Consumer Reports investigates induction cooktops

Like many Americans, you might be thinking about buying a new range or cooktop.

Those big holiday meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!

If you haven`t shopped for one in a while and you don`t use gas, you may hear a new term: induction.

Consumer Reports tells us what it is and why it`s worth considering. If you`re shopping for a range and have decided to go for a smoothtop electric, you have one more big decision to make.

Should you spend a little more to spring for something called an induction cooktop?

It`s similar in appearance and, in fact, the oven operation is no different. But the way the induction cooktop heats and the way it performs set it apart. Here`s the science behind how it works.

With induction cooktops, the element below the surface generates an electromagnetic field. The field interacts with a pot and the pot itself gets hot. Therefore, if you turn on an element where there`s no pot, it won`t heat up.

Every induction range and cooktop Consumer Reports tested has high-power burners that provide quick cooktop heat and superb simmering.

So are these cooktops worth the price? Induction ranges are getting cheaper: You can get a CR- recommended model for around 1,000-dollars. The Frigidaire Gallery FGIF3036TF gets excellent ratings for heating and speed. But there are some things to keep in mind.

Induction burners don`t glow when they`re hot like radiant smoothtop burners do, so some manufacturers have added imitation flames so you can tell when a burner is on. And if your current cookware isn`t magnetic, you will have to replace it. Try sticking a magnet to the bottom to check. If it sticks, it will conduct heat on an induction cooktop.

You can also check for an icon on the bottom of cookware you`re considering that indicates it will work on an induction smoothtop.

One other drawback: A buzz or hum is common when using the higher settings, and you may notice clicking sounds on lower settings.

Consumer Reports says that some manufacturers of induction cooktops recommend that people with pacemakers check with their doctor before using one because the magnetic field could pose a risk.