When people talk about cooktops, it’s typically in binary terms: electric or gas. But there’s a third option that’s starting to make its way onto that list: induction cooktops. These alternative cooktops are extremely energy efficient, using electromagnetic power to heat your food, which offers a whole range of benefits over traditional electric or gas units. Induction cooking isn’t new technology by any means – major manufacturers have been experimenting with induction cooktops for almost a hundred years – but it’s only just starting to come to the fore. Advancements in recent years have made induction stoves more affordable to buy and more competitive to use. But what are they exactly, and why are they better?
1. Induction Cooktops Use Magnetic Power To Heat Only What You Want It To
Many induction cooktops, like this Fagor IFA-90BF, resemble higher end electric models, with a smooth glass ceramic top with painted circles to indicate the burners. But the difference between the two is rather striking. Rather than electric coils that heat red-hot to warm your pots and pans, induction cooktops are filled with dense disks of coiled wire that creates a magnetic field around them. When the cooktop is clear, the magnetic field doesn’t do anything, but put a pot, saucepan, or skillet with a magnetized base (stainless steel and cast iron are best, but cookware that blends these materials with copper and aluminum work well too), and the magnetic field starts moving a current through the pan, heating it and everything inside it – but not the area around it. Which leads to…
2. Induction Cooktops Are Always Cool To The Touch
That’s right. One of the biggest appeals of induction cooktops, like this IFA-90 AL from Fagor is that they’re specially designed to heat only the pots that are placed on them. The unit itself never rises above room temperature, even if you’re using all the burners. If you have small children, this is hands down the safest type of cooktop, and lowers burning risk across the board. More than that, the fact that the burners themselves don’t heat up means that, unlike visually similar electric cooktops, if you spill on an induction stove, your food won’t burn to the glass ceramic top. Any spilled food or water will behave exactly as though you’d spilled them on a regular room temperature counter, which makes cleanup easy, too.
3. Induction Cooktops Are Smart
Well, as smart as any machine can be, at any rate. Fagor induction cooktops like this IFA-80BF turn on automatically when a pan with a magnetic bottom (check yours with a simple refrigerator magnet) is placed on one of the burners, and off when it’s removed. It can also sense magnetic objects (like jewelery or stainless steel tongs, for example) that are too small to be pots or pans, and won’t turn on below a 5″ diameter threshold. Maybe most impressively, the cooktop will shut off automatically if it senses that a pot has boiled over, the contents have evaporated completely, or the temperature of the pot exceeds safe levels. Many can even be programmed to automatically run at a certain temperature or for a certain length of time and then shut off by themselves, which can be handy if you’re cooking a lot of food at once and are short on egg timers.
4. Induction Cooktops Are Impressively Easy To Use
Almost all induction cooktops are designed with integrated touch controls. Because the human body can carry an electrical current, the innards of an induction stove like this IFA-30AL respond to swipes and touches much like a smartphone. That means a couple things. First, the surface of your cooktop is completely, 100% flat, no buttons or knobs needed anywhere, and second, that because it’s so compact in all dimensions, you can install one almost anywhere, and have a whole lot more space left over.
5. Induction Cooktops Combine The Best Aspects Of Gas And Electric
The main appeal of gas cooktops is that they’re extremely responsive – you can alternate between a wide range of temperatures easily and, most importantly, quickly. Electric cooktops shine in consistency and control, as it’s much easier to set an electric stove to the same temperature each time; they’re also easier to clean. Induction cooktops, like this Fagor IFA-80AL, combine the two, with controls that respond and correct quickly, both raising and lowering temperature, and with as many as twelve preset temperature levels that make it easy to cook at the same heat every time. Plus, since they heat so consistently and evenly, you won’t have to worry about scorching your food.
6. Induction Cooktops Are Unparalleled For Energy Efficiency
Last but certainly not least, is the underlying factor that makes all the rest of this possible. Simply put, induction cooktops from Fagor and other manufacturers are completely flame-free; they have no heating coils, no fuel lines, and produce virtually no heat waste whatsoever. What little energy they use is transferred directly into your cook pot, and from there directly into your food. Where gas and electric cooktops heat the stove, the counter, and the surrounding air as well as your dinner, induction cooktops stay cool and waste free, and consume up to 20% less energy in the process. So if you’re looking for a way to green your kitchen – or are just tired of shooing your kids away from the stove – an induction cooktop might be the answer to “Gas or electric?” How did you find out about induction cooktops? What about them appeals to you the most? Let me know in the comments!