If you’re looking for a small countertop cooktop or a full-fledged range, and wondering about induction units, here are some pros and cons for you to consider.
Despite routinely topping Consumer Reports’ performance tests, induction cooktops and ranges only make up between 5 and 10 percent of the ranges sold, but are beginning to become more popular.
A Bit of History
Induction cooking dates from 1933, when it was first introduced at the World’s Fair in Chicago. However, it wasn’t until decades later that the first induction stove was manufactured in America.
Modern implementation in the USA dates from the early 1970s, with work done at a Research & Development Center near Pittsburgh. That work was first put on public display at the 1971 National Association of Home Builders convention in Houston, Texas. The stand-alone single-burner range was named the “Cool Top Induction Range”. At that time, the price tag was fifteen hundred dollars!
Fast forward to today, induction cooktops with rapid heating have improved so much that there is now an impressive array of induction units on the market. As the design and function improved, prices have become more accessible.
Nowadays we can find a lot of reliable brands that manufacture all kinds of induction cooking appliances. Some of the units available are:
- single burner countertop cooktops
- double burner countertop cooktops
- slide-in ranges (quite popular and stylish)
- freestanding ranges
Induction ranges have electric ovens. Higher end models often include double ovens and convection ovens.
Just What Makes an Induction Cooktop “Induction”?
An induction burner uses electromagnetism to generate heat. It sounds a bit like magic but is really very scientific. Inside the cooktop is a coil of copper metal. It creates a magnetic field when the power is turned on. When a pot or pan is placed on this magnetic field, it generates an electrical current, which causes the pot or pan to heat up, without the burner getting hot.
Since induction uses an electromagnetic current to heat your food, the pots and pans you use must be made of ferrous metal, meaning they have to have magnetic properties. Stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron all work. The easiest way to test your cookware for use on an induction stove is with a kitchen magnet—if it sticks, you’re good to go.
Cool Features (or the Pros) of an Induction Cooktop
- Faster Heating Times: induction cooktops are unique in their ability to heat food quickly. There is a power mode that will heat up a small amount of food in seconds and will boil water in a few minutes. There are various levels of heat that can be used to heat food quickly or much slower at the lowest levels.
- Precise Heat Control: An induction cooktop has extremely precise controls that allow you to set the ideal temperature for boiling, melting, simmering, or any other task. When it is shut off, the heat turns off almost immediately.
- Increased Safety: The risk of burning yourself is reduced when you have an induction cooker. Most of the cooktop remains cool, as only the cooking vessel is heated. This means that it is far safer, particularly if you have small children in your kitchen.
- Many models feature pan detectors to determine if a pan has been placed on the cooktop. The burner will not activate if there is no pan.
- Some models also feature a pan status sensor that will automatically lower the heat if the pan is detected as empty. This prevents damage to your cookware.
- Some models will automatically shut off the heat to prevent overheating.
- Because the electromagnetic field doesn’t create a glow, you won’t know it’s on. Manufacturers have started adding virtual flames and other lighting cues.
- Greater efficiency: Induction is one of the most efficient types of cooking equipment on the market. Since little heat is wasted when cooking, the units are as much as 70% more efficient compared to other cooking methods. This means serious energy savings for you.
- Easier Cleaning: Because spilled food doesn’t bake onto the cool surface of the induction cooktop, it is easier to clean. In most cases, wiping down with a damp sponge or cloth will do the trick.
The Newest (and Coolest) Features:
- Fully Usable Cooking Surface: A pan can be placed anywhere on the cooktop surface and the technology will automatically detect the pan’s footprint, heating only the area making contact. Many of these surfaces can handle up to 6 pots and pans at the same time.
- Change Temperatures by Zones: Change a pre-set power level simply by moving a pot. Some models do this by dividing your cooktop into different zones. Each area has a different pre-set power level, and all you have to do is move whatever you are cooking to change levels (which is fabulous for recipes that require frequent temperature changes).
- Divide your pan into heated and non-heated areas, so you can quickly move ingredients on and off of the heat.
- Noise: Induction does produce some small noise when in use. Whenever your induction cooktop is on, a slight buzz or hum is common. Clicking sounds may be heard on lower settings as well as the sound of the cooling fan for the electronics. Heavy, flat-bottomed pans help reduce the vibrations that cause this buzz.
- Potential for Damage: Some materials can cause damage to your induction cooktop, leading to expensive repairs. For example, aluminum foil can cause damage if placed in contact with the cooktop, so it needs to be used with care.
- Price Can be a Factor: Although induction appliances are, on average, a bit pricier than gas or electric stoves, there are many options. The least expensive induction ranges start at about $1,000. Higher-end models can cost around $3,500 and up, similar to the price of some high-end models of other types of ranges. And some very good basic single-element induction cookers cost less than $100.
- A Steep Learning Curve: When you learn to cook with an induction cooktop, you may have to unlearn a lot of standard cooking techniques. This can take time, and it’s likely that you will make some mistakes along the way. Because heating times are much faster, you’ll probably need your ingredients on hand because you may not have time to go searching once you get started.
- No power = No cooking: Induction cooktops rely on having an electricity supply. If the power goes out, you won’t be able to cook anything. Of course, this is also true of electric stoves as well.
- Not all Cookware Works with Induction: This seems to be the most cited complaint, but stainless steel, cast iron and enamelled cast iron will all work with induction cooktops and good quality cookware is available at affordable prices. Just remember to bring along a magnet. If it sticks, it will work on an induction cooktop.
When your appliances need repair or maintenance, call C&W Appliance Service at (855) 358-1496 or contact us online for prompt, professional service.