The new era has brought with it new technologies to aid us in cooking. Starting from the prehistoric era where a man used an open fire in jungles, mountains, the evolution has brought with it electricity, gas, and electromagnetic inductions for ease of cooking.
Now induction cooktop and electric cooktop sounds similar (and if you see both, you may not be able to tell the difference right away.
In principle, they are similar as they both use electric currents from a socket.
Before I get into which one is better, let me quickly give you an overview of both – electric and induction cooktops.
Related read: Induction Cooktop Vs Gas Cooktop
The first electric stove ran a current through large iron plates which then transferred heat to pots and pans.
Many years later, coil replaced the iron plates and cookware was kept directly on top. With time manufacturers placed glass ceramic on top of electric burners. This created a flat cooking surface.
Mechanism of action of an Electric Cooktop
Electric Cooktops are available in two forms.
A ceramic glass cooktop with a hidden heat element or as a coil heating element on top.
Beneath the glass-ceramic surface, electric current flows through a unique metal coil. The electrical resistance heats the metal coil making it appear as a glowing metal coil.
This heat is transferred to the glass ceramic surface via convection and the heat is transferred to pots and pans via infrared energy. Infrared halogen lamps are also used instead of metal coils as heating elements.
Now, because glass-ceramic has infrared transmission and emission characteristics, the pot or pan on the cooking zone is warmed evenly by the energy transmitted through the glass-ceramic to the cookware. Food is cooked by the transfer of heat from the cookware.
Because of the low heat conductivity of glass ceramics, heat is confined to pots and pans in the cooking zone. This localizes the heat to the cooking area and the rest of the area remains cool
The glass ceramic cooktop continues to emit heat even after electricity stops flowing. This residual heat can be used to continue cooking or to warm the food. An electric light on the stove indicates whether cooking zones are still hot after cooking.
The glass ceramic cooktop is also called as a radiant cooktop.
In induction cooktop, heat is generated in the cookware itself, not in the heating element. And in essence, this is the biggest difference between an induction cooktop and an electric cooktop.
Induction cooktops are powered by electricity. It uses alternating current (one that keeps reversing direction) to make a fluctuating magnetic field that will indirectly produce heat.
It works on the principle of electromagnetism.
Basically, it generates electricity using magnetism. It generates a constantly changing magnetic field and does not generate heat directly.
Mechanism of action of Induction Cooktop
The element that rests beneath the ceramic or glass surface is a coil of copper.
Due to an alternating current passing through it, it creates a powerful magnetic field around and above it. So when cookware is placed above the induction cooktop, the magnetic field penetrates the metal of the pan.
And that makes the electric current flow through the pan too. So this swirling eddy current dissipates energy in the pan.
This makes the pan get hot and heat up the food inside through convection and conduction.
Induction Cooktop Vs Electric Cooktop
Now, let’s dive in and see the difference between induction cooktops and electric cooktops.
There is no right answer to which one is best for you and you will have to decide based on all the factors and your house/kitchen setup.
The difference in heat generation
Both electric and magnetic induction cooktops rely on electricity for power.
In a standard electric cooktop, the heat radiated by nichrome elements wire gets transferred to an iron coil which becomes hot in case of electric cooktop. This heating element warms the burner which then transfers heat energy to the pan for cooking.
In case of an induction stove, an electric current passes through a coil which creates a magnetic field all around and inside the cookware.
This causes eddy currents flowing due to electromagnetic induction in the cookware. These currents heat and cook food.
The cooktop doesn’t actually generate heat itself but rather induces it in the cookware.
Verdict: While both use electricity to generate heat, induction only works on heating the cookware, which is better than electric, which gets heated itself and then transmits that heat.
Electric cooktops offer consistent heat flow and 70 percent energy efficiency. This means around 70% of the electricity consumed by electric stove gets used in cooking food.
According to popular mechanics, around 90 % of the electricity consumed by an induction stove is used for cooking food. There is no heat energy escaping into the atmosphere. Since the heat is instant and can be temperature controlled, it helps one cook with more accuracy.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are more energy efficient
Cost of the Cooktop
Both the cooktops don’t require any special sockets – beyond 220-240V outlets.
Popular mechanics estimates that electrical cooktop uses 320 watt-hours of electricity to boil 2 liters of water compared to 225-watt-hours for induction cooktop.
The buying cost of an electric cooktop is cheaper when compared with an Induction cooktop. Until recently, induction has been hard to sell in the US.
Now, however customers are being more aware and falling prices are helping the induction stove get a strong grip on the cooktop market due to its superior cooking technology.
If we look at the loss of energy of electricity, then Induction cooktop wins in terms of economy. That is because the induction does not use excess electricity and all the energy it makes is used in cooking food.
Now, since only specific materials work on induction unless one has purchased a high-frequency all-metal induction, one has to buy cookware containing ferrous metals like iron and stainless steel.
And this can be costly.
The induction cooktop also requires special tools and equipment to repair. It relies completely on solid state circuitry. Electric stove, on the other hand, is less complicated and uses simple electronic circuitry which can be repaired easily.
The electric cooktops with heating coils outside can be easily repaired or replaced.
Verdict: Induction cooktops require a higher initial investment and also induction friendly cookware. Electric induction is cheaper and works with all cookware.
Type of Cookware
Induction cooktop mostly requires cookware of ferrous metal such as cast iron and stainless steel. This is because induction cooktops cannot heat copper, aluminum, glass or ceramic due to failure of the magnetic field to produce a concentrated current.
The cookware must also have a flat bottom to make full contact with the surface. A good method to check is to place a metal beneath the base of the cookware.
If it sticks, it can be used on induction.
Nowadays all-metal induction tops are also available in the market which uses higher frequencies.
Another option is to purchase converters.
Converters are iron plates that fit between the induction stove top and non-ferromagnetic bottoms of the cookware.
The electric cookware does not require any special cookware.
Verdict: Electric cooktops have an edge here as they work with all types of cookware, while induction needs induction-friendly cookware only.
Induction cooktops heat up immediately and cool down quickly. Electric cooktop takes time to heat up and to cool down
Induction has better temperature control when compared to the electric cooktop. This is the reason why even though the temperature in the electric stove can reach the lowest (92 degree Fahrenheit), due to precise temperature control induction can be used to cook in low temperatures (on simmer) for a longer time and it won’t burn.
Metal top for electric cooktop is better than smooth glass ceramic tops for an electric cooktop. Being a poor heat conductor, glass ceramic tops transfers heat to the cookware more slowly than metal top electric cooktops.
Induction cooktop will give a cool feel while cooking as compared to electric cooktops. That is because electric elements can get really hot and will retain high levels of heat even after they are turned off.
The maximum temperature of induction cooktop was found to reach 665.5 degrees Fahrenheit while the maximum temperature electric cooktop could reach was 741.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
It took very long to cool the electric cooktop down and to switch from high heat to low heat.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are a lot more cooking friendly
Speed of Cooking
WIth Induction cooktops, you can cook food a lot faster (as compared with an electric cooktop).
Water boils twice as fast on the induction cooktop when compared to the electric cooktop.
Electric cooktop takes time to come to the desired temperature. The time taken is 30 % slower than induction.
According to a test done in the lab, the time taken to boil six cups of water was 5 mins 47 seconds with a radiant electric cooktop. The time it took to boil the same amount of water in Induction was 3 minutes 7 seconds.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are faster in cooking food
Safety from burns and accidents
This is because the heating element emits no radiant heat to the cookware. The cookware itself is the only heat source.
There are mild traces of residual, transient heat around the cooking area which dissipates quickly. If there is no cookware on top of induction then no heat is produced making it the safest option.
Since electric cooktop takes a long time to cool down, there are chances of burning by accident. There can be sudden spills on the iron coil or glass ceramic top as temperature control is difficult in electric cooktops.
Induction, on the other hand, cools down within seconds. Some have an automatic switch off features when there is no cookware kept on the stove. It is safer to use around children as the induction remains cool to touch except in the area where utensil is kept on top.
Although the risk of fire is lower than gas cooktops in both electric and induction cooktops, the risk is even lower in induction cooktops.
Verdict: Induction cooktops have a massive advantage here (over electric and gas cooktops). This is a good enough reason to opt for an induction cooktop, despite a slightly higher cost and need for induction friendly cookware.
Cleaning the Cooktops
An induction cooktop is easy to clean due to the glass-ceramic smooth surface on top with no indents or crevices present.
A simple wipe down with damp cloth followed by dry cloth mop is sufficient.
The same can also be said for electric cooktop with a glass-ceramic surface on top (however, you need to wait for the cooktop to cool down before you clean it, while you can clean the induction cooktop instantly after cooking).
Cleaning an electric coil cooktop is difficult. However since the heat is radiated to the surface, sudden spills can get baked which may need special cleaning products.
The spills on element outside the cooktop can be difficult to clean requiring removal of the heat elements etc.
Due to heat element radiating heat, ceramic can crack if cold water touches it while hot.
Induction stoves are easier to clean to due lack of heat.
Smooth tops are susceptible to damage from scratches in both the cooktops. Care should be taken not to drag the cookware or place it too roughly.
Verdict: Induction cooktops are easier to clean
Cooktops are gaining popularity. They are the new rage in homes and are regularly been published in magazines.
If budget is a concern than electric cooktops will cost less. But remember the electrical energy wasted will be more.
Also, there is no need to buy special cookware in case of electric cooktop.
Electric cooktops will take a long time to change heat temperatures and precise temperature cannot be managed. This will give the cook less control. They also have low heat levels.
If you want to have speed and good temperature control then induction is the cooktop to go for.
If the price is not an issue then know that the king of cooktops is Induction. It is efficient, safe, easy to clean and there is very little chance of accidents and burns.
I personally do not find the idea of cooktops remaining hot even after cooking for a long duration before cooling down. It can be dangerous for the cook, the maid, the children who can unknowingly or playfully touch the cooktop to play, clean, close, mop etc.
Also, if two different temperatures are required to make the same dish, a good amount of time would be wasted on electric cooktop making the dish loose flavor or taste. Example- Fried rice or boiled rice.
Due to uneven temperature control, there are also high chances of the food being burnt.
A good idea before purchasing would be to ask family or friends who have similar cooking styles regarding their experience on both cooktops. Borrow the cooktop or cook at their place to see if it fits into your cooking styles.
Pick the one which fits your budget, cooking styles and personal preferences. Remember good health comes from good food choices. Good food choices come from good cooking styles.
And finally, good cooking styles come from choosing the right cooktop. It’s more important than having good furniture so investing in the best cooktop is a wise decision one will never regret.
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