Butter melting in a pan on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop

What is an induction cooktop and how does it work?

Induction cooktops generate electromagnetic energy that interacts directly with compatible cookware, turning pots and pans into their own heat source. Because the heat doesn't have to transfer through the cooking surface, induction cooktops can provide fast cooking, optimal temperature control and easy cleaning due to the fact that the glass top surrounding the element stays cool. For answers to questions like ‘how do induction cooktops work?’ continue reading or skip to a topic by selecting an option from the menu below.

If you’re wondering ‘what is an induction stovetop,’ another common name for an induction cooktop, this article will help you learn about the differences between induction cooktops and both traditional gas and electric cooktops. You’ll also learn more about the benefits of induction cooktops, what types of pans and cookware to use when cooking with induction and some of the key things to consider before buying an induction cooktop.

Browse Whirlpool® Induction Cooktops to bring the latest in cooktop technology to your kitchen. Or, take a look at our full list of cooktops.

Spaghetti boiling in a pot on a gas stovetop vs. an induction cooktop Spaghetti boiling in a pot on a gas stovetop vs. an induction cooktop

What are the differences between gas vs. induction cooktops?

Gas cooktops use propane or natural gas to produce an open flame that comes into direct contact with cookware. Induction cooktops do not radiate heat on their own, but create an electromagnetic charge that interacts with compatible cookware. This interaction causes the cookware itself to heat up.

Here are some other differences between induction vs. gas cooktops:

Responsiveness

Temperatures for both types of cooktops can be adjusted fairly immediately with the turn of a knob or tap of a button. However, because induction cooktops transfer all energy directly to the cookware, dishes will typically heat up or cool down faster than with gas. No heat is lost to the area around the pot or pan as it might be with an open flame.

Cooking techniques

Some home cooks like to have an open flame because it lets them flame-grill, char and flambé right on the cooktop. Gas cooktops may also be a better choice for narrow-bottomed cookware like woks that benefit from a flame reaching up around the sides. Induction cooktops are best used with flat-bottomed cookware to ensure even heating.

A glowing electric cooktop element compared to an induction cooktop element A glowing electric cooktop element compared to an induction cooktop element

What are the differences between electric vs. induction cooktops?

There are three basic types of electric stovetops and induction is one of them. Induction stovetops use an electromagnetic charge to create heat directly within compatible cookware. The other two—coil and radiant—feature metal coils that heat up and then transfer their heat to cookware placed on top. 

Coil: Uses electricity to heat up a metal coil that comes into direct contact with cookware and heats from the bottom of the pot or pan. 

Radiant: Houses the heated coils beneath a ceramic-glass surface and radiates the heat through it to cookware sitting on top. Also heats cookware from the bottom.

Induction: Houses a copper coil beneath a ceramic-glass surface but generates an electromagnetic charge that reacts with magnetic cookware to create heat directly within pots and pans, not radiating from the coil itself. Depending on the magnetic material used throughout the cookware, induction cooktops can cause a heating reaction throughout the entire pot or pan.

When comparing induction cooktops vs. electric cooktops using coil or radiant heat, keep these differences in mind:

Responsiveness

Traditional radiant or coil electric cooktops use radiant heat to cook food—transferring heat from coils to a ceramic-glass surface (if present), and then on to cookware. Because it takes time for each of these surfaces to heat up and cool down, electric cooktops are not as responsive as induction cooktops. In addition, some heat loss might occur since electric cooktops heat the surface under and around cookware, rather than heating it directly.

Cooking techniques

An electric cooktop may be a very familiar cooking appliance in some households, so it won’t require adjusting to a new style. You also probably have everything you need to cook with one in your kitchen already. Induction, however, only works with compatible magnetic cookware. If you don’t already have it, switching to induction may mean you’ll need to replace some of your cookware with compatible pots and pans. Learn more about induction cookware.

A hand putting spaghetti into pot of boiling water on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop A hand putting spaghetti into pot of boiling water on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop

How to tell the difference between induction and electric cooktops

If you’re buying a new cooktop and wondering ‘how do I know if my cooktop is induction,’ check the manufacturer’s information to see what kind it is. Otherwise, there isn't much visual difference between induction and electric cooktops with a ceramic-glass top. Both feature a smooth surface with outlined rings to indicate cookware placement. The heating elements on some electric cooktops may glow while induction cooktops will not.

To check, turn on the stove or cooktop without any cookware on top. If the surface heats up significantly or begins to glow, it’s a traditional electric cooktop. If it doesn’t get hot or glow, or only warms slightly, it’s an induction cooktop. Induction cooktops may produce a small amount of heat without cookware, but not enough to cook food.

The real difference is in how the cooktop heats, and induction and electric cooktops may have different installation requirements. Check the manufacturer’s details for more information on installation.

What are the benefits of induction cooktops?

A boiling pot of water on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop

1. Fast cooking

Induction technology transfers energy directly into compatible magnetic cookware, for fast, effective cooking. For example, this Whirlpool® 30-inch Electric Induction Cooktop boils 12 cups of water on average 25% faster1 with a Booster option. This does mean you may need to keep an eye on your recipes at first since they may cook faster than you may expect.

A hand choosing settings on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop

2. Exceptional responsiveness

You can instantly adjust the strength of the electromagnetic field produced by an induction cooktop, which in turn adjusts the heat being generated in the cookware. This means it heats up and cools down quickly, making for exceptionally responsive temperature control.

A hand wiping up sauce spilled on a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop

3. Easy to clean

Since heat is generated in the pan and not the cooktop itself, the surface surrounding the pan stays cooler. This helps reduce baked-on splatters and spills. Some heat may transfer from cookware onto the surface, so it’s best to let the cooktop cool completely before wiping up any messes.

Can you touch an induction cooktop surface?

Induction cooktops generate energy that interacts with compatible cookware, so while the pot or pan you’re cooking with is hot, the cooktop’s surface doesn’t generate its own heat. However, you should still be careful when cooking with an induction cooktop since heat can still radiate from your cookware and transfer to the surface like how putting a hot pan on a countertop makes the countertop below it hot.

What pans and other cookware work on induction cooktops?

When it comes to cookware, if you’re wondering what pans work on induction cooktops, your cookware must be made from certain magnetic materials. Common types of magnetic cookware include: cast iron, stainless steel over aluminum, and enamel over metal. Check out our guide to induction cookware.

An overhead view of a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop build into a countertop An overhead view of a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop build into a countertop

Should I get an induction cooktop?

An induction cooktop is a great responsive option that will help you get dinner on the table fast. If it sounds like the right option for you, here are some other things to consider:

Cookware

Induction cooking only works with magnetic cookware, which includes cast iron and any cookware with an added magnetic layer. If you don’t have any magnetic dishes or don’t want to be limited to this kind of cookware, it may not be the best option for you.

Installation

Induction cooktops usually require a 240 v outlet and a nearby junction box. Make sure you have the proper electrical hookups and cabinet space per the manufacturer’s instructions before purchasing a new cooktop. Learn more about how to install a Whirlpool® Induction Cooktop.

Kitchen layout

A cooktop is a standalone cooking surface that is not connected to an oven. Many people find this offers more flexibility since you can choose to locate your cooktop and separate oven wherever you choose for a custom layout. Since an induction cooktop requires a special kitchen layout, you should make sure this setup works for your home before purchasing one.

Shop induction cooktops from Whirlpool brand

Whirlpool® Induction Cooktops can help you get dinner to the table in less time. Select models feature optional assisted cooking functions for boiling and pan frying—this feature notifies you with a helpful tone and flashing light when water or oil reaches the right temperature to add food. Induction cooktops require magnetic cookware like the Whirlpool® Accessory 8-Qt Stock Pot or 12-inch Pan, sold separately.

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1. Comparing the 3,000 watt induction element to a Whirlpool brand 3,000 watt radiant element.