Induction cooktops were introduced back in the 1980’s and when they first hit the market, they were very expensive. As they’ve gained in popularity, like everything else, they’ve come down in price.
How they work
As opposed to traditional gas or electric cooking for which heat is generated by a flame or electric element, and transferred to the cookware, induction cooking uses a power coil to produce a high-frequency electromagnetic field. This field then penetrates the induction-compatible cookware (basically any type of cookware that a magnet will stick to) and sets up an electric current that generates the heat, which in turn is transferred to the cookware’s contents. In a nutshell, electromagnetic technology allows the cookware itself to become the generator of cooking heat.
Because the cookware transfers heat directly to its contents—and because there is no open flame or radiant heat to dissipate—the cooktop remains cool to the touch. This brings us to the many benefits of induction cooking. It is very kid friendly because once the cookware is taken off the cooktop, you or your children can’t be burned. Also, there is no danger of fire like there is with gas or electric.
In addition to a cool cooking surface with no open flame or exposed heating element (great for households with children), induction technology:
• provides rapid heating
• conserves energy—according to the Department of Energy, the efficiency of energy transfer for an induction cooktop is 90 percent, versus 71 percent for a smooth-top non-induction electrical unit. This equals an approximate 20 percent savings in energy for the same amount of heat transfer. Also, the cooktop will not heat up the kitchen, resulting in added energy efficiency.
• is easy to clean. Induction cooktop surfaces are flat and smooth. In addition, the surface will not get hot, so spills will not stick. This is especially true with new cooktops that integrate the knobs into the cooktop – everything is “touch” control.
• has similar controllability to a gas cooktop, so the element does not require time to cool down or heat up.
• is more precise and more responsive than other cooking methods. Because induction cooking heats only the contents of the pan, an induction cooktop can be adjusted to quickly go from a low simmer to a heavy boil in faster times than gas or electric cooking.
While these benefits could mean a more convenient and conserving kitchen, they won’t matter much if you’re not using the correct cookware. Make sure the cookware is magnetic – glass and ceramic won’t work and the bottom of the cookware is flat. The more surface area touching the element, the more efficient the cookware (and cooktop!) will be.
Keep in mind that if you choose to use an induction disc (a ferrous disc placed between the induction element and a incompatible pot or pan—induction will heat up the disc and transfer the heat to the pan) in order to continue using your existing, incompatible cookware on your new induction cooktops, this may prevent the cooktop from transmitting enough energy and ultimately can limit the performance of the cooktop.
When shopping for induction-compatible cookware, look for notification on the product itself – a lot of cookware now says “induction ready”. “.
Whether induction catches on in homes this year or 10 years from now, it’s a technology with great benefits – precision, safety, energy saving, and provides the same or better performance of gas, but the cleanability of an electric cooktop. What’s not to love?