Buying Tips for an Induction Range/Stove or Cooktop
A biased personal guide to induction cooktop features
Loving induction cooking
My wife and I switched from a gas to an induction range (stove) during a kitchen renovation in 2014. After being lifetime fans of cooking with gas, I now would never switch back - even if there was not a climate crisis. Induction beats gas hands down on speed, control, and safety. We've cooked, boiled, fried, grilled, simmered, wok stir-fried and tempered chocolate on it.
For more on why we love induction cooking see:
Induction Cooking factsheet: Introduction to the benefits of induction cooking, how it works, how to buy one, costs, rebates and tips for converting to induction cooking. (2 page pdf)
This Portable Induction Cooktop Is Magnetic - excellent article on induction cooking from bon appetit.
For news about induction ranges that only require a 120 volt outlet and can power your cooking and your fridge through a power outage jump down to Battery - the game changing 120 volt & resilient option
Darned supply chain challenges (but the induction range you can get will be good)
Do we need special pans?
Don't worry about having to buy all new special cookware. Just use a magnet to test your current collection. If the magnet sticks to the pan bottom, it will work with an induction cooktop. Most of our pots and pans were cast iron, steel/ceramic and stainless steel that all worked well. We only needed to replace a couple of copper bottom pans (and did quite well at resale shops). Aluminum pans don't work either, but they are bad for your health anyway. Need to buy some new pans? Take that magnet shopping with you.
What we bought
Few models were on the market in the US in 2014. We bought an Electrolux range primarily because it was available at the time. No failures. We still love it. While Electrolux no longer lists our model or anything like the model we bought, the Frigidaire Gallery series (manufactured by Electrolux) appears to be the current version of our model.'
We have since also purchased a Duxtop portable single burner induction cooktop (9600LS) for a tiny in-law apartment. We are also very happy with it. It is not as powerful as our 240 V Electrolux range, but it plugs into a regular 120 volt outlet, is perfect for that small space, and even has some features the big cooktops lack (e.g., temperature settings). The New York Times rated it as their favorite in their NY Times Best Portable Induction Cooktop Wirecutter review (as of the September 2022 update). Duxtop also makes a two burner version of this model (9620LS). For a highly detailed sales pitch on the Duxtops and explanation of the different models, see the Rational Kitchen review. The only negative of the Duxtop is that it seems to only be sold through Amazon (yuck), but I make an exception to my allergy to shopping at the megalith for the Duxtop.
(Speaking of commercial relationships, note that Wirecutter, Rational Kitchen and other websites that I link to probably get paid for your clickthroughs. I do not. Here are commission-less links to the single burner 9600LS & the double burner 9620LS)
Darned supply chain challenges
(but the induction range you can get will be good)
With the global supply chain issues from the pandemic, scarcity is again a reality. But fear not. You will probably be ok with whatever you end up with (notwithstanding the fact that all modern appliances seem to have a too high rate of lemons). Most induction ranges tend to rate in the top tier of Consumer Report ratings of all ranges. They are inherently better by design in many basic key functions. In 2022, Consumer Reports tested and rated 1 GE, 2 Samsungs, 3 LGs, 2 Frigidaires (including one at only $1000), 1 Ikea, 1 Cafe, and 1 Kitchen Aid. The GE Profile was top rated at a very high 89, the Samsung, Ikea, LGs, Frigidaires and one of the Samsung all rated above 80 and were recommended. Only the other Samsung at 80, the Cafe at 77 and KitchenAid at 74 did not get a CR recommendation, mostly due to oven issues and they still rate above the majority of other ranges tested by CR.
Features I like in an induction cooktop
This write up reflects the features of the induction cooktop on our range that I have liked - and some features i have seen in others that I wish we had. Note that my descriptions below and comments on their relative availability are based on my reviews of induction ranges with ovens that were available through Best Buy, Home Depot & a local appliance store in 2022. There are even more induction stovetop models available than ranges, but I have not reviewed them to get a sense of how available different features are at this time.
Duh. But really. Make sure you aren't inadvertently getting guided to a "smoothtop" electric range. They look very similar and in some online search bars (like Best Buy) you can search for "induction" but the results will include lots of non-induction smoothtop electric radiant ranges. Which you want to avoid like the plague. Usually it will say "induction" in the name if it is really and induction range. Convection is not the same thing. That is an oven feature. But do get a convection oven with your induction cooktop (see below).
Power boost or boil
A high overpower setting to bring things quickly to a boil. This turns the burner on max, which is generally 50% or more than the normal top output. Most units will turn back down to level 9 after about 10 minutes (which is plenty of time to get to a rolling boil in all but the largest pots.) Look for the largest burner to be 3600 to 4200 watt. The higher the wattage, the faster the boil. I love this feature. It seems to be becoming standard on induction ranges and cooktops, but check to make sure you've got it.
Of course this is the major disadvantage of the small portable plug in induction cooktops. They can't pump quite as much power in to a pan (my Duxtop is 1800 watts, some portable units are lower). They can't bring a large pot to boil as fast as a 3600 watt or higher cooktop, but they are still pretty fast - and have all the other advantages of induction plus they only need a standard 120 volt outlet.
Half step control settings
The more the better so that you can fine tune the amount of heat you put in the pan or pot. Our Electrolux has 26 settings, going from level 1 to 3 in 0.2 steps and then from 3 to 10(hi) in 0.5 steps plus a Power boil beyond. This is probably more than you need - which is good because I have not seen that in most current models on the market, including apparently the Frigidaire Gallery which is the current version of our model. Most units have 10 power levels Low or 1 to 9, plus Power boost. The GE Profile series ($3,000) is the only one I've seen so far with 20 1/2 step levels (1.0, 1.5, 2.0 etc). I like the extra fine grained control, but it may not be worth the extra bucks to you. Let me know if you see other models with fractional power levels. Oddly this is an area where some of the portables beat out the more expensive stoves. The Duxtop has 20 levels.
This is another place where some of the portables shine. On some like the Duxtop, you can set a temperature level and it will modulate the energy like a thermostat to hold the pan at a fixed temperature. Quite handy for some cooking, like setting eggs. I have seen this in several <$200 portables, but only in expensive ($3,000+ full cooktops, like the GE Profile and Café so far. Let me know if you see it. Some other models (like the current Electrolux) have a couple of special temperature controlled low power settings that can be great for holding a simmer or melting butter or chocolate. (Beware, some of the inexpensive portables get negative reviews due to fluctuations in their low temperature control. Another reason I like the Duxtop).
Auto-sizing Pan detection
Most induction stovetops (including mine) require you to select the burner that fits your pan. Each burner will have a minimum and maximum size pan indicated on the burnertop. But some (like the Frigidaire Gallery line) have an autosizing feature that senses pan size and adjusts the stovetop to the pan, giving you more flexibility on where you can use any pan on the stovetop. Sounds nice. I have not tried it yet to find out how well it works. If you don't get auto-sizing, think about the arrangement of pan sizes. Having one large and one small in front and a mix in back also is useful.
Large burner &/or Burner bridge
Many induction stove tops have a largest burner size of 7-1/2 or 8". This is big enough for most pans, but as with other electric or gas stovetops, can leave some large frying pans with a cooler edge area. A larger (e.g. 11") burner will more evenly heat a larger frying pan. Another approach for large surface area work is the burner bridge, which allows one control to connect two adjoining burners, allowing even heating of a large rectangular griddle. We love that feature for pancake making.
Touch controls or knobs?
Touchscreen digital controls take a bit more getting used to than the comfortable old knobs, but are easier to keep clean. This is really a matter of personal preference. I like the touchscreen. Others prefer the knobs.
Front or back mounted controls?
Front mount means no reaching over the hot pans to reach the controls. On the other hand, some users report that with front touch controls they sometimes bump the controls accidentally. I have used a rear control stove for many years and lived to tell the tale.
For safety, induction stovetops shut off automatically when you remove the pot (except some of the cheapest portables. Avoid them). A brief (60 second) delay in shutting off the burner when you remove the pan will allow you to shake the pan or remove momentarily to add an ingredient without having to reset the burner when you set it back down.
Hot surface indicator
While induction cooktops are much cooler and safer than other gas or electric cooktops, the pan will still leave some heat on the surface and it is nice to have the indicator that reminds you that the surface is still hot. This feature is pretty common - and again not a deal breaker. In fact the temperature is so low on the cooktop that some people put paper towels down to catch the spatter during deep frying to ease clean up
There is no induction feature for an oven. Convection ovens use a fan to circulate heat and sometimes add a third heating element as well. This distributes heat more evenly, improving baking results. it also saves energy since you can knock down the temperature 25 degrees when using it. Check for certain kinds of baking where its use is not appropriate. Convection ovens usually can work in either convection or regular mode.
Warming zone, warm drawer, self clean or steam clean oven, specialty baking settings, smartphone apps, air fryers, etc.?
All the doodads of modern ranges are available in some induction ranges too. I'll leave it to you to decide how important those are to you and how much you are willing to spend for them.
Battery - the game changing 120 volt & resilient option
This is the latest great innovation in induction stoves. Normally, a full size induction stove with oven requires a 240 volt outlet (like an electric dryer uses). Replace the bottom storage drawer with a battery and you get multiple benefits. You can run your stove from a regular 120 volt outlet. No need to add an expensive new circuit. No need to upgrade the electrical service. Plus, when the power goes out, the 3 or 4kW battery will provide power to cook and bake for several days - and you can plug in your refrigerator (and other kitchen appliances) to keep your food cool during the outage as well.
Read more about how battery enabled induction stoves work, how they save money and the climate and how you can get one at Battery in an Induction Stove