What is an Induction Cooktop?

You’re probably more used to cooking in a gas stove or in electrical devices such as ovens and microwaves. If you have browsed on stores for a new cooktop or range, you’ve probably seen an induction cooker. Gas and electric cooktops are common, while induction cooktops are still a fairly new technology that not all people understand. Here are the things you need to know about induction cooktops:

What is an induction cooktop and how does it work?

Induction cooktops directly heat pots and pans through electromagnetic induction. In the case of gas and electric cooktops, heat is indirectly received by the food, as heat passes through the use of fire or a heating element to the cookware and then to the food. Induction cooktops, however, produces a magnetic field that penetrates the metal of the cookware, exciting the iron atoms to generate heat. This magnetic current whirls and swirls around inside the metal cookware and it dissipates energy. This is why the metal pot or pan heats up as well as the food inside it.  

While the pan is heated, the cooking surface stays cool to the touch, without increasing the overall temperature in the kitchen. The electromagnetic field doesn’t create a glow or light, so it would be hard to know if it’s on. This is why induction cooktop manufacturers add special light cues or virtual flames as a cue.

What are the benefits of using induction cooktop?

Because of this type of heating mechanism, induction cooktops can only be used with magnetic or induction-capable cookware. These are made of ferrous metals like steel or cast iron. To test if cookware can be used with an induction cooktop, use an ordinary refrigerator magnet. If it sticks, it will work with an induction stove. Some stainless steel cookware is compatible with induction cooktops, while some aren’t. Cast iron cookware works well, while enameled cast iron works even better because it’s less likely to scratch the cooktop surface. Aluminum cookware won’t work, nor will ceramic and glass pots.

What are the benefits of using induction cooktop?

The number one benefit of induction cooktops is its efficiency, both time- and energy-wise. An induction cooker can boil 6 quarts of water 2 to 4 minutes faster than a gas stovetop. The food is cooked in an induction cooker receives 90% of the generated heat, compared to 40-55% for gas and 65-70% for electric. Because of that, not much heat dissipates into the air, making a cooler and more comfortable cooking experience. Induction cooktops make the entire bottom of the pan heat up, while in the case of a stove cooktop, the heat is distributed all around the pan rather than on the cookware bottom.

Another great benefit of using induction cookers is the issue of safety. Because the surface of an induction cooktop doesn’t get hot, you can touch it with your fingers without getting burned. Also, you may splatter sauce on the cooktop and it won’t burn, so cleanup would require simple wiping out. Heat appears only when cookware is in place, and the cooktop will never get hotter than the pan sitting on top of it. But still, don’t put your hand on a cooktop that has just been used for cooking, because it may still be hot from the pan that stood on top of it. Because there are no open flames, the risk of fire is very low.

Induction cookers are also very convenient. You can turn the heat up or down with much control, plus, it produces heat almost instantly and it makes heat disappear as instantly as well. They are easy to turn on and off, and some have built-in timers and remote control. Some induction cookers have a built-in temperature sensor for each burner that automatically shuts off the current if the cookware is overheating. So, it lessens the risk of burning your food if in case you forgot and you haven’t paid attention.

What are the drawbacks of induction cooktops?

A typical conduction cooktop can be two to three times more expensive than a gas or electric cooktop. Though it saves energy, the cost savings aren’t significant enough to compensate for the difference. However, the prices of induction cooktops are now falling significantly and it will only be a matter of time when it can be made more affordable for more people.

Another disadvantage of getting an induction cooker is making sure that all your cookware is iron-based. These types of pots and pons are the only things compatible with induction cooktops. This will be an issue for you if you have a lot of existing cookware unsuitable for the induction cooktop and you are not planning to replace them yet, or if you are not prepared with the costs of buying new cookware. So, before you buy, check your existing cookware.