Looking for the perfect gift for the chef in your family? Maybe you are the chef. If so, it is time you consider one of the most evolutionary pieces of kitchen equipment since development of the microwave oven. In fact, both the microwave and induction oven were introduced at Chicago’s 1933 World’s Fair. If you are not familiar with induction cooktops and ranges, get ready to be impressed!
Induction cooking provides the responsiveness and power of natural gas or propane burners combined with the control of electric appliances. Induction cooktops and ranges look very similar to radiant or ceramic cooktops and free-standing ranges with three to six burners or cooking zones. Single-zone countertop models that plug into standard outlets are also available.
Under each cooking zone, an alternating electric current passes through a coil of copper wire. As the control switch is turned “up,” an oscillating magnetic field steadily increases an eddy current surrounding the pot or pan. The result is resistive heat that is only created in the pan itself. The cooking surface can only become as hot as the pan sitting on top!
So why else are induction cooktops and ranges superior to traditional electric, propane and natural gas technologies?
Speed – If you think gas is fast, watch induction rival! Since induction works by transferring energy straight to the metal of the pan rather than heating up an element and transferring that heat to the pan, many professional chefs find induction every bit as fast as gas.
Power through efficiency – As much as 84% of the energy delivered through the cooking zone is transferred into the food. The Department of Energy finds that around 40 percent of a burner's heat is transferred using gas. Induction ranges can boil two quarts of tap water in less than five minutes. A gas stove will take more than eight minutes and an electric range with coils will take nearly 10 minutes.
As with all cooking, exhaust hood ventilation is recommended, if not necessary, especially with gas appliances. Electric cooking technologies do not have the same requirements since they do not rely on the combustion to create heat. Kitchen range hoods exhaust air containing the heat, smoke, flumes, and other pollutants out of the home. An equivalent amount of outdoor air must be drawn into the home to replace it. That new outdoor air will likely need to be heated or cooled by the HVAC system, which requires more energy. Not only does induction put energy into food more efficiently, it puts less heat in the kitchen!
Cleaning – Induction cooktops and ranges are simple to clean because their flat glass or ceramic surfaces have no gaps or grills to collect spilled food. Since cooking zones can only become as hot as the pan, spilled food seldom becomes baked on the enamel. When spills are caught right away, simply pick up the pan, swipe the cooking zone with a damp dish cloth and return the pan to the cooktop for no delay in cooking.
Control – Changes in temperature setting occur precisely and immediately. Traditional burners take time to cool down or heat up, and chefs must continually adjust the setting to achieve the perfect simmer or sauté. With induction, the perfect cooking level is achieved almost instantly with one setting change.
No hot spots – Because of how previously-mentioned eddy currents create heat, the entire pot or pan heats in an even, uniform pattern when centered over the cooking zone. Cooks do not have to rotate food around the pan to achieve cooking consistency.
Safety – Perhaps one of the most important attributes induction cooking brings is safety. No flames. No extremely hot burners or coils. Most induction cooktops and ranges sense when a pot or pan is on top of them. Auto shut-off features eliminate the chance of “accidently” leaving the cooking zone on. Others offer additional safety features such as child safety locks, automatic adjustment as food heats up, boil over protection and residual heat indicators. Some can even be controlled from a smart phone. Most are compliant with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Yes, there are some drawbacks with induction cooking. First, the purchase price. Though prices have continued to decrease over the last 20 years, expect to pay a few hundred or more dollars for induction cooktops and ranges when compared to gas or other conventional electric types. Second, magnetic cookware must be used for the induction process to work. That usually means stainless steel or cast-iron cookware. However, you might be able to use an induction plate under your favorite glass, ceramic or aluminum pan to get by. Finally, as with other glass cooktop surfaces, they can be scratched or broken.
Your local utility and Nebraska Public Power District want to help you cook efficiently! Contact them if you would like information on other ways to make the most of the energy that powers your life. In addition, you may be eligible for EnergyWise℠ incentives to reduce the cost of energy-saving improvements.