Electric vs Induction Cooktop

When you build a new house, renovate your current kitchen or just have to replace your old cooktop you are most probably wondering what is the difference between an electric and induction cooktop. Which one should you install?

The main difference between the two types of cooktops is that each uses electricity differently and that there are different unique pros and cons for each type. An induction cooktop, for instance, is very energy and cost-efficient, while an electric cooktop is generally much cheaper than an induction cooktop. Which type you should choose depends on which type is more compatible with your needs and preferences.  

Reading this article will help you to make your choice. We’ll provide you with answers to the most common questions asked regarding the two types of cooktops, briefly discuss how they utilize electricity differently, and then look in more detail at some of the important cons and pros of both cooktops. 

Basic comparison between an electric and induction cooktop.

For your convenience, we list some of the most frequently asked questions when homeowners have to choose between an electric and induction cooktop. If you only have a few questions before you finally decide on the cooktop you want to purchase, have a look at this list. Our short answers may be enough information.

If, however, you need more detailed information than what is given in this list, please read further. 

QuestionsElectric CooktopInduction Cooktop
Does the cooktop need to warm up before the cooking process starts?Yes, the electric cooktop has to warm up before the actual cooking process starts.No, the induction cooktop doesn’t warm up before the cooking process starts. It uses an electromagnetic induction process to heat the cookware and food immediately.
Can the cooktop accidentally be left on and be wasting electricity?Yes, The electric cooktop can accidentally be left on and use electricity whether there is cookware on it or not.No, the induction cooktop cannot accidentally be left on and waste electricity because it only works when cookware is placed on it.
Can you control the temperature precise?No, it is difficult to hit a precise temperature on an electric cooktop.Yes, you can control the temperature very accurately on an induction cooktop.
Is the cooktop energy-efficient? No, because the electric cooktop first has to warm up and you can’t control the temperature precisely, unnecessary energy is used. Yes, the induction cooktop is energy efficient because it doesn’t need warming up time and you can control the temperature accurately.
Can the cooktop be cleaned immediately after you’ve prepared your food? No, the electric cooktop stays warm for quite a long time and can only be cleaned when cooled down.Yes, the induction cooktop stays cold while you are cooking and can be cleaned immediately after cooking. 
Can you accidentally burn yourself on the cooktop?Yes, you can accidentally burn yourself on an electric cooktop because it can be turned on without cookware on it. It also stays warm for long after you’ve finished cooking, and you can burn yourself if you touch the cooktop. No, you can’t accidentally burn yourself as the induction cooktop doesn’t get warm and can’t be put on accidentally if there is no cookware on it.
Do you need special cookware to use on the cooktop?No, you can use any cookware that can be put on warm surfaces on an electric cooktopYes, you can only use induction-safe cookware on your induction cooktop. The cookware must also be able to transfer magnetism. 
Can the cooktop scratch easily? No, generally the electric cooktops are scratch-resistant. Yes, as an induction cooktop is made with smooth glass it can scratch easily. Even your cookware can scratch the cooktop. 
Electric vs induction cooktop comparison

Electric cooktops and induction cooktops use electricity differently

Both types of cooktops need 120/240-volt currency to work, but they use electricity in two different ways. 

Electric cooktops – How does an electric cooktop use electricity?

Development from iron hotplates to ceramic cooktops

Some electric stoves use, like the very first electric stoves, resistive coils which heat iron hotplates. With such a stove the person preparing the food puts the pots and pans with the food in them on the iron plates and turns on the plates. 

When the plates are switched on, the electric current heats the coils which then, in turn, heat the plates. The plates heat the cookware and when the cookware is warm, the food starts to cook.    

Manufacturers later introduced composite heating elements, with the resistive wires encased in hollow metal tubes. Many electric stoves still use this method. The tubes, arranged in a spiral, support the cookware directly.

Since the 1970s, manufacturers started to develop smooth glass-ceramic cooktops. Usually, electrical heating coils are used as heating elements and are hidden under the smooth cooktop. 

How heat is transferred when cooking with an electric cooktop

An electric cooktop has separate cooking coils that need an electric current to activate the coil element. The heat transfers from these coils to the cookware. 

If the stove has a glass or ceramic cooktop, the heat emanates to this surface and then transfers to your cookware. 

How do the coils get warm?

Each heating element on the electric cooktop (usually four or five in total) connects to its own individual control switch. When you switch a heating element on, the switch closes the circuit by connecting two “wires” carrying 120 or 240 volts of alternating current. The electric current travels down each wire, and when the currents collide in the heating element, heat is produced.

How do you regulate the temperature of the electric cooktop?

The control switch is also your temperature switch. It allows you to determine the needed heat output. When the selected temperature is reached, the circuit opens and the current will no longer be able to flow. When the temperature cools down again, the circuit closes again to supply more heat. 

Although electric stoves all use the same basic system to produce heat, in the case of ceramic or glass cooktops, the heating element is hidden under a smooth surface. 

Induction cooktop – How does an induction cooktop use electricity?

Beginning of using induction technology in cooking

To use induction technology in cooking has been developed since the early 1900s. But the idea of induction cooking has taken time to catch on with homeowners. Nowadays, however, more and more homes are equipped with induction cooktops. 

Just like electric cooktops, induction cooking uses 120/240-volt electric current, but in a completely different way. 

Using of electromagnetism

An induction cooktop works according to the principles of electromagnetism. It generates a magnetic field which is inducing a current inside the cookware. Simply put, with an electric cooktop, the cooktop heats up first and then this heat is transferred from the cooktop to the cooking vessel. This process takes time and energy. With induction cooking, the magnetic field is directly transferred to the cooking vessel, without any heat on the cooktop itself.   

How is the electricity converted to electromagnetic currents?

Whereas electric cooktops use thermal conduction to transfer heat from a burner to a pan to your food, induction cooking eliminates the “middleman,” working almost instantly to heat the cooking vessel itself. How is it done?

In simple terms, an induction cooktop has a copper coil beneath the cooktop’s surface and when an alternating current is passed to the copper coil it generates a magnetic field. This magnetic field then passes inside the ferromagnetic base of the cookware where it causes resistive currents.

These currents are responsible for heating the cookware and cooking the food. The heat is not located in the copper coil or the cooktop’s surface, but in the cookware which then cooks the food. 

Pros and cons of induction and electric cooktops

Generally, what is a pro for one of the cooktops is a con for the other. For your convenience, we demonstrate that in a Pro/Con table, and then we discuss the pros of the two cooktops in more detail.

Induction CooktopElectric Cooktop
Cooking speedPRO: Cook fast and without a waiting period for the cooktop to heat up.CON: Cooktop has to heat up before cookware and food start to heat up.
Cooking environmentPRO: Cooktop is always cool. Comfortable cooking environment.CON: Because the cooktop heats the air around the cooktop is hot. Uncomfortable cooking environment.
Temperature ControlPRO: Can control the temperature precisely and is fast to reach the required temperature.CON: The temperature cannot be controlled precisely and the cooktop takes time to heat up or cool down. 
Energy-efficiencyPRO: 90% of energy reaches the food.CON: Less than 70% of energy reaches the food.
CleaningPRO: Can be cleaned immediately after it has been used as the cooktop is always cool.CON: Have to wait for the cooktop to cool off before cleaning can start. 
PriceCON: More expensive than an electric cooktop.PRO: Less expensive than an induction cooktop.
CookwareCON: Need special cookware.PRO: Any kind of cookware can be used.
Ease of useCON: You have a learning curve to use your cooktop effectively.PRO: Easy to use.
SoundCON: Can sometimes produce  a buzzing sound that can be irritating for manyPRO: Is silent.
Scratch resistanceCON: Because the cooktop is made of glass it can be scratched easily.PRO: The ceramic cooktop is scratch-resistant
RepairsCON: You need a professional to attend to your cooktop if something is malfunctioningPRO: Most of the problems that might occur can be fixed easily
Pros and cons of induction and electric cooktops

Pros of Induction cooktops

You cook faster on an induction cooktop than on an electric top 

Induction cooktops create instant heat within the metal cookware and no heat is wasted in the process. You don’t have to wait for the heating to transfer to the cookware as you have to do on an electric cooktop. The cookware heats up directly and quickly. Water, for instance, will boil up to 50% faster on an induction cooktop than on an electric cooktop. All your cooking will be done faster than on an electric cooktop resulting in a smaller utility bill.

An induction cooking top is cooking-friendly

An induction cooktop is cooking-friendly because it always gives a cool feeling and thus makes it comfortable for you to work near the cooktop and with the cookware on the cooktop. This is because the maximum temperature around the cooktop when cooking is only about 665 degrees Fahrenheit.

When you cook on an electric cooktop, the temperature can be as high as about 742 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can control temperature more precisely on an induction cooktop

With an induction cooktop, you can control the heat more precisely than on an electric cooktop. An electric cooktop takes a time to heat up and cool down, and it’s therefore difficult to get a precise temperature. With induction, you’re offered precise temperature control which allows for more controlled cooking. 

On your induction cooktop, you can stop the transfer of heat immediately, and if necessary start it again and the heat transfer will be back immediately. This reduces your risk of over or under-cooking your food. 

The induction cooktop is more energy-efficient than an electric cooktop

According to independent tests, only 10% or less of the electricity consumed when cooking on an induction cooktop is not used for the cooking itself. No heat energy escapes into the atmosphere. 

An electric cooktop uses at the most only 70% of the electricity consumed for the actual cooking process. 

Because the induction cooktop is so energy efficient, less electricity is used to cook than on an electric cooktop and thus the electricity bill will be smaller.   

You can clean the induction cooktop easily and immediately

If you’ve done your cooking on an electric cooktop, you can’t clean it immediately after cooking, because it stays hot for quite a while after you’ve finished cooking. This often results in the possible mess on the top getting hard and is not easy to remove later. 

Since only the cookware gets hot on an induction cooktop, the cooktop stays cool. This prevents fire hazards and the risk of burns. It also allows you to easily clean the cooktop immediately after you’ve removed the cookware from the cooktop. You can clear the top from any mess before it settles.

Pros of electric cooktops

Electric cooktops are less expensive than induction cooktops 

If your budget is one of the important factors you have to keep in mind when purchasing a new cooktop, the electric cooktop should be your choice.  

Usually, induction cooktops are more expensive than electric cooktops. But you have to weigh it up against the lower utility bill you will receive each month as a result of the energy savings of the induction cooktops. 

Electric cooktops don’t require special cookware

You can use any cookware on your electric cooktop. 

If you use an induction cooktop you’ll have to ensure that you use compatible cookware.  You can only use induction-safe cookware. The cookware must be made of magnetic metal. 

Electric cooktops are easy to use

It is easy to cook on an electric cooktop. You only have to put the food in the cookware, put the cookware on the cooktop and turn the coil on. As your food gets cooked, you can adjust the temperature to lower or higher levels.

With an induction cooktop, you have a learning curve. You have to learn to use the right size of cookware and how and where to put it on the cooktop to be properly activated. The cooking vessel can’t be too small, off-center, or wobbly. You need flat-bottomed pots and pans made from a magnetic material. 

You also have to learn how to shake your pan around if you have to do that as part of the food preparation procedure. If you take the pan off the cooktop, it automatically switched off.  Most induction cooktops have a lock setting that will allow you to shake your pan around without turning off, but it still can switch off unexpectedly. 

Electric cooktops are “silent”

An electric cooktop doesn’t make any annoying noises when you’re cooking. The only “noise” you hear is that of the food cooking in the pots or pans. 

An induction cooktop sometimes causes a rattling sound as a result of the high energy transferring from the coil to the cookware. If you turn the heat down or add food to the pot or pan the sound might stop. But many people find this whirring sound annoying. 

Electric cooktops don’t scratch easily

Generally, electric cooktops can withstand more wear and tear than induction cooktops. Induction cooktops are made with smooth glass. This makes them more prone to scratching. 

Electric cooktops are relatively easy to repair

You don’t need special tools and equipment other than the “normal” tools in an electrician’s toolbox to repair a faulty electric cooktop. This is because it uses simple electronic circuitry which can usually be repaired easily.

The induction cooktop, on the other hand, requires special tools and equipment to repair as it relies completely on sophisticated solid-state circuitry.

Conclusion

You now know what the differences are between induction and electrical cooktops. Both have pros and cons which you have to take into consideration.  We recommend the induction cooktop, but you should choose the type of cooktop which is compatible with your needs and preferences.