Induction: Cooktop Magnetism
You’ve probably heard of the term animal magnetism—that is, the power to attract others through one’s physical presence or bearing. A secondary definition of the term is, “the indefinite power, presumably innate in some persons, that enables one to induce hypnosis.”
The first time I saw an induction cooktop in action, I became a victim of cooktop magnetism. I was hypnotized. The speed with which it cooks—boils water in about half the time, for instance—and the fact that it only heats the part of the hob over which an induction-ready pan sits, impressed me. The cooktops are available as single-hob units and as full-sized units, with 4-5 hobs.
What is induction cooking?
Since the open fire, the brightest minds in cooking have been working to evolve new, more efficient, ways to generate heat. In modern times, there have been two basic methods: chemical or electrical. You could either burn something (wood, coal, gas) or run an electric current through it.
According to TheInductionSite.com, induction is a third option, a completely different technology. An induction cooktop does not generate heat and transfer it to your pan. Instead, it makes your pan the generator of the heat. How? An induction cooking element is a powerful, high-frequency electromagnet. When a piece of magnetic material, say a cast-iron skillet, is placed in the magnetic field the element is creating, the field transfers (“induces”) energy into the skillet.
That transferred energy causes the skillet to become hot. By controlling the strength of the electromagnetic field, the chef controls the amount of heat generated. This can change instantaneously—which means greater control over how fast your water boils, butter melts, or chicken fries.
Note: The electromagnetic field doesn’t affect anything outside of your skillet. In other words, nothing outside of your skillet generates heat. Turn on an induction cooktop and neglect to put the pan on it, and the cooktop will not get hot. On the other hand, take a pot of boiling water off of the cooktop and it stops generating heat even if left turned on.
Essentially, any pan you use on an induction cooktop has to be made of a type of metal that will sustain a magnetic field. That means no ceramic, no Pyrex, no copper, no aluminum. Simple test: If you can take a magnet to the bottom of your pan (the part that will come into contact with the hob) and it sticks, you can use that pan on an induction cooktop.
That said, there are induction disks that will allow you to use your non-magnetic pans on an induction cooktop, though you may lose some of the advantages of induction, i.e., high energy efficiency.
Nearly all major cookware manufacturers now have lines that are induction-ready, including our brand, CHEFS, as well as Cuisinart, Swiss Diamond, Zwilling J.A. Henckels, All-Clad, KitchenAid, and Le Creuset, among others.
Pros and cons of induction cooking
While I admit to being entranced—hypnotized?—by the induction cooktop, there are both pros and cons to induction cooktops. It seems to me the pros outweigh the cons, but you should do your own research. These items come from TheInductionSite.com.
- Adjustability: Chefs can adjust the cooking heat instantly and with great precision. This is also the primary benefit of gas over electric stovetops, but induction hobs can run as low as desired (for a gentle simmer, say) and stay there consistently.
- Efficiency: Induction transfers almost all of the heat energy to the pan heating the pan, rather than the hob. If you set your pan over only half of an induction hob, the half the pan is not over will remain cool. This means a cooler kitchen and less opportunity for burned fingers.
- Safety: Since the stovetop stays cool, there are fewer opportunities for burned fingers for you or your curious children or grandchildren. If you’re cooking, the portion of the hob directly under your pan will get hot with referred heat. But once you remove the pan, it is quick to cool. For kitchens that take into account special needs, such as wheelchair access, induction stovetops are safer.
- Ubiquity: Induction cooktops are, of course, powered by electricity, which most home chefs will have easy access to. On the other hand, not every home has access to natural gas.
- Specialized cookware: Induction cookware only works with pots and pans made of magnetic material. However, cookware at all price points is readily available as are adaptors to enable you to use any cookware.
- Noise: Induction cooking is noiseless, however, some models incorporate small fans to help augment air flow and dissipate the heat generated.
- Electricity failure: Since induction cooking is powered by electricity, if the power supply to your home is interrupted you’ll be unable to cook.
- No “Char” flames: If charring foods on an open flame is important, the lack of a flame on an induction stovetop can be a drawback.
- Cost: Induction cooktops can cost more than traditional gas or electric stovetops. However, the price gap is shrinking and, over time, the difference in price becomes insignificant.
I’m eager to get an induction cooktop for my home. From my research, it seems induction cooking is one of the safest, most efficient and precise cooking methods available. Is it time to remodel my kitchen yet?