Gone are the days when the only style choice was a stove with the oven beneath the cooking surface; now you can have a separate wall-mount oven with the cooktop integrated into your counter. And it’s no longer just gas versus exposed, black-coiled electric heating elements with a drip pan underneath. The big choice now is between radiant heat versus induction.
Radiant Cooktops vs. Induction Cooktops
Both gas and electric coils use radiant, indirect heat: the burner or heating elements convert energy to heat and the heat is then transferred to the food inside. Induction cooktops use a series of magnets to generate heat directly, making your cookware the heat source. That heat is then conducted to the food via direct contact.
Electric cooktops have a sleek, smooth surface that are easy to clean. Burners can generally reach higher temperatures than gas, given that there is no gap between the pan and the heat source. You’re not limited in the cookware you can use — glass, copper and aluminum work with this type of cooktop. Budget-wise, radiant cooktops tend to be less expensive than gas or induction.
During cooking, however, the burner kicks on and off repeatedly to maintain the temperature you’ve set, so it’s difficult to maintain fine control. Radiant cooktops also take time both to heat up and cool down, so the surface temperature will remain hot, even after a burner is turned off.
Gas cooktops are responsive and allow fine-grained control. Turn them on, the flame is immediate and hot, even if there’s a power loss. It’s easy to see and adjust in tiny increments and the changed heat level is instantaneous and consistent. If your home is already equipped with gas, operating costs can be lower than with electric. But extra care must be taken with this type of cooktop since there is an open flame. Gas cooktops can also be messy, with food dripping and hardening under the grate.
Induction cooktops are the most efficient of all in terms of energy, time and safety. Since the pot or pan is the actual heat source, no energy conversion is needed. Cooking time is greatly reduced; a pan of water will come to boil in almost half the time as it takes on a gas stove. Temperature changes are instantaneous, which means once you lift the pan from the element, the surface is safe to touch. In fact, many cooktops turn off automatically once the pan is removed.
But induction cooktops tend to be more expensive than their counterparts and not every pot or pan will work. Since induction elements require a magnetic field to work correctly, cookware must be made of iron or steel and have a smooth, flat bottom. If your favorite pot is copper, you won’t be able to use it. And if you have a pacemaker, an induction cooktop should not be in your kitchen.
Each cooktop option has their benefits and cons, so you should compare each to make the right choice for your new home. No matter which you choose, make sure it will work for you for many years to come.