual. Most start with lower temperatures and power levels.

The wattage of most single and double portable units is between 1300W and 1800W with 1800W being the most common. The number of power levels varies according to the model. A 1800W unit might have 10 power levels with a range of 100-1800W.

White induction cooktop and cooking pot on

Most portable double cooktops have a total maximum output of 1800 Watts. The power of the burners varies according to the model. The wattage given by the manufacturer is the TOTAL amount for the unit. Here are three examples of power-sharing arrangements.

1. One burner is 1200W (use a larger pan) and the other is 600W (use a smaller pan) on the other burner. They can be used simultaneously.

2. One burner can be used at 1800W or both burners can be used at the same time at 900W.

3. Some units have 10 power levels. Both burners can be used at 1800W; however, not simultaneously as the combined total power is 10. One burner can be used at power level 3 and the other unit will automatically adjust to level 7.

Type of Cooktop

Temperature Range

Number of Temperature Levels

Power Range Examples

Number of Power Levels

Single Burner

100°-460°F

15, 20, 21

100-1800W or

 500-1800W

10, 15, 20

Double Burner

140ºF to 465ºF

8, 10, 20

100-1800W or

200-1200W

5, 8, 10, 20

Wattage for Built-in Units 

The built-in units either split the wattage between the burners or they have a fixed wattage for each burner. Generally, the wattage ranges from 1800 to 3700 per unit. Examples of the power for the burners on models with fixed wattages are 1200, 1800, 2500, 2800, 3300, 3600, and 3700 Watts.

Preset Cooking Modes

Another feature of some induction hobs are preset modes - boil, simmer, keep warm, heat milk, and deep fry. For example, if the keep warm option is selected, then the temperature will remain constant at 140ºF for 120 minutes. In most units, the time and temperature are adjustable. Heating milk on an induction hob is very easy with a “heat milk” function.

Timer Settings

A timer is included in all the portable cooktops we have reviewed. Most units have an automatic stove turn-off with an adjustable timer. They automatically shut off after two hours or three hours and the timer can be set in one-minute increments.

woman pressing button on portable induction cooktop

Settings Lock

Many, but not all, induction hobs have a lock feature. It prevents the settings from being changed during cooking. All keypads are locked out except for the On/Off and Power functions.

The child lock, as it is sometimes called, is a convenient feature especially if there are children or pets in the household. It can also be used when you are cleaning the controls.

Just touch and hold the control for the required time (usually 3 or 5 seconds) to lock the unit. Then when you are finished, hold it for 3 or 5 seconds, (depending upon the unit) to unlock it.

Automatic Shutoff

An automatic shut-off function is helpful for those who are concerned about their food boiling over or overcooking. A sensor underneath the glass cooktop, senses when the pan is getting too hot and the unit will automatically cease operating. Here are some examples of when an induction hob will automatically shut off.

If no settings have been changed within two or three hours.

If the cooking surface gets too hot or the electrical components reach a high temperature.

If the voltage of the unit gets too low or too high.

If a pan that is not induction compatible is on the cooktop.

Pan detection – once the pans are removed, the unit will shut down. Some units have a 30-second delay so the pan can be lifted, the contents stirred, and then placed back on the cooktop plate.

Small Item Detection

If a fork, for example, is placed on the cooktop, the unit knows it isn’t cookware and will not turn on.

A person dropping money in pink piggy bank


Induction Cooktop Price Differences

The price of an induction stove is determined by factors such as size, coil diameter, housing material, number of burners, cooking surface dimensions, power, safety features, timer capability, number of temperature and power levels, and design.

One feature alone does not determine the cost of a single burner induction cooker. Rather, it appears to be all the factors mentioned above, when taken in totality, that determine the price.

The power levels of portable units range from 1300W to 1800W. We found that higher wattage does not necessarily mean higher prices. Units with 20 temperature and power levels do not always cost more than those with 15 levels.

Additionally, the number of safety features included in the model is not always directly proportional to the price. Some units have more than others and cost less.

In terms of induction cooktops, it is easily understood why a full-size range costs more than a single burner cooktop. However, it is not a simple feat to sort out why one single burner cooktop costs more than another one based on one, two, or even three features.

Induction Cooktop Buying Checklist

The following is a checklist if you are planning to buy an induction cooktop.

  • Type - portable, built-in or full-size
  • Portable units - tablet or slanted display panel?
  • Power levels - 10, 15, or 20
  • Temperature settings - 10, 15, or 20
  • Temperature increment - 15, 20, 25 degrees
  • Settings style -Touchpad, buttons or a dial
  • Setting lock
  • Timer
  • Is it ETL approved and FCC Part 18 compliant?
  • What will fit into my decor?
  • Does the manufacturer have good customer service?
  • What is the product warranty?

Q & A

Is it easy to clean an induction cooktop?

You’ve probably heard that induction cooktops are easy to clean. Next, we’ll run through the basics of the cleaning process and you can decide for yourself.

As soon as you’ve removed the pan and waited a few minutes, the surface should be cool. For routine cleaning, wipe the surface with a moist paper towel, cloth, or soft sponge. Then wipe the cooktop dry with a clean cloth, or paper towel. That’s it. If you have spilled something on the cooker, chances are it won’t be baked on the burner and can easily be removed.

Related content: How to Clean an Induction Cooktop

How does an induction cooktop work?

While conventional stoves use gas flames or electric heating elements, induction cookers have a different heating method. Under the ceramic/glass plate of the cooktop is an electromagnetic coil. When the unit is turned on, electric current flows through this coil, and a magnetic field is produced. If the proper cookware (induction ready) is put on the surface of the unit, the magnetic field generates electric currents in the cooking vessel's metal. The heat is then transferred to the food.

What kind of cookware works with induction cooktops?

In the previous section, we talked about using “proper cookware”. To be induction ready, the base of the vessels has to either contain iron or a layer that has magnetic materials. Pots and pans made of cast iron, steel, enameled cast iron, and magnetic stainless steel work with induction hobs.

Cast iron and carbon steel cookware are suitable, but what about stainless steel pots and pans? An easy way to check to see if they are induction ready is to take a magnet (refrigerator magnet is just fine) and place it on the bottom of the cooking vessel. If it sticks securely then it will work on your induction cooktop.

It is possible to just start with a skillet and a saucepan and as your budget permits add items such as a sauté pan, stockpot, or Dutch oven.

Another option is to purchase an induction ready cookware set. It isn't always necessary to buy a 17-piece set as a 10-piece set generally has all the pots and pans you'll use on regularly.

Related Content: Can I Use a Wok on an Induction Cooktop?

How do I cook on an induction cooktop?

Now that you know how an induction cooktop works and what cookware to use, you’re probably wondering how to cook on it.

  • A portable unit should be placed on a flat, non-metallic surface and in a position so as not to block the ventilation slots. 
  • After plugging the power cord in the socket, place your ingredients in the cooking vessel.
  • Then decide what temperature or power level you will be using (these can be adjusted). User manuals generally have a table that equates power levels and temperatures.
  • Place the pot in the center of the cooking surface and turn the unit on (hold the button/touchpad for 2-3 seconds).
  • Set the temperature/power level and timer. The induction cooktop will only start to heat up when an induction compatible pan is on the surface of the cooker.
  • The power and temperature levels can be adjusted while you are cooking. After experimenting with these features, you will get the hang of it and can easily use the cooktop.
  • After the meal is finished cooking, take the vessel off the burner, turn the unit off, and unplug it after the fan stops running.
  • Clean your cooktop after the cooking surface cools down.

Related Content: How to Use an Induction Cooktop

Should I buy an induction hob?

Now that you know how induction cookers work and how to use it, we’ll talk about the reasons you might want to invest in one.

Saves time: Induction cooktops are time savers due to fast heating and boiling. Water boils 40-50% faster on an induction cooktop. For example, if you are cooking pasta, this reduces overall cooking time. Granted, not by a lot, but saving a few minutes in the kitchen here and there adds up.

Responsive to temperature changes: When the temperature or power is increased or decreased, the pan reacts instantly. It takes more time for electric coils to warm up or respond to a setting change.

Efficient: Induction cooktops are around 77% efficient in terms of heating food. This is about the same as electric stoves and a whole lot better than gas stoves (41%). Induction hobs are most efficient when the pan covers the burner (83%).

Since the unit heats only the cookware, there is very little heat given up to the surrounding air. This keeps the kitchen from getting too hot and having to use a fan or turn the air conditioner on.

Safety features: There are no flames or hot coils. Induction cooktops do get warm because heat is transferred from the pan to the glass-ceramic cooktop. However, the cooking zone cools off quickly.

Induction hobs have sensors that detect when there is not an induction ready pan on the cooktop surface. When this happens, the unit shuts down within 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Easily cleaned: You don’t have to spend much time cleaning up since food doesn’t get baked onto the cooktop as it does with gas or electric stoves. Generally, wiping the surface with a damp sponge or paper followed by a dry cloth is all the cleaning that needs to be done. A cleaning product designed for glass-ceramic surfaces can also be used.

Versatile: They can also be used as a slow cooker, food warmer, or as an extra burner. It can be used in many cooking environments - dorms, RVs, cabin, or campers.

Portability: The single induction cooktops are small and can be easily moved from one place to another. They are compact enough to be stored in a cabinet. Single and double burner induction hobs are convenient for someone who is confined to a wheelchair as they can be placed on a table or countertop.

Easy to Use: Cooking with an induction hob is very easy as you only need to set the temperature/power and if needed the timer. The same setting(s) can be used to prepare your dish again. If you want to simmer sauce, just set the timer and relax or do the next task on your to-do list.

Design: Many of the cooktops have a nice sleek design that will fit into any kitchen décor.

Is induction cooking a good fit for all cooks?

To offer a balanced viewpoint, we’ll discuss why induction cooking might not be a good fit for everyone.

  • It might be necessary to buy new pots and pans since only cookware that has a ferromagnetic base can be used.
  • Full-size induction stoves are more expensive than gas or electric units
  • There is a learning curve to using an induction cooktop/range. However, once you know the setting for a particular dish, it can be used repeatedly.
  • Most cooktops produce a humming or buzzing sound when high temperatures are used. This is especially true if the pan doesn’t have a heavy base. Sometimes there is a clicking sound when low settings are used.  

Related Content: Induction Cooktop Pros and Cons