What is Induction Cooking?

Induction What does it mean, and how does it boil water faster, and more efficiently than gas or electric burners?

Will your current set of pots and pans work with a new induction cooktop and how can you be sure?

Why should you consider induction cooking for your kitchen?

How the heck does it work???

I know.  It's strange.  It's a little different way of thinking about cooking.  For those of us that can let go of our preconceived biases regarding gas burners and how they outshine and outburn everything else, induction might be a perfect fit for our kitchens.

How Does Induction Work?

 Induction occurs when heat is "induced" into a piece of cookware by an electromagnetic field.  The "element" is a high frequency electromagnetic unit that is situated underneath the ceramic or glass cooktop surface.  (see the picture to the left- It's the coils!)  Induction uses sophisticated electronics in the element to generate electromagnetism.  This magnetic field is very strong.  When a piece of magnetic material - such as a frying pan - is placed on top of the cooking surface, the magnetic field is transferred to the pan.  This magnetism agitates the molecules at the very core of the pan's makeup and they begin to shake and vibrate very quickly, producing friction.

Have you ever pulled your hands too quickly along a rope and gotten a burn?  That's friction.  The heat that is released (and burns your hands) is the same type of heat that the induction cooktop uses to cook that bacon you've been salivating over all morning.

Here's the main thing to take away:  induction cooking transforms your piece of cookware (a frying pan, for example) into the actual cooking surface.

Yeah, it Sounds Great, but How Does it Perform?

There are three aspects to this.  How fast does an induction cooktop heat up?  How controllable are the temperatures?  How about energy efficiency?

Let's start with energy efficiency.  Hands down, induction is simply the most energy efficient way to cook that exists today.

On average, induction cooking is 85-90% energy efficient.  That means that about90% of the energy produced is actually delivered to the source.  Gas, on the other hand is only 40% efficient!  Most of the heat generated is lost between the time the flame is turned on and the point at which heat is delivered.  Induction is TWICE as efficient as gas when it comes to energy delivery.  WOW.

The following statistics are courtesy of Meyer Corporation / Jenn Air

Click here for statistics: Induction

How about controllability??

Well let me tell you.  It's just as easy to control an induction cooktop's heat as it is gas or electric.  I don't have any statistics to show you, but I can say from experience that it is very easy to control the heat source.  You can still simmer your Gramma's sauce all day without burning the pot.

I've Heard About Induction's Ability to Boil Water Quickly, but Exactly How Fast is it??

It's not just boiling water.  The example of how fast it takes to boil water is just the easiest visual for most of us.  So how fast is it?

Let's use some more statistics from Meyer Corporation / Jenn Air

The following times are based on the time to bring to boil 2 QUARTS of water

Induction: 4m 45s

Gas: 8m 18s

Electric: 9m 50s

Induction is just about twice as fast as the next best option.  I think this is pretty self explanatory, so I won't go into more detail about it.

Will My Pots and Pans Work with an Induction Cooktop?

There has been a lot of backlash against induction because of a misconceived notion that your current set of pots and pans will not work with it.  That may be a little bit true, but for the most part, it is not.  It is also a widely held belief that you need to spend hundreds and hundreds of your hard earned dollars on a new set of "induction-ready" pots and pans.  That also, is not true.

How can you determine if your pots and pans will work with an induction cooktop?  Simple.  Take a magnet and place it on the bottom of your cookware.  If it sticks, your pot will work.  If not, then you need to go shopping.

Don't be conned into paying an arm and a leg for an expensive set of cookware if you don't really want to.  There are plenty of induction ready cookware sets available at places such as Costco that won't burn a hole in your pocket.  As with anything though, you get what you pay for.  Many cheaper pots and pans have "hot spots" or non-ergonomically designed handles.  These may work with an induction cooktop, but you may not get optimum performance out of them.