Technology advancements have helped cookware manufacturers design advanced tools to make cooking a more efficient, enjoyable and convenient activity. One such device is the induction cooktop. It is popular in Europe and Asia and is garnering more interest in the United States. There are four types of induction cooktops: portable (single and double elements), built-in, commercial, and freestanding range (cooktop and oven). As word spreads and the cost of these cookers become more affordable, the number of US consumers purchasing these energy efficient devices is steadily increasing. Widespread availability of internet access affords individuals the opportunity to read product reviews and consumer opinions about these innovative appliances.
How Does an Induction Cooktop Work?
These devices function differently than electric or gas stoves. They are constructed with a coil underneath the surface of the cooking zone of the unit. Alternating electric current flows through this coil and creates a magnetic field. This field passes through the bottom of an induction compatible cooking vessel that is sitting on the cooking zone. A current is then generated in the bottom of the pot or pan. However, the cookware is resistant to this, so the electrical energy is transformed to heat energy. This heat energy is transferred from the cookware to the food
What are the Advantages of Induction Cooking?
- Ability to heat food quickly
- Temperature control responds quickly
- Heats accurately
- Variety of temperature and power control settings
- Minimal heat loss
Versatility of Portable Cooktops
- Ability to prepare food at home or at a social event
- Popularity among restauranteurs and caterers
- Can be used as a food warmer
- Compact enough to be placed in a variety of cooking environments (mobile homes, RVs, boats, cabins, dorm rooms)
The type of safety features available in an induction cooktop varies among models.
- Child lock – power button has to be held down for 3 sec before the unit will operate
However, children still need to be cautioned not to turn the cooker on. If they do switch it on, the cooking heat will not become active unless induction ready cookware is placed on the cooktop.
- Overheating protection – if the cooking surface reaches a high temperature (varies according to unit) the device will turn off.
- Countdown timer- shuts unit off after a specified period of time
- Automatic pan detection system – shuts the unit down if no cookware has been detected for a period of time (generally a minute) or if the cookware placed on the surface is not induction compatible.
- Low and high voltage warning system-the unit will emit a tone and shut down.
- Chance of burns and fires are reduced
- Diagnostic error message system
Easy to clean
Induction cooktops require less time and energy to clean compared to electric or gas stoves.
Four step cleaning process:
- After the unit is cooled, use a moist paper towel or soft sponge to remove cooking spills.
- Sprinkle and gently rub a small amount of cooktop cleaner (see user manual for suggestions) on the surface with paper towel.
- Remove all the cleaning agent residue from the surface.
- Wipe the cooktop dry with a microfiber cloth or paper towel.
- Small and Compact
- Easy to transport or pack in a suitcase
What are the disadvantages of induction cooking?
- Learning curve in terms of temperature settings
- Only certain types of pots and pans will work on an induction cooktop.
To determine if your cookware is compatible, hold a magnet to the bottom of it and if it clings securely to the underside then it will work. In addition, make sure the bottom is flat and does not have any major dings or dents since cookware with flat bottoms will heat up faster and cook your food more evenly. Some people opt to purchase new cookware. Cast iron and magnetic stainless steel are two examples of materials that are induction ready. If you decide to purchase new cookware factors to consider are: quality, durability, usability, and whether you need a cookware set or a few individual items.
Some models have these drawbacks:
- Fan is noisy; or a high pitched sound is emitted
- Cooker shuts off automatically after 2 or 3 hours (some see this as a safety feature)
- Hard to maintain low temperature
Why is there a price difference among induction cooktops?
Factors such as size, number of burners, cooking surface dimensions, power, safety features, timer capability, number of temperature and power levels and design when taken together determine the price of an induction cooktop.
The smaller, more portable models are less expensive since they do not include all the features or have the capabilities that are found in a built-in or in a free-standing range that has a cooktop and an oven.
One feature alone does not determine the cost of a single burner cooktop. Rather, it appears to be all the factors mentioned above, when taken in totality, that determine the price. The power levels of these units range from 1300W to 1800W. Higher wattage does not necessarily mean higher prices. The amount of safety features included in the model is not always directly proportional to the price. Some units have more than others and cost less. However, those devices with the child safety lock do tend to be in the upper price range. Units with 20 temperature and power levels do not always cost more than those with 15 levels.
In terms of induction cooktops, it is easily understood why a full-size range costs more than a single burner cooktop. However, it is not a simple feat to sort out why one single burner cooktop costs more than another one based on one, two or even three features.
What do ETL and FCC Certifications mean?
In products reviews, sometimes the acronyms ETL and FCC are mentioned. The ETL Mark is proof of product compliance to North American safety standards. The FCC Declaration of Conformity certification mark on electronic products manufactured or sold in the United States certifies that the electromagnetic interference from the device is under limits approved by the Federal Communications Commission.