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 induction range (stove) during a kitchen renovation in 2014. After being lifetime fans of cooking with gas, now I 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
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 it sticks, it will work with an induction cooktop. We had mostly cast iron, steel/ceramic and stainless steel pots already that all work great. We only needed to replace a couple of copper bottom pans (and did quite well at resale shops). Aluminum doesn'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 primarily because it was available. 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 is perfect for that small space and even has some features the big cooktops lack. .
Darned supply chain challenges
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 2021, Consumer Reports tested and rated 3 LGs, 2 Frigidaires (including one at only $1000) and one Kitchen Aid. The LGs and Frigidaires all rated 84-85 and were recommended. Only the KitchenAid at 75 did not get a CR recommendation, mostly due to oven issues and it still rates 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 in 2021. There are even more induction stovetops 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 power setting to bring things quickly to a boil. This turns the burner on max, which is generally 50% or more than the normal max 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.
9+ 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 goes from level 1 to 3 in 0.2 steps and then to 9 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 power levels 1-9, plus Power boost. Let me know if you see models with fractional power levels.
This is a place where some of the portables shine. On some, you can either set the low to high power level or 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 ($4,000+ full cooktops, like the 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 tha can be great for holding a simmer or melting butter or chocolate.
Autosizing Pan detection
Most induction stovetops require you to select the burner that fits your pan. Each burner will have a minimum and maximum size pan they will heat. 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 in which pan goes where on the stovetop. Sounds nice. I have not tried it yet to find out how well it works. If you don't get autosizing, think about the arrangement of pan sizes. Having one large and one small in front and a mix in back too is useful.
Digital controls or knobs?
Touchscreen digitals take a bit more getting used to than the comfortable old knobs, but are much easier to keep clean. Personal preference. I like the touchscreen. Others prefer the knobs.
Front mounted controls
No reaching over the hot pans to reach controls These are nice but not critical. I have had a rear control model for many years and lived to tell the tale.
Light up indicator on the surface element
Nice feature to indicate a burner is on to replace the visual element of the old gas flame. Ours doesn't have it and we haven't burned the house down yet.
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 is the next best thing. It is another good energy saver as you knock down the temperature 25 degrees when using it. And it insures the heat is more evenly distributed. Check for certain kinds of baking where its use is not appropriate. But most convection ovens can work in either mode.
Warming zone, warm drawer, self clean oven, steam clean oven, specialty baking settings, smartphone apps, air fryers, burner bridge, 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.