What is an induction cooktop?
An induction cooktop uses an electric current passing through copper wire to produce an electromagnetic field of energy. It’s important to know that this doesn’t produce heat. So, your cooktop won’t actually heat up. Instead, this electromagnetic energy is used to heat pans directly.
When an induction-compatible pan with an iron base is placed onto the cooktop, the electromagnetic energy emitted by the cooktop passes into the pan. This causes the iron molecules in the pan to vibrate tens of thousands of times per second. The friction caused by the vibrating molecules generates heat within the pan itself, not the cooktop. Although some heat is transferred back to the cooktop’s surface, so it will feel warm.
What are the advantages?
An induction cooktop has plenty of benefits:
- A ceramic cooktop heats a coil, which heats the glass covering the coil, which then heats the pan atop the glass. The transference of energy means heat is lost at each step, so pans take longer to reach a desired temperature. With induction, the pan itself is heated. This means less heat is wasted, and pans heat up almost immediately.
- If you turn the temperature down, the electromagnetic field weakens and the molecules move with less intensity. And turning off the cooktop kills the heat instantly. Essentially, this means induction gives you much more control over heat levels.
- As mentioned above, induction cooktops don’t generate heat themselves. So you are far less likely to burn yourself on the hob. Although as mentioned above, induction cooktops do warm up, due to heat from hot pans, so care is required. Induction cooktops also only function when a pan is present, and many turn off automatically if a pan starts to overheat, again reducing risk.
- Because the surface doesn’t get as hot, spilled liquid and food doesn’t burn onto the hob. Making any wipe downs easier. You also don’t have to wait for the cooktop to cool before you can clean it.
- Due to the way that induction cooktops work, they are more efficient than regular heat-transfer cooktops.
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What are the disadvantages?
- Induction cooktops don’t come cheap. While they offer speedier cooking times, more control, and added safety, you have to pay extra for those benefits. Even basic models tend to start well above $1000. And they are also more expensive to repair. If something goes wrong with the electronics, it will likely affect the entire cooktop, meaning you have to replace the whole thing, rather than just one specific hotplate.
Not all pots and pans are compatible
- Because induction cooktops work by vibrating iron molecules, your pan needs to be made of iron. Or at least the pan’s base. This means aluminium, glass, and copper will not heat up on an induction cooktop. Your pans must be magnetically conductive material or ferromagnetic material, such as iron, stainless steel, cast iron, enamelled cast iron, or steel. That can sound a little complex, but if you’re not sure, stick a magnet to the bottom of your pan. If it sticks, it’ll work. If not, it won’t.
You’ll need flat bottom pans
- Pans need to make full contact with the cooktop, so you’ll need smooth, flat-bottom pans for it to work. So rounded woks, for example, won’t work. Additionally if your pans are older and the flat bottoms are wobbly, deformed or rough, they’ll need replacing.
The adjustment period
- It can take a while to get used to induction cooking. Pans get very hot very quickly, so it’s easy to burn food. Picking up your pan to shake it about may see the cooktop turn itself off. All the little quirks and kinks of induction can take getting used to.
- Induction cooktops can be noisy. Not only do they buzz during cooking, they often have loud fans, used to cool the electronic circuitry, which continue to whirr even after you’ve stopped cooking.
What is a ceramic cooktop?
Ceramic cooktops are common in homes across the country. A coil is heated which, in turn, heats the ceramic glass surface that in turn heats your pan.
What are the advantages?
Some of the key advantages are:
- Ceramic cooktops can range from a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand. So there’s one for every budget.
Easy to clean
- Usually, a ceramic cooktop is one large, smooth, flat surface. A simply wipe-down is all you need to clean it.
Plenty of features
- Ceramic cooktops can come with all kinds of features like auto switch-off, flexi cooking zones, dual elements, and more.
- Sleek design and touch controls make for an attractive appliance.
What are the disadvantages
Slower cook times
- Ceramic cooktops take longer to heat up pots and pans than induction, or even gas stoves.
- Ceramic cooktops take longer to heat up and cool down. This means less control if you need quick or subtle changes in temperature to cook your food to perfection.
The surface gets hot
- Heat is lost when it’s being transferred from the cooktop to the pan. So to get the pan hot, the cooktop surface needs to be even hotter. This means ceramic cooktops are incredibly hot to the touch, and they stay hot for a long time after they’ve been switched off. Not ideal for curious kids.
What is a gas cooktop?
Gas cooktops are connected directly to the gas line in your house and use a naked flame to cook. The flame makes direct contact with the pot or pan, heating it.
What are the advantages?
- Because you’re cooking over a flame, you have a lot of control over your cooking. Turn the flame up high and you can heat things quickly. There’s no waiting for the hob to heat. Additionally, gas offers more control. Turn the flame low and it will drop the temperature, while turning off the flame will entirely kill the source of heat. You don’t have to worry about slow response or residual heat, like with a ceramic cooktop. As such, it’s a very intuitive way of cooking.
- You can use just about anything on a gas stove. You can use flat or rounded bottom utensils, clay pots, char food directly over the flame or use a high flame to envelop woks, heating the sides evenly and not just the base. This flexibility allows for creative cooking.
Doesn’t rely on electricity
- If you have a power outage, you’re still good to go
- You don’t have to worry about scratches or cracks, as gas stovetops are typically made of hardy metal
→ Related article: Electricity Bundles: Why Combine Your Power and Utilities?
What are the disadvantages?
Harder to clean
- Unlike the single smooth surface of a ceramic or induction cooktop, gas cooktops have multiple parts and pieces and places for grime to build up and get stuck. Cleaning can be difficult.
Natural gas is bad for the planet, so if you’re looking to go green, it’s not the best option. Additionally, some studies have raised concerns about the air quality in homes using gas to cook, due to the nitrogen oxides that it gives off. If you’re concerned about the planet, or even just the air your breathing at home, it may pay to reconsider a gas stove.
Isn’t New Zealand banning gas? Should I still get a gas cooker?
New Zealand isn’t banning gas, but it is planning on phasing out new gas connections. So, should the proposal go through, you won’t be able to hook your house up to gas. It won’t cut off your existing gas connection, however. So your gas cooktop still has a future. Additionally, alternative low-emission gasses like hydrogen, biogas and bioLPG are currently in development. So even if your natural gas stops flowing sometime in the future, gas supplies won’t be shut off completely. Rather, an alternative and greener gas may flow instead.
Which cooktop is best?
Which cooktop is best is hard to say, as it depends on your specific requirements.
Induction allows for precise control over your cooking and the added safety of a cool cooktop. But it’s costly and you have to factor in added costs, such as new pots and pans.
Gas is precise and versatile, but you may have concerns about its environmental impacts. Or you may not have an existing gas connection. You may also be put off by the extra cleaning a fiddly gas cooktop requires.
Ceramic cooktops may not give you the most precise control over your cooking, but they can still do a great job. Especially newer, and higher quality ones. Plus they’re affordable, stylish, come crammed full of features and are easy to install.
Ultimately, your needs, budget, environmental concerns, and whether you see cooking as an art or a chore, will all play a big role in what cooktop is best for you.
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.