Every induction range and cooktop Consumer Reports has tested—19 and counting—delivers fast cooktop heat and superb simmering. That’s because induction models have an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface that quickly generates heat directly to the pan, offering you precise simmering and control. But induction models aren’t cheap, so here’s what you’ll want to know before you shop.
What induction is—and what it isn’t
The only difference between an induction and electric smoothtop model is that the surface elements on an induction model heat pots by using an electromagnetic field, rather than radiant heat, says Tara Casaregola, the engineer who conducts our tests of cooking appliances. The electromagnetic field doesn’t create a glow so you won’t know it’s on. That’s why manufacturers are adding virtual flames and other special lights as a cue. As for the range ovens, they use pretty much the same old technology for bake and broil elements, whether the range is an induction or electric smoothtop.
Induction elements typically heat quickly and no other technology that we’ve tested is faster than the fastest induction elements, but we’re talking 2 to 4 minutes faster to bring 6 quarts of water to a near boil. Life changing? Probably not. However, if you turn on an induction element by mistake with no pot on it won’t get hot, and when you remove a pot from an element the heating stops. And an induction surface stays cooler than a radiant smoothtop, which should make cleaning up spills easier. But your pots will get very hot while cooking and that heat transfers from the surface below and around the pot. So if you’re using several induction elements the surface will heat up too.
You need the right cookware
Magnetic cookware, or more accurately, induction-capable, is needed for induction to work. If a magnet strongly sticks to the bottom of the pot, it will work with an induction cooktop. Some stainless-steel cookware is induction-capable, and some isn’t.
What’s that noise?
“A buzz or hum is common and often is louder at higher settings, says Casaregola. “And we often hear clicking of element electronics at lower settings and the sound of the cooling fan for the electronics.”
Dig out your dial thermometer
The magnetic field of an induction cooktop can interfere with a digital thermometer so you may need an analog thermometer, an old-fashioned solution to a modern problem.