How Does a Cooktop Work? Guide to Gas, Electric & Induction Cooktops

If you’re in the market for a new cooktop, you might be wondering how they work. Are they all the same? How are they different? Do they use different amounts of energy? In this guide, we’ll explain the differences between gas, electric, and induction cooktops and answer some frequently asked questions about cooktops. 

Some of the questions we will answer include: 

  • What is a cooktop? 
  • How does a gas cooktop work? 
  • How does an electric cooktop work? 
  • How does an induction cooktop work? 
  • FAQs about how cooking cooktops work 

Keep reading to learn more about how cooktops work, the different types of cooktops available, and which one best suits your kitchen! 

What Is a Cooktop?                                                    

A cooktop, sometimes called a stovetop, is a staple in most homes. It is a flat surface with one or more burners used to heat up pots and pans. While most cooktops are standalone appliances, some are part of a unit, integrated into ovens to form a range. They can be powered by gas, electricity, or induction. 

Cooktops are designed to fit into the cutouts in your countertops. They slide in and integrate fully, giving your kitchen a clean, sophisticated look. Cooktops are most commonly used in domestic kitchens but are also found in commercial settings such as restaurants, hotels, and office kitchens. 

From simple to high-tech, cooktops come in different sizes and designs. They can be freestanding or built-in, small two-burners or larger units with up to five or six burners. Some cooktops have additional features like a built-in griddle or a wok burner, making them more versatile in their cooking capabilities. 

How Does a Gas Cooktop Work? 

A gas cooktop uses natural gas or propane as a fuel source to heat up pots and pans. The cooktop is equipped with burners connected to a gas line, which supplies the gas to the burners. 

When you turn on a burner, a valve opens, allowing the gas to flow through. The gas then comes into contact with an ignition source, typically a spark from an electronic ignition or a pilot light, which ignites the gas. The flame from the burner heats up the pot or pan, and this, in turn, cooks the food. 

Gas cooktops are known for their precise temperature control and instant heat-up. They also often have a wide range of temperature options, from very low to very high heat. If the flame is too hot, you can adjust the temperature by turning a knob or lever that controls the gas flow to the burner. This allows you to easily regulate the heat and achieve the desired cooking temperature. 

Because of this, gas cooktops are generally considered more energy efficient than electric cooktops. However, gas cooktops do require a gas line to be installed in the kitchen, which can be a limitation for some households. 

How Does an Electric Cooktop Work? 

Electric cooktops use heating elements for cooking food. These heating elements are powered by electricity and are typically made of metal coils or flat, radiant surfaces. 

A radiant electric cooktop has a smooth glass or ceramic surface with heating elements that are located beneath the surface. The heating elements are made of a metal wire wrapped around a ceramic or glass insulator. The heat is transferred to the cookware through the smooth surface. Radiant cooktops are known for their sleek and modern look, are easy to clean, and have a better temperature distribution than coil cooktops. 

On the other hand, a coil electric cooktop has heating elements made of metal coils located on top of the cooktop surface. The cookware sits directly on top of the heating element, which heats the cookware through direct contact. Coil cooktops are typically less expensive than radiant cooktops and are easy to replace if a heating element burns out. 

Despite these differences, both cooktops work in a similar style. When you turn on a burner, electricity flows through the heating element, making it hot. The heat from the heating element is then transferred to the pot or pan on top, which cooks the food.   

The burner’s temperature can be adjusted by turning a knob or lever that controls the flow of electricity to the heating element. This allows you to easily regulate the heat and achieve the desired cooking temperature. Some electric cooktops also have a built-in temperature sensor that can detect the temperature of the cookware and adjust the heating element accordingly. 

How Does an Induction Cooktop Work? 

Induction cooktops use a technology called “induction heating” to cook food. This technology uses magnetic fields to create heat directly in the pot or pan rather than heat elements or flames to heat the cooktop surface. 

The cooktop has an induction coil, which creates an alternating magnetic field when an electric current is passed through it. When a pot or pan made of a ferromagnetic material (such as cast iron or stainless steel) is placed on the cooktop, the magnetic field induces an electric current in the pot or pan. This electric current generates heat in the pot or pan, which cooks the food. 

Because induction doesn’t use a traditional outside heat source, only the element in use will become warm due to the heat transferred from the pan. This makes these cooktops highly efficient and safer than other types of cooktops. Induction cooktops also have a quick heat-up time and respond quickly to temperature adjustments. 

FAQs About How Cooking Cooktops Work 

What are the four basic types of cooktops? 

The four basic types of cooktops are gas, electric, induction, and downdraft. Gas cooktops use natural gas or propane as a fuel source. Electric cooktops use heating elements powered by electricity. Induction cooktops use magnetic fields to heat the pots and pans directly. A downdraft cooktop is a type of cooktop that uses a fan and vent system to pull smoke and fumes down and out of the kitchen.  

Why do people not like induction cooktops? 

Some people don’t like induction cooktops because they require special cookware compatible with the electromagnetic waves that generate heat. These cooktops are also typically more expensive, both in terms of the initial purchase price and the cost of compatible cookware. Another issue could be the humming or buzzing noise when in use, which can be bothersome to some. 

What is the difference between a stovetop and a cooktop? 

Stovetop and cooktop are often used interchangeably, but they can refer to slightly different things. A stovetop typically refers to the cooking surface of a stove, which is the part of the stove that the pots and pans sit on. It can be a standalone appliance or part of a larger stove unit, such as a range. 

A cooktop, on the other hand, typically refers to a standalone cooking surface that is installed into a counter or cabinet. It is a separate appliance from the oven, and it is typically used to cook food on the surface. A cooktop can be powered by gas, electricity, or induction. 

Does a gas cooktop need to be vented outside? 

Generally you don’t have to vent a residential gas range to the outside. Some gas cooktop models come with built-in downdraft venting systems, which pull the fumes and smoke down and out through a vent in the cooktop. These types of cooktops are typically installed in kitchen islands. Though not required in a domestic setting, a range hood to vent contaminants from your gas cooktop can dramatically improve your indoor air quality and reduce the risk of long-term respiratory problems. 

Does a gas cooktop need electricity? 

A gas cooktop typically does not require electricity to operate the burners. The burners are ignited by a spark from a pilot light, and the heat is adjusted by controlling the flow of gas to the burner. However, some gas cooktop models may have additional features that require electricity, such as an electronic ignition system, a digital control panel, and other features like a built-in griddle or a wok burner. 

Where does the gas come from for a gas stove? 

The gas for a gas stove typically comes from a gas line connected to the stove. Gas is supplied to the stove through a pipe that runs from the main gas line in your home or from a propane tank if you have a propane-powered stove. 

Natural gas is distributed by the gas company and is piped into your home. A propane tank is connected to the stove through a hose and regulator that controls the flow of gas to the stove. It needs to be refilled or replaced when it runs out of propane. 

What should I look for when buying a cooktop? 

Choosing the perfect cooktop depends on your cooking needs, preferences, and budget. Some things to consider include the size and layout of your kitchen, burner size and configuration, temperature control, safety features, and energy efficiency. Cookware compatibility is also important if you choose an induction cooktop. Also, consider the location of the gas or electric line, if required, and the location of the ventilation ducts. 


As we’ve explained, every cooktop has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Understanding how each work is key to making the right choice for your kitchen. We hope this guide has provided you with the information you need to decide which cooktop is best for you. If you’re still unsure or want to browse our full selection of cooktops, check out our wide range of cooktops. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need further assistance.