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The power and precision of the technology comes from an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface that transfers current directly to magnetic cookware, causing it to heat up.
Essentially, induction cuts out the intermediate step of heating up a burner and then transferring the heat to the pot.
Home cooks have been warming to induction because it cooks faster and responds much faster when you dial back the temperature.
And prices have been dropping, with some induction ranges selling for $1,000 or less. Induction cooktops and ranges still tend to cost more than electric smoothtops, but the difference in performance is significant. If you’re thinking of making the switch, here’s what you need to know.
What Induction Is—and What It Isn’t
Induction ranges look a lot like typical glass-top electric ranges. The biggest difference you’ll notice is that because the electromagnetic field on an induction cooktop doesn’t create a glow, you won’t know it’s on. That’s why manufacturers have started adding virtual flames and other lighting cues.
As for the ovens in induction ranges, they broil and bake the same as other electric ovens.
The Induction Advantage
No other cooking technology that we’ve tested is faster than the fastest induction elements—we’re talking 2 to 4 minutes speedier than the competition to bring 6 quarts of water to a near-boil. Life-changing? Probably not.
Contrary to popular belief, induction cooktops can get hot, but the heat is transferring from the cooking pot to the glass through conduction, much as a hot pan would transfer some heat to a countertop if you set it down to rest. As soon as you remove the pot, that heating stops. And because the heat is going from the pan to the cooktop, the glass surface never gets as hot as it does on a traditional radiant electric range. And if you turn on an induction burner with no pot on it by mistake, it won’t get hot—a nice safety feature.
You Need the Right Cookware
If you’re shopping for new cookware, look for pots and pans marked “induction-compatible.” If you want to know whether your existing arsenal of cookware will work with an induction range, use a magnet to see whether it strongly sticks to the bottom of your pots. If it does, it will work on an induction burner.
What’s That Noise?
“A buzz or hum is common and often is louder at higher settings,” says Tara Casaregola, who oversees testing of ranges and cooktops for Consumer Reports. “And we often hear clicking of element electronics at lower settings, as well as the sound of the cooling fan for the electronics.” Heavy, flat-bottomed pans help reduce the vibrations that cause this buzz.
Dig Out Your Dial Thermometer
The magnetic field of an induction cooktop can interfere with a digital meat thermometer, so you may need an analog thermometer—an old-fashioned solution to a modern problem.
To learn more about induction, see our cooktop and range buying guides. CR members can also browse our ratings of dozens of induction cooktops and ranges. Here, we've highlighted the best induction range in our ratings, as well as the best 30-inch and 36-inch induction cooktops.
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