Buying a new induction cooktop seems fairly straightforward at first. Then when you start reading about the various types, sizes, features, colors, and number of burners, it seems like you'll need to make a spreadsheet. There is plenty of information available that will explain why one cooktop is better than another. If you’re thinking about buying an induction cooktop, we have put together a list of induction types and features to assist you in making a decision.
If you aren’t already aware of what an induction cooktop is, it’s essentially a type of cooktop that doesn’t require a naked flame or gas. Inside the cooktop (under the glass/ceramic surface plate), there is a coil through which electric current flows, creating a magnetic field. This field goes through the base of the induction ready pot or pan that is on the cooktop surface. A current is generated in the bottom of the cooking vessel and the electrical energy is changed to heat energy. This heat is then transferred from the cookware to the food.
A certain type of cooking vessel is required when using an induction cooktop. The base of the vessels has to either contain iron or a layer that has magnetic materials. Induction compatible cookware types are: cast iron, steel, enameled cast iron, ceramic clad and magnetic stainless steel. This is discussed in more detail in this article.
Size, power, temperature, safety and other features, and design are some of the factors to consider before buying an induction cooktop.
The first decision to make is whether to buy a portable induction cooktop, a built-in unit or a full-size induction range.
Portable cookers have either one or two burners. The size of single burner cooktops are around 14x11.5x2.5 inches (LxWxH). The double burner cookers are generally 23.6 x 14.1 x 2.6. These units can easily be used on a countertop or table. Sometimes consumers buy one of these cooktops to see if they like it before purchasing a built-in cooktop or full-size oven. Others purchase one for use as an extra burner at home or to take to a social occasion or to use in their dorm room, RV, cabin or boat.
The next step up in size is a built-in cooktop. These appliances generally have either two, four or 5 cooking zones. They range in width from 20 to 41 inches.
The most popular freestanding induction ranges are 30 inches wide and have four burners along with an oven and sometimes a steam rack. However, some are available that are 36 inches wide.
A single zone tabletop unit is cost-effective and portable but won’t offer the same power or flexibility as the larger models. However, the bigger the size you opt for, the more expensive it is going to be. It is essential to measure how much space you have in your kitchen to see if a bigger model can fit or if you should select a smaller one.
The power for the single induction cookers range from 1300 to 1800 Watts. Most portable double cooktops have a total maximum output of 1800 Watts. The power of the burners varies according to model and the wattage given is the TOTAL for the unit. The following are three examples of how the wattage is split.
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.
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.
The number of power levels on your cooktop is another consideration. The portable cooktops have either 10, 15, or 20 levels.
The temperature range varies among the portable induction cooktops. Most brands range from 100-450°F or 140-460°F. The number of temperature settings also differs according to model; having either 10, 15 or 20 settings. The temperature increments are in 25 degree steps while others are in 15° or 20° increments.
The single and double burner cooktops have a variety of safety features. However, not all of them have a lock that prevents settings from being changed. An automatic shut-off function is available on some cooktops but not others. This 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.
Although not strictly a safety feature, a timer is extremely helpful, especially for those of us who like to multitask. It can save the headache of overcooked or burnt food.
It is important that your induction cooker is ETL approved and FCC Part 18 compliant (FCC has authorized its use and marketing). ETL approval verifies the appliance is compliant with North American Safety standards.
Design is an important factor to consider prior to buying your induction cooker. It is especially critical if your kitchen already has a specific decor or color scheme. Stainless steel and black induction ranges are much more prevalent than white ones. One of the nice things about induction cookers is that they are very modern and sleek.
The single induction cooktops also vary in the type of one touch features, the type of controls and the cooktop surface design. Some cooktops have boil, simmer or keep warm settings. The control on the top-of-the-line units are touchpad as opposed to buttons or dial.
The one burner induction units have a surface that is either tablet like or has a slanted control panel. The Max Burton 6400 and the newer 6450 model and the Duxtop 9600LS unit are examples of those with an angled interface. The benefit of this design is that it lessens the chance of the touchpad settings being changed accidentally or heat from the vessel touching the display as the pot or pan is being removed from the cooktop.
If you are not sure if you want to invest in an induction cooktop, this article details the advantages and drawbacks of these units.
The following is a checklist to use if you are considering purchasing an induction cooktop.
- Size and power capabilities - portable, built-in or full-size
- Power levels - 10, 15, or 20
- Temperature settings - 10, 15, or 20
- Is the temperature increment important to me?
- Do I want a settings lock?
- Do I want automatic shut-off?
- Do I want a timer?
- Is it ETL approved and FCC Part 18 compliant?
- Portable units - tablet or slanted display panel?
- What will fit into my decor?
- Do I want a touchpad as opposed to buttons or a dial?
- What is the quality of customer service of the manufacturer?
- What is the product warranty?
Hopefully, this article gave you a better idea as to whether an induction cooktop is something that will fit both your lifestyle and cooking needs.