If you're shopping for a range and have decided to go for a smooth-top electric, you have one more big decision to make.
Should you spend a little more and spring for something called an induction cooktop?
They're similar in appearance, and, in fact, the oven operation is no different. But the way the induction cooktop heats, and the way it performs, is what sets it apart. Here's the science behind how it works.
"Instead of a red-hot element below this glass surface, on induction cooktops the element below the surface generates an electromagnetic field. The field interacts with the pot, and the pot itself gets hot," said Tara Casregola, Consumer Reports tester.
Every induction range and cooktop Consumer Reports tested has high power burners that provide quick cooktop heat and superb simmering.
And here's something that's kind of cool - literally:
"See how only the half of this chocolate bar is melting? That's because the pan is very hot, but right next to it isn't. And that's the difference between induction and a radiant cooktop," said Casregola.
Also, if you accidentally turn on an element when there's no pot, it won't heat up.
So are these cooktops worth the price? Induction ranges are getting cheaper - you can get a CR recommended model for around $1,000. This Frigidaire Gallery got excellent ratings for heating and speed.
A couple things to keep in mind: induction burners don't glow like radiant smooth-top's do, when they're hot.
Some manufacturers have added imitation flames so you can tell when it's on.
And if your current cookware isn't magnetic, you will have to replace it. Try sticking a magnet to the bottom to check. If it sticks, it will conduct heat on the induction cooktop.
You can also check for this induction-approved icon on the bottom of cookware you're considering.
One other drawback - a buzz or hum is common when using the higher settings, and you may notice clicking sounds on lower settings.
Consumer Watch: Are induction cooktop stoves worth the price?
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