Induction Cooktop FAQ

Basics

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 cooking vessel which then converts the energy to heat. As a result, the cooking vessel is heated while the cooktop itself stays cool.

A traditional electric ceramic surface cooktop looks almost identical to the induction cooktop but the cooking technology is totally different. In such a cooktop electric or ceramic heating elements are heated up using electricity and then heat generated at the cooktop surface is transferred to the base of the vehicle.

An induction cooktop is the fastest cooking technology currently available. It will heat and cool much faster than a gas cooktop. Since the cooktop itself does not get heated except for heat transferred from the base of the cooking vessel it is also much easier to clean

Yes. Only cookware with a “ferrous” nature will work on induction. All cast iron and enamelware (which is porcelain- or ceramic-coated cast iron) works, as does a large fraction of stainless-steel cookware. As to stainless steel cookware, what is important is that the outer (bottom-most) surface of the pot or pan be made with nickel-free stainless steel (often called “18/0” stainless). If the pot or pan is not being expressly marketed as induction-ready, use the “magnet test”. In a store, just carry along a small magnet, such as the sorts used to decorate refrigerator doors. If the magnet clings well to the outside bottom of the pot or pan, it will work on induction. If the magnet does not cling, or does so only very weakly, the item will not work on induction.

Economics

Prices for induction cooktops and ranges have been dropping, with some induction ranges selling for under $1,000. Induction cooktops and ranges still tend to cost more than electric smooth tops, but the difference in performance is significant and the increased efficiency will pay for the extra cost in terms of fuel costs saved over the lifetime of the cooktop.

Induction cooktops are super efficient with about 86% of the electrical energy converted to heat in the cooking utensil. This is as opposed to 70% efficiency of a traditional electric cooktop or the dismal 35% efficiency of a gas cooktop. The fuel cost will depend on the local rates of electricity and gas but it always saves money over a traditional electric cooktop due to the increased efficiency.

No. A whole set of standard pots and pans is usually under $200.

Maintenance

There is minimal maintenance unless the induction coils breakdown in which case it is a repair technician’s job or replacement. All that is needed is to wipe the surface off with some cleaners suitable for ceramic or glass surfaces.

Yes, the cooktop surface is glass—but not ordinary glass. Induction cooktops, like all “smoothtop” stoves, are surfaced with what is called “ceramic glass”, which is very strong and tolerates very high temperatures and sudden temperature changes. Ceramic glass is very tough, but if you drop a heavy item of cookware—say a cast-iron skillet several inches onto it, it may crack. In everyday use, however, it is wildly unlikely to crack. It is not like cooking on a windowpane!

Environment

Depends on the power mix of the electricity used. For any power mix that uses more than 50% non-carbon electricity the emissions will go down over cooking on a gas cooktop. Currently all of California uses that kind of electricity.

Though most people do not realize this, all gas cooktops though apparently clean burning, emit trace amounts of Nitrogen Di-oxide, Carbon Monoxide and Formaldehyde – chemicals that are harmful to the human body. In a kitchen, even with a running standard range hood, the levels of such chemicals exceed California air quality standards just after one hour of cooking.

Steps to use

No. With the technology available today—and for the reasonably foreseeable future—only cookware with a “ferrous” nature will work on induction. That means items of ceramic, glass, copper, or aluminum will not work. There are such things called “induction disks”, and are basically a large ferrous skillet with no sides which you put the disk on the cooktop and the glass or ceramic or whatever piece of cookware on the disk. Bust such disks essentially turn an induction element into a coil-type element, thus losing many of induction’s advantages: efficiency is much lowered, excess heat is radiated, the instant-adjust ability is gone.

Yes, integrated electric ranges with induction cooktop surface are available.

Induction cooktops are very safe. The electromagnetic field that induction units use is very high-frequency and has a very short range. Moreover, units do not generate any field unless they detect a chunk of ferrous metal of at least a minimum mass (meaning, normally, cookware) in place over them and the cookware will absorb virtually all of the radiated energy. Beyond perhaps a foot away from the element surface, even with a pot or pan that is smaller than the element, the field strength is virtually zero. The cooktop shuts off automatically when the utensil is removed and never gets very hot as all the heat is generated at the base of the utensil. Thus they are even safer for kids and pets.

There are three possible sources of noise associated with induction cooking. Some units use “active cooling” which means a small fan kicks in when the unit gets especially hot, and helps keep the airflow moving at a satisfactory rate. Most units with fans will generate a soft but perceptible hiss when the fan kicks in. A second source of noise is an occasional faint “tick” sound that can occur when the electronics powering an element cycle on or off, which they sometimes do to keep the energy flow constant. The third noise source is not from the cooktop but from certain cookware when used on induction: the sound is usually described as a humming or buzzing. The degree to which this noise occurs varies with the particular item of cookware, the particular unit, and the power setting in use. The extent to which it seems annoying varies tremendously from person to person—some don’t even notice it, while others find it highly irritating. Most induction-cookware makers encapsulate a ferromagnetic “slug” in the base of their cookware as the area that absorbs the energy field and creates the heat. If the slug is simply encapsulated—meaning not actually welded to the base—it can move microscopically within the encapsulation and subjected to a high-frequency field, it can vibrate slightly and buzz or hum. Better-quality cookware rarely manifests this effect.

Yes pressure cookers with induction cooktop compatible bottoms are widely available in all sizes.

Typically a 30A, 240V connection is needed – same as a traditional electric cooktop or range.