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Why Is the Price Range so Huge For Induction Cooktops?

Why Is the Price Range so Huge For Induction Cooktops?


It is bewildering to see such a massive span in pricing for induction cooktops. With U.S. prices ranging from $45 on up to $2,000, it’s no wonder many buyers are left scratching their heads wondering which cooktop will best meet their needs. From the cheapest to the most expensive and everything in between, there are many factors that contribute to the expansive price range of induction cooktops. Here are four of the biggies.

1. Grease and moisture safeguards

How a unit copes (or doesn’t cope) with grease and moisture-laden air is a major factor that separates non-commercial from commercial induction cooktops. High-quality commercial units use grease filters and what’s called “conformal coating” to protect the internal electronics of the equipment. Grease filters are on the front line, protecting against heat, moisture, and grease. And if something goes wrong — the sealed top fails or someone installs the grease filter incorrectly — the conformal coating that covers the circuit boards acts as an extra line of defense to ensure the electronics remain safe from leaks or grease and moisture that’s drawn in with the cooling air intake.

A unit’s ability to protect against grease and moisture is reflected in its price. Almost all lower priced units, and even many mid-priced options, are not built for the rigors of commercial foodservice use and do not have these safeguards in place. These are the units that are usually described as “light duty,” “light to medium duty,” or “for front of house only.” These same units sometimes even come with a “not for continuous use” warning — a red flag in its own right.

2. Heat tolerance

Another reason many low- or mid-priced ranges are not suitable for commercial use (and don the same labels and disclaimers mentioned above) has to do with their ability to withstand hot kitchen conditions. There’s essentially a computer inside an induction cooktop. And since computers don’t love heat, and commercial kitchens can get, well, really hot, we’ve got a bit of a problem. If the maximum ambient rating for an induction range is below 100 °F (38 °C), it’s going to cost less, but it’s also going to be extra vulnerable. On the other hand, units that can withstand ambient kitchen temperatures closer to 125 °F (51 °C) are going to hold up for the long haul.

Heat tolerance is a concern for any induction unit purchase, but especially for drop-in units that are built into countertops that restrict the unit’s ability to ingest and circulate cooling air. While drop-in economy units may seem less expensive upfront, they don’t have the lifespan of higher-end units — and operators end up spending all their savings installing additional cooling fans in the countertop cabinets. False economy at its finest.

3. Cooking surface

The materials used on an induction cooktop surface also impacts price. Higher-end units have glass-ceramic, instead of tempered-glass surfaces. Both types of cooking surfaces are mechanically sound (despite common misconceptions). They undergo stringent testing where they must withstand the impact of a 1.2-pound steel ball that’s dropped from 21 inches, and a 4-pound pan dropped 10 times from 8 inches. However, here’s the catch. Tempered-glass tops, unlike glass-ceramic alternatives, can bow at higher cooking temperatures and cause even the flattest-of-bottomed pans to spin, spin, and spin! So, while going with a tempered-glass top might save a few bucks in the short term, they can quickly become defective and incredibly frustrating.

4. Power levels

When it comes to power, not all induction is created equal. Buyers can choose from a variety of power levels, ranging from 360 to 3600 watts. The higher the power level, the less time it takes to complete a warming or cooking task. And the more power, the more voltage required. So, even before even diving into the nitty gritty of it all, a cooktop at the 120-volt range will typically cost less than a unit of comparable pedigree at the 208 to 240-volt range.

With that said, there are a lot of nuances within voltage groups. For example, quality cooktops in the 120-volt range are typically priced between $600 to $1,200. Any options below this price point are usually generics. There are dozens of brands that sell 120-volt units, but for the most part the units they sell are all made by the same few manufacturers. Companies rebrand the mass-produced units, but despite their marketing efforts, the units share the same limitations (some even shut off every time the pan is lifted!). There is one model produced by a residential small-appliance manufacturer that’s closer to $1,500, but in our opinion is more of a “chef’s toy” than a true workhorse.

At the 208 to 240-volt range, there are very few manufacturers. Quality is generally improved at this level, but overall component quality and design still drives longevity. While there are less options, buyers must still diligently evaluate grease, moisture, and heat protection capabilities and consider durability and surface materials. Price points typically range from $1,000 to $1,800, but in all honesty the playing field is relatively level and buyers can get what they need with a unit closer to the $1,000 price point.

The long-term cost of short-term thinking.

Purchasing the lowest-priced induction cooktop options comes at a cost. Sure, the upfront price tag is lower than going with a higher-quality make and model. However, these are the sneaky induction units that create the most trouble and costs long term. They use more energy. They burn out and break, resulting in expensive repair and replacement costs and unnecessary downtime. And they are very rarely (if ever) backed by a legit warranty.

A truly commercial foodservice model is built to last. It’s better performing, it’s manufacturer-backed, efficient, durable, and flexible enough for use in back-of-house kitchens, as well as for “out front” display cooking. It’s an investment, but it stands the test of time. To learn more about Hatco’s induction solutions and our industry-leading difference, check out our brochure today!

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