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Induction Cooktop

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A small induction cooker.

A small induction cooker.

Photo © Danilo Alfaro

Induction Cooktop Overview:

Induction cooktops use an electromagnetic field to heat up a pan while leaving the cooking surface cool to the touch and without heating the air around the cooktop. It's much safer and more energy efficient than either gas or electric cooking.

Induction Cooktop Efficiency:

Because the pan is heated by a magnetic field instead of by heating the bottom of the pan with a flame or electric heating element, an induction cooktop is more energy efficient because less energy is wasted by heating up the air around the pot. With a gas stove, only 40 percent of the generated heat ends up cooking the food. The other 60 percent is wasted — all it does is make the kitchen hotter.

Traditional electric ranges are about 50 percent efficient. Induction cooktops, however, are about 90 percent efficient — meaning 90 percent of the energy generated ends up in the pot, with only 10 percent wasted.

Induction Cooktop Safety:

Because the surface of an induction stove or cooktop doesn't get hot, you can actually touch it with your finger without burning yourself. This also means that if you splatter sauce onto the cooking surface, it won't burn. That makes cleanup easier.

Induction Cooktop Speed:

Induction cooktops heat more quickly than gas or electric, saving energy as well as time. A 12,000-BTU gas burner takes 36 minutes to boil 5 gallons of water, but an 1,800-watt induction hob will boil the same 5 gallons in only 22 minutes. If you're wondering, a watt is equal to 3.4 BTUs, so even in absolute terms, induction is still faster. Plus, induction cookers respond instantly to temperature adjustments, so when you lower the heat, you'll see the results right away — just like with a gas range!

Induction Cooktop Requirements:

Induction cooktops can only be used with cookware that is made of ferrous metals like steel or cast iron. Aluminum cookware won't work, nor will glass or ceramic. Here's a simple test to see if your cookware is induction-compatible: If a magnet sticks to it, it'll work with an induction stove.

Induction Cooking Equipment:

Induction cookers are available in countertop models, which are free-standing devices with one or two "burners" or hobs. Most units feature safety functions so that they'll shut off if a pan isn't present or if the pan is empty. Drop-in units are also available, which means that it's possible to outfit a home kitchen with an induction range cooktop.
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