I'm often asked by my customers which cooktop is better - gas or induction? I always answer the same way - that depends on what you mean by better! Let me explain...
In the past, if you wanted the best performing cooktop, you wanted a pro-style cooktop, or rangetop as it is commonly referred to in the industry. There are many brands that offer high output burners which will also give you a delicate simmer. These rangetops make it possible to boil something quickly while never having to move the cooking vessel when it is time to turn the heat down to a simmer. (You may have seen the chocolate chips melting on a paper plate demonstration showing how delicate some rangetops can be.) Most brands offering high-end rangetops will give you an incredible simmer. My favorites are Wolf and Viking as every burner will give you the low simmer and high output.
Here is the drawback to gas cooktop - they are NOT easy to clean! I can't tell you how many people tell me about how they've scratched the porcelain or stainless steel on their cooking surface trying to scour it clean. And that's not to mention normal heat discoloration that is easily visible after regular use with stainless steel cooking surfaces. The grates are also hard to keep looking new. Grates should not be washed in the dishwasher as the rubber grommets will wash out. The grates will more than likely develop rust in the dishwasher, too.
This is where Induction cooktops spark the interest of my customers who want the performance of a professional rangetop, but want something easy to clean. Induction - or magnetic induction - works on the molecular level. The magnet creates friction in the cooking vessel (ferrous metal pots and pans are necessary - if a magnet sticks to it, you are good to go) creating the most efficient source of heat at more than 90 % efficiency. Gas cooktops are about 60 percent efficient, depending on the model. Back to the cleaning issue... Because there is no heat passing through the ceramic glass on the induction models, they are a breeze to clean. You don't have the usual burning in on the surface as you do with radiant smoothtop or gas cooktops. Soap and water usually does the trick to clean the induction top.
Induction is very fast to bring water to a boil, too. Depending on the electrical specs of the cooktop, you may be able to boil 1 quart of water in 30 seconds! The fastest gas rangetop will do the same in around 2 mins. 30 seconds. It will also go to a simmer instantly - great for when you've noticed the fudge starting to boil over!
So why wouldn't everyone choose induction over gas? Here are a couple things:
If you need a range (with oven), there aren't many to choose from right now with an induction top. Your choices currently are Viking and GE Profile.
Induction cooktops require more power. If you have a 30" cooktop presently, you more than likely have a 30 amp breaker. Most 30" induction cooktops will require a 40 amp service. You will more than likely need an electrician to make this work.
If you need to boil more than one vessel at a time, make sure to find out about power sharing on induction cooktops. Some cooktops will only be able to produce a boil on one burner while others are being used. This can be problem for large families or for those who hire caterers to cook for dinner parties, etc. Having said this, there are models available that you are able to boil more than one pot at a time. Make sure you know those models that can.
So which is better - gas or induction? That's up to you to decide. If you want high performance and easy cleaning, induction is a great choice. If you entertain and need to boil many pots at once, or even if you lose power often where you live (most gas cooktops can be lit manually with a match), gas may be the right one for you. The great thing about cooktops today is we have so many great choices to choose from in gas and induction.