Induction cooking has been used in Europe and Asia for many decades. It is becoming more well-known in the United States and the market share has been steadily increasing.
Induction hobs use a different heating mechanism than conventional ovens that have electric heating elements or a gas flame. We will address in more detail how these cookers work, their efficiency and history, as well as the pros and cons of induction cooking.
How Induction Hobs Work
Induction cookers have an electromagnetic coil under the glass/ceramic cooktop surface. When an induction compatible cooking vessel is placed on the plate and the unit is turned on, an electric current flows through the coil. This produces a magnetic field which generates electric currents in the pot or pan's metal. Heat is transferred to the food because the cooking vessel acts as a heat source. Only ferromagnetic materials such as steel and cast iron work with induction cooktops.
Induction Cooktop Efficiency
There has been a lot of hype about induction cooktops being much more energy efficient than an electric or gas range. Most people will agree that since heat is transferred directly to the pot, little is lost to the surrounding environment. This means your kitchen won't get so hot, which is great during the summer. In addition, induction cookers heat up faster than electric or gas stoves and react more quickly to temperature changes.
The question as to whether using an induction cooktop is less expensive than electric or gas has been discussed on various review sites and forums. Prior to stating whether the cooking efficiency of induction cooking is or isn't better than electric or gas, I wanted to review the results of a technical assessment that addressed this query. I found one that was conducted by the private firm, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). The cooking products used were: full-size gas and electric ranges and two single burner induction cooktops.
Water was heated from 70° to 200° F to conduct the electric and induction tests. Three tests were completed and the results averaged. In terms of electric vs induction, the results showed when the cooking vessel covered the burner, induction efficiency was higher (83.4% vs 77.4%). On the other hand, when the bottom of the cookware was smaller than the heating coil, induction was more efficient, (76.2% vs 41.5%). In the end, the amount you would save on your electric bill is negligible.
Since the EPRI test was conducted on a gas stove at 50°F and on an induction stove at 70°F one cannot make a direct comparison. However, the results do show the efficiency level of gas. When a vessel was used that covered the burner, the gas range was less efficient than induction cooktops (77.4% vs 35.2%). This was also true when the cookware was smaller than the burner (76.2% vs 30.2%). The EPRI finding concluded that the annual induction energy cost is slightly higher than that of gas even when a small vessel is used ($8.49 vs $7.05). 
There are better reasons to purchase an induction cooktop than saving money on your electric bill. We have listed a few of them below.
The History of Induction Technology
The induction cooker was originally produced and put on the market in 1933 at the World’s Fair in Chicago. During the fair, several demonstrations were conducted showing how to use the cooker, along with an explanation of the different types of cookware that can be used on an induction cooktop.
Then, in 1970, more modern developments of induction cooking developed in the United States. Since technology had moved forward, improvements were made and the induction hob became a lot better and more popular with the general public. Westinghouse developed an induction cooker (including matching and compatible cookware) and started selling it to the public. However, there were many problems with induction cooker technology and the idea of them never really took off in the US during this time.
It has only been since the fan noise has been reduced in induction cookers that it has become more popular. While induction cooking failed in the US (during its first few years of being in the market), it thrived in Europe and Asia. As technology advancements in many different areas were taking place, a few companies invested development money in the area of induction technology. Slowly, these products became more well known and understood in the United States. Sales increased when companies reduced the fan noise (although not enough according to some consumers) and manufactured products with fewer reliability issues. The concepts of minimalism and living in small spaces has given induction cooking more visibility. Appliances such as these are of interest to those who prefer a modern looking kitchen as well as those who are curious about products with newer technology.
Advantages of Induction Hobs
- Digital temperature readings available.
- Reacts quickly to a change in temperature/power settings.
- Cools down rapidly.
- Less heat is wasted since more heat goes into the pan than electric or gas stoves.
- No electrical heating element or flame.
- A variety of safety features are available depending upon the model.
- Easy clean up.
- If someone uses a wheelchair, it is certainly easier to use a portable induction cooktop since it can be placed on a table enabling easy access since the user's legs can go below the table.
Disadvantages of Induction Hobs
- Some people complain about fan noise while others don't find it annoying.
- If you don't have compatible cookware, then the additional cost of new induction ready pots and pans has to be factored into your decision.
- The full-size ranges are expensive. However, some consumers view it as an investment rather than a one-off purchase.
- Most cookers automatically shut-off after 2 or 3 hours.
Induction cooking is an interesting way of preparing your meals. It does take a little getting used to, however, given its benefits, it's certainly something worth considering. The decision as to whether to add a portable single burner cooktop, a double burner, a built-in unit or a full-sized induction range to your kitchen, boils down to your cooking style, budget, and what works best for you.