All You Could Possibly Need to Know About Cooktops And Cookware
Cooktops are a very big and important part of our life, even if we don’t think of them as such.
We use them, on average, at least twice a day, making them a crucial part of any kitchen. In fact, it’s practically impossible to have a working kitchen without a reliable cooktop.
What Are The Best Types of Cooktops For Your Kitchen?
Choosing a cooktop that suits not only your kitchen but also your life isn’t an easy decision. After all, there are many different styles and models of cooktops out there, each of them promising something different.
In this list, we take a look at the three main types of cooktops (gas, electric and induction) and teach you all you need to know about each one of them.
Let’s get started!
1. Electric Stoves
Electric cooktops receive their name thanks to the fact that they work with electricity. Specifically, using electricity to heat up a heat source (often in the shape of a disk or, less frequently, a coil).
They’re a popular and affordable replacement for gas stoves, particularly in places such as small apartments, dorm rooms, bachelor pads, campers or any other place where gas stoves can’t, or won’t, be installed.
- Electric Cooktop Pros:
Electric stoves present a number of advantages over other types, such as:
Electric stoves are less of a fire hazard because they don’t use fire at all. Likewise, since they also don’t need gas to function, they eliminate the risk of gas leaks or similar incidents.
While it’s considerably less likely to set things on fire using an electric stove, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not impossible, so you should be careful not to put any type of fabric or combustible material over an electric cooktop.
Electric cooktops are more affordable than gas or induction cooktops, both when purchasing it, installing it and maintaining it.
Electric cooktops also use less electricity than induction cooktops, so you’ll be able to save money in the long run as well.
Electric cooktops are very comfortable to use, as the flat burners make it easy to put all types of pots and pans on them.
Turning on an electric cooktop is also a lot easier, as you simply need to twist a knob.
Depending on the model, there might be some nooks and crannies to reach, but overall, electric cooktops are very easy to clean.
- Electric Cooktop Cons:
Nothing is perfect, and that goes for electric stoves as well so here are some of the disadvantages this type of cooktop presents:
Electric cooktops take a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down. This makes them inconvenient for a variety of reasons:
- The slow changes of temperature means it’s easy to overcook or undercook certain dishes, as you won’t have the same reactivity than gas or induction stoves.
- The slow to cool burners can be a safety hazard, as it’s easy to forget they’re still warm once you turn them off, which can lead to accidents like touching the heating element or placing something plastic on top.
- For tasks such as boiling water, electric cooktops can be particularly slow, as you not only have to wait for the water to boil but also for the stove to get hot to begin with.
We already mentioned the fact that electric cooktops are notoriously bad at performing delicate changes in temperature, but there’s one more thing they simply can’t do:
Work during power outages.
Simply put, electric cooktops do not work if there’s no electricity around, which can be a huge problem if you’re in the middle of a storm or a power outage.
- What Cookware Works Best with Electric Cooktops?
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of electric cooktops, you may be wondering what kind of cookware can be used on electric stoves.
Well, you’re in luck because, as it turns out, any kind of metal cookware will work nicely with electric cooktops.
Aluminum, stainless, titanium and copper will heat up quickly, but there’s a good chance they’ll get entirely too hot and burn your food if you’re not careful.
Cast iron works well, but it does take a while to heat up on electric stoves. Also, since it gets hot all over, you really need to be careful when handling it.
If you’re worried about your food getting too hot consider purchasing cookware that has ceramic cooking surfaces, as it will help the heat spread much more evenly while minimizing the risk of burning your food.
- How To Clean A Glass Electric Cooktop?
Cleaning an electric stove is fairly straightforward, but there are a few key differences depending on your model.
To clean an electric stove you’ll need:
- Rags or paper towels
- Dish soap
Step 1 – Make sure the burners are completely cool before attempting to clean them
Step 2 – Use a damp cloth to wipe the surface around the burners
Step 3 – Carefully take out the burners and, using a wet towel with soap, wipe away all the grim and dirt. Avoid wetting the “plug”.
(Here you may run into trouble, as some electric cooktops don’t have removable burners. In that case, simply scrub the disks, careful not to use too much water)
Step 4 – Clean the surface located underneath the coils. Use a cleaning pad if necessary. Remember, use as little water as possible. Moist towelettes are also a good option here.
Step 5 – Wait until everything is perfectly dry, or dry it yourself, and put everything back in its place.
As you can see, cleaning an electric cooktop is fairly straightforward. You just need to make sure you use a damp cloth instead of wet. Water can be your enemy here so be careful.
2. Induction Cooktops
Induction Cooktops also work with electricity, but while electric cooktops work by heating up a heating element, induction cooktops work with electromagnetism, which itself turns your cookware into heating elements.
That is to say that induction cooktops allow your cookware to heat up itself, rather than using something else as a heat source.
This result in more efficient and safer cooking, but we’ll explore that with more detail shortly.
- Induction Cooktop Pros:
If safety is your main concern when cooking then induction cooktops should be your first choice.
By not generating heat themselves, electric cooktops stay cool to the touch even when they’re on. It’s only when induction-compatible cookware is placed on top than things start heating up, and even then it only happens directly under the cookware so you can safely touch everything else.
Not only that but induction cooktops only heat up certain materials so if you accidentally place, say, a fork on top then nothing will happen and it will remain cool to the touch.
Induction cooktops are the most efficient cooktops out there, able to boil water in about half the time it takes for gas cooktops to do it.
Because the heat is generated directly in the cookware, this minimizes cooking times considerably.
- Easy to Clean
Every single induction cooktop out there, no matter the model, has a perfectly flat surface that makes them very easy to clean.
Not only that, but since the cooktops stay cool, then anything you spill on them won’t cook, which makes cleaning up harder.
Induction cooktops are so easy to clean, in fact, that you simply need to use a wet towel to do so.
- Induction Cooktop Cons:
There are two big downsides to induction cooktops:
Induction cooktops are very expensive. There’s not two ways about it.
It doesn’t matter if they’re portable or whole ranges you can place at home, they’re more expensive than gas or electric cooktops, sometimes even combined.
Another big downside is the fact that induction cooktops require a special type of cookware to work properly.
This doesn’t only involve materials but also the shape and even weight of the cookware in question.
For cookware to work with induction cooktops it needs to be magnetic, completely flat on the bottom and often heavy enough to press down on the cooktop and increase the contact with the glass surface.
- What Cookware Works Best with Induction Cooktops?
Induction stoves are the most finicky of the bunch, which means you won’t be able to cook with just about any cookware.
Cast iron and almost all types of stainless steel are induction compatible. However, it has to be pure stainless steel, as alloys of any kind will minimize the effect.
While aluminum and copper are also metals, these won’t work because they’re not good at creating the magnetic field necessary to get induction cooktops to work.
If you’re having trouble figuring out if your current cookware is induction compatible, simply take a fridge magnet and put it at the bottom of your cookware. If it sticks, then it’s induction compatible.
- How To Clean Induction Cooktop?
Induction stoves are, by far, the easiest to clean and to do it you’ll need:
- Soft cloth or paper towels
- Soft sponge
- Induction cooktop cleaner or mild soap
Step 1 – Use a damp cloth or soft sponge to wipe the surface
Step 2– If necessary, add mild soap to the mix and gently scrub with a soft cloth or sponge
Step 3 – Rinse with a different damp sponge or cloth and you’re good to go
And there you have it, that’s how you clean your induction cooktop.
3. Gas Cooktops
By far the most traditional and widespread kind of cookware, gas cooktops are well known by most people around the world.
They work by using gas and a spark to generate a flame, which in turn heats up your cookware.
The straightforwardness of this process means it’s the most popular of the trio, but is its popularity deserved?
- Gas Cooktops Pros:
Since you’ve read the pros and cons of induction and electric, you can probably figure out the pros and cons of gas cooktops but just in case we’re going to share them:
Gas cooktops give you the unique ability to have immediate control over the strength of the flame, which makes gas cooktops the perfect candidate for cooking delicate dishes.
Going from high heat to low heat quickly enough is hard to do on an induction stovetop and completely impossible on an electric one. That’s not the case with gas cooktops, which can do that in a matter of seconds.
Gas cooktops are a lot faster than electric cooktops, since fire starts warming up things the moment you put them on top.
Gas cooktops are slower than induction cooktops, sure, but that doesn’t make them slow at all.
Perhaps the best quality of gas cooktops is that they sit comfortably in the middle between induction and electric. They’re faster than electric but slower than induction; they’re more expensive than electric but more affordable than induction, etc.
This, coupled with the fact that gas cooktops are compatible with all types of cookware, makes them a very versatile choice.
- Gas Cooktops Cons:
There are a few cons for gas cooktops that need to be explored.
Gas cooktops have two dangerous elements to it: Fire and gas.
Fire, as you can imagine, can injure you or even cause fires in your kitchen if you’re not careful. Of course, the fault usually lays on the user, but the fact remains that gas cooktops have the potential to do this.
Gas leaks, the user accidentally leaving the stove on or the fire simply disappearing while the gas is still running are three very real things that happen with gas stoves from time to time.
While, once more, the users are frequently responsible of some of these mistakes, it’s worth pointing out that gas cooktops are the only ones that can have this problem.
Gas cooktops are hard to clean because, if you spill food, it can go everywhere.
Food will hide under the grates, around the burners and in particularly messy cases, even inside the burners. Since the surface around the burners get really hot, it’s not uncommon for the food to cook and burn if it falls, sticking to the surface with vengeance.
Thoroughly cleaning a gas cooktop often involves a bit of elbow grease and even disassembling some parts, making them the hardest stoves to clean.
- What Cookware Works Best with Gas Cooktops?
All types of cookware work well with gas cooktops.
Metal cooktops are often the best, but you can use ceramic or even glass cooktops with little to no problem, something that can’t be said about any other type of cooktop.
- How To Clean Gas Cooktop?
Gas stoves are, by far, the hardest to clean out of the bunch so they’re a fantastic place to start.
To clean your gas stove you’ll need:
- Soap, it can be dish soap or soap meant for cleaning stoves.
- Scrub brush or sponge
- Rags and/or paper towels
- White vinegar (optional)
Step 1 – Remove the grates and place them on warm, soapy water.
Step 2 – Using a paper towel, a brush or your hand, remove all crumbs and loose bits of food you can find.
Step 3 – Spray the entire surface of your cooktop with cleaner spray. Alternatively, you can use a 1:1 mixture of water and white vinegar.
Step 4 – Regardless of what cleaning agent you used, let it sit for at least 1 full minute.
Step 5 – Wipe down with a rag or paper towel. This will remove most of the dirt and residues.
Step 6 – If there are stains, grease buildup or food that just won’t unstick, use dish soap or more cleaner spray and a brush or toothbrush to attack these “problem areas”
Step 7 – Once the dirt is gone, use a damp paper towel or rag to wipe away all the residues
Step 8 – Take out the burner caps and place them in warm, soapy water for a few minutes. If you notice they’re greasy or dirty, scrub with a sponge or toothbrush. This should also be done with the grates.
Step 9 – If possible, take out the burner heads and give them a good shake to dislodge any food particles left there. Remember to shut off your gas before doing this.
Step 10 – Once everything is dry, put everything back in its place.
This can seem like a very time consuming process but, as long as you give your range a quick wipe after using it, you should be able to avoid doing in-depth cleaning at least for a few months. (This doesn’t apply if you accidentally spilled liquid food, after which you’ll have to do a through cleaning)
Electric vs Induction vs Gas Cooktop: The Comparison
The safest of them all, only gets hot with certain materials and only directly under the cookware
The least safe of the bunch. You need to be careful when using them to avoid accidents.It also uses gas as fuel, which can be dangerous on its own.
Safer than gas cooktops in the sense that they don’t require fire or gas to work.Less safe than induction because the heating elements get really hot and take a long time to cool down.
Safer than gas cooktops in the sense that they don’t require fire or gas to work. Less safe than induction because the heating elements get really hot and take a long time to cool down
Cheaper than induction cooktops, more expensive than electric cooktops.
The most affordable cooktops out there.
Efficient and fast, they heat up things much faster than other cooktops, but take longer to change temperatures than gas cooktops.
A bit slower than induction cooktops but much faster than electric ones.This is the only type of cookware with immediate temperature changes, capable of switching from high to low heat in seconds.
The less efficient of the bunch. Electric cooktops take a long time to heat up and a long time to cool down, making fast temperature changes impossible.
Few cookware materials are compatible with induction cooktops and those who are compatible because of the material often fail due to the construction.Chances are you’re going to have to replace your cookware if you make the switch to induction.
The most versatile of the bunch, you can use just about any kind of cookware with this kind of stove, including ceramic and glass.
All types of metal cookware will work well with electric cooktops.Ceramic and glass cookware won’t work at all.
What Are The Best Materials For Your Stovetop Cookware?
With so many options, shopping for cookware can be confusing. From what cookware material to use for searing, roasting, frying, braising, and more to which types of skillets, baking pans, and casserole dishes to invest in, here is the lowdown on how to stock any kitchen like a pro.
Safe for: Stovetop. Some non-stick pans are also oven-safe up to a certain temperature; check with the manufacturer to be safe.
Good for: Non-stick pans are ideal for items that stick easily, such as eggs, delicate fish, and crepes.
Most popular sizes: Start with a medium skillet – we recommend a 10- or 12-inch. A smaller skillet can also be helpful when cooking for one.
When people talk about non-stick cookware they usually refer to cookware that has been treated with Teflon or other materials.
- Inexpensive, by far the most affordable type of cookware out there.
- Very easy to clean, as food rarely sticks.
- Easy to find and compatible with just about any kind of cookware
- The biggest con of non-stick is that certain materials used to coat this type of cookware is hazardous to the health if exposed to high enough temperatures. Cooking at regular temperatures won’t do you any harm, but putting this type of cookware in the oven or subjecting the cooking surface to direct flame will.
- The non-stick cover is easy to scratch off, after which it stops working as well as it should.
Safe for: Stovetop, oven, broiler, grill, and direct fire.
Good for: Searing, stove-to-oven recipes, baking, roasting, and frying.
Most popular sizes: A 10- or 12-inch round skillet will do the trick for most cast iron jobs. Also, consider a stovetop grill pan.
Cast iron has been around for a long time but it’s making a bit of a comeback nowadays, slowly gaining back the popularity it lost after the introduction of non-stick cookware.
- Incredibly sturdy
- Great at conducting heat evenly, which minimizes the appearance of hot-spots
- Non-stick, but it needs to be seasoned before
- Infuses your food with dietary iron
- Very heavy and hard to move around, particularly if you have wrist problems.
- While non-stick, it needs to be seasoned several times to truly become this.
- Rusts very easily if you’re not careful with it
- Reactive, doesn’t work well with acidic foods, like lime or tomato.
Safe for: Stovetop, oven, broiler.
Good for: Copper pots and pans can be used for most jobs, though they don’t react well to high heat. Try boiling, steaming, sautéing, or braising.
Most popular sizes: A good medium-to-large sauté pan and saucier would be a good starting point.
Copper is considered a bit of a “luxury” material when it comes to cookware, which means it definitely has its pros and cons.
- Looks fantastic, which is one of the reasons people enjoy using this material
- Has incredibly heat conductivity, it heats up evenly and fast and can chance temperatures quite quickly
- Copper has a nice weight to it, not too light and not too heavy. Comfortable to use all around.
- Highly reactive: Like cast iron, you can’t use acidic foods in it without changing their flavor or appearance and certain foods, such as eggs, will also change how they look.
- Copper cookware requires a lot of care, they need to be treated in a certain way, cleaned taking certain precautions and polished often.
- Copper cookware is expensive.
Safe for: Stovetop, oven.
Good for: Depending on the type of pan, eggs, fish, searing, sautéing.
Most popular sizes: Anodized aluminum pans are a less expensive alternative to stainless steel, so, depending on what is already in your kitchen cabinets, a set of frying pans (varying sizes) may be a good addition. Consider an anodized aluminum roasting pan with rack, as well. Aluminum is also used to improve the heat-conducting characteristics of steel baking pans – start with a set of large sheet pans.
By far one of the most affordable cookware materials out there, it’s rare to find a purely aluminum cookware set these days, but they exist.
- Affordable and easy to find
- Lightweight and easy to move around
- Often comes mixed with other materials to improve its efficiency
- Great heat conductivity
- Long lasting if you take good care of it
- Because it’s so soft, aluminum is easy to damage. Bumps and wrappings are a matter of when, rather than if.
- Aluminum stains very easily
- Recent studies suggest a link between Alzheimer’s disease and 100% pure aluminum cookware. The link doesn’t present itself when aluminum is used as a heat conductor rather than a cooking surface
Safe for: Oven.
Good for: Casseroles, pies, and gratins.
Most popular sizes: Start with a medium (8x8 inch) and large (9x13 inch) casserole dish. Other great options include individual ramekins and gratin dishes.
Advertised as a healthier alternative to Teflon, ceramic cookware is often made mixing ceramic and some type of metal.
- Looks great
- Free of any chemicals
- Great heat distribution
- Doesn’t conduct heat on its own
- Easy to clean
- Can be used in the oven and fridge
- Easy to scratch
- Can break if you’re not careful
A sturdy and long lasting option, titanium is a reliable choice for cookware but far from a common one.
- Very sturdy and long lasting
- Great heat conductivity
- Low maintenance
- Naturally non-stick (but it still needs to be seasoned)
- Heats up very fast and can burn your food if you’re not careful
- The cooking surface is easy to scratch
Safe for: Stove, oven, broiler.
Good for: Searing, sautéing, braising, and making sauces.
Most popular sizes: A good stainless-steel sauté pan with straight sides is extremely versatile. Look for a pan that’s between two and six quarts. A 10- or 12-inch skillet is also a good choice. If you’re going all out, also consider a three-quart saucier and/or a stainless stockpot or soup pot.
Stainless steel is one of the most popular cookware materials both in a professional and home setting.
- Very durable and long lasting when properly taken care of.
- Natural non-stick properties, though it needs to be seasoned to work well
- Non-reactive, which means you can cook anything in them without altering the flavor or appearance.
- Can be recycled in a variety of ways
- Low heat conductivity, which means it takes a while to heat up and can create hot spots. This is often avoided by bonding stainless steel with other materials, such as aluminum or copper.
- Stainless steel tends to be quite expensive
- If not properly maintained, stainless steel can rust and scratch
- If food sticks to it, it’s very hard to get it to come out
What Should You Look For When Buying Cookware?
As you can imagine, buying cookware is far from an easy choice, mostly because there are so many different kinds of cookware out there!
However, we’ve come up with a small list of things to keep in mind when browsing for new cookware.
Heat conductivity refers to how good a material is to conduct heat quickly and, more importantly, evenly.
Some materials, like cheap stainless steel, tend to get hot very quickly but the heat centers on top of the heating element, rather than spreading all over the cookware. This can lead to food that’s undercooked in certain areas and overcooked in others.
Other materials, like cast iron, may take a while to heat up properly but they heat up quite evenly and retain heat pretty well, which makes the material perfect for slow cooking or to keep your food warm after it’s been cooked.
Other materials, like ceramic, are very good at spreading the heat but not so much at heating up quickly, which is why ceramic cookware often has another material –like copper or aluminum– that’s known for its excellent heat conductivity.
Why use a mix instead of pure copper?
Some materials are more reactive than others.
This means that certain foods interact with metals in unexpected ways: From being infused with the material to changing the color, texture and even flavor of certain foods.
Take copper, for example. Copper tens to “stain” the food, particularly if the food you’re cooking is white. Like eggs.
Copper also can’t be used with acidic foods, as it alters the flavor leaving a bitter and unpleasant aftertaste that can ruin your meals and, in some cases, even harm your health.
Cast iron also tends to be an unwise choice for acidic foods, though in a more positive light, it does tend to infuse food with iron, which is why cast iron cookware is frequently recommended for people with an iron deficiency.
As you can imagine, how durable a cookware set is should play a huge part in your final choice, not only because cookware is quite an investment but also because some cookware, when damaged, can be more harmful to your health than good.
Take ceramic, for example, which offers great non-stick capabilities and look great in the kitchen. Thanks to the metals used to create this type of cookware, the pots and pans can be very resistant but a strong enough hit can shatter the ceramic portion of the cookware, ruining it forever.
Another example is aluminum, which while fantastic at heat distribution tends to be very easy to bump, scratch or even warp if you’re not careful when using it.
Titanium and cast iron are, by far, the most durable materials out there when it comes to cookware, but those have their downsides as well.
One of the biggest downsides of cast iron and titanium, for example, is that they require a certain amount of care, such as not letting them soak, seasoning them every time you use them, etc.
The same goes for materials such as copper, which actually needs to be polished frequently, to aluminum, which isn’t as sturdy as other materials.
All cookware materials require a certain amount of maintenance but some need a lot more than others, so make sure you can properly address your cookware’s needs before making the final choice.
Finally, the price.
Cookware should always be considered an investment, rather than a purchase.
Cookware is sold at all kinds of prices but, as a general rule, if a cookware set looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Take stainless steel cookware. A proper set can be quite expensive, while the cheapest of the cheap will barely make a scratch on your budget. Both may look very similar and may include the same pieces but it’s almost a guarantee that the cheap set will last you a couple of months, tops.
A more expensive set? It can stay with you for years!
You know how sometimes families pass around cookware as heirlooms and still manage to cook on them?
Well, that’s because they treated their cookware as an investment, which means they were willing to spend a lot on it to ensure it could last for generations.
Cookware and Pans Facts + Tips
- Do you like shoes or handbags? Use the felt bags that often come with them to store your cookware. This will allow you to stack them and will prevent scratches.
- Baking soda and a wooden utensil are two powerful weapons to remove burnt stains. Just boil water in the stained cookware, add baking soda, stir and scratch gently with the wooden spoon. (If this doesn’t work, you can try repeating the process but using vinegar instead of baking soda)
- If you have the space, hanging your cookware instead of storing it in cupboards or cabinets is an excellent solution and will not only decorate your home in a very particular way but will also keep it safe from scratches.
- Non-stick pans, no matter the kind, should only be used with medium or low heat. Avoid high heat as this will damage them.
- Non-stick pans and cookware are better washed by hand, with mild soapy water. Even if they’re advertised as “dishwasher safe”
- It doesn’t matter if a pan is advertised as “scratch resistant”, avoid using metal utensils whenever possible
- For cast iron, cleaning with a mix of water and salt is an excellent idea. Just avoid letting the water soak for long, as this can cause rusting.
- If you don’t plan on using a piece of cookware for a long time, wrap it in newspaper and put it inside a bag to keep it away from the elements.
- Don’t forget to season your cookware. This applies to cast iron, stainless steel, titanium and even aluminum. This advice also applies to things other than pans, such as woks and griddles.