Some people believe there are only two types of cooktops: electric and gas. Some argue there are three: induction, electric, and gas. Others claim four: induction, electric, ceramic-glass, and gas. The confusion occurs because induction, ceramic-glass, and metal coil cooktops are all heated electrically. In this article, I distinguish four types for simplicity. Beginning with the latest, I will describe induction, ceramic-glass, electric coils, and gas then detail the pros and cons of each.
Induction cooktops use powerful electromagnets located under their smooth ceramic-glass surfaces to heat cookware. When the electric power is turned on, an electromagnetic field is created. Generated heat then transfers directly to the cookware –and cooks the food- without heating the elements or burners beneath it. The amount of heat applied to the cookware is controlled by increasing or decreasing the power. Manufacturers are also creating induction cooktops as single, solid cast iron surfaces.
Pros of Induction Cooktops
- Safety, especially regarding children. Since heat bypasses the stovetop, the possibility of accidental burns from a hot stove are negligible. Also, there are no flames, fumes or gas leaks to worry about.
- These cooktops are more energy-efficient. There is no middle unit to heat up.
- Food cooks faster.
- Temperature-control is easier and adjustments occur quicker.
- Cleaning is easy. Just wipe the surface with a damp, soft material.
- They are quite attractive.
Cons of Induction Cooktops
- Radiation concerns. However, research shows it to be relatively low.
- The need for special cookware. Pots and pans must be ferrous (iron, stainless steel) to allow magnetic conduction. They should also have smooth, flat bottoms for even distribution of the electromagnetic field. There are gadgets called induction disks,which allow the use of non-ferrous cookware, but their efficiency is questionable.
- Surfaces may not be long-lasting. Care must be taken when placing or removing cookware to prevent scratching or cracking.
- Of all the cooktops mentioned in this article, induction is the most expensive to purchase, but less expensive to install.
- They need electricity to work. Power outages will be problematic.
Ceramic-Glass Smoothtops or Cooktops
These smoothtops contain metal coils or the newer halogen lamps located under tempered ceramic-glass surfaces. They are plugged in to electric power and heat up when turned on. The heat is transferred to the surface then to the cookware.
Pros of Ceramic-Glass Cooktops
- Safety. The hot surface cools down faster than the electric coil and gas elements or burners. Like induction cooktops, there are no fumes, flames or gas leaks to worry about.
- They are more efficient as the dense heat travels upward.
- They may have more surface burners or cooking elements than gas cooktops.
- They clean easier, but spills must be wiped immediately to avoid sticking (and burning).
- They are less expensive to purchase and install.
- Without the usual protrusions, they are more visually appealing.
Cons of Ceramic-Glass Cooktops
- For ideal conductivity, you need heavyweight cookware with flat, smooth bottoms that fit over the entire surface.
- As stated already, ceramic-glass surfaces are easily scratched and can even be broken.
- Temperature changes can be slow as you have to wait for the surface to heat up.
- Surfaces also take a while to cool down.
- They require careful, non-abrasive cleaning to avoid scratches.
- They need electricity to work.
Electric Coil Cooktops
Electric coil cooktops are similar to gas cooktops in appearance as metal coil burners or elements sit atop or protrude the surface. The coils use electric power to heat cookware which sits directly on them.
Pros of Electric Coil Cooktops
- Coils heat up quickly.
- Special cookware is not required. Cookware made with any material, even aluminum, can be used and the bottoms need not be completely flat.
- Coils are not as fragile as ceramic-glass surfaces. They won’t scratch or break easily.
- They are less expensive than the other type of electric cooktop.
Cons of Electric Coil Cooktops
- Safety, especially regarding children. Burners are exposed, so extreme care must be taken with flammable materials, loose clothing or when standing nearby.
- Another safety issue is that the coils could spark, smoke or shock if food, particularly old food is left on them.
- They lack energy-efficiency. A lot of power is needed to heat those metal coils.
- Heat, already not concentrated, can distribute unevenly if coils are tilted.
- Coil connection, which is hidden within the stove, can loosen without your knowledge.
- Cleaning could be difficult. Coils have to be removed and you may need to check your manual to do so. You also have to wait for them to cool down before touching them. To avoid shock, coils and rims or drip pans must be completely dry before returning them.
- They won’t work without electricity.
- They are not visually appealing.
In gas cooktops, natural gas flows through a main tube into the stove. From there it flows into other tubes to mix with air. When a burner is turned on, this concoction is ignited by various methods (pilot light, electronically, or the newer crystals) depending on the type of stove. The flame then travels to little tubes in the particular burner and flows out the holes. Gas cooktops have longed been the choice for both home and professional kitchens. But they too have their pros and cons.
Pros of Gas Cooktops
- They require no special cookware.
- You can easily see the temperature changes you make.
- They create less heat, so your kitchen does not feel like a sauna.
- You are not dependent on electricity.
- Natural gas is relatively cheap.
- You don’t have to be concerned about radiation.
Cons of Gas Cooktops
- They are not as safe because of the hot surfaces, open flames, potential fumes, and gas leaks.
- Heat distribution is not as even.
- Ideal baking and roasting is hampered since the heat is not dry.
- They are not real energy-savers because they do not cook as fast as the electric cooktops.
- Surfaces are difficult to clean mainly because of the protruding elements.
- They are definitely not as attractive as the smoothtops.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of various cooktops and ability to choose the one that best suits your family’s lifestyle.
Questions & Answers
Question: Does the gas burner need caps, or can we cook without the caps on the burners?
Answer: Be safe. Keep the caps on. Experts also say they help distribute heat evenly, and prevent food from lodging in the injectors.
© 2012 Beverley Byer
Beverley Byer (author) from United States of America on August 12, 2018:
You're very welcome, JoAnn!
JoAnn Lopez on August 12, 2018:
The information on cook tops was very helpful, thank you