induction cooktops
May 17, 2012 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about the merits of induction cooktops.

We'll be getting a new oven and cooktop in six months or so. My first choice is gas, it's what I know and like, electric cook tops are completely out of the picture, but I'm curious about induction cooktops. The look, the cleanliness and the potential efficiency appeal to me. Though they tend to be more expensive. I understand the basics of the technology, it's more the cooking experience. I would like to hear from people who have used both gas and induction.

Does it heat up fast enough? Can a wok get smoking hot? Do you need to go out and buy expensive new pots and pans? Mine are mostly aluminium based now, so I guess so. And my caffettiera wont work of course. A lot of cooktops seem to have lots of electronics, aren't at all mechanical - are they reliable? Any preferred brand?
posted by wilful to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You might get an induction cooktop for everyday cooking, because that does seem to be the big merit- easy to clean and looks sleek. But also get a couple of gas burners for specialty things.
posted by gjc at 5:45 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've been told they are difficult to clean and require specialized cleaning products. Not sure if this is still true, but it was the reason I didn't get one three years ago.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: Make sure you get a 220v model. The 110 versions are very weak. Heats up faster than anything. Gets smoking hot, gets pan warping hot. You need ferromagnetic cookware but there is a lot available now. They are energy efficient. You can boil water in things like steel mixing bowls very quickly which is more useful than you think.

demerits: Some have very loud fans or make a high pitched noise. You must be able to try before you buy in order to get a model that is silent and has a good user interface. Compared to gas they produce much less updraft from convection so you need even better ventilation. They are not so good for applications where you shake the pan (stir fry, some sauteing). The flatter the bottom of the cookware the better (woks no bueno).

I have not used one but apparently people get sheets of steel cut to match their induction burners so they can use aluminum cookware etc on top of the hot steel sheet. Another option is to get a portable gas burner for the rare times you need gas.
posted by Infernarl at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: Does it heat up fast enough? Faster than anything you've ever used before. I can bring a pot of water to boil and cook the pasta in it, start to finish, in well under 15 minutes. And it will also go lower than any other type of heat you've used before. I can melt chocolate in the pan directly on the burner, no problem.

Can a wok get smoking hot? Yes, I totally incinerated my first stir-fry on it. Now I've adjusted to how fast I have to move and all is well.

Do you need to go out and buy expensive new pots and pans? Depends on your definition of expensive. The beauty of induction is the incredibly even heat, so you don't need super fancy bottoms on the pots--they can actually be quite cheap. They just need to be ferrous.

Mine has been good for about two years now. It's the Kenmore/Electrolux range. I absolutely disagree that you would ever need or want gas in addition to induction. Maybe for roasting peppers? But you can always do that under the broiler. I myself will never go back to gas.
posted by HotToddy at 5:51 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]

I went so far as to get a 50A circuit put in my kitchen but still haven't pulled the trigger. I looked/lurked over on egullet, chowhound and gardenweb and what I found was a lot of opinionated bluster arguing passionately for their side. I never found a good unbiased review by someone who was well-versed in both.

What I do know is induction is cooler to cook in front of, it can do a true low heat simmer with no hot spots the way gas will, if you are hardcore in chocolate you can melt it right on the stove without a double boiler. If you have invested heavily in non-induction cookware (aluminum or copper), you may want to stick with gas. All cooktops have serious circuitry these days, gas or induction, so the idea that induction will wear out faster seem unfounded. I know I will switch to induction, it is just a matter of when.
posted by karlos at 5:54 PM on May 17, 2012

Addressing some other points raised by others: It does make a different type of noise which bugged me at first, but now I don't hear it. Cleaning requirements are exactly the same as for a smoothtop electric range. If you need to shake the pan, you can put a paper towel over the burner so you don't scratch it, and the paper will not even scorch.
posted by HotToddy at 5:54 PM on May 17, 2012

How cool is this thing? Supposed to be out in July, you can just put your pots anywhere in any arrangement.
posted by karlos at 6:01 PM on May 17, 2012

The advantage to the ones I've used is that they get super hot. Really good for a real stir-fry, which you can't get with a regular gas burner.

The disadvantage, which may have been fixed by now since my experience is with several-year-old ones and a plug-in table top thing (which is still plenty hot and fast enough for stir fry), is that there are major hot and cold spots. Searing a pan full of brussels sprouts was a semi-disaster last Thanksgiving.

I ike my arrangement with a gas stove and the countertop induction plate for when i need something like that.
posted by cmoj at 6:44 PM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: They are great, we will never go back. Just one note for testing, a real rangetop wired to its own circuit will work much better than any plug in single inductive burner (these are popping up everywhere). The speed of heating is directly related to the number of amps you can get to the cooktop.

We saw a noticeable drop in our electric bill going to induction from a flat top ceramic conductive electric heater.

Relatively cheap but good Circulon pans from costco work great - just bring a magnetic with you when you shop. Pans seem to stay much cleaner than with gas or conductive heating.

Cooking is great - much like gas but without the cleaning hassles. Water boils very quickly. Pans heat very fast and cool just as quickly when you turn off the power giving lots of control.

Cleaning the cooktop is easy - no special tools or cleaners needed. In fact since things don't get baked on they are usually very easy to clean.

Cooking over the range is also cooler since there is not as much wasted heat.

If you have kids, the rangetop can be touched immediately after cooking. It can still be very hot (from conduction back from the pan) but not the melt your skin to the rangetop hot we got with the conductive range...
posted by NoDef at 6:46 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I went from gas to induction. I have GE Profile. I got it within the last year. It's easy to clean, like a smooth electric glass top. It's really efficient and heats up quicker than gas.

Yes you need pots that are magnetized on the bottom (I carried a magnet around for a while to be sure before any purchase).

It's also very safe: if there is no pot on the stove, the burner turns off. Also, extra space around an element when using a smaller pot also does not heat up. That means less chance of burning kids or cats or what have you.

It's very precise when cooking and takes a little bit to get used to. Yes it makes noise at higher heat but I got used to it.

I did not find it to be overly expensive.

I do not have a problem with hot and cold spots, as mentioned above.

It does work with cast iron, FYI, which is awesome.

I recommend it. Feel free to memail if you have further questions.
posted by rabidsegue at 6:49 PM on May 17, 2012

is that there are major hot and cold spots

This doesn't happen with our unit or our pans. In fact uniformity is one of the selling points of the induction tops - since you are basically pumping the energy directly into the pan.

One thing which can cause problems is pans that do not have flat bottoms. If you have a pan which is significantly bowed the energy transfer might be slower - But even in this case, the uniformity is more related to the design of the pan and it's internal heat conduction than the cooktop. I suspect any magnetic flat bottomed pan which works well on a gas burner will work well on an inductive unit...
posted by NoDef at 6:54 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to second NoDef on the point that a countertop unit is not really comparable to a real cooktop. I have a good quality portable induction unit that I got for teaching cooking classes, using out on the deck, etc., and it's nowhere near as good as my cooktop (although it is much, much better than a regular electric portable unit).
posted by HotToddy at 6:59 PM on May 17, 2012

Best answer: I was doubtful of induction hobs when I renovated 4 years ago - and we get blackouts - so I paid way too much and got a combination of gas and induction from Miele (you buy individual units but they sit cohesively in the bench) (2 induction hobs, two gas hobs and a wok burner)

The miele wok burner had the maximum joule output I could find - but I find that the induction is still hotter.

Now when I cook - I mainly use the two induction hobs and only use the gas if I have more than two pans.

In hindsite - I would buy a 4 burner induction with just the work burner (and that's only for the backouts).

Also - melting chocolate without a double boiler ROCKS.

Somthing I did stuff up - when you renovate - make sure there is enough room behind your induction hob to actually fit the biggest pan you use
posted by insomniax at 7:08 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

We got an induction stove (GE Profile) recently and love it, for many of the reasons mentioned above. If you're into cooking, you'll find the level of control and the speed at which you can make changes to be wonderful: it gets pots very hot very quickly, can change temperatures much more quickly than you can with gas, and has much better low heat control/stability than most gas ranges.

We were told that a traditional wok doesn't work well with an induction range, because you don't get the variations in heat moving up the sides of the wok. We haven't experimented with this, and have just been making stir-frys in a cast-iron skillet. Works great, it's shocking to be able to rapidly heat and change temperature in a hefty cast-iron pan.
posted by medusa at 7:50 PM on May 17, 2012

I grew up with gas and love cooking with it. That said, when we renovated 5 yrs ago we put in an induction cooktop instead of gas. It's very very fast, it's efficient, it's easy to clean (it's awesome to be able to clean up spills as they happen since the surface itself stays cool), and it doesn't heat up the room the way gas does. Ours runs on 220v and I don't notice any hot/cold spots. The thing works beautifully. We use a large Creuset pot, cast iron skillets, and a couple of Circulon pans to round things out.

I think you'll be happy with it.
posted by 6thsense at 7:54 PM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: If you have pans with metal handles, do they get hot at the same rate as the bottom of the pan?
posted by wilful at 8:20 PM on May 17, 2012

No. Seems to be less of a problem than I recall w gas.
posted by rabidsegue at 8:53 PM on May 17, 2012

Pat handles do not get as hot as the bottom of the pan.

Cooking side-bye -side - the handles on the same brand pot cannot be touched when using gas - are able to be touched/lifted using bare hands on the induction hob. I use scan pan pots with metal handles. YMMV.
posted by insomniax at 9:00 PM on May 17, 2012

One thing that I think hasn't been mentioned yet: I've seen in kitchen stores special metal "mats" that you can put on your induction cooktop, which will heat up & transfer the heat to non-ferrous cookware placed on top.

Not that you'd be wanting to do that as a regular thing, but you might have some specialised pieces, eg ceramic or whatever, that need heating sometimes. Like that caffetiere, whatever that is. An aluminium coffee pot?

FWIW we went with gas recently (mainly because I'm kinda old school in liking to see flames instead of invisible futuristic radiation stuff) but also from a safety point of view: with gas or old style (or newer ceramic) elements, you can *see* that the thing is hot. I'm sure most / all induction cooktops have some kind of clear visual warning that the thing is turned on, but if it's just an LED on a button, it could be easy to make a mistake & burn yourself, especially if you ever have a few drinks while cooking. Also a potential issue with a kid in the house.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:59 PM on May 17, 2012

I don't have one currently but have used one a fair bit in the past when renting. I still like gas. Challenges with the induction I used - age unknown - were:
Issues with scratching glass moving pans around.

Cookware that's not perfectly flat on the bottom (e.g old pans and stuff that have warped somewhat), an absolute son of a gun, wildly hot and cold patches, same with pans that had ridges, even small ones like from writing, on a large proportion of the bottom.

The one I used was as slow or slower than gas to heat up, but that may have been due to age.

It had developed gross, hardcore baked-on stuff in little rings around the hot areas. This stuff was like plaque, then, but incredibly hard. I had no idea how to remove it.

People are right about the low heat, I found it great and easy to get an actual simmer.
posted by smoke at 10:17 PM on May 17, 2012

Response by poster: cheers all! Ubu, reputedly it's very hard to burn yourself on an induction cooktop. Check this pic. (also, this is a cafetiere.)

I think that I will see how I go with convincing the missus. And cost of course. It'll cost a few hundred dollars to replace some of the pots and pans I reckon, while we haven't settled the idea of a separate cooktop versus a freestanding.
posted by wilful at 10:45 PM on May 17, 2012

*thin, but incredibly hard.
posted by smoke at 10:50 PM on May 17, 2012

reputedly it's very hard to burn yourself on an induction cooktop

Ah, what I mean is burning yourself by touching a pan etc that might be sitting on it, that you think isn't hot but actually is. Depends how you use it. For example, we have a nice original art deco kettle in lieu of an electric plug-in kettle, that always sits on the cooktop. YMMV.

The cafetiere is something I know of as a moka pot. Not sure about the spelling, but I'm certain it's not to be confused with "mocha". You can get stainless steel versions; I've got one of those. Avoids the awful crusty pimply things that the aluminium ones always seem to be plagued with.

we haven't settled the idea of a separate cooktop versus a freestanding

Heading off topic here, but separate obviously allows you to choose the best model & make for the particular component, and mitigates against any of the components failing.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:08 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: separate obviously allows you to choose the best model & make for the particular component, and mitigates against any of the components failing.

True, but we're not MasterChef wankers, it'll be a griller, a fan forced electric oven, and 4 or more burners.

Staying off-topic, it really annoys me how separate grillers (broilers, American readers) have disappeared from all except the lowest end ovens.

Though I'm quite liking this belling (god I'm a yuppie).
posted by wilful at 11:30 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Staying off-topic, it really annoys me how separate grillers (broilers, American readers) have disappeared from all except the lowest end ovens."

Somewhat unbelievably, I was JUST contemplating this about an hour ago!

Thank you everyone for this amazing discussion. You've all inadvertently solved a different-yet-similar dilemma for me....
posted by jbenben at 2:29 AM on May 18, 2012

Oooh, pretty! That Belling is lovely!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:01 AM on May 18, 2012

I've been wanting an induction cooktop myself, but just to offer a point to the contrary: You can still cook on a gas cooktop if the electricity is off due to inclement weather or what have you.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:08 AM on May 18, 2012

A related consideration is that peak electricity (2pm to 10pm) costs 4x off peak, whereas gas is always charged at a constant rate, so it pays to avoid electricity-intensive appliances during peak periods.

This will only get worse as the effects of the carbon tax kick in.

As a data point, our gas bills (for instant hot water + gas hob, which we probably use 90% of the time for dinners) are around $60-$70 per quarter. You might want to estimate the KWh of an induction cooktop over a quarter for comparison.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:45 PM on May 20, 2012

Response by poster: Solar panels and LP gas make those sorts of calculations far more complicated though, don't they? And smart meters will change the definition of peak and not peak quite soon.

But we'll surely be doing most of our cooking when the sun is down, so importing sparks, while I don't think LP gas is expected to go up much any time soon.
posted by wilful at 9:38 PM on May 20, 2012

« Older What camcorders record straight to a computer?   |   K stands for the Kindness we show our customers Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.