What every best Cooktops has:
- Easy cleanup.
- The right types of burners.
- A useful burner layout.
Electric induction cooktops use a magnetic field to heat cookware rather than the cooking surface itself. This magnetic field is harmless and imperceptible -- until you put a metal pan on the burner. When that happens, the magnetic field reacts with iron molecules in the pan, exciting them and generating heat. The stronger the magnetic field, the hotter the pan gets and the faster food cooks.
Because heat transfers directly, induction cooktops are nearly twice as energy efficient as gas or radiant electric cooktops, meaning they heat up in far less time. They're also safer. If a child accidentally moves a pan, the pan heat immediately decreases, and the elements themselves stay much cooler than a traditional electric or gas burner.
However, it's important to understand that induction cooktops require magnetic cookware to work. Cast iron and most kinds of stainless steel are okay, but not copper, glass, ceramic or aluminum. If you are considering an induction cooktop, we cover some induction-friendly cookware in our cookware report. If you want to test the cookware you currently own to see if it will work on an induction stovetop, it's simple to do, if a magnet sticks to the bottom it will work.
In professional testing, the 30-inch GE Cafe CHP9530SJSS (Est. $1,800) earns outstanding marks for its performance on both high- and low-heat settings. This 30-inch induction cooktop is made of gray ceramic glass with a beveled stainless steel edge that makes cleanup easier.
The CHP9530SJSS features four induction burners that range in size from 6 to 11 inches and in power from 1,800 to 3,700 watts. Glide Touch controls let you set heating levels precisely with one swipe. Other features include a SyncBurner mode that operates the two 7-inch burners together to accommodate large pots and pans, or rectangular cookware, such as a griddle (and one is included with the oven); a melt setting; and timers that can display cooking time remaining for each element. Safety features include a control lockout to prevent accidental operation and hot-surface lights for each burner.
Professional and user reviews are strong for the GE Cafe CHP9530SJSS. At ConsumerReports.org it's the highest rated 30-inch induction cooktop, earning a near-perfect score of 99 out of a possible 100 points, including Excellent ratings for both high and low heat performance. Owners agree, with many saying it seems like water boils almost instantaneously. Quite a few praise its ease of use and beautiful appearance as well.
However, user ratings for the GE Cafe CHP9530SJSS are brought down a little bit by some recent durability complaints, with owners saying that one or more of the burners quit working shortly after purchase. However, some of these reviewers note that GE quickly responded to their complaint and fixed the problem -- they are still angry that it happened, though, thus the lower ratings. The CHP9530SJSS comes with a one-year warranty.
This cooktop is also available in a 36-inch model as the GE Cafe CHP9536SJSS (Est. $2,100). It's identical save for the addition of a fifth element (8 inches, 3,200 watts).
If you'd like to experience the joys of induction cooking, but don't have the budget for the GE Café, the 30-inch Frigidaire FGIC3067MB (Est. $1,200) looks like a great choice. It's one of the lowest priced induction cooktops reviewed by ConsumerReports.org, but doesn't score that much lower than the top rated GE Café, earning a score of 95 points. On the performance front, it keeps up with the GE very nicely, earning the same top grades whether cooking at high heat or low, and an overall Recommended status.
You do give up a little in the features and styling department with the Frigidaire, however. While performance is good, the maximum element power of this four-element model is 3,400 watts. There are also some missing niceties, like the ability to bridge elements and individual timers for each element. The cooktop is basic black, without the added pizazz of the stainless steel trim.
Still, owners don't seem to mind one bit, giving the Frigidaire FGIC3067MB very good ratings across the board. They say it heats and cooks very quickly, in fact, a couple say it makes for a learning curve as you have to watch more closely for things to come to a simmer or boil or they'll get away from you. Others love that you can so precisely control the temperature with the digital controls. And all say it's a great-looking cooktop, too.
The 30-inch KitchenAid KICU509XBL (Est. $1,550) splits the difference, more or less, between the GE and Frigidaire induction cooktops in terms of price and features, and is also worth considering. This induction cooktop gets a glowing review at Reviewed.com, including Best of Year and Editors' Choice honors -- and a perfect 10 score. It performs on a par with other top induction cooktops the site has tested, and has useful features like the ability to bridge elements (just like the GE Café). It also has some features that the GE cooktop lacks, such as Performance Boost, to increase heat output above an element's rating for short periods of time for more rapid boiling.
User feedback is good too, although not quite as glowing as the expert evaluation. As with the GE Café, we did see some complaints of cooktops that failed soon after installation. Still, most are very pleased and say it's both attractive and a top performer. They also note that it's easy to install.