What is induction cooking? & other Induction Cooktop Question & Answers

What Is Induction Cooking? | In this Q & A, we outline some induction cooking basics that will help you consider whether you’d like to incorporate induction cooking into your kitche | https://www.twokitchenjunkies.com/what-is-induction-cooking-and-other-induction-cooktop-questions/

Welcome to Induction Q & A, where Two Kitchen Junkies answers your questions about one of the newest and most innovative forms of cooking on the market.

Because induction cooking hasn’t taken a stronghold in the US, many home chefs aren’t aware of its major benefits. In this Q & A, we outline some induction cooking basics that will help you consider whether you’d like to incorporate induction cooking into your kitchen.

Induction cooking is a type of stovetop cooking facilitated by electromagnetic currents, as opposed to electric radiant heat or gas. Our article What is an Induction Cooktop? (link) details more thoroughly the science behind induction cooking.

In short: induction cooking still uses electricity, not gas. A magnet below the induction cooktop’s smooth surface is charged with alternating currents. When an appropriate cooking (induction ready) vessel is placed on the cooktop, the electromagnetic circuit is completed. The pot or pan is excited at the molecular level. The molecules in the pot or pan move rapidly, causing them to heat up, making the pot or pan itself hot enough to cook your food.

How is induction cooking different from traditional cooking?

Because induction cooking relies on the creation of heat in the cooking vessel itself, it works in a very different manner than gas and electric radiant cooktops. Most of us are familiar with either gas or electric radiant cooking.

Induction cooking differs primarily in the way it heats the cooking vessel. As described above, it is still contingent on the use of electricity. This means induction cooktops have to be hardwired or plugged in, depending on the make and model.

Yet, while induction cooktops look similar to some electric smoothtops, their operation is quite different. An induction cooktop itself will never get hot, because the current in the cooktop needs a cooking vessel to complete its electromagnetic circuit. Only when the circuit is completed by an appropriate cooking vessel can the electromagnet in the cooktop provide energy to heat and cook your food. So, no hot coils or surfaces that take a long time to heat up or cool down.

Induction cooking is clearly most different from cooking with gas. Those who love cooking with natural gas might find induction cooking off putting because it seems so different. However, induction is seen by those who use it as the best of both worlds: electric and gas.

Unlike gas cooktops, induction cooktops are smooth and easy to clean. However, unlike electric radiant cooktops, the responsiveness of induction cooking mimics that of cooking with gas. Cooks can adjust the temperature of an induction cooktop immediately, just as they can the size of the flame on a gas stove.

How will it change my cooking time?

Induction cooking is significantly faster than cooking with gas or electric radiant heat. As mentioned above, induction cooktops are impressively responsive. The time it takes an appropriate vessel to heat up or cool down on an induction cooktop is minimal.

Proponents of induction cooking commonly cite their favorite cooktop’s ability to boil water in less than half the time it takes traditional cooktops. Decreased heating time is achieved on induction cooktops because heat is generated in the pot or pan, not lost to the ambient air. Essentially, on an induction cooktop, more energy can actually go to heating water than warming the air above the stove. More energy directed toward your food results in faster cooking times.

Are Induction cooktops safer than traditional cooktops

Induction cooking is often considered safer because the cooktop itself does not get hot. Technology has come a long way in terms of safety and reminder features on traditional electric stovetops, but they can still stay hot for a long time without showing any signs of heat. If accidentally left on, a traditional electric stove can and will remain hot. This can ruin cooking vessels and utensils, and can potentially result in injury.

Induction cooktops mitigate this risk to some extent. Induction cooktops maintain room temperature because the pot or pan is what’s actually heated. As soon as the cooking vessel is removed from the induction surface, no additional heat is generated. None lingers on the cooking surface either. This means the cooktop is safe to the touch as soon as you’re finished cooking.

Even if an induction cooktop is left on, it won’t heat unless a piece of induction compatible cookware is left on it. That being said, if an induction cooktop is inadvertently left on with a piece of induction cookware on it, the results will be the same as if it were left on any other stove. Food can burn, pots, pans and utensils can be ruined and prolonged exposure can result in fires.

When compared to gas stoves, induction cooktops have the added benefit of operating without the dangers of natural gas. Whether an induction cooktop is on or off, there is never the risk of a gas leak resulting in injury, illness or explosions. This sometimes makes induction cooking safer for use in small or les ventilated spaces.

It is important to keep in mind that cooking vessels on induction cooktops get hot and can maintain that heat when moved from an induction cooktop to another surface. Induction cooks still need to use potholders and oven mitts as necessary to avoid burns.

Is induction cooking more energy efficient?

Due to their unique mode of operation, induction cooktops can be attractive to cooks interested in energy efficiency.

When considering the use of energy generated by the cooktop itself, it’s true that induction cooktops are more energy efficient than traditional gas and electric stoves. Because the electromagnetic current heats the cooking vessel itself, energy from the cooktop is not lost to the ambient air. This means the vessel will heat faster and the stove won’t have to be left on as long, for example, to get water boiling.

Still, all things considered, induction cooktops require electricity, and depending on your geographic location, the electrical energy you get in your home is generated the same way (burning coal, hydro, wind or nuclear power) whether you end up plugging in a traditional electric stove or an induction cooktop.

In fact, the way energy is used in an induction cooktop is similar enough to smoothtop electric cooking that the US Department of Energy considers induction cooktops a technology option for smooth element electric cooking rather than a separate type of product.

All in all, energy savings alone are not sufficient to tip the scales in favor of an induction cooktop. It’s how the energy is used that makes induction cooking unique and attractive.

Induction  cooking video library

How much will an induction cooktop cost me?

Unfortunately, many home cooks think they can’t afford an induction cooktop or induction cooking.

There is a lot of misinformation about how much an induction cooktop costs and a lot of unnecessary hype about the importance of induction cookware (more on that later).

The primary cost associated with induction cooking is purchasing an induction cooktop. It’s true that switching from a gas or traditional electric range to an induction cooktop is pricey. Most induction cooktops run over a thousand dollars.

For example, Summit’s 23 inch induction cooktop , Treehugger’s number one induction pick for small kitchens, runs just over $800 with shipping.

Name brands more familiar in US households, including GE and Electrolux come with even heftier price tags, and are steadily gaining popularity in the households of the rich and famous.

Still, there are options for those with more modest budgets. Countertop induction burners are an option that can be incorporated into any kitchen fairly affordably. See our article What is an Induction Cooktop? for suggestions on highly rated induction burners starting at just $60.

What do you mean by “appropriate cooking vessel?” (What pots and pans can I use?)

Throughout this Q & A, we’ve referenced the importance of using appropriate cooking vessels when induction cooking. Because induction cooking harnesses the power of electromagnetism, not all pots and pans can be used.

Our article What is Induction Cookware?  thoroughly explains what types of pots and pans can be used on an induction cooktop and why.

The most important thing to consider is that to work on an induction cooktop, a pot or pan must be magnetic. If a magnet doesn’t stick to your favorite piece of cookware, it won’t work on an induction cooktop. It won’t complete the cooktop’s electromagnetic surface and therefore won’t conduct any heat to cook your food.

For some this is bad news because it requires buying new pots and pans or a special tool called an induction interface disk. For those who already cook with cast iron or stainless steel, which are induction ready, the biggest learning curve will be adjusting to the responsiveness of the induction cooktop.

Of course, there are plenty of wonderful pots and pans made specifically for induction cooktops, including a whole line by Belgian cookware company Beka

What are the biggest benefits of induction cooking?

What are its major drawbacks of induction cooking?

  • Precise temperature control (especially good for sauces and confections)
  • More responsive than traditional gas or electric cooktops
  • Safer, to some extent, especially because the cooktop is cool to the touch
  • Cooler kitchens: an induction cooktop heats the cooking vessel, not the air

  • Can be expensive to go from a traditional range to an induction cooktop
  • There’s a definite learning curve since induction cooktops heat fast and can burn easily
  • Less laidback feel: you can’t sip wine or chop onions as something heats up on an induction cooktop because even the contents of a pan will be hot almost immediately
  • You may not be able to use your favorite pots and pans on an induction cooktop without a converter piece called an induction interface disk

Any quirks or odd things I should know about induction cooking?

Every type of cooking has its quirks. For gas, it’s praying the igniter works each time and that the pilot lights haven’t gone out. For traditional electric stovetops: making sure the burners are jiggled back in properly after every cleaning.

When it comes to induction cooking, chefs report that some induction cooktops produce a clicking or buzzing noise. For some, this is negligible, while others find it extremely irritating.

For the most part, noise associated with induction cooking isn’t actually caused by the cooktop itself. It occurs when certain cookware is charged by the alternating currents of the electromagnet in the cooktop.

Cast iron and stainless steel cookware won’t produce a noise, but “clad” cookware, which is made of different metals layered together, can. The metals in clad cookware can respond differently to the electromagnetism, causing each layer to vibrate at a different frequency at a molecular level. Layers of a single pan moving at different frequencies may result in a humming or buzzing that some can ignore, but others detest.

Additionally, chefs fond of Asian cuisine report that flat induction cooktops are not compatible with traditional woks.

To cook with a wok on an induction cooktop, you’ll either have to use a flat bottom wok (not a traditional wok with a curved bottom) like this cast iron piece by Lodge or purchase a special induction cooktop with a curved wok burner. A utilitarian model by Adcraft Heavy Duty Stainless Steel Countertop Wok Induction Cooker, 120 Volts — 1 each. runs $250 whereas fancier models can run well over $1,500.

How can I start induction cooking?

If you’re ready to take the plunge and start induction cooking, you’ll first have to decide whether you’re replacing your current cooktop, or going to buy a separate induction burner to use in your current kitchen setup.

Once you have your induction cooktop, decide which cookware you can use on it and start experimenting. There’s a learning curve, but given induction cooking’s benefits, you’re sure to find it’s perfect for some of your favorite recipes.

What works for induction cooking and Why?

When it comes to induction cooking, heat is the result of an electromagnet. A proper piece of magnetic cookware has to complete the electromagnet’s circuit in order for heating to occur. When the circuit is completed, the cooking vessel becomes hot and you’re able to get cooking.

All induction compatible cookware is ferrous or ferromagnetic, which means it contains iron. This it what makes the cookware magnetic and capable of functioning on an induction cooktop. If a cooking vessel is non-ferrous and non-magnetic, it won’t conduct the heat necessary to cook your food.

Cast iron and most stainless steel cooking vessels are magnetic, ferrous and induction compatible.

Check out our article on the best induction cooktops and induction cookware

While a lot of newer induction cookware features a coiled symbol to show it will work on an induction cooktop, there is a simple way you can test to see if any vessel, marked or not, is induction compatible. Take a small magnet to a favorite cooking vessel or one you’re considering purchasing. If the magnet sticks, the pot or pan is magnetic and will be compatible with an induction cooktop. If the magnet doesn’t stick, the vessel won’t work by itself to complete the electromagnetic circuit or cook your food.

It can be fun to do some investigative work in your kitchen, testing to see which cookware is and isn’t ferrous and magnetic.

Glass, of course, won’t work on an induction cooktop since it isn’t magnetic. The magnet test also reveals that copper and copper bottom pots and pans won’t work with an induction cooktop. And, if you have a piece of cookware that looks like stainless steel, but isn’t magnetic, you’ve likely discovered you have an aluminum pot or pan.

Cast Iron and Induction Cooking

It’s all in the name: cast iron contains iron and therefore is ferrous, magnetic, and induction cooktop compatible. This is true of both bare and enameled cast iron.

As with gas and electric ranges, thick cast iron will retain heat well on an induction cooktop, but takes a while to get heated up. If you want to use bare cast iron, read about how to season and care for cast iron here

With cast iron making a comeback in recent years, there are many excellent and affordable options for induction cooking. Lodge’s versatile 10.5-inch griddle is wonderful for everything from tortillas to fried eggs. Le Creuset’s iconic enameled Dutch ovens and cookware sets are also made of cast iron and are completely induction compatible.

Stainless Steel and Induction Cooking

Iron is one of the primary components of stainless steel. Because of this, stainless steel cooking vessels are, for the most part, ferrous, magnetic and induction cooktop compatible.

As mentioned above, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s label to make sure a vessel is an induction compatible, or to perform the magnet test. Some cookware that looks like or is marketed as stainless steel has aluminum elements like aluminum bottoms or aluminum cores that won’t allow the induction cooktop’s electromagnetism to work.

Favorite stainless steel cookware includes All-Clad’s collections and Duxtop cookware, which is made specifically for induction surfaces.

Check out our guide: Stainless steel vs nonstick

Non-stick Induction Cooking

here are plenty of non-stick cookware options on the market that are made specifically for induction cooktops. If you already have non-stick cookware, you’ll need to perform a magnet test before you can be certain a non-stick pan is induction compatible.

Because non-stick pans can be made of a variety of materials, including aluminum, some will not heat up on an induction surface.

If you want to purchase new non-stick cookware for an induction cooktop, The Good Housekeeping Institute recommends Beka’s Chef Eco-Logic Frying Pan which comes in two sizes. Beka also makes an ceramic non-stick fry pan that features a stainless base to allow for induction cooking.

Special Induction Cooking Tools

While, for the most part, you can use “regular” cookware on an induction cooktop, there are some handy gadgets made particularly for induction cooking.
For example, if you have favorite pots and pans that aren’t magnetic, a number of companies make induction interface disks. These stainless steel discs can be put between an induction cooktop and a non-magnetic vessel so it can be cooked with safely and effectively as the disc conducts the electromagnetic heat.

French cookware company Mauviel manufactures a top of the line interface disk intended specifically for their signature line of copper cookware. More affordable options are made by VonShef
and Max Burton
All three interface disks are quite well rated by users, and one of them would be a good addition to any kitchen with an induction cooktop.
We would advise that you read the reviews before you buy to make sure that this is the correct induction interface disk

Additional Reading