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Why Would I Want One?

Now that you know the basics of how induction cooktops work What Is Induction Cooking, you’re probably wondering what makes them any better or worse than cooktops with radiant elements, such as electric coils, gas burners or glass-ceramic stovetops.

As with any store bought item there is always varying feelings about the items worth. I started out making a typical Pros vs Cons list. After going over my notes it became clear that not everything was black and white enough to fit on either side of the line. So, my list, in no particular order, is for you to decide what is good bad and ugly.

Thorns Roses & Other

Specialty Cookware

Induction cooktops have been around long enough that many kinds of specialty cookware, such as pressure cookers, are on the shelves. However, you may have to search with a cause for more obscure items, such as pressure canners. If you’re enough of a foodie to be thinking about an induction cooktop, there’s a chance you’ve acquired some glass, copper or aluminum cookware over the years. If so, brace yourself, because you’re not going to be able to use any of it on your induction cooktop - induction cooktops require ferromagnetic cookware to work. The good news is that you probably already have the right cookware in your house. Your cast-iron skillet is a sure bet, and much of your stainless steel should work fine, too. If you aren’t sure if your cookware will work, simply hold a magnet to the bottom of it. If it sticks, you’re in business. Also, some induction cooktops have built-in detectors that tell you if a pot or pan is going to work. Cookware, in all price ranges, suited for use with induction cookers is easy to find. If you have ever seen the inside of a real restaurant kitchen, you will surely have noticed that most or all of the cookware is either cast iron or nice, shiny stainless steel.

Not all stainless-steel cookware works equally well with induction cooking. It depends on how the maker has assembled the layers of metal of which the pot or pan is made. Do not assume that all cookware labelled “stainless steel” will work on an induction unit-but almost all makers whose products do work, which includes a lot, will proudly say so in their advertising material or specifications. The easiest test in the world is to take any magnet-a refrigerator-decor type works fine-and see if it will cling to the bottom of a piece of cookware. If it doesn’t, or if it clings very weakly, that item of cookware will not work on an induction cooker. If you’re buying off the web, make sure the product description says the item is induction-compatible, or ask for a written or emailed statement that it is, with full refund privileges.

Instant Adjustment

To serious cooks, the most important point about induction cooking is that you can adjust the heat right now and with great precision. Before induction, good cooks, including all professionals, almost to the last man preferred gas to all other forms of electric cooking. Because of the major “inertia” in day-to-day electric cookers-when you adjust the heat setting, the element (coil, halogen heater, whatever) only slowly starts to rise or fall. With gas, when you adjust the element setting, the energy flow adjusts right now.

With induction cooking the heat level is every bit as swift-and as exact-as with gas, yet with none of the many drawbacks of gas. Induction elements can be adjusted to increments as fine as the cooker maker cares to supply, just like gas, and-again very important to serious cooks-such elements can run at as low a cooking-heat level as wanted for gentle simmering and suchlike.

Cooler Kitchen

Induction produces less heat that needs to ventilated from the kitchen or overcome by your air conditioning unit.

Added Work Surface

The unused portion of the induction cook top can hold anything safely. It goes without saying that you wouldn’t want to place a salad, for instance, on the cook top if it is in a container that could be used for cooking.

Cooking Experience

Induction cooktops heat 25-50 percent faster and distribute heat more evenly than radiant stovetops, and they offer quick, fine temperature adjustment

.

Safety and Cleaning

They turn off when cookware is briefly removed. Most induction elements go into standby mode for 30 seconds to two minutes, but they keep power levels the same so your pan reheats the moment you put it down. With cooler surfaces and no open flame to ignite grease, induction cooktops are safer and easier to clean than their radiant counterparts. Furthermore, because its energy is passed on only to quite large magnetic materials, you can turn an induction element to “high” and place your hand flat over it with no harm whatever-it will not roast your non-ferrous hand! (Nor any rings or bracelets).Units all have sensors that detect how much ferrous metal is in the area that the magnetic field would occupy, and if it isn’t at least as much as a small pot, they don’t turn on. While an element is turned on, all of its energy goes into the metal cooking vessel right over it-there is none left “floating around” to heat up anything else.

Radiation Hazards?

Real scientific literature seems to show rather clearly that there are simply no radiation-associated hazards, even for those with imbedded cardiac devices. The fields are very localized, and in any event the cooking vessel absorbs close to all of the field energy (and if there is no cooking vessel on an element, it won’t turn on). You should certainly read about it for yourself, but claims of hazard seem quite groundless.

No Wasted Heat

With induction cooking, energy is supplied directly to the cooking vessel by the magnetic field; thus, almost all of the source energy gets passed on to that vessel. With gas or conventional electric cookers (including halogen), the energy is first changed into heat and only then passed to the cooking vessel-with a lot of that heat going to waste heating up your kitchen (and you) instead of heating up your food. It is so efficient that ice remains unmelted on an induction element that is boiling water.

As a point of reference, 40%-less than half-of the energy in gas gets used to cook, whereas with induction 84% percent of the energy in the electricity used gets used to cook (and the rest is not waste heat as it is with gas). There are two important heat-related results of that fact:

  • cooler kitchens: of course the cooking vessel and the food itself will radiate some of their heat into the cooking area-but compared to gas or other forms of electrically powered cooking, induction makes for a much cooler kitchen; and,
  • a cool stovetop: that’s right! The stovetop itself barely gets warm except directly under the cooking vessel (and that only from such heat as the cooking vessel bottom transfers). No more burned fingers, no more baked-on spills, no more danger with children around.

Cost vs. Efficiency

Induction cooktops are efficient, but it’s not clear whether they’re cheaper to operate than gas or electric, and it’s unlikely your energy savings will make much difference

.

Energy-cost differences are hard to reckon because the prices of gas and electricity vary widely from region to region, day to day and even relative to one another. Cooking accounts for only about 2.7 percent of an average home’s energy use-and that use includes ovens, toasters, microwaves, and whatever else, not just stovetop cooking. The difference in cost for various cooktop energy sources is at most on the order of a couple of dollars a month.

Installation

Their low profiles and flat tops make induction cooktops great for wheelchair and scooter accessibility or for mounting in an island or base cabinet. However, some are designed with fans underneath, limiting your options for installing them above an oven.

Sight and Sound

Induction cooktop elements don’t radiate heat or glow, but all models have indicator lights and some have a faux glow. Also, as stated by engineers, most induction cooktops are about as loud as a whisper. Induction itself is a noiseless process: the energy fields are made by silent electronic equipment. But even great electronics produce heat. Whether the amount of heat generated can be given off by radiation and natural air flow or requires a small fan to help the air flow depends partly on how compact and powerful the unit is. But even on those with fans the fan does not necessarily run all the time-usually just when the unit is running multiple elements at high settings-and such fans are normally pretty quiet. There can also be a rare very soft “tick” sound, as the elements adjust to keep the cooking heat even.

Noise can come from the cookware itself.

  • Cookware made up of several layers of several different metals (typically steel outside, aluminum or sometimes copper in the middle, and more steel inside); the middle layer in economy cookware can minutely move about and make a sort of “buzzing” noise at higher settings. When it occurs it’s not typically loud, but it can annoy some people. Again: it’s not the induction equipment, it’s the less than ideal cookware, but it is induction related.
  • Loose-fitting handles on cookware, typically when riveted on, can vibrate slightly.
  • Pans with uneven bottoms can be heard vibrating on the glass surface, though again typically only at high-power settings.
  • At high-power settings, lighter-weight lids may from time to time vibrate a bit.

Frying

In general, induction cook tops can put more power into frying pans and deep frying pots than the gas burners used in residential kitchens. Hence, any frying in a proper container works on induction stoves.

Deep Frying

Is a matter of cooking with hot enough oil, and induction heats it up faster than gas and easily overcomes the losses from the deep frying container’s sides and convective losses of steam leaving the pot.

Cooking Power

A top-line (and top-price) so-called “pro” home gas range might have burners each rated at 15,000 BTU/hour or, in a few cases, as much as 18,000 BTU/hour-but that is only about 2.1 to 2.5 kW for induction elements. Even modest induction cooktops have at least one element of at least 2.4 kW (and many have elements up to 3.6 or 3.7 kW!). Any concern over cooking power of induction units is simply silly.

Ubiquity

Induction cookers are powered by electricity. Not every home actually has a gas pipeline available to it-for many, the only “gas” option is propane, propane tank and regular truck visits. But everyone has clean, silent, ever-present electricity.

It’s Just a Fad

Patents for induction cooktops have been on file since the early 1970s

. Popularity has risen in the past few years, and today, every major appliance manufacturer in American lists at least one model

.

Electricity Failures

If the electricity supply to your home is interrupted, you will be unable to cook; gas supplies can be interrupted, too, but such interruptions are normally somewhat less likely than electricity interruptions.

No “Char” Flames

For those to whom charring such items as peppers in an open flame is important, the lack of such a flame is a drawback. Most good ovens-gas certainly, but probably even electric-can do an acceptable job of charring food.

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