Induction cooking is growing in popularity, and for good reasons. It’s a clear winner for energy efficiency and induction is fun to cook with! It’s not all smooth(top) sailing though. Here are the pros and cons of induction stovetops, so you can decide if you’re ready to embrace the future.
Table of Contents
Pros and cons of induction stovetops
- The most energy efficient option for cooking
- Great for safety
- Don’t warm the air in the kitchen as much as gas or electric
- Faster to heat food or liquids
- More responsive than electric cooktops
- Programmable and fun to cook with
- Don’t cause indoor air pollution
- Steep learning curve
- Fewer options than electric or gas models
- Only work with cookware containing ferrous metal
Induction Cooking Pros
Induction stovetops are, by far, the most energy efficient option for cooking. These elements don’t actually heat up themselves. Instead, the flow of an alternating current (AC) through the ‘element’ creates an electromagnetic field that excites the molecules in ferromagnetic pots and pans placed on top of the glass stovetop. You can learn more about the science of induction here.
Because iron and steel aren’t very good electrical conductors, when their molecules get excited, they heat up, meaning that your pans and pots become the heat source instead of the element below. This means that the cooktop stays relatively cool and the heat is isolated to the pan. When the current is turned off, the pan cools very quickly. And, when you turn the current back on, the pan heats up very quickly.
As such, induction cooking is great for safety. You can even place a sheet of paper onto an induction cooktop and it won’t catch fire. Because the glass itself stays cool, this also makes it easier to clean your cooktop (no burnt on food!) and reduces energy waste.
Don’t warm the air
If you hate cooking at the stove in the summer, induction cooking is ideal. These cooktops don’t warm the air in the kitchen anywhere near as much as a gas or conventional electric stove. This means that you also save on air-conditioning costs and energy usage.
Great for smaller spaces
Induction cooktops are also great for smaller spaces including tiny apartments, dorm rooms, office kitchens, boats, or motor homes. They take up very little room and create very little excess heat. If you occasionally host big cookouts, consider getting a single or double portable induction cooktop. These quickly extend your cooking capacity for a party.
Other benefits of induction cooktops include easy programming. You can often set an induction stove to start, stop, and change temperatures at pre-programmed times. With some, you can even program elements to turn down the temperature when they detect water boiling (through vibrations) or when a pan is removed.
Induction cooktops also offer more precise temperature control, speedier cooking, and reduced exposure to fumes.
Because of this precision, professional and home chefs have a much easier time making delicate sauces such as a béarnaise and melting and maintaining chocolate without needing a bain marie.
Just how energy efficient are induction cooktops?
Research clearly shows that induction cooktops are more energy efficient than gas and electric radiant cooktops. Efficiency estimates are as follows:
- Gas cooktops – 40 percent efficient
- Electric-coil and standard smooth-top electric cooktops – 74 percent efficient
- Induction cooktops – 84 percent efficient.
It’s also faster to heat food or liquids on an induction stove versus a gas stove (5.8 seconds vs 8.3 seconds to boil water in one experiment). And boiling that water using induction results in lower carbon dioxide emissions compared to gas (1.16 pounds of CO2, compared to just 0.29 pounds with the induction stove).
Induction Cooking Cons
Induction cooktops can present a steep learning curve. Indeed, you may have to quickly change some of your cooking habits when switching to an induction cooktop.
For instance, you won’t have to wait for a pan of oil to warm while you chop your onions. The pan will be hot before you’ve peeled the onion’s skin. You will also need to get used to the element shutting off if you lift a pan, say to toss the contents around. And bear in mind that moving the pan around on the stovetop surface could damage the glass-ceramic.
European chefs and home cooks have long enjoyed using induction stovetops, and savvy U.S. customers frequently buy these appliances overseas and bring them home. Still, induction cooktops are typically far more expensive and far less available than electric or gas stovetops.
Thankfully, prices have dropped dramatically for home kitchen induction stovetops in the U.S. in recent years. This is, in part, because of their growing popularity.
Not all cookware works with induction stovetops
One downside of induction cooktops is that they only work with cookware that contains ferrous metal. This means stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel. Some ceramic coated metal cookware can also be used on induction cooktops. And, if necessary, you can bridge the gap with an interface disk that transfers heat. Happily, cast iron is one of the most eco-friendly and healthy types of cookware anyway!
To check if your cookware will work with an induction stovetop, see if a magnet sticks to the bottom of the pot or pan.
One other consideration for induction cooking is that it can be hard to use for very large pots and pans, such as a paella pan. This is why some people opt for a stovetop that combines induction with natural gas burners.
Features to look for in an induction cooktop
When considering an induction stovetop, look for models that have the following features:
- Over-heat sensors
- Unsuitable cookware detectors
- Heat (watts) & Temperature (Degrees) control
- Delay timers
- Programmable memory functions
- Digital countdown timers
- Auto pan size detection
- Automatic shut-off
- Error codes for fault fixing
- Cooling fan noise
Because induction cooktops generate an electromagnetic field, this has raised concerns in some quarters. Rest assured that there’s no evidence of health problems related to the EMF generated by these devices. Indeed, the EMF drops off very quickly in a short distance (a couple of inches). So, if it happens at all, exposure is minimal and poses no risk.
Final thoughts on induction cooktops
Many professional kitchens have switched to induction cooking in the last few years. This isn’t surprising, given all the benefits. If you’ve never tried induction before, I highly recommend borrowing a portable induction cooktop from a friend and giving it a whirl first.
Or, if your network doesn’t have one for your to borrow, purchase an inexpensive portable induction cooktop to try. That way, you have it in reserve for parties and power outages (assuming your backup generator has enough surge capacity for this type of device).
If you love it, consider one of these energy efficient, more sustainably made induction ranges for your next major home appliance purchase. And remember, induction ranges often come with huge rebates!