An induction cooktop is just another way of cooking food. Rather than relying on a flame or a microwave to heat up food, it uses induction. Induction is definitely something that, for the layperson, needs explaining.
An induction cooktop uses magnetic induction. It heats the actual cooking vessel rather than the general vicinity around the vessel. Because it cooks the pot or pan directly, it cooks much faster than a normal stove.
A coiled piece of copper wire is placed directly under where the pot or pan sits. An alternating electric current passes through the copper wire. This creates a magnetic field around the pot. It induces a magnetic flux which constantly magnetizes the pot.
This action causes eddy currents in the pot which heats up the pot. The pot then heats up the food inside. This is why it’s important that you use pots and pans made out of cast iron or stainless steel. Other types of pots and pans simply won’t hold the heat the way cast iron does.
Because the induction cooktop causes the pot or pan itself to get hot rather than a burner, it wastes a lot less energy. This is the main reason it cooks so much faster than a traditional electric or gas stove.
What You Need to Know About Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops don’t look all that different from regular stovetops. The big difference is that, since the heat only transfers to the pot and not to the actual stove, you won’t see a glow when it’s hot. At least with a gas range, you see the blue flames when it’s on. And, with an electric range, you see the orange glow when the burners are hot. You won’t see this with an induction cooktop. For safety reasons, a lot of manufacturers have started adding a blue light or flame so you can at least tell when it’s on.
Induction Cooktops Heat up a Lot Faster
When Consumer Reports tested out every other type of cooktop, they found that they couldn’t find anything that heated up as fast as the induction cooktop. Now, the difference wasn’t monumental. They were able to get a pot of water to boil about 2-4 minutes faster than with a traditional cooktop. However, this is still about a 20-40% difference which can be significant when you are cooking.
Induction Cooktops Transfer Heat Differently than Regular Stoves
We have all learned (the hard way) that gas and electric stove burners get very hot. They stay hot for quite some time after you have taken the pot or pan off the burner. This is because the burner itself heats up. This heat is then transferred to the pot (and the area surrounding it.) With an induction cooktop, the burner itself is not heated up. The burner is simply the middle-man so to speak.
An induction cooktop transfers heat. So, think of what happens when you put a hot dish on a countertop. The countertop gets hot but cools down quickly. Once you pick the pot or dish up, the counter doesn’t continue to get hotter. It is the same principle with the induction cooktop. Once you take the pot or pan off the heating coil, the heat stops. It begins to cool down. So yes, while you will burn your hand if you put it on the plate right after you’re done cooking, it will be nothing like the burn from a gas or electric burner.
What Kind of Cookware Do I Need?
You really want to check cookware for a label that indicates it is induction compatible. These days, most pots and pans will have this marking. If you aren’t sure, there is a general rule of thumb you can use.
Take a magnet. If the magnet sticks to your pot or pan, then it is compatible with an induction cooktop. We spoke earlier of magnetic induction. This is how the induction cooktop heats up the cooking vessel. Therefore, if a magnet sticks to it, it is a safe bet that it will carry the magnetic induction.
What is That Noise?
One drawback to an induction cooktop is that it is slightly noisier than a traditional gas or electric stove. You will hear a low buzzing while the induction cooktop is on. This noise will get louder the higher the heat level is. It isn’t something that would be a deal breaker. Just try to use flat pots and pans. The flat bottom will dull out most of the noise.
How Can I Tell When My Food is Done?
If you’re cooking meat, you need to make sure it reaches a certain temperature before you serve it. Otherwise, your family will be spending the holidays with salmonella rather than Santa. One thing we have noticed with the induction cooktop is that the magnetic fields interfere with modern-day digital thermometers. You will want to use your old-school meat thermometer to test the temperature of your food.
Why an Induction Cooktop is Better than Electric of Gas
There are a few reasons why an induction cooktop is better than a traditional gas or electric stove.
- Induction Cooktops cook much faster – The average time to boil water on a standard gas range is 8 minutes 34 seconds. Electric ranges are a bit faster, coming in at 5 minutes and 47 seconds. When they tested the induction cooktop, water boiled in just 3 minutes 7 seconds!
- Induction Cooktops reach a much higher max temperature – Gas cooktops can only reach about 428 degrees. Electric cooktops get much hotter – 741 degrees. However, they take forever to cool down. So not only are they emitting radiant heat that makes you and your kitchen hot, they present a safety issue. Induction cooktops get up to 665 degree and they cool down really fast. They are, therefore, more efficient and much safer than either of the other types of cooktops.
- Can slow cook as well – Just because induction cooktops heat up faster and to higher temperatures doesn’t mean you can’t use it to slow cook. It can go lower than even a gas stove. Gas stoves usually can go as low as 124 degrees. An induction cooktop can get down as low as 100 degrees!
- Easy to clean – because the vessel is what gets hot (and not the burner) you won’t have to worry so much about burnt food and gravy on your cooktop. It makes it a lot easier to clean than a gas or electric range.
If you spend a lot of time cooking, an induction cooktop may be the way to go. You can cook faster and it is much more energy efficient than a gas or electric stove. If all you are looking for is something to cook soup or boil eggs you can make do with your old electric or gas cooktop.
All reports come back with positive things to say about an induction cooktop. One concern that used to exist was that children or adults could burn themselves on the burner plates. This was because they didn’t give you a way to know when they were on or when they were still hot.
Manufacturers answered this concern with faux flames or color indicators to let you know the induction cooktop is indeed on. With this safety concern out of the picture, there really aren’t any negatives to an induction cooktop. If you have the extra money, the induction cooktop is the way to go.