VIDEO: The South African kitchen retailer Yuppie Chef shares a lesson on induction cooking on YouTube. Induction cooking is more common outside the U.S., but manufacturers are trying to spread the word about the benefits.
Are you looking for the temperature control of gas but are afraid of the dangers of a gas flame? Do you have pets or children that often hang around the kitchen? You may want to look into the option of an induction cooktop. It’s cleaner than gas, more responsive than an electric cooktop and safer than both. We spoke with Beth Robinson, Brand Experience Senior Manager at KitchenAid, to learn more about this technology.
What is induction cooking?
An induction cooktop is an electric appliance that uses electromagnetic fields to heat your cookware. Essentially a copper coil embedded in the cooktop creates a magnetic field that agitates molecules in pots and pans to create friction and, therefore, heat. This means that the cooktop itself does not heat up, but as Robinson told Viewpoints, these cooktops do require pots and pans that are magnetic. You can easily find out if your pans are induction capable by placing a magnet on the bottom surface. “The majority of cookware produced today is induction capable,” says Robinson.
VIDEO: KitchenAid Brand Experience Senior Manager Beth Robinson shows off the induction cooktop and a new line of KitchenAid cookware on display at the 2013 International Home and Housewares Show. The cookware is all suited for induction cooking.
Heat efficiency and safety
Because there is no ambient heat, there is virtually no wasted energy. This greatly increases efficiency and decreases cooking times. GE boasts that its induction cooktop can boil 1.5 gallons in 8-and-a-half minutes. That’s dramatically faster than the almost 14 minutes it takes a similarly-powerful GE gas cooktop to boil the same volume of water.
Additionally, since the cooktop itself does not heat up, these appliances are significantly safer to operate. Robinson is quick to point out that in addition to heating up quickly, induction cooktops also cool down dramatically, bringing “boiling water to a gentle simmer almost instantly.” This can be very important in complicated recipes and is yet another advantage of this technology.
Consumers may be surprised by how many brands make induction cooktops. Most major brands from GE to KitchenAid make induction cooktops today. While many people may think this is a new technology, Robinson says that it has been popular in Europe for some time and that there is “just not an awareness of this technology in the US.” Induction cooktops are available as built-in units as well as portable units with a variety of sizes and number of “burners.” A 5-burner induction cooktop from KitchenAid will cost you about $2,000, which is only a bit more than the $1,500 a traditional electric 5-burner KitchenAid cooktop.
Robinson says that the target customers for induction cooktops are “passionate home cooks who do a lot of cooking.” She is also quick to point out that induction cooktops are “great options for the energy conscious” because induction cooking involves a more efficient transfer of heat. Some cooks, especially those living in apartments or all-electric homes, may not have the option to install a gas cooktop but still want that precise temperature control. For those cooks, induction cooking is a great option.
One great opportunity for induction cooktops is its convenience for people who use wheelchairs. Whereas gas cooktops require fairly extensive plumbing and insulation, induction cooktops are very thin. This allows people in wheelchairs to install induction cooktops on thin countertops that their chairs can easily fit under.
Induction cooktops are efficient and safe options that many people do not immediately consider. They can be quite expensive, but like most cooktops there are a variety of types and sizes to fit most budgets. If you have an RV, children or are just looking to cut down on electric bills, an induction cooktop may be a great choice. As always, be sure to read reviews and find out what is best for your needs. Because the product is new to the US market, Viewpoints needs more induction cooktop reviews. From Alabama, the owner of the Kenmore 30″ inch Electric Induction Cooktop 43820 writes:
“I have been very pleased with the evenness of the heat distribution of this cooktop. I like that it only heats the pan so I feel very safe with cooking on this cooktop….This cooktop is so easy to clean , just wipe with a sponge. But it is delicate so you have to be careful that you don’t place any pots or pans down with force. I will never go back to electric coils.” –klss, Reviewer since 2009
Editor’s note: If you have professional experience with kitchen ranges or ovens, Viewpoints is recruiting experts in priority product categories to write for our blog. Check out this overview of the Viewpoints Category Expert Program, including qualifications, compensation and how to apply.