Induction cooktops are a relatively new phenomenon in the U.S., but this type of stove has been popular in Europe for a number of years. They are gaining in popularity across the globe because of their safety, energy efficiency, and relative ease of cleaning.
Traditional ranges and ovens work because the energy source, such as electricity, causes the burners to heat up. That heat is then transferred to the pan or pot placed upon the heated surface. In this method of creating heat, it is the burner that actually cooks the food. An induction cooktop, on the other hand, holds a series of burners called induction coils, which are based on magnetic principals. These coils generate magnetic fields that induct a warming reaction in steel-based pots or pans; it is the cooking vessels themselves that heat the food, not the stove elements. Because of this form of heat generation, the cooktops may feel slightly warm to the touch after they are turned off, but they remain relatively cool — and thus much safer.
Temperature, speed and control are additional benefits. This type of stove heats up faster than an electric range allowing for faster cooking times — water will boil at half the time of as on an electric cooking surface. Because of the reduced cooking time, the energy savings can be substantial. These cooktops are about 10% more energy efficient compared to electricity powered stoves and ovens, and they use approximately half the energy of gas-sourced models.
Cleaning an induction cooktop is relatively easy because the surface is flat and continuous; there are no nooks and crannies where food particles or spillovers can collect. Range-top messes are also reduced because the burners offer convenient safeguards; they turn themselves off if a pot has gone dry, and if there is a spillover, the cool surface prevents the food from burning on and hardening.
While these cooktops will save money in the long run, there are some costly initial investments. The appliances themselves, which range from a one-unit hotplate type to the traditional four-burner size, range in price from several hundred to several thousands of dollars.
An additional expense can arise if a cook needs to replace her current cookware. Induction cooktops only induct energy into ferrous metal-based pots and pans. Cooks who use cast iron, steel-plated, or certain types of stainless steel pans should be able to continue to use the cookware they already own. Chefs cannot cook with such materials as copper, aluminum, or glass. Some makes of stainless steel pots and pans are conducive to cooking on an induction cooktop while others are not. When in doubt, cooks should test their present cookware with a magnet — if it sticks to the pot, it will work on the cooktop.