Induction stoves use less electricity than hot plates and are as responsive as gas stoves. But are they suitable for everyone?
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What is an Induction Stove?
Induction stoves use electricity to generate a rapidly-changing electromagnetic field. This magnetic field interacts with nearby ferrous (iron and steel) objects and heats them up.
This means that:
- Aluminum and copper pots and pans will not be heated by an induction stove. Magnetic cookware (stainless steel, cast iron, enamelled steel) is required. A fridge magnet can be used to test. However even 18/10 stainless steel will not work on an induction stove but 18/0 should be fine. Copper-clad and aluminum-clad stainless steel also have issues.
- Only the pot or pan is heated. The stove itself remains cool except where it is touched by the cookware.
For standalone single “burner” cooktop stove, prices range from $50 to $100 and above.
An “interface disc” can be used to make induction stoves work with aluminum and copper pots. This is a flat steel disc. The induction stove heats up the disc, which becomes a conventional hot plate.
Advantages of Induction Stoves
As the stove is not heated up:
- Less electricity is wasted compared with a conventional hot plate.
- The kitchen is heated up less by waste heat.
- The bottom of the pan is not burned by the stove and stays clean.
- Food spills and boil-overs aren’t burned on to the stove and are easily wiped off. Most stove-tops are easy-to-clean glass or ceramic.
- The pot can be conveniently left on the stove after cooking, without residual heat from the stove burning the food.
- The pot reacts instantly to changes in power, like a gas stove, because the stove itself doesn’t need to heat up or cool down first.
Disadvantages of Induction Cookers
Induction stoves do have some issues:
- A fan is used to cool the electronics. This can be noisy. The electronics or the magnetic field might also create a buzzing or humming noise.
- For safety, the stove will switch off if the pan is removed. This will interfere with cooking techniques that involve tilting or lifting the pan.
- Induction stoves need a minimum pan diameter to work. Pans that are too small will not be recognized and the stove will not switch on.
- The heated area might not cover the entire stove top. This is not an issue for boiling but can cause problems when frying. To check the heated area (typically a 5 inch diameter circle) a pan of water is heated on the stove. The pattern of the bubbles at the bottom of the pan will show the heated area.
- Induction stoves are more expensive than hot plates.
Induction Stove Features and Performance
Stove temperatures can typically be set from 150 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Maximum power varies from 1200 to 1600 watts (at 120 volts). Anything higher are 220 volt range stoves.
Most stoves have electronic displays and push-button controls, like a microwave oven. Either the stove power or the temperature can be controlled. If temperature control is chosen, the stove will maintain the pot at the selected temperature, like an oven.
Most stoves will also have a count down timer that will switch off the power, like a toaster oven.
Induction Stove Versus Propane Gas Versus Hot Plate
A single stand-alone plug-in induction stove makes a good addition to a kitchen, supplementing the traditional 4 burner gas or hot plate range. Limitations on cooking techniques and the types and size of cookware, means that other types of stoves are sometimes needed.
However if experimentation with the stand-alone stove top shows that other stoves are not needed, homeowners can consider changing their range stove to a 4 “burner” induction cooktop. Popular induction range brands include Berghoff, Electrolux and GE.