Shopping for appliances is not terribly complicated, but if you are shopping for new kitchen appliances for the first time in several years, then you might be surprised by some of the new designs and features that are available. Induction cooktops are one of the newer options for those who are in need of a stove, but many consumers are unaware of what they really have to offer or how they work.

Here are some of the questions that many shoppers have regarding induction cooktop appliances:

1. How does an induction cooktop work?
A traditional electric cooktop uses radiant heat, with heating elements sealed under a ceramic surface. The surface above the element becomes hot and in turn heats the pan and it's contents.  An induction cooktop uses elements that create a magnetic field between the element and the ferrous metal pan that is sitting on it. In effect, the pan then becomes the heat source instead of the surface of the cooktop.

2. What benefits does this method of cooking offer?
With an induction cooktop the surface remains cool, only the pan (as the heat source) and it's contents are hot. This mean that burns on a hot cooktop surface won't happen. It also means that it is more efficient, there is no lost heat across the exposed surface of the cooktop.

3. Are there other positive benefits that induction cooktops offer?
Yes. Induction cooktops tend to heat foods more quickly. They produce instant heat like a gas flame does, but there is no open flame or gas. In addition, when heat is reduced, the reduction in food temperature is immediate.  Thus if you need to quickly reduce the temperature on a boiling pot, you will see instantaneous results when you turn down the control, you won't have to remove the pan from the burner.

In addition, if you turn the burner on, and the pan is not resting on it, it won't generate heat. If a burner is accidentally switch on or left on, you can't accidentally burn yourself on it.  In addition, if a spill occurs while you are cooking, an induction cooktop also makes it easier to clean up the spill immediately, since the surface isn't too hot.

4. Are the ferrous metal pans expensive?
They don't have to be. If you want to know if you can use your current pans you can test them by checking to see if a magnet will stick to the bottom of them. If the magnet sticks, they should be able to work with an induction cooktop. 

5. Are there any drawbacks to an induction cooktop?
They are more expensive than a traditional cooktop. They also tend to emit a bit of noise, similar to a small fan while operating.  In addition, as we alluded to above, some cookware will not work with an induction cooktop, glassware is one example.  There are however hybrid cooktops that offer both induction and traditional electric elements which give you more flexibility and tend to cost a bit less. In addition, some induction cooktops come with a disk that you can place between a non-ferrous metal pan and the burner in order to use that cookware.

6. Do some traditional stove/oven combination units use induction cooking?
Yes there are some models out there that are not built-in cooktops, they are the stove/oven combination appliances.  In addition, there are portable induction cooktops that can sit on a countertop and offer only one, or perhaps two burners. These are great in apartments, RVs, or to use just when you are cooking larger meals such as at the holidays or for get-togethers and need additional burners.