Ceramic cooktops -- sometimes called glass cooktops or smoothtops -- are the latest and greatest way to stir up sauces and sear your favorite veggies.
Though they're not exactly a brand-new technology, these appliances get more convenient and more efficient every year. With faster heating than gas, more cooking power than electric coils, and a sleek, low-profile look, ceramic cooktops are the perfect balance of form and function. But what are ceramic cooktops, and how do they work? Before you upgrade your kitchen with one of these powerhouses, here’s the lowdown on the options available and how they can each make your life a little easier.
What is a ceramic cooktop?
A ceramic cooktop is any cooktop with a smooth surface made of tempered ceramic glass. Though you'll usually find all ceramic smoothtops lumped together on the sales floor, there are actually a few different options to pick from:
- Radiant uses heated coils of metal under a sheet of ceramic glass
- Halogen uses halogen bulbs instead of metal to generate heat
- Semi-halogen uses a combination of metal coils and halogen bulbs
- Induction uses magnets, which interact with the metal in your cooking pans, to generate heat
The practical differences between the first three are minor. Halogen bulbs light up right away, so you always know when the cooktop is on, and the heating elements tend to cool off a tiny bit faster compared to radiant cooktops. Other than that, they all cook the same and offer all the same conveniences.
Induction, however, is a bit different. These cooktops are very fast to heat, and boil water twice as quickly on average compared to other cooktops. That's because it doesn't use a heat source to transfer heat to the pan like a traditional cooktop -- instead, the interaction between magnets and metal heats the pan directly, effectively turning the pan into a burner. That means that the cooktop won't heat up until you put a pan on it, even if the power is on!
The science of this is a bit complex, and if you're interested in learning more, we recommend checking out this article explaining the ins and outs of induction. If you still have questions, be sure to reach out to us! We're always happy to share our appliance expertise. For the purposes of your kitchen though, induction means faster cooking and a safer cooktop for your family.
What are the benefits of ceramic cooktops?
Easy cleaning, faster cooking, high-tech safety features, simple installation ... what isn't made better with a ceramic cooktop?
Let's take these one at a time. First of all, cleaning is much simpler with a ceramic cooktop. The smooth, sealed heating elements make it easy to wipe up spills with just a damp cloth or soft sponge -- no more metal grates collecting oil!
Lots of ceramic cooktops include features that make cooking easier and safer too. Many have heat indicators that show when the stovetop is hot, and induction cooktops don't even heat until a pan has been placed on them. Some ceramic cooktops even turn off automatically after a set period of time -- which means curious kids are less likely to get hurt when helping out in the kitchen. Ceramic cooktops also eliminate the need to run potentially dangerous gas lines through your kitchen -- all you need is an electrical connection to make them work. The reduced risk of gas leaks can make your whole home much safer in the event of an earthquake, storm, flood, or fire.
All that, plus they're super stylish and on-trend! More and more kitchens are adopting the hidden or paneled appliance look, and a ceramic cooktop is another great way to help your appliances blend right into the kitchen around it.
What are the downsides of ceramic cooktops?
In general, there are very few downsides to ceramic cooktops.
Scratched glass is a concern for some. Rough-bottomed pans or dropped items can potentially scrape or even crack the surface -- but the ceramic glass of your cooktop is tempered and built to withstand heavy use, so you'd have to drop something pretty heavy to actually break it.
Halogen and radiant cooktops also tend to be less precise and slower to heat than gas. Most professional chefs prefer the uniformity that flame cooking offers. However, if you're looking for truly professional cooking like you can get on a traditional gas burner, induction offers a solution for those weak points that other ceramic cooktops struggle with, offering speedy, powerful heat output and precise temperature control.
Induction isn't perfect either though: only certain types of pots and pans (ferromagnetic iron, to be precise) will work with the magnet-based cooking technology. So if you're thinking about getting an induction cooktop, be aware that you may have to invest in some new cookware as well.
Ceramic cooktops are a great way to give your kitchen a little extra oomph, especially if it's been a while since you've upgraded your cooking appliances. Be sure to begin the hunt at your favorite neighborhood appliance store, and ask our associates about any other ceramic cooktop questions you might have. With the help of this handy guide and our in-store experts, you can start shopping armed with all the knowledge you need to pick out the perfect new cooktop!