If you're making the switch from gas or replacing your existing electric cooktop, you might be wondering whether to choose a ceramic or an induction cooktop.
To the untrained eye, they look pretty similar, and cooking is cooking, right? Well, not quite.
We'll talk you through the differences between the two and explain which type wins on things like price, energy efficiency, and how easy they are to use.
Regardless of which one you choose, there are winners and losers within each product type – so make sure you back a winner by checking our reviews to find the best induction cooktops or the best ceramic cooktops before you commit.
As the price of energy increases, the running costs of a cooktop may become a bigger factor in your decision-making. Here's how induction and ceramic cooktops compare.
Are induction cooktops energy efficient?
Yes! Induction cooktops are very efficient because they deliver heat directly to the cookware, rather than the cooktop, so less energy and heat is wasted. They transfer about 85% of the energy they use to the cookware.
Induction is also the fastest cooking method, so you won't need to keep the cooktop on for as long.
Induction cooktops heat up and cook food the fastest.
Are ceramic cooktops energy efficient?
Ceramic cooktops don't conduct heat as efficiently as induction: they work by heating the glass surface itself, which then heats the cookware. That extra step means that less energy is transmitted to the cookware than with an induction cooktop.
Your ceramic cooktop will work more efficiently if you make sure that your pans have a slightly concave base – when they heat up they'll expand slightly and become flat on the surface, which will lead to better contact with the cooktop, maximising heat transfer.
Your energy bills should be lower if you choose induction over ceramic because induction is more efficient at transferring heat and cooks faster.
For both types of cooktop, it's important to choose cookware with a base that is as close to the size of the cooking zone as possible for the best efficiency.
Verdict: Induction cooktops come out ahead for energy efficiency.
Both ceramic and induction cooktops are far easier to clean than gas, so if you're switching from gas to electric you're already ahead on that front.
But how do ceramic and induction compare in terms of cleaning? They both have lovely sleek surfaces without the fiddly components of a gas cooktop, but they do have some slightly different cleaning considerations.
Spills on induction cooktops are less likely to bake on to the cooking surface.
Because the surface of a ceramic cooktop heats up and stays hot even after you've turned it off, spills can bake on, making them difficult to remove. The cooking zone of an induction cooktop doesn't get as hot as the surface of a ceramic cooktop, so spills are less likely to bake on to the cooking surface.
Induction cooktops are made of one continuous surface – no cracks or dials for dirt and oils to hide in. You can clean the whole cooktop with just a few wipes.
Many ceramic cooktops have the same sleek surface, so they're easy to clean.
However, if you choose a ceramic cooktop that has knobs to control the temperature, they can be a pain to clean around. They can be removed for cleaning, but it's an extra step, and the knobs themselves can get greasy and grimy.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are easier to clean – but ceramic cooktops with touch controls aren't far behind (just watch out for spills).
Induction cooktops are generally more expensive than ceramic cooktops as they use more sophisticated (and therefore more expensive) technology, have more safety features and may have larger cooking zones and flexi zones.
- The ceramic cooktops in our test range in price from $389 to $1899
- The induction cooktops in our test range in price from $515 to $6349
If you opt for induction, you'll also need to factor in the cost of replacing your cookware if it's not induction-compatible.
Verdict: Ceramic cooktops are the winner for price.
Just remember, though, that the most expensive cooktop isn't always the best. We regularly find more affordable options in our testing that perform as well as – and sometimes even better than – the most expensive models.
With so many different cooktops to choose from, it takes a bit of research to figure out which will suit your home kitchen. Here are three differences you need to know about before you buy.
Response to temperature changes
Many home cooks love gas for its almost-instant responsiveness. If you opt for an induction cooktop, you won't have to worry about giving that up: they're just as responsive as gas, so when you change the temperature on the dial, the change is reflected immediately. Ceramic cooktops take more time to respond when you increase or decrease the temperature, which could be frustrating for cooks who are used to cooking with gas or induction.
It's worth noting though that if you're used to being able to see temperature changes (for example from the flame on your gas cooktop getting bigger or smaller), it may take some time to get used to an induction cooktop, which doesn't give any visual feedback like this.& With ceramic cooktops, on the other hand, the cooking zone lights up when you switch it on.
Verdict: Induction is the winner for temperature responsiveness.
Ease of use and speed of cooking
When our experts rate appliances for their ease of use, cleaning makes up part of the score. But there are other things that also make appliances easier or harder to use. How do ceramic and induction cooktops stack up in this department?
Size of cooking zones
Induction cooktops usually have more size options for cooking zones, which can make them more flexible. If you're considering a ceramic cooktop, make sure the largest cooking zone will accommodate your largest pan.
With induction, because the heat is coming from the cookware itself, rather than the cooktop, your cookware reaches the desired temperature more quickly, cooking your food faster. When we conducted a 'boil test' to see how long each type of cooktop takes to boil a litre of water, induction came in ahead of gas, with ceramic taking the longest. One of the top-performing models in our induction cooktop review takes a speedy 2 minutes 37 seconds to boil a litre of water.
Many induction cooktops come with timers that you can program to switch particular cooking zones off after a certain period. Some also have 'power boost' functionality for boiling water, stir-frying or searing meat. This heats the cookware even faster, saving around a third of the normal heat-up time.
Induction cooking can take a bit of getting used to as it's so different to gas and other electric forms of cooking. So expect to have a few mishaps while you're learning. Once you get the hang of them, they're pretty straightforward, however. Reading the manual and following the manufacturer's temperature guides will be a big help.
Verdict: Induction cooking is faster and easier than ceramic, once you get the hang of it.
No matter which type of cooktop you chose, we recommend you always use a tradesperson to install your cooktop for safety and warranty reasons. But installing an induction cooktop may be a bigger (and more expensive) job: the electrician may need to install a dedicated circuit if you don't already have one.
It's a good idea to consult an electrician before you even start your cooktop research, so you know what you can and can't install. Sometimes it's not possible to add another circuit.
Once you're aware of your installation costs, you should add them to the cooktop price so you know how much the cooktop will cost you in total before you make your final decision.
You'll still be paying a tradie regardless of which cooktop you choose, but it'll probably cost you less if you're replacing like for like – for instance, an electric coil cooktop with an electric ceramic cooktop.
Verdict: It depends, but ceramic cooktops may be cheaper to install if you're replacing an existing electric cooktop.
Modern cooktops tend to have plenty of safety features, so they're much safer than the cooktops that many of us grew up with. But which cooktop is the safest?
Induction cooktops tend to have additional safety features like safety sensors that monitor temperature, automatic shut-off if cookware is overheating, safety cut-out for protection against overspills, child locks and pan detection.
Ceramic cooktops have some of these features, too, but in general induction comes out ahead here.
Induction cooktops generally have more safety features than ceramic.
Because they use electromagnetic energy to heat the pan rather than the cooktop surface, induction cooktops stay cooler to the touch during cooking. (The surface will heat up a little if you've had a hot pan on them for a while, but not to the same degree as a ceramic cooktop.)
Induction cooking zones can become hot due to the residual heat from the cookware, but how hot they get depends on the setting selected and how long the cookware is heated on the cooking zone. Generally the cooking zone will be safe to touch – just use caution when wiping over any spills.
Ceramic cooktops still hold heat when you turn them off. Many of them do have residual heat indicators that stay on until the surface reaches a safe temperature, but there's still the potential for burns.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are a safer option than ceramic.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.