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Induction Cooking - All the Rage

The induction cooktop is all the rage in Europe and has made its way to Canada and the US. Serious family cooks are building the popularity of induction cooktops and driving prices down. Induction cooking has been around for almost ever, certainly decades.

A survey indicates that 22 percent of the people poled last summer said their next range or cooktop would be induction. Unlike their baby boomer and Generation X counterparts, the new class of cooks are less tied to gas and more keen for new ideas and environmentally sound choices. People are demanding extra free time. Induction cooking saves time in our busy world.

What are Induction Cook Tops?

They look like every day glass cook tops. But that is where the likeness stops. With its time saving, kitchen appeal and growing status for power and precision, induction cooking could easily be the iPad of the kitchen.

Although cooking accounts for only a small amount of energy consumption in a home, induction cooktops are marketed as more energy efficient than gas or electric because they cook food faster and lose less heat in the process.

Pull the pot off the surface and the heat stops immediately, unlike gas and conventional electric burners.

Induction is fast. It can boil water in a snap, well almost, and shave minutes from the time it takes to cook dinner. And that might be just the edge it needs to work its way into the homes of a nation reluctant to change it’s cooking habits but also pressed for time.

Induction cooktops boast speed faster than electric, temperature response of gas, and safety and cleaning ease that beat out glass-and-ceramic-top stoves.

How Do They Work?

Explaining how it works is also a challenge. Tell someone that an electrical current produces a magnetic field that excites iron molecules and heats the pan and its contents probably gets a look … To be fair, todays children are likely to understand.

Whereas other stoves heat food indirectly by use of an open flame or a hot surface to the bottom of cookware, induction cooktops use electromagnetism to cut out the middleman and heat the cookware itself. The result is more evenly heated food and a cooler cooktop.

Heating Induction Cooktops (Kind of Technical)

Coils located just beneath the cooktop’s elements carry an alternating current, creating a changing magnetic field. When iron-rich magnetic cookware, or ferromagnetic cookware, is placed in that field, it acts as the second conductor and a current is induced. That current is converted to heat inside the cookware, and your food is cooked.

When a ferromagnetic pot or pan is placed on an induction cooktop’s cooking element, a small current of about one volt is induced on the cookware’s bottom surface. The current has an associated magnetic field, which induces smaller electric currents, called eddy currents, inside the cookware. These currents come equipped with their own magnetic fields. The result is a lot of swirling, churning, pushing and pulling of molecules within the material of the cookware. Remember grade school science-molecules moving faster = heat.

The high vibration speed needed to produce a useful cooking heat within the cookware requires a very high rate of change in the magnetic field and, consequently, a high frequency of alternating current flowing through the induction coil. This only sounds dangerous.

In order to make this molecular mosh pit useful for cooking, it must be converted into heat. That’s where the need for iron-containing cookware comes in. Iron is a relatively poor conductor of electricity, which is another way of saying it has a high resistance. When a current is run through a material with a high resistance, much of the current is changed into to heat. Most of the heat used to cook food on an induction cooktop comes from this electrical resistance, and the rest comes from heat generated by changes in the magnetic structure of the cookware, which is called magnetic hysteresis losses.

It’s a clever way to cook, but like all technologies, it does have its pros and cons, which we’ll look at in the next few sections.

Conventional Cooking vs. Induction Cooking

Cooking food in a pot or pan atop a hot surface hasn’t changed much since the dawn of cooking. The cookware acts as the go-between for the heat source and the food. Its main weakness is that the heat source, be it an open fire or an electric stove, only directly heats the part of the cookware that touches it. The rest of the cookware is warmed by heat conduction and, as a result, the food gets different amounts of heat from different parts of the pot or pan. This is why we have to rely on convection to heat a soup or stew and have to stir some foods all the time to keep them from burning in the pan.

Induction cooktops heat food more evenly by turning the cookware into the source of the heat. Precise temperature control and the capacity for very low temperature settings further aid cooking. This is useful if you’re working with sensitive, expensive food that needs to be cooked carefully and kept cold beforehand.

Electromagnetic Induction

There’s something almost magical about magnetism.

If you own a rice cooker, chances are you already cook using induction.

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