Induction cooktops are gaining market share among the general population as consumers become more aware of its affordability, safety, efficiency, and versatility. Their portability allows them to be placed in businesses, mobile homes, RVs, boats, cabins, dorm rooms and small apartments as well as in full sized kitchens.
How Induction Cooktops Work
These innovative devices have a ceramic plate with an electromagnetic coil beneath it. When the unit is turned on, electric current flows through the coil, generating a rapidly alternating magnetic field. As soon as the induction ready cookware is set on the cooktop, a magnetic field induces many smaller electric currents in the pan’s metal thereby heating it up. The heat is then transferred to the food inside the cooking vessel.
Induction Cooker Modes and Safety Features
There are two buttons that increase and decrease the temperature, allowing you to select the temperature required for your cooking activity. This is the manual method of using the cooktop and provides the flexibility to choose the temperature level of your choice. This is beneficial because the temperature can be increased in the initial stages of cooking and later reduced when the food is to be cooked at a slower rate. The manual mode allows the cook to experiment with the various levels and find the optimum one that is suited for a particular recipe.
Another feature of some induction burners is the ability to use preset modes. They are convenient because the heat zone can be selected without manually increasing and decreasing the temperature. For example, you can choose the option to heat milk and the cooktop will automatically choose the relevant temperature level for that purpose. In addition, some have preset levels for boiling water, and to simmer and keep warm. The temperature can be altered manually whenever required while in a preset mode. Most induction cooktops have multiple preset modes that help you to cook seamlessly.
Another feature of most induction cooktops is the inclusion of a timer mode. When you have a clear idea about the average time it takes to prepare a particular food or recipe, the timer mode can be easily set. Be sure to refer to the owner’s manual to determine if your model shuts off after a specified period of time as some units cease operation after two or three hours.
Another great function is the sleep mode. The unit will automatically go into the sleep mode once the time is reached. This is beneficial because you do not have to stay in front of the unit while it is cooking the food since it will automatically stop heating.
Induction cooktop units are equipped with many safety features such as overheating protection, automatic pan detection, child lock, and high and low voltage detection.
The type of safety features and settings offered varies among models. The owner’s manual generally gives a detailed explanation.
Cookware to Use With Induction Cooktops
The pots and pans used with your unit must be induction ready. This means they must contain either iron or magnetic material. Examples of the type of cookware you can use with an induction cooktop are cast iron, enameled cast iron, and stainless steel (as long as the base of the pan is a magnetic grade of stainless steel). Materials that will not work with induction cookers are glass, all-copper or aluminum unless the bottom layer of the vessel has magnetic properties.
Once you have the right induction cooktop for your kitchen, you can check the pots and pans you currently have to see if they are induction friendly. To do this, simply place a magnet on the bottom of the cooking vessel and if the magnet sticks (securely), then it will work. In addition, the bases of the pot or skillet should be free of major dings and dents so that it will be in contact with the surface of the unit.
Once you know which cookware pieces can be used on your induction hob then you can decide what pots and pans you need/want to buy. Some people wonder if they should buy a skillet/fry pan or a sauté pan. Another choice to make is whether it is more cost effective to buy an induction ready cookware set (they can also be used on gas and electric stoves) or purchase exactly what pieces you need now and add to your collection a little bit at a time.
Some consumers purchase an interface disk. This allows the use of non-induction cookware on an induction surface. The disk is placed between the cooking vessel and the surface of the cooker.
The problem with this product is that the cooking time will be increased since heat is transmitted more slowly to the pot or pan. In addition, there is a chance that these disks will overheat and damage the cooktop. If this happens the unit will automatically shut off. Unless you absolutely have to, induction disks are not recommended.
Using Your Induction Cooktop
The induction cooktop comes assembled in a single pack and can be immediately used for cooking food in your home. However, reading the owner’s manual first, will make your first cooking experience go a lot smoother. After unpacking your new cooker, inspect the ceramic/glass surface to make sure there are no scratches or cracks. Then, review the voltage requirements that are stated on the box to ensure your electrical outlet meets the required standard suggested by the manufacturer. Most manuals state these devices must be plugged into a dedicated outlet to avoid overloading the outlet and tripping the circuit breaker.
Induction Cooktop Cooking Steps
1. Place the cooker on a flat, level, non-metallic surface. Ensure the ventilation slots are not blocked (there should be a space of 3-5 inches between the cooker and other objects)
2. Plug the power cord into the electrical socket.
3. Place the ingredients in your pot or pan.
4. Determine the heating level required.
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 will be able to successfully use the cooktop for regular cooking.
5. Place the cooking vessel on top of the cooker centered on the cooking surface.
6. Turn on the cooktop by pressing and holding the OFF/ON indicator for 2-3 seconds.
7. Set the temperature/power level (refer to the user manual for assistance).
8. Set the timer.
9. When the cooking is finished take the cookware off the surface.
10. Turn the unit off.
11. After the fan has stopped running unplug the unit.
12. Wait for a few minutes before cleaning the cooktop.
Induction Cooking Tips
- Cooling fans in some models make a humming sound
- Consumers have commented that when the high-power levels are used, there is a high-pitched or buzzing sound.
- Cookware that has a thin bottom or is of low quality
Induction Cooktops in Commercial Establishments
Induction cookers are ideally suited for commercial establishments such as convenience stores, restaurants, food trucks, and office buildings. An electrical connection is all that is required to quickly cook your food at a precise temperature.
This cooking method generates less heat than conventional stoves making it a more comfortable cooking environment.
These cooktops are also very easy to clean. After your unit has cooled down, wipe off any cooking spills with a damp paper towel or soft sponge and followed that up by using a drop or two of glass/ceramic cooktop cleaner on a cloth to remove any food remnants. If there are hard water spots on the surface, white vinegar can be used to clean those from your cooktop. Remove the vinegar residue with a damp paper towel and wipe the surface dry with a clean cloth.
Convenience stores are using these appliances to keep food warm or to prepare fresh and customizable food. Chefs use induction cooktops to prepare freshly cooked meals as well as for preparing dishes in advance.
Food carts and trucks are becoming more common as people like the mobility and low-overhead expense. Meals can be prepared quickly while the customer waits instead of heating previously cooked food in a microwave.
Commercial business buildings usually have food carts, small restaurants and employee lunch rooms. These portable induction cookers are a valuable appliance in these environments as often times people only have a half-hour or an hour for lunch. Nowadays, employees often eat lunch and run errands during their break times. This allows them to eat a healthy, freshly cooked meal at a reasonable price.
Manufacturers continue to develop units as single or double portable burners, built-in units or as a full-size range with varying capabilities and features. There are many more options available in each category than there were even five years ago. This article details some things to consider when shopping for or researching an induction cooktop.