Cooktops—those countertop wonders on which we cook a variety of foods—are a basic necessity for every home; and what you ultimately decide to cook on may be just as crucial as what you decide to cook your food with. If you are in the market for a new stove or cooktop, you may already know that there are a variety of units from which to choose today, and because of the investment you will be making in one of these appliances, it is ultra-important that you first know and understand all the facts before making a final purchasing decision.
In the following article we will cover some of those facts as they apply to two different types of cooktops: induction and gas. Not only will we explain, in detail, how both of these cooktops work, we will also list the pros and cons associated with each product type to assist you in making the most educated and informed purchasing decision.
Conduction vs. Induction Cooking
Before we speak specifically about induction and gas cooktops, let’s look at the difference between conduction and induction cooking.
First let us say that whether using the conduction or induction method of cooking, the final result is usually the same; the food becomes cooked to satisfaction and ready to eat. However, the method for getting that food ready to serve is quite different.
In “conduction” cooking, of which most of us are familiar, the heating element on the stove sends heat upward through the cookware (pot or pan) to the food. Examples of conduction cooking apparatus are electric and gas ranges or stoves. In both of these, it is the heating element on the stove itself that cooks the food—the burner on an electric stove or the flame on a gas stove.
In “induction” cooking, the cookware itself is heated up through magnetic induction, and it is the heat from that cookware (pot or pan) that actually cooks the food. You will learn more about induction cooking in our next section: “What Are Induction Cooktops.”
What Are Induction Cooktops?
Induction cooktops bear a strong resemblance to the flat, glass-covered electric cooktops and ranges. However, that resemblance is where the similarities end.
Induction cooktops work by heating up your cookware through a process known as “magnetic induction.” In other words, instead of the actual stove or cooktop heating the food you cook, it is actually the cookware in which the food is contained that does all the heating and cooking in the induction process.
Truth be told, when your induction cooktop is turned on, you can actually place your hand over (or right on top of) the plate or burner and you will feel no heat whatsoever, nor will your hand get burned. Be careful with this, however, and do not try this if there is a piece of induction cookware on that burner. That’s because the induction cooktop heats the pot or pan through magnetic induction, and that pot or pan can get very hot and will actually transfer its heat back to the glass burner through heat “conduction”—the opposite of heat induction.
On an induction cooktop, which transfers heat to the cookware magnetically, it is much easier to accurately control the temperature of the pot or pan, and most things actually cook more rapidly via this type of heat transfer.
One of the most important things to remember with regard to induction cooktops is that you will NOT be able to use just any pot or pan you wish; you will actually need to use cookware that is designed specifically for induction cooking. So what makes a pot or pan suitable for induction cooking? You will have to ensure that the pot or pan you are using has iron or steel in the base and is magnetic. Most stainless steel and cast iron cookware will work great on induction cooktops, but some of your older ceramic, glass or non-stick cookware may not work. The good news is many manufacturers are now outfitting their non-stick and ceramic cookware for induction cooking by adding a layer of steel or other magnetic metals to the base of the pots and pans.
What Are Gas Cooktops?
Gas cooktops are a bit easier to explain because most of us have been cooking on gas ranges and stove tops for decades.
When you cook on a gas cooktop or range, you are actually cooking with a controlled flame. How do you control the size of the flame? By increasing or decreasing the flow of gas using the handle that controls that specific burner. More gas equals a higher flame, and less gas equals a lower flame. Moreover, a higher flame means hotter and faster cooking, while a lower flame means slower cooking with a lower flame.
With a gas cooktop, you control the flow of gas to the flame and thus directly control the temperature of what you are cooking. In gas cooking, the pot or pan will also heat up as the result of the flame, but instead of the food being cooked by the cookware, it is actually being cooked by the fire below the cookware.
For decades now, gas has been the preferred method of stove-top cooking, and most homes have either a gas or electric powered range. Professional chefs, however, would not be caught dead using the latter; they all use gas cooktops and almost unanimously tout the benefits of this cooking method with regard to temperature control and the speed at which you can make adjustments—going from high to low to high again with just a quick turn of a knob.
Gas cooktops afford cooks a greater degree of flexibility and versatility, largely because the heat is not set at a certain level like you will find on electric or induction cooktops. Because of this, chefs are able to move pots and pans around freely without worrying about losing any heat, which lends itself to certain tricks and unique cooking methods within the kitchen.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Induction Cooktops and Gas Cooktops
Now that you understand the basic manner in which both induction and gas cooking works, let us now highlight the pros and cons of each of these appliances. In doing this, we hope to answer many of the questions you may have, which will ultimately help you select the cooking method that best suits your current needs, preferences and cooking style.
Induction Cooktops: Pros and Cons
- Fast. Induction cooktops work faster than most gas stoves, and are able to bring 6 quarts of water to a boil about 2 minutes faster.
- Energy efficient. Induction cooktops use less energy than their gas counterparts.
- Child friendly. When an induction cooktop is turned on, the burner cannot cause any burns when accidentally touched (unless a hot pot is transferring heat back to the burner).
- Keeps kitchens cooler. Because induction cooktops do not create any heat themselves, they are much cooler to run.
- Easy to clean. The flat, glass surface on induction cooktops make them much easier to wipe clean.
- Pre-set temperatures. Many induction cooktops have pre-set temperatures that allow you to more accurately cook food at the recommended temperature.
- Premium priced. Most induction cooktops are much more premium priced than gas cooktops, making them not as attractive to the budget-conscious consumer.
- May have to buy new cookware. If you do not already possess the proper cookware for induction cooktops—cookware with steel or iron in the base that is magnetic—you may have to spend hundreds of dollars for new cookware.
- Glass surfaces can crack. Induction cooktops are almost always covered by glass, which can crack or break should a pot or pan fall on it.
- Touch controls take some getting used to. If you have never used induction cooktops previously, the pre-set temps and touch controls can be a little confusing.
- Need constant contact. Unlike with gas stoves, the pot or pan must remain in constant contact with the burner to heat the food.
Gas Cooktops: Pros and Cons
- Instant heat source. When a gas cooktop is turned on, the flame represents an instant heat source with no waiting required.
- Versatile. Gas cooktops allow you to move pots and pans around the stove freely to achieve the best results.
- Can change temps rapidly. With gas cooktops, going from low to high heat—and even back again—can be accomplished with no waiting.
- Visual temperatures. The flame on the gas cooktop allows chefs to get an instant visual clue as to the heat of the burner.
- Can use all your current cookware. With a gas cooktop you will NOT have to replace any of your tried and true cookware.
- Easy to Use. Most have used gas cooktops for generations, and their manual knobs make them very familiar and easy to use.
- Can be expensive to install. If you do not have a gas supply line already installed in your kitchen, a gas cooktop can set you back in terms of installation.
- Can be dangerous. Hands can get burned; clothes and towels can catch fire, etc. if you are not careful with the flames from the gas cooktop.
- Not child friendly. For all the reasons mentioned above, gas cooktops may not be safe to use around small children.
- Can be hard to clean. The sunken burners and grates on a gas cooktop can be very difficult to clean.
As you can see, there are many benefits and drawbacks to owning/using both an induction and gas cooktop. Induction cooktops are safe, efficient and easy to clean. They keep your kitchen cooler and are much more child friendly. However, they may be difficult to understand and use, very costly and you may have to buy all-new cookware. Gas cooktops are versatile, visual and easy to use, allowing you much more flexibility in the kitchen. They can also be expensive to install, hard to clean and dangerous in some situations.
Obviously, no product is ever perfect across the board, but with these pros and cons in mind, we hope you can now make an educated decision that best suits all of your needs and the needs of your family.
- While it is very rare there are occasionally gas explosions from leaks etc so there is a safety factor that needs to be taken into account.
- The naked flame makes them not very child friendly and so children in the kitchen have to be closely supervised.
- The heating method is not as efficient as induction and it is not uncommon for kitchen to get hot when you are cooking because of this heat escape.
- Are not so easy to keep clean, there are little bits that need to come off and be cleaned so there is some level of maintenance.
- Because of the safety features you will need to ensure a reasonable amount of maintenance to ensure good and safe performance.