Although popular in Europe, the best induction cooktops remain a mystery to many American cooks. However, this efficient form of heat transference is gaining in popularity as people try to bring more energy efficient products into their homes. It’s also a faster, safer, and arguably healthier cooking method.
Exactly how are induction cooktops different from electric cooktops, and how do they work?
Both induction and electric cooktops have coils. The primary cosmetic difference between the two is that electric cooktops usually, but not always, have the coils above the surface, while induction coils always lie underneath the cooktop.
The coils on an electric cooktop generate direct heat, while the coils under an induction cooktop generate a magnetic field that reacts with compounds in compatible cookware to create heat within the pot itself.
The Difference Between Electric And Induction Cooktops.
An electric stove top heats food by heating the coil, which heats the pan, which heats the food. Once the burner is hot, it will throw heat into both the cooking space and the cooktop. If you have a food spill, the entire cooktop acts as a cooking (or burning) surface.
Induction cooktops heat pans by generating a magnetic field. This magnetic pull excites iron molecules in your cookware and heats the pan directly, which heats the food.
A low iron molecule count equals a low heat response – therefore it’s essential to purchase induction compatible cookware for an induction stovetop.
Ambient Heat Considerations
Electric stovetops only direct about 56% of their heat into your cookware, whereas with induction ovens, 100% of their power goes into heating your pan.
Because induction cooktops throw directed heat, not ambient heat, you won’t find your kitchen getting hot and stuffy during cooking. In warmer climates or during summer, this can save you from using air conditioning or ventilation to keep the kitchen cool.
An electric stove can cook with virtually any pan that will tolerate heat, so aluminum and copper cookware are great options.
However, you can’t use just any old pot on an induction cooktop, and many types of cookware that claim they’re induction ready offer limited function when put to work. Take a magnet shopping with you. You need cookware with a lot of grab or magnetic pull to cook efficiently with it.
There are a lot of products out there that call themselves “induction ready,” but this doesn’t mean they’re “induction ideal.” Iron is a critical mineral in your induction pans, and iron is heavy. It can also be expensive.
As a rule, induction capable cookware is more expensive and heavier than cookware that will work on an electric coil stove top, so be ready to make an investment.
If you’re planning on an induction cooktop and you’re ready to make the investment, connect with folks already using an induction cooktop. Talk with knowledgeable salespeople about both the cooktop and the cookware you’ll need.
Finding the right cookware through experimentation can be extremely frustrating, not to mention expensive. Many people prefer to buy a single pot or pan from their chosen range to experiment with before committing to a whole set.
Finally, keep an eye on the weight of these pans. Commercial induction cooktops are designed to last for eight years or 30,000 hours. If you’re putting an induction cooktop in your dream kitchen and are planning to retire in the space, remember that those pans will not get any lighter as you age.
If this is a consideration for you, opt for aluminum-based cookware that is infused or plated with stainless steel or iron. Aluminum is more lightweight and tends to be more budget friendly.
If you don’t’ want to invest in new cookware, you can use an induction disc or plate on your induction cooktop. This plate heats up as a cast iron pan would, and this heat is transferred to any pan you put on top of it.
However, this rather counteracts all the positive aspects of an induction cooktop, slowing down the cooking process and reducing energy efficiency.
An electric stove top with both exterior and interior coils will take longer to heat a pot of water because a lot of heat is thrown out into the area around the element. These stoves have to eat the element before they can heat the pot.
Induction cooktops literally only heat the pan and the food, so they’re going to hit your desired temperature faster.
Induction ovens have repeatedly been shown to heat water more rapidly than electric cooktops; in fact, induction ovens almost halve the amount of time it takes to boil water, giving you a great indication of their efficiency and speed.
If you’re used to throwing some oil in a pan, starting the burner and then chopping your onions, you’re going to have to reconsider the steps once you have an induction cooktop. Otherwise, you’ll have smoky oil and charred onions.
Induction cooktops heat up fast. From frying and stewing to boiling, you’re going to want to have your ingredients ready to go before you start heating anything up.
In the short term, an electric cooktop uses more electricity to produce the same amount of heat as an induction cooktop.
It’s important to note that, while they start quick, induction cooktops may lose efficiency when stewing or simmering for a long time.
Additionally, the efficiency of electric coils is highly variable depending on the size of the coils vs. the size of the pot. Remember, however, that both gas flames and electric coils will heat both the cooking pot and your kitchen.
At this point, induction cooktops are more expensive than electric cooktops. Because they’re quite new, fans of induction cooktops can expect prices to drop as more manufacturers enter the field.
The cookware needed for an induction cooktop can also be more expensive than lighter weight, regular aluminum cookware. However, you can keep your favorite pans in use with an induction disc as noted above.
If you’re really committed to an induction cooktop, you may prefer a commercial model. These units are built for long days of constant use and have thicker tops for less risk of breakage.
Moving from gas to electric was considered a great safety choice because it removed the need for an igniter. Moving from electric to induction is now considered a terrific energy saver, as it reduces the ambient heat thrown into your kitchen and uses less power, particularly in the early cooking stages.
SEE ALSO: Gas vs Electric Stove
Many of us stick with what we know or the device we were taught on. However, learning how to cook successfully on an induction cooktop can reduce both the electricity you use and the time you spend in the kitchen.
Fans of cast iron cookware will already have the cooking tools necessary for a successful switch to induction cooking.