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What is the Difference Between Radiant & Induction Cooktop?

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There is often confusion between radiant cooktops and induction cooktops. Although they look alike, they differ when it comes to heating and how they work. 

This is why we thought it would help to provide this guide detailing the differences between radiant cooktops and induction cooktops.

What Is a Radiant Cooktop?

The most common radiant cooktops have metal coils heated by electricity and positioned under a glass-ceramic surface. This surface insulates the coil so it can heat up quickly.

Sometimes radiant cooktops are referred to as smooth electric cooktops or ceramic cooktops.

Less common are radiant heat cooktops that use gas flames beneath the glass-ceramic surface instead of electric coils. 

How Radiant Cooktops Create Heat

A radiant stove uses either metal coils or gas flames to convert energy to heat. These heating elements are under the top of a sheet of glass-ceramic material.

The metal coils underneath the top of the glass-ceramic cooktop are heated to the set temperature. After heating the ceramic surface, the heat is transferred to the pan and ultimately to the food inside.

Since the ability of glass-ceramic to conduct heat is low, heat is confined to the cooking vessel in the cooking zone. Therefore, the space underneath the pot or pan is heated, leaving the rest of the cooktop relatively cool.

four burner built-in induction cooktop

What is an Induction Cooktop?

Induction cooktops use electromagnetism to generate heat directly, making the cookware the heat source. This heat is then conducted to the food inside the cooking vessel.

There various types of induction cooktops. They are usually categorized as portable or built-in units or a free-standing range.

The portable units have either one or two burners. Some two burner portable cooktops, such as the NuWave 30602 Double Induction Cooktop, have the capability of setting temperatures in 5 degree increments. However, the temperature increments are usually 20 or 25 degrees. 

The built-in units have between 2 and 5 burners. The free-standing ranges typically have 4 or 5 burners.

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How Induction Cookers Create Heat

A coil is underneath the glass-ceramic surface of the cooktop. Electric current flows through this coil, creating a magnetic field. This field generates a current in the base of the cookware. This electrical energy is changed to heat energy which is then transferred from the vessel to the food. 

Features of Induction Cooktops

Cooking Speed

Induction cooktops heat up faster and are more efficient than radiant cooktops. The design of an induction hob is such that the pan is heated instantly.  

Additionally, since no heat is lost to the area around the induction cooktop, the amount of time it takes to cook the food is a lot less than that of radiant heated cooktops.

Safety

One factor to consider before buying a new cooker is its safety, especially for families with children.

A radiant cooktop retains heat a lot longer after cooking than an induction hob. However, many modern radiant cooktop models come with a heat indicator that tells the user the cooktop's hotter parts. They also offer safety features that vary according to the model selected. For example, Wolf, GE, Gasland, and other manufacturers include child locks in electric stovetops with a glass-ceramic surface.

Since induction cooktops heat the pot or pan directly instead of the top of the cooktop, the cooking surface doesn't get hot until the induction-ready cookware is placed on the cooking zone.

Some units automatically shut off if it does not detect any cookware on the burner. This is a nice feature since it reduces the chances of a burner being left on accidentally. Additionally, induction cookers cool down quicker than conventional electric or gas stoves. 

Many induction cooktop models have a lock feature that, when activated, prevents settings from being changed.

induction cooktop with cleaning tools

Cleaning Your Cooktop

Radiant and induction stoves are similar in that they are both flat and smooth, making them equally as easy to clean (you can typically wipe them down with a wet cloth).

However, when the radiant stove's surface gets hot, if anything spills on its top, the food or liquid can dry or bake onto the surface. In this case, it is essential to clean it up as soon as you feel it is safe. If burnt or spilled food is left on the cooker top for a while, it can cause more problems in the long run.   

Since the area around the pot or pan on the induction cooktop typically does not get all that hot, spilled food or liquid isn't as apt to get baked on the surface. Generally, hot soapy water and a cloth are all you need to clean your induction hob.

four induction pots on built-in induction cooktop

What Type of Cookware Should I Use?

Another factor to consider before purchasing or choosing your cooktop model is the cookware you will use.

Cookware for Radiant Cooktops

General Electric recommends using stainless steel (especially sandwich clad bottom pans), heavy-weight aluminum, copper, porcelain-coated cast iron, carbon steel, and titanium cooking vessels. If porcelain/enamel pans are used on ceramic cooktops, they should have a thick, flat bottom.

They do not recommend using glass, ceramic, stoneware, or cast iron cookware on ceramic cooktops.

Pots and Pans for Induction Cooktops

Induction cooktops require certain cookware materials. The pots and pans' base has to contain magnetic materials for them to work on induction burners. Examples of types of cookware that are induction compatible are cast iron, steel, enamel cast iron, and stainless steel pots and pans with a magnetized base.

If you already have a collection of cookware in your house, you can use the magnet test to see if they're compatible (if the magnet sticks securely to the cookware base, then it is induction ready). If your pots and pans aren’t compatible, then the expense of new cookware is a factor to consider.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, our comparison of radiant and induction cooktops has given you an idea of how they work and their features. As with most decisions about purchases, it comes down to your lifestyle, kitchen needs, budget, and personal preference.

If induction cooking interests you, but you aren't quite sure you want to invest in a built-in or full-size range, you can always buy a portable single or two burner induction cooktop and cook on it for a few weeks.  Here are reviews of the better double induction cooktops available.

Q & A

Which cooktop is more energy efficient -  radiant heated cooktops or induction cooktops?

Compared to how they heat pans, we believe the induction cooker is more efficient as it heats the pan’s bottom directly through electromagnetic induction.

Can I put a cold pan on a hot  radiant cooktop?

If the radiant cooktop burner is hot, putting a cold pan on the surface may crack the glass. It is best to put the pan on the cooktop before switching on the burner. Gradually heat the pan by adjusting the temperature until the desired setting is reached.

Can I put a hot pan on a cold radiant cooktop?

Putting a hot pan on a cold heat-radiant surface produces a thermal shock. This could result in the cooking surface crack.

Should I match the burner size with the pan size?

To maintain a suitable heating level, place a large pot on a large burner and a small pot on a small burner.

This article describes the difference between convection and induction cooking.

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