I have often been asked about the pros and cons of cooking with induction compared with traditional gas and electric stoves, so I wrote up some of my thought, based on using our induction cooktop pretty much every day for the past four years:
- Once you get used to boiling a pot of water on the induction cooktop (for tea or pasta or almost any dish) you will be extremely impatient waiting for a traditional range to do the same task. I have measured 82% efficiency boiling water. A standard gas or electric cooktop is 40-45% efficient.
- Instant on-off. This is the biggest reason people like gas over traditional electric coils. On an induction cooktop, when you turn it off, the heat source completely disappears. In fact, if you remove the cooking pot, then unit senses it and turns off after 60 seconds.
- No flames or extremely hot surfaces. Because the heat is transferred inductively, the cooking surface only gets as hot as where the pan touches it (through “reverse conduction” from the pan down to the glass cooktop.
- Similarly, if you leave an empty pan on and it gets too hot, the unit will shut down for safety.
- The rest of the induction cooktop stays cool. Combined with the “missing pan” feature above, if there is a spill, I can easily lift the pot, wipe the surface with a sponge or paper towel and set it back down.
- Because of the “cool” cooking surface, dishes with sauces are less likely to “burn” on the bottom of the pan if you forget to stir. Pans also stay much cleaner since they are not subjected to extremely high temps.
- Easy to clean – flat glass surface like modern “radiant” electric ranges.
- Timer – When cooking rice, I bring to a boil, put the lid on and set the timer for 10-15 minutes, depending on quantity. No more forgetting to turn off the rice.
- Temperature control. When deep-frying, I can set the temperature to 390F and not have to worry about fiddling with the burner to keep the oil at the right temperature. I have been experimenting with the proper temperature to cook other things (like bacon and eggs or melting chocolate) but there is not yet a lot of information on this type of cooking, so it is truly experimental.
- Induction cooking is healthier than gas. Gas cooking releases many invisible gasses, including CO, NO2 and formaldehyde. Many articles on this on the internet. https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/25590/20200506/gas-stoves-making-people-sicker-exposing-children-higher-risk-asthma.htm Of course, any “frying” style of cooking will create pollutants (who hasn’t ever set off a smoke alarm), and range hoods (especially those that exhaust to outside air) help the matter, but burning gas inside the enclosed kitchen adds to the effects.
- Depending on what types of meals you cook (especially beans and meat stews), and electric multi-function pressure cooker such as an InstantPot is even more efficient than induction, but the induction cooktop is much more versatile. (For example, heating up water for tea is somewhat of a hassle with an InstantPot.)
- You have to use “induction ready” pots and pans, which means they must be magnetic. There are two ways to check if a pot/pan is compatible. The first is to see if a refrigerator magnet will stick to the bottom of the pot. If it sticks, it will work. The second is to look for an “induction ready” symbol on the bottom of the pot. This is handy if you forgot to bring a magnet when shopping for new pots.
- Cast iron frying pans work, as do carbon steel frying pans and cast-iron Dutch-ovens. Aluminum and stainless steel cookware won’t work unless it has a magnetic core built into the bottom (which many do). Induction-ready pans have become much more common and affordable recently. You can visit your friendly neighborhood restaurant supply store to check out what they have, or just search on your favorite website.
- Induction cooktops require a fan to keep the power electronics cool, so they always make some noise when they are on and for a couple of minutes after you turn them off. As humans, we have an amazing capacity to filter noises like this out after a while, but they may bother some people.
- Cooktops plug into standard wall receptacles, so you are limited to 1,800 watts (15 amps at 120V - I live in the US). You can buy a double cooktop, but you can only have one “burner” on high at a time. This is usually not a problem since most meals need to be boiled and then simmered. If you plug something else into the same circuit (depending on how your house is wired) you run a risk of tripping the circuit breaker. Induction ranges plug into a 240V outlet so they obviously have a lot more power available (30-50 amps, or 7,200-12,000 watts). If
- The lowest couple of settings on some cooktops (including ours) pulses power at 500W (a few seconds on, a few seconds off) so it delivers the same amount of energy as a true “low” setting, but it is not constant. This drives some people crazy. Those people need to brush up on their thermodynamics and heat transfer theory.
- The less expensive models have a limited number of power settings, so you may find yourself switching between levels 2 and 3, for example. Higher priced units have more granular controls.
- They take up valuable room on your countertop. Of course, they are portable, but we use our so often that it just stays there. If it is on your countertop, it is probably not under your range hood, so burning food will cause more problems. This can be solved by just buying an entire induction cooktop or range.