CR’s Complete Guide to Induction Cooking

These cooktops and ranges may cost more, but they heat faster, save on energy, and don’t add to indoor air pollution

By Mary H.J. Farrell and Paul Hope

Americans are taking some time to embrace induction appliances.

According to CR’s June 2022 nationally representative survey of 2,103 U.S. adults (PDF), almost 70 percent of people said they might or would consider induction for their next range or cooktop, but only 3 percent currently have an induction appliance in their kitchen. That may be because in the past, induction ranges were far pricier than radiant electric smoothtops. And while switching from a traditional electric range to an induction one only requires plugging in the new appliance, switching from a gas range can mean higher installation fees.

The good news is that prices have fallen considerably—some induction cooktops now cost around $1,000. And the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act allocates $4.5 billion to states to provide rebates on the purchase of new electric appliances, including induction ranges and cooktops, which could reduce your expenses for buying and installing a new induction appliance (find out how much it costs to make the switch, below). Here are answers to your questions about induction, along with ratings for top-scoring induction ranges and cooktops.

Q. How Does Induction Cooking Work?

Induction cooktops and ranges look almost indistinguishable from the more common radiant electric smoothtops, but they heat differently. Radiant electric smoothtops have a heating element beneath the flat ceramic glass surface that warms the glass, which in turn heats the pot or pan through a combination of conduction and radiation. An induction burner, by contrast, creates an electromagnetic field that interacts with the induction-compatible cookware itself, inducing heat directly without the need to warm the glass in between.

By not having to heat that glass, induction elements are about 5 to 10 percent more energy-efficient than traditional electric heating elements. They’re also able to heat pots more precisely because of their digital controls and to bring liquids to a boil faster. In fact, high-power induction burners can boil a pot of water roughly 20 to 40 percent faster than the best gas and radiant electric ranges and cooktops we’ve tested. And because the glass top stays relatively cool, induction appliances are generally considered safer than other types.

For example, if you leave a burner on and then place a flammable object such as a pizza box on it, the box won’t burn because the electromagnetic field can heat up only compatible metal objects. That’s true for your skin, too: If you accidentally graze against the stovetop when the burner is on, you won’t be burned. (That said, you could still be burned by a hot pan while cooking—or if you brush up against an area warmed by the pot.)

Another safety bonus: Induction, like other electric appliances, won’t produce toxic emissions like gas stovetops do. (See “How to Stay Safe From Hidden Home Hazards.”)

Q. How Much Does It Cost to Make the Switch to Induction?

Induction ranges and cooktops are some of the best performers we test when compared with gas and electric models. But this cool new technology comes at a slightly higher price than traditional ranges and cooktops.

If you’re switching from an electric range or cooktop, chances are good that you can swap in your new induction appliance by plugging it into the same outlet. Most induction ranges and cooktops work with the same 240-volt outlets as radiant electric stoves. But because induction heats food faster, you’re likely to use less energy and may save on your electric bill.

However, induction appliances can cost more: In our ratings, 30-inch electric ranges start at $600, while 30-inch induction ranges start at $1,160. And while 30-inch electric cooktops start at $630, 30-inch induction ones start at $950. (See our pricing chart, below.) You may find induction options for as little as 5 percent more than a comparable electric appliance, but premium models can cost quite a bit more.

If you’re switching from gas, the cost of moving to induction will be higher because you’re likely to need a new outlet and an electric line run from your home’s circuit panel. Expect to pay $50 to $100 per hour for an electrician and plan on about 3 to 4 hours for a simple installation. You may also need to pay to cap off your old gas line. And induction appliances are pricier than many gas models (which start at $505 for ranges and $700 for the cooktops in our ratings).

Keep in mind that the new Inflation Reduction Act allocates funding for states to offer credits of up to $840 for new electric ranges and cooktops, including induction models. If you’re switching from gas to induction, you may also be eligible for an extra $500 to offset the costs of the conversion. These funds will be administered through your state; to find out whether you’re eligible, go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency.

Q. Is Cooking With an Induction Appliance Different From Using Your Old Stove?

In addition to faster and more precise control of heating, you’ll notice some other distinctive qualities of induction appliances.

If you’re switching from traditional electric, you’ll have the same number of burners as the majority of electric smoothtops (30-inch appliances tend to have four burners; 36-inch appliances tend to have five). But where a typical electric smoothtop may have only one or two high-power burners, induction stovetops often have three or more—ideal if you want to boil pasta and potatoes at the same time.

You might also be surprised to learn that induction cooktops are easier to clean than radiant electric ones. That’s because a radiant electric smoothtop gets so hot that any spills from cooking can burn onto the surface. That’s not likely to happen on the cooler glass of induction stovetops: Even if you spill something sticky while cooking, you can usually just wipe it up with a sponge. But one thing will stay exactly the same: Induction ranges have regular electric ovens, and they heat just like any electric one would, with heating elements on the top and bottom of the cavity.

If you’re switching from gas, no electric stovetop (induction or not) can truly match the visual feedback offered by a flame. But some induction smoothtops feature an artificial “flame”: rings of LED lights at the front edge of the burner that glow brighter as you turn up the heat. Gas converts may feel most comfortable with induction cooktops that offer bold LEDs, such as the Samsung NZ30K7880UG in our ratings, rather than those with a subtle glow.

Other models may have only smaller indicator lights on the control panel to alert you when a burner is on. And when you first use induction, our experts advise lowering the heat for recipes until you’re more accustomed to the speedier heating of induction, to prevent things from burning or boiling over.

If you’re swapping a gas range for an induction model, you may also like your broiler better: In our testing, electric ranges are far better than gas models at broiling, and induction models are no exception—all but one of the induction models in our ratings earn a rating of Good or better for broiling. The best models heat evenly and get roaring hot, which should mean nicely seared meats or beautifully baked ziti.

Q. How Do You Tell Whether Your Pots and Pans Are Induction-Compatible?

There’s a simple test you can use to be sure. The key? Magnetism.

We’ve also rounded up the best cookware from our tests that works with induction, from stainless steel pots and pans to Dutch ovens and cast-iron skillets.

Q. What Are the Best Induction Cooktops and Ranges?

We’ve compiled the very best options from our extensive lab tests:
Best Induction Cooktops
Best Induction Ranges

Plus, more on induction cooking:
Pros and Cons of Induction Cooktops and Ranges
The Surprising Things I Learned When I Ditched My Gas Stove for an Induction Range
What the Inflation Reduction Act Could Mean for Your Next Appliance Purchase

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the November 2022 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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