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How to buy the best induction cooktop for your kitchen

We explain how induction cooking works and look at the pros and cons.

induction cooktop, saucepan and chopping board on a yellow background

Induction cooktops are impressive. If you're after a cooktop with super-fast heating and instant response to changes in temperature settings, all while staying cool-to-touch, then induction cooking is for you. 

Induction cooktops are praised for their superior cooking performance and sleek designs but deciding whether an induction cooktop is right for you really comes down to your priorities and budget.

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How do induction cooktops work?

An induction cooktop looks like your typical electric cooktop, but it differs in the way it provides heat. Rather than heating up a burner and then transferring that heat to a pot like an electric or gas cooktop, induction cooktops produce an electro-magnetic field which creates energy around their glass surface and heats the cookware.

The magnetism between the stove and cookware means your food is cooked super quickly via the heat of the cookware, not from the cooktop itself, so your stove stays cool to the touch during cooking. Induction is considered the most superior type of cooktop, providing fast heat-up and a precise and quick response to changes in temperature.

Pros and cons of induction cooktops

Pros

  • Induction cooktops heat up extraordinarily fast, conveying energy to the cookware faster than any other method of cooking.
  • When you change the temperature, this change is reflected immediately (like with gas), not gradually (as with a radiant ceramic element).
  • Since the element itself doesn't get hot, it's safe to touch unless you've had a hot pan on it for a while.
  • Most induction cooktops have automatic switches that detect when there's nothing on the element, meaning less energy is wasted from leaving them on.
  • Their flat surface means induction cooktops are a breeze to clean.
  • Because the cooktop surface itself doesn't get hot, spills onto the surface are less likely to burn onto the surface.

Cons

  • You need to make sure your cookware is suitable for induction cooking and may need to replace your pots and pans if they're not suitable.
  • You may notice some noise when cooking with induction.
  • Induction cooktops often require more work when it comes to installation.

What size cooktop do you need?

Whether you're renovating your kitchen or just replacing your existing cooktop, you need to think about what size you need and how many cooking zones you're likely to use at once.

60cm cooktop – accommodates three zones comfortably.

Fitting four zones on a 60cm cooktop can make the cooking space quite cramped, especially in regards to accessing the controls. If you're using multiple zones at once you may find cooking can begin to interfere with the controls, making them greasy, which can in turn make them unresponsive to touch. Unless you regularly use four zones at once, we think three zones on a 60cm cooktop is all you'll need.

70–75cm – accommodates four zones comfortably.

90cm – accommodates five zones comfortably.

If you only need one zone and you're after something very compact and portable, you might want to consider a portable induction cooktop. However, we haven't tested any portable options in our kitchen lab.

If you're looking to replace a freestanding oven and cooktop, our lab test includes options with induction cooktops.

How much do induction cooktops cost?

The models in our latest test of induction cooktops cost between $599 and $4599, but we've found that you don't have to pay top dollar to get a good quality cooktop, so it pays to do your research.

Which features are important?

Safety sensor

This monitors the temperature of the bottom of the cookware, should an empty pan be left on a cooking zone that's turned on. It adjusts the power output to avoid damage to the cookware or hob.

Auto switch-off

This automatically turns the element off or down in the event of overheating, or if you remove a pan. Most models have some form of this feature.

Safety cut-out

All induction cooktops have this safety feature. If a cooking zone is switched on for an extended period of time without the temperature being altered, it will switch itself off automatically. The period of time required to prompt the safety cut-out depends on the heat setting of the cooktop. The lower the setting, the longer the cooking zone will remain on. 

For example, on very low heat settings, some cooktops will remain on for up to 10 hours, while cooktops using the highest setting will automatically switch off after one to one-and-a-half hours. If continuous cooking is important to you, opt for a cooktop with longer safety cut-out periods.

Auto heat-up

Auto heat-up allows the cooking zone to heat to a higher setting, then automatically turn down to a preset setting after a certain amount of time. This is handy if, for example, you're cooking rice via the absorption method, when you want to bring it to the boil initially and then simmer.

Booster

Similar to auto heat-up, the cooking zone will heat up food or liquid quickly at the highest setting, then automatically reduce the heat to a pre-selected lower setting.

Protection against overflows

The cooktop may shut down and a beep may sound should a spill overflow onto the controls. Clean the spill, then begin cooking again. It's also worth considering how easy the surface will be to clean – are there cracks, lips or gaps where gunk might accumulate?

Power management

Due to the high wattage some of the cooking zones have, a power management system is put in place to divide the power between two cooking zones in a pair. Therefore maximum power function can only be set for one cooking zone, while the second cooking zone can only be set to a lower power level. If you want maximum power in two pans, they need to be in opposite zones.

Pan detection

The induction cooktop won't work if there's no pan on the heating zone or the pan isn't suitable. Also, if the pan is removed from the cooking zone, the operation is stopped and a symbol is displayed. The symbol disappears when the pan is put back to the heating zone and cooking continues with the power level set before. If unsuitable cookware is used, a symbol indicates this and after a short period of time the cooking zone switches itself off.

Cooking zones

Large cooking zones should have a diameter larger than 21cm for better efficiency when using larger cookware. Defined cooking zones have a clearer guidance for the size of cookware suitable for that zone. Choose an induction cooktop with an extra large, flexi, and small cooking zone, as these are better matched to a variety of cookware sizes.  

Framed vs edgeless design

The design you're after comes down to personal preference. Keep in mind framed designs can be more prone to build-up of dirt and grime in the frame crevices. However, the frame may also help to contain any spills. Edgeless designs are simple to wipe over, but could also be more prone to damage (i.e. cracks and breaks) if you were to drop an object on the edge.

Child lock

The danger isn't as high as with a gas or radiant cooktop, but you still don't want the littlies playing with hot pots, so look for this safety feature.

Digital control readings

Digital readouts give you temperature accuracy.

Controls

Buttons and sliders should be logical and not positioned too close to the elements.

Power on/residual heat light

These should be bright, and it's best to have one for each cooking zone.

Pause

Some cooktops come with a pause button that temporarily locks your heating settings so you can wipe down the controls without accidentally pressing any buttons.

Keep warm

This is essentially a simmer setting that can be used to keep food warm. Some can also use residual heat.

Wok cooking

There are models that have a specially indented area for wok cooking. These models can be quite pricey, and you'd want to use your wok a lot to justify the dedicated cooking area. Alternatively, you can buy an induction compatible wok to use on any induction cooktop.

How to clean an induction cooktop

Induction cooktops are easy to clean. They have a continuous surface with no dirt traps, and the controls are touch-sensitive, so there are no knobs to clean around. Because the surface doesn't get as hot as other electric cooktops, most spillages won't bake on – although you do have to be careful with sugar because it can burn on and create an uneven surface. 

On the downside, some models don't have a lip around the edge to contain spills, so you may have to buy a special cream to keep it streak-free.

Are induction cooktops energy-efficient?

Induction cooktops are considered to be more energy-efficient than ceramic and gas cooktops thanks to their electro-magnetic technology that delivers heat directly to the cookware. Unlike ceramic and gas cooktops, no heat is conducted between the cooktop and the cookware, meaning less energy or heat is wasted. Also, because food is heated up much faster with induction, you don't need to keep the cooktop on for as long.

It's important to make sure your cookware matches the size of the cooking zone to ensure your cooktop is working as efficiently as possible.

Induction vs gas cooktops: which is right for you?

Induction and gas are both great options but you need to weigh up which one you'd prefer.

  • Induction is the fastest cooking method.
  • Induction and gas are much the same for heat control.
  • Gas provides visual feedback when you raise and lower the flame.
  • If you love to cook stir-fries, many gas models come with a specially designed burner for woks.
  • Cast iron trivets on gas cooktops can be bulky and difficult to clean.
  • Induction gives you a sleek surface that's easy to clean.
  • You need specific cookware for induction but this isn't an issue for gas.
  • Induction is generally the more expensive option of the two.

If gas is for you, check out our gas cooktops buying guide for tips on choosing the best model for your kitchen.

What kinds of pans are needed for an induction cooktop?

Induction requires cookware to have a ferrous bottom so the heat can be conducted rapidly, and there are some other things you'll want to consider as well. 

  • Make sure cookware corresponds closely to the size of the cooking zone as this will greatly reduce the amount of energy your cooktop uses. 
  • Check your existing cookware by placing a magnet on the base. If it sticks well, it should be good to use on induction.
  • Cast iron, steel, some enamelled steel and stainless steel pans with an iron base or core are suitable. 
  • Glass, aluminium and copper are not suitable.
  • If you need to replace all your pots and pans, factor this into your budget and look for the induction-compatible symbol when shopping.

Find out more with our guide to buying induction-compatible cookware.

Safety considerations with induction cooktops

Is an induction cooktop safe for use by someone with a pacemaker?

Associate Professor and cardiologist Neil Strathmore has a special interest in pacemakers and particularly in issues relating to electrical or magnetic interference. He told us there are no published accounts of an induction cooktop interfering with a pacemaker or similar device. 

A 2006 study looked at a 'worst case' of a left-sided 'unipolar' pacemaker set at the most sensitive setting and concluded that interference theoretically might occur if the person was closer than 60cm to the cooktop. However, nearly all pacemakers in Australia are 'bipolar' and not set to such a sensitive setting. Therefore it's extremely unlikely that any interference would occur in routine use and to any extent that would cause an adverse effect.

Is cooking with induction safe?

Induction cooktops are ideal if you have a family with small children. The surface doesn't get as hot as a ceramic or gas cooktop, and the cooktop is only activated when suitable cookware is placed correctly on the cooking zone.

Checking food temperatures

If you tend to use food thermometers when cooking, you might find the magnetic field of an induction cooktop can interfere with a digital thermometer. This means you might need to use an analog thermometer instead. 

What's that noise?

When cooking with induction you might notice some noises. A buzz or hum is common and it may get louder at higher settings. Heavy, flat-bottomed pans might help to reduce the vibrations that cause the buzzing sound. A whirring sound could be the fans working to disperse the heat, or a clicking sound could be an indication that your cookware isn't working well with the cooktop. The cooling fan for the electronics can also be the cause of some noise. 

Installation and power requirements

Induction cooktops use a lot of energy and therefore can require special power connections. Some cooktops may require more power than your home can supply, so always check the total wattage before buying one. A normal everyday home plug has a 10Amp connection, whereas an induction cooktop may require a 20A, 32A or even 42A connection. These will have to be hard-wired by a licensed electrician.

The installation price will depend on how difficult it is to install the dedicated circuit from the main board in your home to the kitchen. Induction cooktops require specific dimensions to be observed when installing and this will also cost you. This is due to the large amount of heat that the cooktop needs to get rid of while operating. They generally also come with fans to disperse the heat so you'll hear a little noise during and after operation. 

Always follow the installation instructions closely and hire a licensed electrician. This will help you avoid any safety issues and ensure the long life of your cooktop.