An induction cooktop is a special type of electric cooktop. A traditional electric cooktop uses electricity to generate heat which is then transferred to the utensil for cooking. In an induction cooktop, electromagnetic coils under the glass cooktop surface transfer magnetic energy into the metal at the base of the cookware, which then converts the energy to heat. As a result the heating is more efficient and also much faster and much easier to modulate that a traditional electric cooktop. It requires some special type of utensils to work but they are not expensive. An induction cooktop removes most of the disadvantages of traditional electric cooktop but does not have any of the indoor pollution associated with a gas cooktop.
$800 - $4,500
About the technology
How it works: Electromagnetic coils under the cooktop surface transfer magnetic energy into the metal at the base of the cookware, which then converts the energy to heat. As a result, the heat is generated at the base of the cookware itself. Induction cooking requires the use of cookware with a high iron content in the base. Non-metallic objects will not be heated even if placed on the cooktop. The energy transfer is very fast and so heat modulation is very precise and better than a gas cooktop.
Types of Systems: They come in various shapes and sizes from 12” single burner models to 40” 6-burner models. They can be portable or built-in units.
Special Requirements: Only metal cookware that has a high iron content in its base will work with induction. All cast iron pots and pans work well, as does a large fraction of stainless-steel cookware. With stainless steel, the outer (bottom-most) surface of the pot or pan should be made with nickel-free stainless steel. Sometimes a magnetic base is slapped onto the utensil so that it can work on induction cooktops.
Economics: In general induction cooktops tend to cost a bit more than other types, but the differences in performance and safety can be significant. Inexpensive sets of standard pots and pans that work on induction are available in the market.
Maintenance: This involves simply wiping the surface with a cloth that won’t scratch the surface. A cleaner suitable for ceramic or glass can be used.
Environment: If you replace a gas cooktop with an electric cooktop (such as induction), there can be a significant reduction in toxic indoor air pollution. If you currently cook with electricity, there will be a small reduction in your carbon footprint as induction cooktops are more efficient.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How does an induction cooktop work?
The technology behind induction cooking is electromagnetic. Electromagnetic coils under the glass cooktop surface transfer magnetic energy into the metal at the base of the cookware, which then converts the energy to heat. As a result, the heat is generated in the cookware itself. Induction cooking requires the use of cookware with a high iron content. Non-metallic objects will not be heated even if placed on the cooktop.
2. How different is an induction cooktop from a traditional electric cooktop?
Induction cooktops are a lot different. Induction offers much faster cooking times, better control over heat levels, and greater safety than the traditional “coil-type” or “smooth-top” electric cooktops. In the traditional cooktops, heat is generated in the heating element and then transferred to the base of the cookware.
3. Is it as good as a gas cooktop?
An induction cooktop is the fastest cooking technology currently available. It also provides greater temperature control and easier cleanup than cooking with natural gas. Perhaps the most important benefits of induction cooking relate to safety. Since gas cooking involves an open flame, it represents a fire hazard, introduces pollution into your home that can be unhealthy, and also contributes more to your carbon footprint.
4. Are special types of pots and pans required?
Yes. Only metal cookware that has a high iron content in its base will work with induction. All cast iron pots and pans work well, as does a large fraction of stainless-steel cookware. With stainless steel, the outer (bottom-most) surface of the pot or pan should be made with nickel-free stainless steel. If the pot or pan is not expressly marketed as induction-ready, you can use the “magnet test”. If a magnet clings well to the outside bottom of the pot or pan, it will work with induction. If it does not, or clings only very weakly, the cookware will not work.
1. Are induction cooktops expensive?
Prices for induction cooktops and ranges have been dropping, with some smaller induction units selling for under $800. Induction cooktops still tend to cost more than other types, but the differences in performance and safety can be significant.
2. Do they save any money over gas cooktops in the long run?
Induction cooktops are more efficient, with about 85% of the electrical energy converted to heat in the cookware. This can be compared to an efficiency of about 35% – 40% efficiency for a gas cooktop. However, whether they will save money depends on your local electricity and gas costs. In general, cooking with induction will be more expensive than cooking with gas, but many households are finding that the non-economic advantages of induction, such as cleaner indoor air, outweigh the additional cost.
3. Are induction ready pots and pans expensive?
No. A whole set of standard pots and pans is usually under $350.
1. How do I clean an induction cooktop?
This involves simply wiping the surface with a cloth that won’t scratch the surface. A cleaner suitable for ceramic or glass can be used.
2. Will the cooktop surface scratch or crack?
Yes. It is possible for the surface of an induction cooktop to scratch or crack, but it consists of a special type of glass that is highly resistant to such problems. The material is very strong and tolerates very high temperatures and sudden temperature changes. Care should be taken to use a non-scratch cloth while cleaning.
1. Will my carbon footprint go down if I switch to induction cooking?
That depends largely on what you’re switching from. If you currently cook with electricity, there will be a small reduction in your carbon footprint. If you currently cook with natural gas, there’s likely to be a much larger reduction. (This depends on how much of the electricity in your area is generated with fossil fuels.)
2. Is there a significant health advantage with induction cooking?
If you replace a gas cooktop with an electric cooktop (such as induction), there can be a significant reduction in toxic indoor air pollution. Though most people do not realize this, cooking with natural gas can be a major source of nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other materials that are harmful to humans (and especially children). If you still use gas for cooking, it’s advisable to run the fan in your range hood while cooking and open some windows if you can.
1. Will copper and aluminum pots work with an induction cooktop?
No. Only cookware with a high iron content will work. That means cookware made of copper, aluminum, ceramic, and glass will not work. Some people use “induction interface disks” if they wish to continue using their incompatible cookware on an induction cooktop. These are basically flat iron disks with a handle that you put directly on the cooktop. You then place your cookware on top of the disk, and as the disk heats, it transfers heat to the cookware. This approach works, but some of induction’s advantages are reduced. For example, both the efficiency of the cooktop and the ability to quickly adjust the cooking temperature are degraded.
2. Are ranges available with an induction cooktop and a conventional electric oven?
Yes, integrated electric ranges of this type are available.
3. Are induction cooktops safe?
Induction cooktops are very safe. The electromagnetic field that induction units use has a very short range. Moreover, units do not generate any field unless they detect ferrous (high iron content) metal directly above them and virtually all of the energy is absorbed in the metal. Therefore, a cooktop shuts off automatically when the cookware is removed and never gets very hot since all the heat is generated at the base of the cookware.
4. Are pressure cookers available?
Yes, pressure cookers with bottoms that are compatible with induction cooktops are widely available in all sizes.
5. What electrical connections are needed?
Typically a 30A, 230V connection is needed – same as a traditional electric cooktop or range.
1. What types of incentives are available?
Utilities, regional and local Govts., etc. sometimes offer rebates of various types on induction cooktops.