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Aug 4, 2010 09:48 AM

Induction Cooktop Recommendations Needed

I'm in the process of renovating my kitchen and was pretty much sold on the BlueStar 36" gas cooktop. Then...I started seeing suggestions that induction cook tops are the way to go> I've been perusing a wonderful website, on induction cooking and now looking for advice on brands for induction cooktops. Any and all advice appreciated. Thanks!!!

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  1. Fagor IF-36, available as framed or frameless. Only one which will permit use of very large pots (e.g. Vollrath's 24L stockpot) without an overlap that can interfere with another element or the controls. More simplistic controls than others and no timer, but thinner unit and has excellent cooling.

    Miele KM5993. Framed only. Very reliable unit with a slightly less-optimal control layout, and about $1K more expensive than the Fagor.

    The Diva de Provence DPP-5 is similar to the Fagor.

    Wolf's CT36I has a different 5-element layout with the largest unit off to the right. Also available framed and frameless, and has their special finish to technically minimize scratching, but the units are freaking expensive.

    I'd probably stay away from Viking. They had issues with certain induction-ready pieces (e.g. LeCreuset, Lodge) in the past which are theoretically fixed, but I've played with a current model and the problems still show. Not acceptable for the price being demanded.

    If you have the space and the budget you can investigate the use of something like the Miele CombiSet line, which would allow you to have induction units, other electricals (e.g. teppan plate, salamander) and gas.

    1. I was in the market for an induction cooktop last year. Three brands that we looked at - Wolf, Miele, and Electrolux.

      We went to a local showroom to check out the Wolf. Like wattacetti said, the surface is covered with very thin and tiny metal-like "studs" (lack of better words to describe it) to prevent scratching. I was in love with it, but the price factor drove me away.

      I don't remember exactly why we didn't pick the Electrolux. Probably a mixture of poor pre-sale customer service, no love for the look, and something else.

      So we picked the Miele. Happy happy customer so far.

      I'm happy for you, for being on the induction side :-)

      But seriously, you'll probably find more user comments here:

      1. dorymoments, although we have been an induction cooktop home for eleven years now, in common with most users of induction cooktops/ranges, our BRAND experience is limited (in our case, just two brands). In our case, we had a (pre-Whirlpool acquisition) Jenn-Air, which after nine years required a unique repair part that Whirlpool was not interested in hearing about, and so the entire cooktop had to be replaced. We replaced it with an LG, with which we are generally happy.

        Here are some positive aspects of the LG model LCE30845 that set it apart from some competing models:

        o It is very shallow -- that is, it does not extend very far below the countertop. This allows you to have a drawer for spoons, spatulas, pot tops, and tongs immediately below the cooktop, which is very handy.

        o Its maximum power consumption is somewhat lower than competing models, which is reassuring to those of us who live in older homes with older wiring. The other side of that coin is that the maximum power of the largest burner is somewhat lower than, for instance, a Miele; however, on the basis of nearly two years' use, I simply cannot imagine any situation where we could use more power than the largest burner delivers at its "9" setting: it is 'way beyond ample.

        o It has a true bridge burner on the left side, where two of the burners can be combined, with a third hourglass-shaped burner to activate the space between them; it is sold (included in the cooktop purchase price) with a griddle exactly sized to cover the two burners, which is long enough to cook a half dozen rashers of bacon with the strips laid out straight, no bending.

        Here are some peculiarities of the LG which your appliance salesman probably is not aware of, and therefore will not point out to you:

        o In common with all induction cooktops, the LG has a cooling fan under the deck to protect the elements from getting overheated by the heat transmitted downward through the Ceran cooktop surface from the pot on top. In the LG, that fan vents toward the rear, ABOVE the counter; in most other cooktops, the venting is into the cabinet UNDER the counter. The pros and cons of the above-counter arrangement should be obvious on reflection: it is good for that drawer under the counter, or if you want to place a "wall" oven in the cabinet under the cooktop. On the other hand, if you had planned on butting the cooktop smack dab up against a backsplash, you would block the vent. Also there is some danger that, if you boil pots over a lot or spill a lot, some liquid that lands on the countertop could get into the vent openings and flow through the vents into the innards of the cooktop. We have not found spillage to be any problem, but your cooking patterns may differ from ours.

        o Unless the firmware has changed from the time we bought our LG, there is a potentially serious design defect in the part of the logic that controls that vent fan. The undercounter cooling fan is turned on when any of the burners is on; it shuts off immediately when the last burner has been shut off. We cook Japanese a lot in our kitchen, and the LG is superbly suited to keeping a deep-frying pot (ours is enameled cast iron) filled with peanut oil at perfect tempura frying temperature. However, unless you take the precaution of moving the tempura pot completely off the cooktop when you are finished cooking -- not always practical -- or of putting another pot on another burner (we use a small saucepan on the smallest burner, set to simmer -- "L"), the tempura pot, which is a huge reservoir of accumulated heat, will continue to radiate and conduct heat downward to the electronics that then would have no cooling air flowing over them. Heat is the enemy of electronics, so you always want the fan on when heat is radiating downward from the top of the unit. (Our former Jenn-Air had a fan that stayed in operation after the burners were turned off, until the cooktop was cool.)

        o The included griddle is very pretty as delivered, but is made of a very soft stainless alloy. It WILL scratch immediately, and every time you use it; scratching simply cannot be avoided. The scratches do not affect functionality

        o Aside from the hardware, LG is the LEAST customer-friendly electronics company with which we have ever had to deal; from our experience, we rate the LG customer service below abysmal; just hope and pray that you never ever have to deal with LG, and make sure that you buy from a retailer who will be on your side should you need service.

        I hope you find these pointers helpful.

        1. I only have experience with one cooktop, my own Kenmore Elite #42800 (I'm pretty sure it's really an Electrolux). It has been working fine for nearly three years now. My only complaints about it are:

          1. It has a "Power" setting for each burner, which is the highest heat level. Sometimes, for no reason, it will revert from Power mode to level 9 (the next-highest heat level). I think this has to do with the components getting hotter than they should. It's supposed to revert to level 9 after 10 minutes or so but sometimes it does it after only a few minutes. It's not that big a deal.

          2. The controls are touch-sensitive and sometimes don't respond when my finger is wet, or too cold, or the cooktop is a little wet. Also, every now and again I'll spill something hot on the controls and they will misinterpret that as a finger press, changing the settings.

          3. It has the air vents above the countertop, as Politeness describes. We also have not had a problem with liquid spilling into the vents (the holes are actually raised about 1/8" above the countertop, so you would have to spill quite a bit of liquid for it to enter them), but it makes me very nervous sometimes when I'm moving pots with a lot of liquid in them. If I were buying another cooktop I would *definitely* choose one that has its air intake and exhaust below the countertop rather than above.

          On the plus side, it's one of the least expensive induction cooktops available and they sell a 5-burner 36" version.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Buckethead

            Thanks to all for the in-depth pointers! Much appreciate it.

            1. re: dorymoments

              I heard of some frustrations with induction cooktops when the cookware is uneven or has dents. My brother just shared with me his experience where he was cooking an egg using a slightly dented fry pan on a Wolfe induction cooktop and could not get the egg to cook evenly. Also, problems with heat not reaching beyond the cookware bottom, no heat gets to the side of the pan, which could pose problem. What's been the experience out there regarding these issues???

              1. re: dorymoments

                "Also, problems with heat not reaching beyond the cookware bottom, no heat gets to the side of the pan, which could pose problems."

                What kind of problems? I don't see that as a problem. When heat is conducted up the sides of the pan, half of it radiates into the air in kitchen, not the food. How often are you actually cooking something that touches the side of the pan? Unless you're making soup or gravy or something, you're mainly using the pan's bottom. In any event, this hasn't been a problem for me. I routinely make a 16-quart disc-bottomed stock pot full of chicken stock and it boils faster on induction than on gas. If you really want to heat the sides of the pan, a fully-clad pan design (like All-Clad) will conduct more heat up the sides than a disc-bottomed pan.

                Do you know what kind of pan your brother was using? If it was easily dented, I wonder if it was a thin carbon steel pan: "slightly" denting a clad or disc-bottom pan isn't easy. If that was the case, I think the pan itself (dented or not) may have been the problem. The thinner the metal is, the more uneven the heat is, on any cooking surface.

                1. re: dorymoments

                  Why would heat not get to the sides of the pan? Any pan is going to heat up to some extent irrespective of heat source and I can't see how a metal one would have a hot bottom and cold sides (you can ask your brother to touch the sides of one to confirm).

                  As for the uneven cooking of the egg, it sound more like a cheap pan with uneven manufacture than an issue with induction in general. I have an IR thermometer which I have used on both AC and LeCreuset surfaces and the surface temp ranges maybe 2-3ºF from centre to edge while I'm initially heating the pan. Between the two the heavier LC shows less variation because of the mass.

                  If you have a pan with a significantly warped bottom (e.g. the cheap pans), the unit may have more difficulty identifying that there is a pan on top of the element. What would more likely happen is that you'll get some rattling.

                  1. re: dorymoments

                    I've noticed the "cold sides of the pan" issue on my induction cooktop when trying to make an omelet or fried eggs in a cast iron or carbon steel pan. The induction element is only 6 or 7 inches across, so the middle of the pan gets nice and hot, but the edges stay cool. This is a problem with omelets because the edges don't solidify so you can't get a flipper under them. I solved the problem by buying an induction-capable *aluminum* frying pan (with a steel disk embedded in the bottom). The fast heat conduction of the aluminum pan means perfect omelets every time!

                    PS. The "cold edges" phenomenon is also sometimes a benefit. I love the fact that I can cook pasta in my stainless steel pasta pot and then pick it by the (still cool) metal loop handles to drain the pasta without needing to use pot holders.

                    1. re: tanuki soup

                      I think what dorymoments referred to was the vertical edges of the pan unless I'm mistaken. Bottom line is, the only area that will be heated is the actual surface that touches the cooktop. You'll also get the most out of the cooktop by matching cookware size with the burner size.

                      Asian cooking can be a challenge, because they swear by their round-bottomed woks for stir-fries. Although there are concave shaped induction units, they cost a kidney.

                      I am happy with cooking in my all-clad chef's pan (with a seriously slanted side). Usually I start by cooking some garlic/onion/spices. By the time they're nice and golden/sweated, the pan has already been heated for at least 5 minutes. I wouldn't want to put my hand there and see if the side is cold or not.

                      More often than not I put a thin kitchen towel under my pan in fear of (read lazy) spillage and splatters. I used my IR reader to monitor when the towel starts turning yellow (burning), and it was at around 320F. Some people use parchment paper, which can withstand up to 450F, but it seems like a waste to me. If I could find a big thin piece of something that can withstand up to 500F and is dishwasher safe, that would be heaven. 0:-)

                      Buckethead reminded me of one incident - we had an Indian family as guests over not too long ago. The wife and I were trying to make roti (flat bread) on the stove. Apparently the bread is supposed to be cooked at very high heat for a very short period of time, so we had to keep the burner at its highest setting (#9) for the whole time. After 10-15mins or so the burner shut down completely to avoid being overheated, so we had to switch burners back and forth. Just as a comparison, onions get burnt if I leave it at #7 for more than a min. It was driving her up a wall, and I'm sure she was not at all impressed by induction cooking.

                      1. re: cutipie721

                        "More often than not I put a thin kitchen towel under my pan in fear of (read lazy) spillage and splatters."

                        Yeah, I use old newspapers, which conveniently fit exactly on the glass panel of my induction cooktop. I've grilled thick steaks, seared spare ribs, and fried chicken in heavy cast iron frying pans placed directly on a double sheet of old newspaper with absolutely no problems. Sometimes, the paper under the center of the pan turns a bit brown and brittle, though. When I'm done cooking, I crumple up the newspaper and use it to polish the glass cooktop.

                        1. re: tanuki soup

                          "Sometimes, the paper under the center of the pan turns a bit brown and brittle, though."

                          That is a tad bit too close to turning the induction stove into a wood stove for me :-)

                        2. re: cutipie721

                          "Although there are concave shaped induction units, they cost a kidney"

                          Not only that, different woks have different curvature. Once you bought that concave induction units, you can only use those woks made by that company.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Any commnents from induction enthusiast on why all chefs on all the cooking shows still use gas if induction is so much superior in terms of control and efficiency. Inductions been around since the 1930's I think I heard, and the consumer market has been slow to adopt because of the high cost. So why haven't all the chefs and restaurants adopted....

                            1. re: dorymoments

                              dorymoments: "why all chefs on all the cooking shows still use gas if induction is so much superior in terms of control and efficiency. ... So why haven't all the chefs and restaurants adopted...."

                              Restaurants are converting at a very high rate, in fact. That is partially driven by insurance premiums (sous chef does not file a claim for sleeve catching fire) and partially driven by greatly lowered HVAC bills, but mostly driven by precise heat control.

                              As for the chefs on cooking shows, the operative word is "shows." Gas makes a flashier (sometimes literally) visual presentation; and the Average Viewer has never heard of induction and would assume that an induction cooktop on the screen is plebeian resistive electric, damaging to the showman's image.

                        3. re: tanuki soup

                          Steel is a relatively poor heat conductor, so while the base near the induction coil heats well, the rim stays cool - unless it is heated by simmering liquid. But an induction-ready cast aluminum fry pan will get hot, right to the rim and even part way up the handle.