Cooking with induction is safe, easy, and energy efficient making it one of the best ways to cook in our modern times. It has been popular in Europe and Asia for decades and is gaining market share in the US.
Induction cookers aren’t for everybody and we understand that. The only way you'll know is if you gather information about them. Conducting research on any potential purchase lessens the possibility of ordering an item you don't want and then having to go through the hassle of returning it.
Since this is not a common method of cooking, we have created a step-by-step guide on purchasing and using an induction cooker for cooking.
How They Work
Understanding how induction cooking works is important because you may decide this type of cooking method either doesn't appeal to you or won't suit your cooking needs. If either of those are the case, then you won't have spent a lot of time researching this topic.
While conventional stoves use gas flames or electric heating elements, induction cookers have a different heating method. Under the ceramic/glass plate of the cooktop is an electromagnetic coil. When the unit is turned on, electric current flows through this coil and a magnetic field is produced. If the proper cookware (induction ready) is put on the surface of the unit, the magnetic field generates electric currents in the cooking vessel's metal. The heat is then transferred to the food. The photo below is a picture of a coil inside an induction cooktop.
Next, you'll want to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks to these units. Whether you purchase a portable, built-in or full-size unit, they are easy to clean and can be used in many cooking environments in addition to your home kitchen. Food is heated quickly and accurately with minimal heat loss. The drawbacks are that there is a learning curve to using these appliances and only certain types of cookware can be used on them.
Pros and Cons of Induction Hobs
- Time saver - fast heat up times
- Efficient - heats the cookware not the whole surface
- Most units automatically switch off when the pan is taken off the cooktop
- No flame or hot coils
- Easily cleaned - food won't get baked on the surface
- Most designs blend in with any decor
- Can be used in many cooking environments - dorms, RVs, cabin, campers
- Versatile - can be used as main cooking appliance or as an extra burner
- Full size induction stoves are more expensive than gas or electric units
- Only cookware that has a ferromagnetic base can be used. Carbon steel, magnetized stainless steel, enameled cast iron and cast iron cookware works with induction cooktops.
Types of Induction Cooking Units
If you decide induction cooking is something you would like to further investigate, research the various types of units available. Portable cookers have either one or two burners while built-in ones have between two and five burners. Full-size, freestanding induction ranges have a cooktop and either one or two ovens and are generally 30 or 36 inches wide. Each of these categories has different capabilities and features.
When considering the type of unit, be sure to take note of the size of the burners. Also, if you decide to purchase a built-in unit, verify the dimensions of the cooker and the space available to drop the unit into as well as the electrical requirements.
The type of controls is important to some consumers. Some units have touch controls instead of control knobs.
Some people buy a one burner induction cooker (photo below) to see if they like it before buying a built-in unit or full-size range.
After you have determined the type of cooktop/oven you want to purchase, consider whether or not the unit has these features when narrowing your choices.
- Number and size of cooking zones
- Temperature settings - range, how many, increments
- Power levels - range, how many, increments
- One-touch settings (boil, simmer, keep warm)
- Child lock - prevents settings from being changed
- Is the unit easy to operate?
- Is LED easily read?
- Timer - maximum number of hours
- Overheat protection
- Auto pan detection - senses if a pan is not on the cooktop
- Senses if pan is not induction compatible
- Low/high voltage warning
- Is the unit ETL approved?
- Is the unit FCC Part 18 compliant?
Ensure All Your Cookware is Compatible
Now that you have determined which cooktop to purchase, you'll want to factor in the cost of cookware you might have to purchase. Since only certain types of cookware work on an induction cooker, you'll want to make sure you have compatible cookware in your kitchen. Cast iron, enamel cast iron, steel, and stainless steel pots and pans with a magnetized base are induction ready. Some induction cookware has a stamp on the base of the pan stating it is induction suitable. This articles discusses types and features of stainless steel and induction cookware in general.
The first thing to do is to make a list of all the cooking vessels and sizes you want to use with your induction cooktop. Next, determine if your pots and pans are induction ready by placing a magnet (a refrigerator magnet is fine) on the bottom of the cooking vessel. If it strongly sticks to the base, it can be used on an induction cooktop. Then, compare the list of what you have and what cookware you need to purchase.
It is possible to just start out with a skillet and a saucepan and as your budget permits add items such as a sauté pan, stockpot, or dutch oven.
Another option is to purchase an induction ready cookware set. It isn't always necessary to buy a 17-piece set as often times a 10-piece set has all the pots and pans you'll use on a regular basis.
Induction Cooking Process
If it’s your first time using an induction hob then we suggest first boiling some water on it. This ensures everything works properly and also gives you a feel for how your unit operates.
Although reading the instruction (user) manual can be a little boring, your first experience with your new induction cooktop will go a lot smoother if you at least skim the documentation.
The induction cooktop will only start to heat up when an induction compatible pan is on the surface of the cooker.
The induction cooker should be placed on a flat, non-metallic surface and in a position so as not to block the ventilation slots. After plugging the power cord in the socket, place your ingredients in the cooking vessel. Then decide what temperature or power level you will be using (these can be adjusted). User manuals generally have a table that equates power levels and temperatures.
Place the pot in the center of the cooking surface and turn the unit on (hold the button/touch pad for 2-3 seconds). Then set the temperature/power level and timer (optional).
Remember, the induction cooktop can be used at different power levels and the temperature settings can be increased and decreased. After experimenting with these features, you will get the hang of it and can easily use the cooktop.
After the meal is finished cooking, take the vessel off the burner, turn the unit off, and unplug it after the fan stops running. Then you can clean your cooktop.
Clean Everything Up
Once you’ve successfully cooked your meal, it's time to clean your induction cooker. As soon as you’ve removed the pan and waited a few minutes, the surface should be cool. For routine cleaning, wipe the surface with a moist paper towel, cloth or soft sponge. Then wipe the cooktop dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.
In contrast to gas or electric cooktops, if you have spilled anything on the cooker while you’ve been cooking, it is a lot easier to clean since it won't be baked on the burner.
We created a process for cleaning and maintaining your induction cooktop including what materials to use and which ones not to use.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to cooking, especially if you’re using a new induction cooker. You'll likely get a better outcome if you read the instructions that come with the cooker and examine the unit before you use it. Give yourself some time to experiment with recipes using different temperature and power levels. Some people prefer to use the power levels only.
The internet is a great place to find out everything you need to know about a particular make or style. A lot of people read consumer reviews. I scour them on several different websites to look for tidbits of information and also study them to see if there are any patterns in the comments. For example, when shopping for cookware, if a lot of people think a pan is too heavy, then I take that into consideration prior to making my purchase.