Induction cooktop buying guide: How to choose the best appliance for you
Everything you need to know to find the perfect cooktop for your kitchen.
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Quick facts about induction cooktops:
- Induction cooktops offer fast heating and are more energy-efficient than traditional gas and electric cooktops, but they don't come cheap.
- Most models are priced anywhere from $1,000 up to $6,000.
What is an induction cooktop?
Induction cooktops use magnetic fields to heat cookware placed on their glass surface. These flat-surface cooktops produce an electromagnetic field to heat the base of the cookware rather than the stovetop itself, ensuring that the cooktop remains cool to the touch throughout the cooking process.
Pros and cons
An induction cooktop has a few key advantages over a gas or electric cooktop:
- Cooking speed. The use of magnetic fields means that induction cooktops heat up extremely quickly, heating your cookware faster than the other options and resulting in less cooking time. You also don't have to worry about your meals stewing due to a lack of heat.
- Responsiveness. When you need to adjust the temperature of an induction cooktop, it changes immediately (unlike with an electric cooktop). This means you can dial back or increase the temperature when needed for best results.
- Safety. The cooktop itself doesn't heat up during cooking, so it'll stay cool enough to touch unless a hot pan is left sitting on it. And if you forget to turn your cooktop off, it won't heat unless a pan is placed on the cooking zone.
- Energy-efficiency. Induction cooktops also use less energy than other options, and many can automatically detect when there's nothing on the element.
- Design. The flat surface of an induction cooktop not only blends in well with the surrounding kitchen benchtop, it's also easy to clean.
- Expensive. You can buy gas and electric stoves for substantially less, so if you're on a tight budget then they will probably offer a better choice.
- Only works with specific cookware. You may need to replace your existing cookware if you choose an induction cooktop. These stoves are only compatible with cookware that has a ferrous base, so while cast iron, steel and some stainless-steel (with an iron base) pots and pans will work fine, your glass, aluminium and copper cookware won't. You can do a quick check by placing a magnet on the bottom of your pots and pans – if the magnet sticks firmly then they should be suitable.
- Can be noisy. Finally, when using the cooktop, you may notice a buzzing or humming noise that some users find annoying.
Types of induction cooktops
The two major factors you can use to distinguish between different models are the size and the number of cooking zones:
- 30cm models. The smallest cooktops start at a width of 30cm and feature up to two cooking zones.
- 60cm models. This is the most common size of induction cooktop and is suitable for three or four cooking zones. However, if four zones are included, you may find that using multiple zones at once can cause the stovetop to become cramped.
- 70-75cm models. The relatively minor increase in width allows for the more comfortable inclusion of four cooking zones.
- 90cm models. These generally feature five cooking zones and have enough space to accommodate larger pots and pans.
How to compare induction cooktops
When shopping for an induction cooktop, you'll need to compare the size, the number of cooking zones, power settings, safety features and cost. This will help you find a model that's the perfect fit for your kitchen.
Consider the space available in your kitchen compared to the dimensions of any cooktop you're thinking of buying.
Cooking zones and layout
Think about the type of cooking you do. Will you need to have several pots and pans on the go at once, or will you only be cooking basic meals? Do you want to have room for oversized cookware? Some models feature a bridge element that allows you to create an oblong heating zone for large items such as griddle pans.
Induction cooktops usually feature digital touch controls. This provides a more streamlined appearance and allows you to adjust the temperature by touching the glass surface with your finger.
Check the range of power settings provided by each unit's cooking zones – the greater the range of settings on offer, the more dishes you can cook at different temperatures at the same time. However, more power settings may mean extra cost.
Many induction cooktops offer a power boost feature to help you heat up food or liquid at a faster than normal rate.
Other cooking features
Some of the other specialised features you may look for include a setting to keep food warm, an auto heat-up feature that heats the cooktop to a higher setting and then drops it to a lower setting after a certain amount of time and a special area for wok or teppanyaki cooking.
- Timer. While some models feature a basic oven timer, more advanced models allow you to program the cooktop to turn off or reduce the temperature after a specified amount of time. Some also make it possible to set a timer for each element.
- Safety features. What features does each cooktop offer to improve safety? For example, does it automatically turn off the heat if there is a spillage or if there is nothing on the element? Is there a child lock?Please note that all induction cooktops have a safety cut-out feature, so they will automatically turn off if a cooking zone is left on for an extended period of time without its temperature being adjusted.< li>
- Installation. You may want to compare quotes from multiple installers to get the best deal. You'll also need to call on a licensed electrician as an induction cooktop will often require a different connection to the one available in your home, for example 20 amp instead of 10 amp.
- Warranty. Check the length of the manufacturer's warranty – two years is a common figure – and find out exactly what this covers.
- Price. Smaller, entry-level induction cooktops start around the $500 to $600 price point. However, most units will set you back a minimum of $1,000, with large top-spec models potentially pushing up to $5,000 and beyond.
Cleaning an induction cooktop
Induction cooktops are generally considered to be easy to clean because they offer a flat, smooth surface with no crevices for food and spills to get stuck in. The fact that the surface of the cooktop doesn't heat up also means that you don't have to worry about spilled food getting baked onto the surface and becoming extremely difficult to remove.
However, cleaning can be affected by whether you choose a framed or an edgeless model. Cooktops with a frame may provide crevices where dirt can gather, but going for an edgeless unit means there's no barrier to stop spills from spreading.
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