Which is a better stove: gas or induction?
September 10, 2007 9:53 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I cook a lot. We're moving from an apartment with a decent gas stove/oven to one with a crappy electric stove/oven. Obviously, Something Must Be Done. Should we go for gas or induction?

I've read this previous question, but it seems more geared towards single hot plates. I'm not sure whether that would make a difference. (Plus some of the details - like whether a wearing a metal ring would cause your hand to get burnt - just seem plain WRONG in light of the manufacturers' claims.)

In terms of cost: The new place doesn't have gas hooked up, so we'd have to pay for that. (According to AGL, it'd be around AUD $600 and take 40 days to get hooked up.) Alternatively, if we did go for an induction cooker, we'd have to buy some new pots and pans. (Not all of ours are magnetic.) Plus the induction cookers themselves are more expensive. In terms of running costs, gas is cheaper than electricity... but induction is supposed to have a much higher efficiency rate.

Of course, what it really comes down to is how well they are to cook on. We're both foodies and we do quite a bit of cooking. My only experience with an induction stovetop is seeing Maggie use one on The Cook and the Chef. (They seem awfully neat and futuristic though.) Have you ever used one? Is it weird to cook without seeing, you know, FIRE? If money were no object, which would you choose?

(Induction is far less common, so the most helpful answers will be from those who've actually, you know, cooked on them.)
posted by web-goddess to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
When I remodel my kitchen I'm going for a dual-fuel range, with a gas cooktop and electric oven. But I already have a gasline and don't need to take that into account.

I find that gas ovens aren't very consistent, and I've always had to rely on oven thermometers very heavily whenever I've lived someplace that had a gas oven. If you bake a lot, this could be a problem for you. But I also like the control that a gas flame provides for rangetop cooking. It's a paradox.
posted by padraigin at 10:28 PM on September 10, 2007

Never cooked with an induction stove, but they sound really neat. All the nerds like me would be jealous of your new kitchen technology. If that sounds scary, maybe a more traditional gas stove is the better way.
posted by TeatimeGrommit at 10:40 PM on September 10, 2007

Gas is better for the stovetop, but you already know that. I wonder whether a propane camp stove might be possible compromise choice here? As long as you have a window partly open there shouldn't be any danger from it, and it would cost a hell of a lot less than getting gas installed in your apartment.

Something like this?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:43 PM on September 10, 2007

Induction apparently OWNZ.

If I had a choice, I'd go with it.. Because...

1. It's hotter.
2. It's more direct.
3. FAR more efficient. Gas rules but it really heats up the house. We have no AC or central air so it really sucks in the summer.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:46 PM on September 10, 2007

Response by poster: A camp stove? Honestly? In my dream kitchen? I don't think so.

Gas is better for the stovetop, but you already know that.

I wouldn't be asking the question if that were the case. As Lord_Pall points out, induction is hotter and more direct. Both systems seem to have their advantages; I'm trying to find out which would be best for me.

Things I'm hoping to learn: Are the induction ones really that much easier to clean? Do they heat up as fast? Are they as responsive to temperature change? Can you achieve a really rolling boil and a very low simmer? Do you need absolutely flat bottomed pans, or do they work with a slight lip?
posted by web-goddess at 11:13 PM on September 10, 2007

Response by poster: Ah, just to deal with the oven issue that padraigin brings up: We more concerned with the rangetop as opposed to the oven. We don't do nearly as much baking as we do normal cookine. As long as the oven heats evenly, we're happy with electric.
posted by web-goddess at 11:14 PM on September 10, 2007

Well, I don't have any experience at all with an induction setup. I just know that I feel more in control with a gas cooktop versus a traditional electric. So, data point for you there.

But I really do love having FIRE! under my pans, and I don't know how much of enjoying the process of cooking is related to that love of FIRE!

I don't bake much at all. Cookies, the odd cupcakes, and I use a bread machine whenever possible.
posted by padraigin at 11:22 PM on September 10, 2007

Electric oven - gas cooktop. All gas cook tops can be adjusted to run on liquid propane, which would be a cheaper alternative to a natural gas connection. You need some where to store the tank of course.
posted by Neiltupper at 11:22 PM on September 10, 2007

For a while, my friend lived in an expensive San Francisco high-rise apartment that had an induction stove. I cooked on it a few times. Since the unit was a rental, I don't know how much the stove cost or how much he paid in electricity. That said, it was a real joy to cook on though we didn't get to try anything fancy.

The only caveat was it didn't do so well when you carried a hot pan from the oven to the "burner." It seemed to always pull the temperature down and then bring it back up. Tiny price to pay though for the convenience of a fast heating cooking element that requires absolutely minimal clean-up.
posted by junesix at 11:27 PM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: Induction is awesome! I've had one for 5 years and I'd never change it. Ever! That being said, I've never really cooked on a proper gas cooktop.

Things I'm hoping to learn: Are the induction ones really that much easier to clean? Do they heat up as fast? Are they as responsive to temperature change? Can you achieve a really rolling boil and a very low simmer? Do you need absolutely flat bottomed pans, or do they work with a slight lip?
Yes, the the ceramic type I have is *so* easy to keep clean. Food doesn't get burnt on, and all I need to do is wipe it down.
Yes, they heat up fast and are super responsive to temperature changes.
Yes. you can achieve an impressive rolling boil (at least with the powerstufe function mine has), and I can melt chocolate without burning it, or keep sauces warm but not cooking at the lowest temps.
As flat as possible is best, but not all my pans are flat as can be and they work just fine too.

The safety issue is also one of my favourite things about induction. If you've cooked on it, once you remove the pan it just stops cooking. You cannot get badly burned by touching the surface. This mattered to us as we have cats, and they have actually managed to turn on the induction by stepping on buttons. No pan on, no cooking, no burnt paws.
posted by esilenna at 11:36 PM on September 10, 2007

The advantage of gas is that it responds more rapidly, both up and down. The pans needed for induction have to be pretty thick, which means more thermal mass, which means they don't cool as rapidly when you turn off the heat.

Gas works with any cookware. Induction requires you to buy special pans. And I don't think you can use a wok with induction, whereas gas is the ideal heat source for a wok.

Of course, both of them are drastically better than electric resistive heating, which is what I've got now. (Blech.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:49 PM on September 10, 2007

Best answer: Ok. I made the switch from gas to induction a bit more than a year ago. To answer some of your specific questions.

Yes, it is a lot easier to clean. It's just a glass surface after all.
Yes, it heats up as fast if not faster than the gas stove. Also I find heat regulation easier on the induction one. I'm pretty sure I could do sauces and stuff without a water-bath, just because heat regulation is so damn good on my new stove.
I don't miss my aluminum pans at all and I never had any copper ones.
I don't miss having too cook in my underwear in the summer.

The probably most awesome feature of the induction one is the built in timer. Cooking is just overall easier when you can start something and just have the thing switch off itself after N minutes. Perfect boiled eggs and all that...

The only thing i miss is cooking in wok pans with a round bottom. If you do lots of asian cooking induction is not for you .
posted by uandt at 11:58 PM on September 10, 2007

I lived in an apartment with induction hobs for a year, and I never quite got what the fuss was about. They do heat up quickly, but they're not that easy to keep clean. You have to have special glass hob cleaner. Every time you spill a drop of cooking liquid it vaporises into a burnt-on residue. What Steven C. Den Beste is also important, because if you have expensive favourite pans, they may no longer work with induction hobs.
posted by roofus at 1:39 AM on September 11, 2007

Can you use black iron cookware on an induction cooker? I plan on getting a new range in the next year or so and that would be the deciding factor for me.
posted by cilantro at 3:37 AM on September 11, 2007

Best answer: Although I have a gas line in my place, and have always used and loved gas cooktops in the past, I am currently renovating my kitchen and have chosen an induction cooktop. It's not yet installed but I was won over by what I'd read online.

Before investing in a cooktop, I bought a little countertop hob to try it out and liked it a lot. The advantages were:

- efficiency
- very sensitive heat regulation
- incredibly easy to clean, even in the middle of cooking (think scrambled eggs)
- our kitchen is smallish, and the cooktop area can double as counter space to some extent

As to pans, I've noticed that I don't use that many different ones. I have a big LeCreuset that I love, and some cast iron skillets that will work fine. Apparently Demeyere makes awesome cookware for induction. I may get one or two pieces of that. I tend to view the cookware as a long-term investment that I can take with me anywhere, pass down to my kids even.

A great resource to help you make your decision is The Induction Site.

If you're really into wok cooking there are some wok cooktops out there for induction. Don't know much about them though.
posted by pammo at 3:43 AM on September 11, 2007

Electric isn't worse, it's just different. Try getting used to it before you give up on it.
posted by Doohickie at 5:35 AM on September 11, 2007

My new place has a cheap gas range, that sucks worse than any electric range I've ever used. (FWIW, gas is from an LP tank outside) Spend the money for a decent stove!
posted by kableh at 7:11 AM on September 11, 2007

I have an induction cook top now and will do a little dance of joy in a few months when my kitchen renovation is done and I have my new gas cook top. If my mother-in-law didn't want the damned thing, I might take a sledgehammer to it as well. Unfortunately, she wants it so I can't have my fun.

I think it really comes down to preference. Do you know someone who owns an induction top who would let you come in and cook something? Is there a showroom somewhere that will allow you to cook on one before you make a decision (I know we have a place like that here in Ohio; YMMV in another country)?

All the reviews and advice in the world don't mean a thing if you personally end up hating the thing.
posted by cooker girl at 7:51 AM on September 11, 2007

I wouldn't go for induction without living with it for a while. Maybe you can get a cheap-ish induction hotplate/single range for a while and see if you can live with it. If you find that it's seriously limiting your cooking (besides the size difference obviously), go for gas, and either sell the induction unit or use it to make eggs.

I'm seriously considering picking up one of the hotplates just for the specific advantages outlined above. Then again, I'm seriously considering a $400 blender so don't take me too seriously.
posted by Skorgu at 9:02 AM on September 11, 2007

roofus: Are you sure you're talking about induction hobs and not a glass-cerarmic? I've had a glass-ceramic in the past, and it's just like you've described, but an induction hob isn't supposed to get that hot.
posted by Laen at 9:13 AM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers, everyone. I'm fairly persuaded that induction is all around better for cooking, so it'll probably come down to the question of whether we actually like using one. I'm on the lookout for a showroom...
posted by web-goddess at 7:45 PM on September 11, 2007

Laen I've cooked on glass ceramic too, which is equally finickety to clean (in comparison to regular chrome or enamel hobs). The induction hob itself doesn't get so hot, but it does heat the pan very quickly.
posted by roofus at 7:39 AM on September 12, 2007

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