Induction vs. Gas vs. Electric Cooking
The Differences Explained
Understanding The Different Cooking Methods
Whether you’re in the market for a standalone cooktop or a multifunction kitchen range, you’ll need to know which cooking method—electric, induction, or gas, is right for you. Each heating technology may offer its own set of benefits, but your choice will likely boil down to your kitchen space, personal style, lifestyle, budget, building codes in your area, and your general cooking needs.
Although a cooktop*, and a range top or stovetop**, may vary—each appliance will be equipped with either gas, electric, or induction heating functionality. In this article we’ll explain the key considerations of each cooking method so you can decide which will work best for you.
* A standalone cooking area without an oven beneath it.
** The cooking surface area on the top of a kitchen range i.e. stove which includes an oven underneath it.
Induction Cooktops And Ranges
Induction cooking may be the newest cooking technology to hit the market but has been around since the 1970’s. In the last few years, induction technology has gained popularity alongside critical praise. A burgeoning player in the appliance market with growth expected to exceed the $13 billion mark in households worldwide in 2022—more and more homeowners, interior designers, and builders are seeking out cooking appliances equipped with induction heating technology. With that said, as of 2022 only roughly 3% of U.S. homes are equipped with an induction cooktop or induction range, but expect that number to grow significantly in the coming years.
How Does Induction Cooking Work?
Similar to traditional coil-cooking appliances, induction cooking appliances use electricity. Induction appliances always have a smooth top, with the heating element hidden underneath the cooktop surface. Despite looking like a standard glass-top electric cooktop, there is a notable difference…induction cooking works by using electromagnetic currents to directly heat pots and pans via magnetic induction. Whereas gas and electric appliances cook using thermal conduction, essentially transmitting heat from a burner to a pot or pan to your food, induction cooking eliminates the middleman, working almost instantly to heat the cooking vessel itself.
How induction cooking works:
- As noted above, induction cooktops look much the same as any other electric stove with a smooth ceramic cooktop. Usually they’re built with individual cooking zones where you can place your pans and pots. The surface itself is standardly made from sturdy heat-resistant glass ceramic.
- Underneath the glass of each cooking zone, there's a tightly wound coil of metal. When you turn on the power, an electric flow moves through the coil and creates an imperceptible, high-recurrence, rotating magnetic field all around it, and most importantly, above it. Note that unless there’s a cooking vessel like a pot or pan sitting atop the cooking zone, no heat will be produced and that area of the cooktop will remain cool.
- Instead of passing heat to the surface, heat is directly transferred to the cookware through the spiral of copper coils. The magnetic field induces whirling electrical currents, known as eddy currents, directly inside the pan, virtually turning the cooking vessel into a heater (shown here in orange).
- Heat from the pot or pan flows directly into the food or water inside it (by conduction).
Pros & Cons
OF INDUCTION COOKING
Since the only part of the induction cooktop to heat up is covered by your cookware, most spills won't have the chance to cook onto the surface. This means you’ll avoid the spills and splatters that burn and adhere to hot surfaces we often see with traditional gas or electric cooktops. Plus, you can wipe down the entire surface immediately after you’ve turned it off since it cools down almost instantly.
For optimal results, induction cooking requires conductive cookware made of ferromagnetic material: carbon steel, cast iron, and stainless steel. You can test your cookware with a magnet—if a magnet can stick to your pot or pan, then it’s compatible with induction. Keep in mind that you’ll want to stay away from aluminum and copper.
COOKING TEMPERATURE CONTROL
A quality induction burner, however, can hold any temperature at which it is set, providing superior performance both at the high and low end uniformly, even over an extended amount of time.
Induction cooking appliances allow you to achieve high temperatures quickly. For instance, you can boil water in about two minutes or less as opposed to 5-8 minutes on traditional electric or gas surfaces. This results in reduced cooking times and more control over meal preparation.
Induction ranges deliver about 90% of the energy that is being generated and takes half the time to boil water and heat food compared to a gas range—this provides you with faster cooking times and a less wasteful, more efficient use of energy. With this in mind, it’s not surprising that induction cooking has gained popularity with home and professional chefs, and eco-minded people.
Since induction cooking doesn't emit any air pollutants like nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), or formaldehyde (HCHO), all of which can have a negative impact on your health, your home environment stays cleaner and healthier. If you want to lower home pollution levels, energy use, and your overall carbon footprint, induction cooktops and induction ranges may be a good option.
As induction elements only produce heat that’s transferred to conductive cookware, induction cooking will maintain a cooler temperature in your kitchen, not unlike a traditional electric stovetop. This might be particularly important to you if you live in a warm region.
Induction cooktops and ranges are typically more expensive than conventional electric models since they’re only just gaining mass-market popularity. However, prices have decreased in recent years, and over time are expected to continue dropping. Plus, their energy-saving features may make it worth it in the long run.
Electrical appliances like shavers, electric blankets, electrical wiring, and induction heating units like ranges or a cooktop can create non-ionizing or low-frequency EMF (electric magnetic fields). As of this writing, per the National Cancer Institute, there is no data concluding that non-ionizing radiation can lead to harmful health-related issues like cancer. In fact, some might argue that induction cooking is safer than other forms of cooking since the entire cooktop remains cool-to-the-touch, decreasing the likelihood of accidental burns.
Electric Cooktops & Ranges
Cooking with electricity usually refers to cooking on an electric range’s stovetop (aka a range top), or a standalone electric cooktop that is integrated into a countertop. Either may be available with a smooth glass top, or an exposed coil top. Despite some differences in these kitchen appliances, the mechanics to heat and cook generally remain the same.
An electric cooktop or stovetop will typically include four or five heating surface elements. These elements, usually referred to as burners, are made of metal coils—flattened spirals of electrical wire sheathed in metal. As noted above, the burners are often exposed but may be hidden underneath a sleek glass surface usually referred to as a cooktop. These types of cooking appliances include an integrated electrical heating device which cooks using a centralized heat source. Electric cooking appliances remain very popular and are what you’ll find in about 60% of U.S. homes today.
How Does Cooking With Electricity Work?
- Electric cooktops, and stovetops on a range, use an electric current that travels through the metal coil.
- When the control knob or touch control on the electric cooktop or range is turned on, it triggers an electrical current to flow through the corresponding coil.
- Dissimilar to gas ovens, electric burners don't deliver a fire or flame. When the electric current causes the heating element to activate, it creates infrared energy which causes the burner to glow and emanate heat the surface
- Once you put a pot or pan on the surface, the heat is transferred to the cookware, and then to the food inside. This process is known as thermal conduction.
- With this type of heat energy, the entire burner surface heats totally evenly, which allows you to heat your food in a very even fashion.
- The heat from the coils conducts most of its energy (about 75%) directly into your cookware, instead of transmitting into the air and out of sight as a gas fire or flame would. If your cooktop or stovetop has tempered ceramic glass (versus uncovered coils), the intensity radiates to this cover and afterwards will move to your pots, pans, and cookware.
- After you’ve turned off your appliance, your burner will cool down, but residual heat will remain for an undetermined amount of time. For safety, these types of appliances usually have an indicator, such as a light, which will let you know to avoid touching the burner while it is still emanating heat.
Pros & Cons
OF ELECTRIC COOKING
Whether you have an electric cooktop or an electric stovetop on a range, you’ll need to wait until the area has cooled after cooking before applying any elbow grease. Since an electric cooktop has a smooth surface, wiping it down is typically an easy exercise. For cooked-on food remnants you’ll want to be careful not to scratch the glass surface however. Cleaning a stovetop may require more energy as food and grease may find itself onto the burner, underneath it, and on the rest of the stovetop itself.
Electric ranges take longer to heat up which may extend your cooking times, use more energy, and potentially impact your energy bill.
Similar to induction cooking, electric cooking doesn't emit pollution into your home’s air, which will keep it cleaner and healthier. If you want to lower home pollution levels, energy use, and your overall carbon footprint, electric cooking ranges and cooktops are a good option.
Electric ranges don’t generate much ambient heat, which will keep your kitchen cool for a comfortable cooking experience, especially during summer months or in warm locations.
On top of a straightforward installation, each burner element is tied to its own circuit, so you can replace burners instead of replacing the entire range.
Electric ranges are often available at competitive price points and generally cost less than induction or gas appliances.
Some may enjoy the added warmth in their kitchen created by post-cooking residual heat, or enjoy simmering or keeping food warm on the burners as they slowly cool down. However, residual heat on burners may also cause burns and be especially unsafe for kids. Luckily you’ll find that most electric ranges are designed with a warning feature to indicate that cooktop surfaces are still warm.
COOKING TEMPERATURE CONTROL
Precise heat control on electric stoves and cooktops isn’t always optimal— the heating elements tend to respond more slowly than those on gas or induction appliances.
Gas Cooktops & Ranges
Gas ranges and stovetops, as well as standalone gas cooktops (also known as propane cooktops) have been around longer than either induction or traditional electric appliances and employ the raw power of open flame to cook, fuelled by combustible gas such as syngas, natural gas, propane, butane, liquefied petroleum gas or other flammable gas. Gas stoves first started gaining popularity in the early 1800s as inventors attempted to create a cooking element that was cleaner and more effective than wood fireplaces and cooktops. Gas ovens and cooking appliances like outdoor grills have significantly evolved over the last couple hundred of years thanks to technical and design advancements, but for many it’s the magic and tradition of cooking over an open flame that makes this form of cooking so appealing.
How Does Gas Cooking Work?
- Gas stoves usually come ready to be hooked up to a source of natural gas, but most models can be modified with a few extra fittings and minor adjustments if needed.
- Gas enters the stove through a pressure regulator, which is often integrated into the oven’s control valve. This component does just what you would expect it to do—it regulates gas pressure to the rest of the appliance.
- As the gas flows through the holes in the burner, a manual or automatic starter will generate sparks to ignite that gas into continuous flames. By turning the knob to a higher heat setting, you increase the flow of gas and air, and the flame gets larger.
- Gas stoves today use different types of ignition sources to create the flames you’ll be cooking over, the two most common are manual and automatic ignitions, also known as electric ignitions.
- If you have an appliance equipped with a manual ignition, you will turn a handle or knob to start the gas flow, and afterward either a pilot light will touch off the gas or you will utilize a lighter or matchstick to light the gas from the burner.
- If you have an appliance equipped with an integrated automatic ignition, a staple feature that many consumers look for and have come to expect these days, you will simply turn a knob or handle to create an electrical spark to light the gas in the burner. After it’s lit, you will then be able to modify the intensity of the heat based on your cooking needs.
Pros & Cons
OF GAS COOKING
BUILDING CODES & REGULATIONS
As temperature and climate-change concerns rise, California, and many other areas in the U.S. are aggressively adopting new building codes devoted to expanding the use of electric appliances and moving away from the use of fossil fuels in homes and businesses. California often leads the charge when it comes to creating stricter, environmentally-friendly regulations; in some CA cities this includes bans on natural gas in new homes and promoting incentives and rebates for converting to electric appliances. Whether you live in California or elsewhere, it’s important to be well informed of your area’s building codes and regulations when purchasing a new cooking appliance.
The detachable parts of a gas stovetop's burner and its grooves and crevices may be cumbersome to clean when compared to glass-top electric or induction cooktops.Grease and food remnants on gas stovetops can make their way underneath the cooking grates which may then require a bit more work than simply wiping down a glass cooktop. If cleaning is a priority for you, make sure to explore gas stoves with self-cleaning features, and stove grates that are dishwasher-safe—many premium brands offer these options in today’s market.
COOKING TEMPERATURE CONTROL
One benefit of a gas range or stove is that there is no wait time when it comes to heating it up, or for that matter, cool down. Whatever intensity of heat you’re looking for and can be achieved nearly instantaneously.
A gas range takes three times less energy to produce heat compared to an electric range. For example, by the time you turn on an electric appliance, up to 68% of the original fuel's energy value has been lost. That means the full fuel cycle efficiency is about 32%. In contrast, a natural gas appliance's full fuel cycle efficiency is about 92%—a substantial difference.
Gas ranges generate heat quickly, which can make your kitchen hot and uncomfortable. However, this can be minimized by installing a range hood.
While an automatic gas-stove ignition needs electricity to ignite gas in a stove and a manual gas-stove ignition needs a pilot light, matchstick, or lighter,, there is a common belief that all gas-ignition appliances will be operable during a power outage. However, this is not the case. While there are some gas-ignition appliances that can be lit in a power outage, it is contingent on the model and make of the specific appliance. If you’re shopping for a new gas range or gas cooktop, and this is important to you, make sure to raise this question when speaking to a sales expert.
If you need to install hookups for your gas range, it can be significantly more expensive than induction and electric ranges. Though after this initial expense, its long-term energy-saving features will likely be reflected in your utility bill.
- Fire Hazards (subsection)
Generally speaking, automatic gas stove ignitions are safer than manual ignitions since you’re only required to turn a lever or knob, or push a button, to ignite the gas burner. Older gas stove models may require you to turn a gas lever or know and then use a lighter or matches to ignite the flame.
- Indoor Air Pollution (subsection)
Gas stoves create indoor air pollution because they emit nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and formaldehyde (HCHO), which can all have a negative impact on you and your pet’s health. However, a high quality range hood can help mitigate these issues by creating sufficient ventilation.
INDUCTION COOKTOPS AND RANGES
If you want an eco-friendly cooking appliance that reduces energy costs and offers fast and even heating, an induction range could be your best choice.
ELECTRIC COOKTOPS AND RANGES
If you’re searching for a cooktop or range that offers a broad spectrum of price-points and is typically easy to find in the market, an electric range may be the most compatible option.
GAS COOKTOPS AND RANGES
If you seek a range to provide quick, visible heat, and concise control over the temperature of your dishes, a gas range may be your perfect choice.
Consider your design taste, cooking habits, kitchen needs, priorities and budget before choosing a range. Use this guide to compare your range options.