induction cooktop questions?

jadeiteMay 22, 2012

From reading the posts on induction cooktops, just about everyone is satisfied with what they purchased. What is the difference between the high-end Vikings, Wolfs etc. and the Kenmores, GEs and other brands? The difference in price, all things being equal (same number of induction elements, similar controls, comparable power output etc.) is about a factor of 2. What are you getting for the higher price?

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Well, you get to say you have a Viking, or whatever. Much more difficult to be snooty about the Kenmores if you have something cheap.

And you might get features, like finer heat variations or more convenient controls, or timers that turn off the hob rather than just beep at you so you have to do that yourself. Some of these features are useful, even (like that timer, or cooktops that let you put your pans where ever you want, on them) -- so it can help to actually cook something on some of these cooktops, before you buy.

And you might get a more reliable product, longer or better warranty, or better access to customer service, etc. Or not.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:25AM
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I wondered that also. I have a Kenmore and am extremely pleased with it.

I do not have timers that turn of the hob but I am not sure when I would ever use that (other than making rice maybe?).

To me, burner layout was the most important in my decision. I tend to use bigger pans when I cook and didn't want any small hobs in the front.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 8:48AM
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Chac_mool - I sense some irony here! I'm a research physicist so I like hard data. Snob appeal doesn't count with me, I need to see some real difference in performance or looks or something tangible. I've seen complaints about Miele and Wolf, but lots of "I love my cooktop" posts as well. But so far there are NO complaints about the lower priced cooktops, which makes me think that there isn't a lot of difference in performance. I like the convenience of timers, even heating would be more significant and being able to place pots anywhere on the surface would be a big plus.

Stir-fryi - Layout is important to me too. I want my big elements to be easily accessible, and I want to be able to use all the elements without crowding pots.

Power is probably my #1 priority which makes me inclined to Wolf which boasts a 4000W element. DH thinks he could weld with this!

Today I'm going to a Bluestar demo to help decide whether I want to go with a BS cooktop, rangetop or switch to induction. The same distributor sells induction cooktops so I'll try to get a direct comparison.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 10:46AM
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It is kinda funny. I have a 1800wt Cooktek unit. I RARELY use it at full power, usually 50% or less. So having 4000w would be WAAAAY overkill for me.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 2:48PM
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Perhaps I was being a bit flippant, there... But thinking about this post, I do want to emphasize the importance of actual "hands on" experience.

On paper, two cooktops may seem virtually identical. But practical factors that you'll quickly notice when actually using them could well turn up differences that are very important to you. For example, the sensitivity of how you set and change controls by touch, or the practical difference of power differences in cooking, (etc.) might well distinguish something you really love using vs. one you'll come to hate. So I would argue that it is important to consider subjective factors in selecting a cooktop (or appliance) that you'll be using for many years, hopefully. Just looking over the specs (i.e., objective data) inevitably misses some of that.

With induction, I suspect the "wow" factor of how induction actually works swamps differences between many brands. So people tend to be very happy with induction appliances, regardless of brand, maybe more than other appliances.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:06PM
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Jadeite, you will not be able to get the full 4k unless the pan you are using is as large as the hob will accommodate (seems to be 11" in the case of the Wolf). I looked at the Thermador, which has even higher available, but it would need a 13" pot/pan to take advantage of that -- I don't even have any that are 11" at the bottom. Not sure how long the Wolf will work on "boost" -- if it times out like some, it will go back to 3000 watts maximum.

Unlike weedmeister, I WOULD use more than 1800W if my counter top unit had more, but only to boil water. I don't cook anything that would use higher heat, and you can damage pans at anything over medium.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 3:41PM
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I have a 30" Bosch induction, 500 series. I love mine. I did a lot of research and here's what I recall distinguishes different mfrs. In practice, everything is so easy and all the things you think of in researching, don't matter much. Easy, fast,even, clean, hot,responsive(immediate responses to temp. changes) not so hot.

BTW, Fori has years of experience cooking on induction. I hope she sees this and posts. I'm in a hurry and hope others join in.

1. The air space or clearance required under the cooktop- between anything below and the cooktop. For example, the GE manual says that 12 inches of open space is required, altho many owners have circumvented that by not putting anything combustible, except for the drawer itself, in those 12 inches. My Bosch requires very little or no clearance as it has a ventilation flap underneath. Installation and user manuals will tell you the requirements. This is important if planning a utensil drawer under the unit. I have a very useful utensil drawer right under the unit. Google clearance+induction+gardenweb.

2.Power. I think almost all of the popular mfrs. are adequately powered. Actually, way more than adequate. My cookware is best used at medium heat or lower. I sear on 6 to 7. It simmers and melts chocolate. The manual sets forth power levels for different things to cook.

3. Power gradations. Bosch has power from 1 or 0 to 9 with half steps, as in 6, 6.5, 7,etc.

4. Power selectors. I just touch one pad. That's it. No sliders. But, in the real world, it would make no difference to me if I had to click on 3 pads to get to the power I wanted. That is so easy, not a big deal. (I so don't like to futz around with igniters on my gas range at our cottage)

5. Boil. I put the Bosch on 9,the highest heat, and touch 'boost', and it boils in a few minutes, depending on whether I am boiling a large pot of water or a smaller amount-but always fast. I boil quickly on the smaller hob and the larger hob, about the same time. Perhaps, the lesser power on the smaller hob is what's required for the smaller pot area.

6. The layout. Mine is perfect for me. There is a small hob and large hob each-in the front and back. You just have to look at the diff mfrs, even on line looking will help.

7. Timers. Bosch has timers which shut off the hob. Not only rice, but if you get in the habit of using the timers, think of the possibilities! Set and walk away, altho lots of folks love the stirring and futzing. Cooking, I suppose. I never had timers before.

8. Cleaning. I assume they all clean easily.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 5:55PM
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Fori is not pleased

I went from a 1983 Kenmore to a ~2010ish Windcrest. I liked the layout of the Kenmore better--buttons were all off to the side resulting in a 34" wide 30" cooktop. I was also able to select the power I wanted with one touch. I liked that. They don't do that anymore but it really was a ridiculously large control panel.

The Windcrest I think had more oomph and boiled water faster. Like the Kenmore, it had no frills. I decided I didn't need things like the timers because I just don't use those things.

The Kenmore sometimes got too hot and turned itself off. The Windcrest probably would have if it got hot. For a few decades of improvements, though, eh...I'm willing to say close enough.

Then there was the Gaggenau with the cool knob. Do they still make that? THAT was different. When I was shopping, the rest were pretty much the same, except the Wolf had a great layout, knobs on the side, and ugly as heck.

When I remodel my "new" kitchen, I'll probably get what's on sale. =P Not quite--the Windcrest didn't beep at me and that's worth a few bucks.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 6:03PM
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I have a Kenmore 36-inch Electrolux Icon clone. In addition, I have a 3500W Cooktek wok hob.

With respect to overkill, it is true that full power on the wok hob is overkill for small quantities being separately cooked or caramelized. However, at the point where the entirety of the components of, say, beef with vegetables are joined together in the wok, full power is needed.

On the Kenmore, while most cooking is done at less than full power, cooking time is benefited by minimizing the time required for getting water to the boiling point for pasta or eggs, or heated near the boiling point for tea.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 7:22PM
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We chose the Bosch 30" 800 series and are very happy with it. We've had some poor experiences with GE and Whirlpool products and wanted to avoid them -- just our experience, others have had good results.

We wanted an induction cooktop made by a company that had a lot of experience with them - so we looked at Electrolux, Miele and Bosch. We chose the Bosch for many of the same reasons westsider40 mentioned. We love the power controls and the layout of the burners.

We also purchased the telescoping downdraft and have been very happy with it. Yes, it's limited, but so much better than the old Jenn Air downdraft (which just made noise and didn't move air).

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 8:30PM
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Thank you all very much! Your input helps me work through the many possibilities. I spent the afternoon at my local dealer talking about options. I'll post what I learnt separately.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 10:50PM
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I have a 36" Miele. Love it. I chose it because I liked the burner layout, and I like the feature set. You can have 1-12 steps, or 1-12 with half steps in between. The large burner has two boosts, the rest have one. I love the turn off timers and use them all the time--pressure cooking, rice, anything that cooks for a specific amount of time. Clean up is a no brainer, no matter how big of a mess I've made. I like the control of induction, and the reallly low simmer I can maintain. I can melt chocolate and hold it for hours, if I want to. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 4:52PM
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chac_mool: "Some of these features are useful, even . . . cooktops that let you put your pans where ever you want, on them . . ."

When the history is written in the future of the emerging dominance of induction technology in North American kitchens, my prediction is that the "put your pans anywhere" cooktops will be a curious footnote like the feature of 4-wheel-steering in automobiles or trash compactors in kitchens, or Hula Hoops as exercise devices.

jadeite: "Power is probably my #1 priority which makes me inclined to Wolf which boasts a 4000W element."

We have owned two induction cooktops over the past dozen years. We installed a Jenn-Air induction cooktop a year before the turn of the millennium, and replaced it a few years ago with an LG LCE30845. Among the major brand induction cooktops, I think that the LG boasts the lowest (i.e., puniest) -- or close to it -- wattage for its largest (on the LG, 11-inch) burner. (It is rated at "only" 2400 watts, which can be elevated to 3300 watts in "boost" mode.) Even so, that burner on the LG has enough power to get an 11" cast iron skillet hot enough to glow red -- which was sufficiently hot for me to turn it off, lest the heat radiated downward through the Ceran "glass" fry the electronics below the glass. The other side of the equation is that the LG has a UL draw of only 32 amperes, so our 40 ampere wiring is far from stressed to handle it.

If you plan to use the cooktop to heat tall pots that hold eight to ten or more gallons of water for canning, where the circulating water inside the pot (acting as a cooling mechanism) can moderate the local surface temperature of the bottom of the pot, then you may be able to use 4000 watts of power. But for ordinary (non-canning) cooking tasks, 4000 watts is overkill: westsider40 makes a valid point.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:16PM
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We just purchased our first induction range in December. DH wanted gas, but is completely thrilled with the induction. He has just as much control, instant response, and more efficient heating. We have a small starter home, so a lower price point was more appropriate for the house, and we saw no need to spend more based on what we read.

I REALLY wanted the electrolux. I fell in love with the look and blue oven interior. But I read consistent complaints of trim pulling away, and in some cases interfering with adjacent drawers. It seemed that GE had the least concerning complaints (much easier to find consistent flaws reading complaints) and good reviews, so we got a GE. We got a fantastic deal through the GE Friends and Family store, if you know anyone that works for GE ask for an invite.

It has plenty of power. We rarely, if ever, set it above 7, and even at 7 oil gets almost too hot. The most fun part is cooking with paper towels under the pans. Since the only heat is radiated off the pan, it doesn'r burn. Makes frying easy to clean up!

I'd say unless you want the look, a specific feature, or name you will be just as happy with a less expensive line.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:19PM
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Cj - thanks for your input on Miele. Another satisfied customer, sigh. My short list keeps growing.

Herring_maven - I haven't cooked on an induction cooktop yet. I may change my opinion once I do. But my biggest gripe with non-induction is the lack of instant power. I do a lot of Asian cooking for which high heat is essential. I don't plan to run on max power for long intervals, only for the time it takes to get a good char on a big panful of veggies, meat, fish or whatever. My old range had a 22000 BTU burner which was barely adequate. That translates to just under 6.5 kW. Only for a few minutes, but without that high heat you can't get the same depth of flavor characteristic of good Asian cooking.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:29PM
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Although the conversion from BTU/hr to watts (joules/second) is scientifically a fixed ratio, when it comes to cooking effectiveness the difference in where the heat goes has to be taken into account. A lot of the heat generated by gas flames bypasses the pan, whereas much more of the power available from an induction hob is induced into the pan bottom. This increases the BTU/hr value that is effectively equivalent to a given hob power rating.

"The induction site" uses a ratio of BTU/hour = kW x 7185 for reasons that are clearly explained.


Here is a link that might be useful: The Induction Site

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:39AM
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Kas - thank you for the conversion and site link. I know the claims that induction converts a larger percentage of power directly to the pot, but couldn't find a quantitative way to calculate efficiency. It still means I need at least 3kW to get equivalent of the 22K BTU/hr or so that I want. And ideally I would like more heat if possible. I dream of the 100K BTU professional wok burners. We almost lost our minds once and considered buying one until DH pointed out that we would probably suck all the power out of our town every time we turned it on.

I have more questions about heating efficiency. If you cook in a pot which is ferromagnetic up the sides as well as bottom, doesn't the entire pot heat evenly and not just the bottom? My biggest dilemma is how to get the same results in a wok (or equivalent) on induction as on gas. But if I use a flat-bottomed wok which is ferromagnetic all around, don't I get the entire power output converting into resistive heat all around the wok, and not only at the base? I think some steel woks, or the Demeyere woks are ferromagnetic everywhere.

It would mean a considerable adjustment in cooking style since I'm used to having the highest heat at the base, with cooler sides. BTW I never lift and flip my wok, it's just too heavy for me. So I flip the food inside and rely on hand speed rather than strength to get what I want.

I'm still left with the problem that even flat-bottom woks are only 6-7" in diameter, so I have very limited power available even with the highest-power induction units now available.

I probably need to find a way to test this hands on, with a thermometer that will give me real numbers. Or at least if I can feel the heat radiating out of the pot, I can gauge whether it will work for me.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:33AM
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Fori is not pleased

Unless you get an induction wok, you might be disappointed. It'll only excite the pan really close to the cooktop. So if your pan is a good heat conductor, the sides will warm up quickly, but it doesn't matter whether they're magnetic or not.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 10:41AM
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Fori - why should the pan only heat up close to the cooktop? I'm not trying to be argumentative, but I'd like to understand. The AC magnetic field induces a current which should flow everywhere in a metal. Does the magnetic field fall off away from the generator coils? Even if that is the case, wouldn't the current produce resistive heating everywhere?

I'm a plasma physicist so I understand magnetic induction well, but this may be an engineering problem which is beyond my grasp.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 11:00AM
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Fori is not pleased

Dunno. I never thought of it as a current, just wiggling molecules that get warm. I have no reason to think that, though.

If you plop down a cast iron pan and set the cooktop to high, you'll feel it immediately where the pan is on the hob. The rest of the pan you gotta wait for. Not that I'm suggesting putting your hand on a hot pan. Well, I guess I am...

You might want to pick up a plug-in single hob unit and play with it a while. If you're remodeling, it'll be nice to have anyway.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 3:06PM
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It is not a plasma. The field stays local and drops in an inverse squared manner. The field lines stay inside the bottom of the pan, which is where the eddy currents are produced.

Some people have gone so far as to install a dedicated wok gas burner with induction for everything else. Or a dedicated wok induction hob (pricey for a one-trick pony).

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 4:32PM
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jadeite - definitely go test the induction. I just put mine in - it isn't working as I expected and some vessels are really noisy....
I did make super couscous, rice, and pasta so far....

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:02PM
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We haven't had any problems using a wok to stir fry on our induction. It heats the bottom portion of the pan, and it gets very hot. We rarely, if ever, use settings above 7/10 as that's about the highest level needed for most searing, browning, saut�ing, so you should be fine cranking it all the way up if needed for your needs. The heating is much more efficient, so do not rely on feeling a wall of heat as you cook, you have to pay more attention to the look and sound of your food. I got some small burns from oil the first time I used our induction because I set the heat to what I used on the coil electric burners, which were old and didn't work well, and let it heat up for too long. The onion went in, and the oil spit out all over!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:29PM
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The field lines out of a typical toroidal induction coil leave one pole of the coil laminations (say outside edge of the toroid) and try to take as short a path as possible to the other pole (inside edge of the toroid). However, as they lines leave the laminations in a direction perpendicular to the cooktop, and can't abruptly bend 90-degrees in air to get to the other pole, they follow a loop pattern, much like the plasma in a solar prominence. Further, the lines are pulled into any material with a higher mu than the air, i.e., the pan bottom. With higher mu, sharp bends in the field lines are more easily performed. Lines intersecting the pan sides would be few unless a small pan were used on a large hob such that the sides ended up between the poles.

The Cooktek induction hob for wok cooking is of the same configuration, except the cooking surface is a concave shape fitting the wok. The very bottom of the wok is not directly heated, as it is inside the toroid. A band is heated a little bit above the bottom. This is significantly different than the wider heating zone (including the bottom) available with a monster gas flame, or coal flame (more historical in China).

Coal has the advantage of hotter output at lower air flow, so it would, ironically, be a better fit to residential ventilation. However, a coal furnace under a cooking port would require a somewhat different kitchen plan.

The 3500W Cooktek allows searing and carmalizing, but a Chinese cook would probably prefer gas. Induction is safer, though.

The heat output of a 100k BTU/hr gas jet would be hard to accommodate in a residential kitchen without commercial ventilation, as well as commercial fire protection.


    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 9:16AM
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