Everyone wants to know about induction cooking. It’s high tech, it looks good and it’s very efficient.
I am assuming you’re like me before I bought my first induction cooktop. I wanted to know what it was and how is worked but I didn’t need enough detail to actually go and build my own! If you’re a scientist or an engineer and you’re fascinated by induction at a deeper level, this article is probably not for you.
On the other hand, if you’re thinking about remodelling your kitchen and you’ve never owned an induction cooktop before, please read on.
How induction cooking works
On an induction cooktop the pot is heated using magnetic induction instead of thermal conduction. There is a copper wire coil underneath the glass cooktop and an alternating electrical current is passed through the coil to produce an oscillating magnetic field.
Without going in to a lot of detail about currents and resistance it is probably enough to know that this magnetic flux results in the pot heating up. It is good to know that it is the cooking pot heating up, not the cooktop.
There is very little residual heat, unlike an electrical element which gives off a lot of heat itself. Similarly, flames produced by gas burners produce a lot of heat which doesn’t all get used by the cooking pot. Induction cooking is a very efficient form of cooking.
The history of induction cooking
The concept of induction cooking dates back to over a hundred years. There are old patents recorded in the early 1900s. The concept back then involved a coil of wire wound around a magnetic core.
These days induction cooking has become technologically advanced with on-board computers controlling the cooktop, touch panel controls and automatic functions built-in.
In the early 1970s one company manufactured an induction cooktop which was produced commercially and in the 1980s an induction range became available. While induction cooking has been very popular in Europe it has taken longer for the USA to adopt this form of cooking. Induction cooktops have only become very popular in the 2000s and there are now, in 2016, multiple manufacturers of induction cooktops in the USA and overseas.
What does induction cooking mean?
If you want to know about the practical aspects of induction cooking it’s probably because you’re either about to install a new cooktop in your kitchen or you’re thinking about buying a portable induction burner for your apartment, RV, dorm room or holiday house.
There are plenty of options with induction cooking. You can choose a high end cooktop with all the bells and whistles or you can opt for a portable induction burner that travels with you. The portable option is very inexpensive and can be a great way to explore induction cooking before you commit to the more expensive cooktops and ranges. Lots of restaurants also use induction cooking because there are so many advantages for them when cooking for long periods of time and continuously in limited space.
How is induction cooking different?
Induction cooking differs from electric and gas cooking because it heats the pot directly. As already mentioned, there is very little residual heat making it very efficient. You don’t need to worry about your kitchen heating up too much.
Induction cooking is also very safe compared to thermal conduction. There is no flame so there is a lower chance of causing a fire. This is good if you want to use induction cooking in your dorm room or on a boat or caravan. Many induction cookers also include an automatic timer to turn the induction burner off after a certain time so they’re very safe for someone who is forgetful and may leave their cooking unattended.
Induction cooking is different from electric hobs because there is much less residual heat and they are more energy efficient. They will save you money on your electricity bill.
Induction cooking is also different because it is so highly responsive. You can increase or decrease the heat incredibly quickly compared to an electric cooktop, whether it be a traditional coil heating element or a ceramic top electric cooktop.
How good is induction cooking?
Ask anyone who owns an induction cooktop and they’ll tell you how fast and responsive the heat is. They’ll tell you they have complete control over their cooking and many will even say it is better than cooking with gas.
The only downside to induction cooking, that I’m aware of, is that when you first use it there is a very good chance you’ll burn your food at your first attempt. This is because there is no need to pre-heat the pot. Induction is so fast you need to do your food prep before you turn the cooktop on. As mentioned above, this is a very efficient way to cook your food.
What are induction cooking pans?
You need to be very particular about the pots and pans you use for induction cooking. If they are made from the wrong type of metal they won’t work on induction. They need to be ferromagnetic.
Most stainless steel and cast iron pots are very good for induction cooking. There are plenty of pots and pans available for induction cooking and these days most of them are labelled as induction-ready to make your job of choosing them easy.
If you are unsure, you can carry a small magnet with you to the shops and then test the bottom of the pot or pan.
If the magnet sticks to the bottom of it then it should work with induction. It is important that you test the bottom side of the pot or pan rather than the sides. The sides may be constructed with a material different from the base but it is the base that will heat up as a result of the oscillating magnetic field.
A lot of people think they will need to purchase a whole new set of pots when they get an induction cooktop.
While it is always nice to get a new set, you’ll probably find that a lot of the pots and pans you already own work perfectly with induction. It is best to check first if you want to save your money. Having said that, I found it better to buy a new set of pots at the same time as buying a new induction cooktop. Some of my old pots were not entirely free of grease or perfectly flat on the base from many years of cooking. I like the idea of my new cooktop being kept completely shiny and new for a long time. With new pots it is easier to avoid scratching or marking your new cooktop.
Good luck with discovering your perfect induction cooking appliance. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen or buying a stand-alone portable induction burner, induction rice cooker or induction wok burner, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from induction cooking now and in the future.