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Are You Ready for an Induction Cooktop?

This new technology is fast, efficient, and safety-minded. But making the leap may mean more than you bargained for, so keep these tips in mind

So Can I Keep My Favorite Frying Pan?

Think of it as the culinary equivalent of a smartphone. Once you've tapped on a high-powered induction unit and watched it fire up so fast that there's no time to chop an onion, who's going back to slow-poke electric or unruly gas? Using magnetic coils to heat the pan, not the surface, induction saves energy and precious minutes. Since the burner stays cool, there's less heat in the kitchen and fewer burnt spills—and fingertips. With prices starting at about $1,000, induction cooktops are moving from cult to mass-market status. Still, they take getting used to. For one, you'll probably need new cookware. Read on to learn what to look at before you leap.

Pictured: GE PHP960 36-inch induction cooktop

Check the Wattage and Your Fuse Box

The more watts, the more speed. Look for a super burner: One that draws 3,700 watts can boil 6 quarts of water 5¼ minutes faster than a 17,000-Btu gas burner. A super burner typically borrows power from another burner­. Plan for a dedicated 240-volt circuit.

Assess your Pots and Pans

You'll need flat-bottom cookware with enough iron to hold a magnet—some stainless steel qualifies. Make sure you have at least one burner that's as big as your biggest pan; induction works fine when the pan is smaller, but not the other way around.

Fiddle With the Controls

They should be intuitive, with a large number of settings, as touch pads lack the infinite variability of knobs. A lock feature is handy in case a child—or a wandering cat—inadvertently flicks on the power under a pan.

Don't Gloss Over the Surface

The shinier the glass, the more likely it is to show imperfections, so choose a patterned or textured finish. Glass can crack; read the warranty's fine print and wield heavy pots with care. You'll need a special nonabrasive cleaner and a dedicated scrubber to avoid scratches.

Read the Installation Instructions

If you already have a countertop cutout, make sure the new unit is a perfect fit, with sufficient space below to allow air to circulate (the magnets get hot). Cooktops designed to sit flush with the counter may need extra support.