When selecting between an induction or an electric cooktop, you have to weigh the options carefully. Depending on which one you choose, you’ll likely have very different cooking experiences. That said, between induction and electric cooktops, which is better?
Induction cooktops are more energy-efficient and can heat food more evenly, but they’re costlier and tough to get used to. Electric cooktops are low-cost and gas-free, but they often lack precision temperature control.
In today’s post, I’ll explain both induction and electric cooking in detail, including dedicated pros and cons sections for both types of cooktops. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be able to confidently decide whether your kitchen should be outfitted with an induction cooktop or an electric one.
What Is an Induction Cooktop?
Let’s start with induction cooktops, which utilize a form of cooking known as induction cooking.
Induction cooking or heating uses electromagnetic induction to warm up conductive materials (like your stovetop) so you can cook. Magnetic or electromagnetic induction is a form of heat transfer.
An induction coil, which is usually a copper wire, within the cooktop generates its own electromagnetic field. When you place a pot or pan on top of the cooktop surface, alternating currents charge through and create a magnetic flux.
That generates an eddy current to the pot or pan. Eddy currents are conductive electrical currents that can warm up something adjacent to the current without having to touch the item itself. The eddy current warms the pot or pan.
The pot or pan you use with an induction cooktop must be made of stainless steel, cast iron, or another ferrous metal. Otherwise, induction cooking can’t properly occur.
If your interested in knowing more about which cookware you should use when using an induction cooktop, you should read my article, The Best Cookware to Use with Induction Cooktops.
Even other types of metal are inappropriate, as thin metals will not heat up the same way ferrous metals do.
Induction cooktops have power ratings; the better the rating, the faster the cooktop can heat up and cook your meals.
What Is an Electric Cooktop?
The other cooking option you might consider for your kitchen is an electric stovetop.
Electric cooktops in their earliest form debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 as a solution to the hearth. Since then, the electric cooktop has undergone many changes.
The cooktop features a glass surface that minimizes heat conductivity. This allows for electric heat to remain in the cooking zone so the heat can quickly warm your pots and pans and cook your food.
Electrical currents below the cooking surface are produced via a metal coil. The coil creates electrical resistance.
Electrical resistance is a measure of how much electrical current travels through something, in this case, the cooktop’s metal coil. The coil will heat up to such a degree that it glows.
Then the coil sends all that heat towards the cooking surface using a combination of convective heat and infrared energy.
Since the ceramic or glass surface of an electric cooktop has a low rate of thermal expansion, the energy transmission of the heat allows the cooking zone to consistently warm up. Once you put your pot or pan on the cooking zone, heat transference cooks the food within.
The Pros and Cons of Induction Cooking
Now that I’ve gone through and explained both induction and electric cooktops, I want to delve into the respective pros and cons of each cooking method. I’ll begin with induction cooking.
Do you get a little nervous around open flames on your stovetop? That’s not unwarranted in the slightest.
Between 2014 and 2018, 61 percent of the cooking fires at home occurred due to a cooktop or range.
By taking flames out of the equation, your cooktop naturally feels a lot safer. Induction heating is designed in many ways to prioritize your safety.
For even more on induction cooking and it’s safety, you might want to read my article titled, Is Radiation from Induction Cooking Safe?
The Cooktop Itself Doesn’t Get Very Hot
Induction cooktops feature a ceramic or low-thermal expansion glass top that does not heat to a high degree, even during cooking. That’s due to how induction cooking itself works and how the pot or pan heats up, not the surface.
The temperature of your induction cooktop won’t be hot enough that spilled food will stick and burn. That makes for easy cleanup too!
Most induction cooktops can read how much power the unit receives at any one time.
If you try to cook using a pot or pan that isn’t big enough or you turn the induction cooktop on but there’s no pot or pan present, its built-in control system will power the stovetop off.
There’s a reason for this. Dry-boiling a pot or pan can increase its temperature to such a degree that fires are likely.
If you want your food preparation methods to be energy-efficient, buy an induction cooktop.
The cooktop allows more heat to reach your food–up to 90 percent according to appliances resource P.C. Richard & Son–while electric cooktops provide 75 percent heat max.
Your kitchen won’t heat up, and your food will take less time to cook as well.
Great Temperature Control
When cooking with an electric stovetop, you have to wait for the heating elements to reach their max heat levels. If you try cooking too soon, you end up with undercooked food.
Induction heating allows you to enjoy optimal levels of temperature control. While not quite as good as an oven, between electric, gas, and induction cooktops, induction cooking is the most precise way to control the cooking temperature.
Can Only Cook with Ferrous Metals
A huge issue with induction cooktops is that they only work properly with certain types of pots and pans.
If your pans aren’t cast-iron or stainless steel, then you won’t get the consistent heating and temperature control that induction stovetops are known for.
It’s bad enough that you’ll have to spend money on a new cooktop. You’ll also have to budget towards replacing all your kitchen equipment.
Induction cooktops are almost a double-edged sword. You must use tough metals for proper induction cooking, yet the glass surface of the cooktop can be scratched, dinged, and damaged rather easily.
Every time you cook, you’ll have to be ultra-conscious of your movements so you don’t scratch your beautiful new stovetop. After a while, that can get exhausting.
Can Be Noisy
I hope you don’t like cooking in near silence, because that won’t happen with an induction cooktop.
Induction cooktops make a buzzing noise that some say is akin to running a kitchen fan on high.
The noise seems to worsen if you use heavier pots and pans such as cast iron. You might want to switch to lightweight stainless steel to see if that helps.
Do be forewarned, the noise won’t go away entirely, it just won’t be as loud.
So what are you hearing? As the rate of energy transfer within the stovetop increases, it makes an audible sound. There’s no getting around it entirely.
Compared to gas and electric cooktops, induction cooking is the costliest of the three. That’s because induction cooking isn’t as commonplace as the other two methods, so you’re paying more for newer technology.
It won’t be that way forever, but it’s that like that right now, so if you need a new cooktop ASAP, you must consider that.
Steep Learning Curve
If you’re used to waiting (and waiting and waiting) for your electric cooktop to reach close to the desired temperature, then switching to an induction stovetop can surprise you.
Your food will be done so fast that you might end up overcooking it the first few times.
Not only that, but you have to get used to putting your pots and pans in a precise location so the cooktop works most efficiently. If you don’t, or if you choose a pot or pan of the wrong size, the cooktop will turn itself off.
The Pros and Cons of Electric Cooking
As I did with induction cooktops, I want to now review the advantages and disadvantages of an electric stovetop.
The old technology of electric cooktops has carried over to modern times. Due to their commonality, you can buy an electric cooktop usually far cheaper than you can a gas or induction cooker.
Can Use with Many Types of Cookware
One of the biggest downsides of induction cooktops by far is how you’re limited to only cast-iron or stainless steel cookware. Not so with electric cooktops.
Since the heating process does not rely on your pots and pans, you can feel free to use cookware in all sorts of materials. This is another way that electric cooktops save you money, as you won’t have to replace your pricy cookware.
Many Cooking Options
Do you want to simmer food? That’s one task your electric cooktop is capable of.
These stovetops can also sear and even grill food. The versatility you get with an electric stovetop, when combined with its affordability, makes this a very viable pick for many homeowners.
Easy to Learn and Master
To use an electric cooktop, all you have to do is turn the knobs. Most stovetop knobs have settings so you can easily tell when the burners are on low, medium, or high heat.
This ease of use means that you can begin cooking great meals with your electric cooktop faster, and with fewer instances of burned food along the way.
Decently Energy Efficient
Do electric cooktops reduce energy usage to the degree of induction stovetops? No, but they’re not energy hogs, either. They’re a greener option than a gas cooktop, that’s for sure.
Hard to Tell When the Stove Is On or Off for Some Models
Did you accidentally leave the stovetop on?
Some electric cooktops have burners that turn visibly red, but other models that hide the burners can make it nearly impossible for you to tell which burners are on versus off.
That makes the stovetop a safety hazard, as if someone unassumingly touches it, they can seriously burn themselves.
Long Heating Times
I mentioned before how electric cooktops don’t heat up immediately. Maybe you can go from off to low heat fast enough, but to jump from low to high heat is going to require a bit of time.
The longer it takes the electric burners to heat up, the longer it is before dinner is plated and ready to eat.
Cleaning Is Tough
Have you ever tried scrubbing and scouring electric burners? (When they’re off, of course!) It’s a time-consuming, difficult job.
If your electric cooktop obscures the burners beneath a layer of glass or ceramic, then this is a moot point, but for those models with exposed burners, you need a specialized cleaner and a bit of elbow grease to maintain them.
Less Temperature Control
Precise temperature control like you have in an oven is not possible with a cooktop, but some cooktops allow you to customize the temperature better than others. Induction cooktops are one such example.
As mentioned, electric cooktops usually have three heat settings: low, medium, or high. That’s as close to temperature control as you get, and for some meals, it might not cut it.
Induction vs. Electric Cooktops – Which One Is Right for You?
Now that you’re privy to the pros and cons of both induction and electric cooktops, how do you choose the right one for your kitchen? Here are some pointers that ought to help.
Review Your Budget
With electric cooktops retailing for well under $1,000 and induction cooktops starting in the four-figures for many models, there’s a steep enough difference in price between the two types of stovetops.
If your budget is on the smaller side, then you can either buy an electric stovetop or keep saving up for an induction cooktop. For those with bigger budgets, induction cooktops are an option right out of the gate.
Assess Your Cookware
As I talked about earlier, getting an induction cooktop installed in your kitchen will require you to use only stainless steel or cast-iron cookware since these are ferrous metals. If you don’t mind getting rid of all your cookware, then go for it.
For those who’d rather keep their perfectly good pots and pans, an electric cooktop is compatible with cookware of all kinds.
Consider How Much Time You Want to Spend in the Kitchen
Are you someone with a jam-packed schedule who can only spend 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes max on dinner each night? If so, then the time spent waiting idly by for your electric stovetop to heat up will be most displeasing.
An induction cooktop will be more your speed, quite literally, in this case. Just watch that you don’t burn your food!