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Learning To Cook With Induction

It’s been several months since we bought an induction cooktop.  We’ve been using it regularly, but I wanted to wait before I gave you the full report.

Induction cooktops are expensive and we wouldn’t have bought one if our old gas stove didn’t catch on fire.  Yes, it caught fire!  It was an electrical fire, some water got mixed up with the electronic ignition and as you might guess, they didn’t mix well!

I was kind of relieved when the repair guy said it wasn’t worth fixing because I really HATED to clean that old stove, never mind the whole indoor air quality thing. And, it gave us a chance to upgrade to the type of cooktop I would specify for anyone building a net-zero energy home.

So, here’s the lowdown….​

Cleaning The Cooktop

Gas stoves have lots of parts and pieces and I never could keep our old one clean, there was always something stuck to the grill or in one of the nooks and crannies of the stovetop.  It was a never ending battle that I was always losing.

Our new induction cooktop is minimal, just a flat piece of black glass.  It has some markers for the pot locations, but otherwise there’s nothing to it.  The difference in cleaning is night and day, just an easy swipe with a wet rag.  I think it’s easier to clean because the surface of the cooktop doesn’t get hot and so things don’t have a chance to bake on.

For extra polish the cooktop came with something that seems to be like car wax, you spread it on, let it dry,  and buff it out with a rag.  It does make it extra shiny, but it’s not something I want or need to do every day.

The cooktop will show dust.  Our climate is dusty and if we don’t use it for a day you can see a fine layer of dust, but this is a minor distraction, because it’s so easy to clean.​

Cooking meets Star Trek

One of the weird things about induction cooking is that the cooktop doesn’t heat up, it heats the pans instead.  You can put a piece of paper between the pan and the cooktop and it won’t catch fire.

When we first got it I was especially aware of a wind-up humming noise that sounded like the cooktop was getting ready to take off, and I wondered if we had made the right choice.   I’ve become accustomed to the hum and it does seem to be pot dependent, some have more of a hum than others, but it’s not entirely the pot.  I don’t know if all cooktops have the hum, from what I’ve read the more luxury brands don’t have it.

It also felt weird to be pushing buttons instead of turning a dial to adjust the heat. You would think that the button thing would be a natural extension of all the digital things in our lives, but I’m a creature of habit and it felt like I ought to turn a dial to cook.

How It Works

Induction is a magnetic process.  Under the glass there are big wire coils.  An electric current is sent through the coils which creates a magnetic field.  Pots that have a ferromagnetic core are the only ones that will work because the magnetic field induces currents in the pot and produces heat.  It’s the heat generated in the pot that does the cooking, not heat from the stovetop.

Buying New Pots

I had read that new induction cooktops usually meant new pots and pans because of the requirement for a ferromagnetic core.  I thought we would be okay, but we too, ended up buying new pots.  Our ancient collection failed the magnet test, which is how to know if your pots work or not.  Like the burning stove, it did not crush me to replace them.

Unfortunately, the beautiful All-Clad pot set I had my eye on was way out of our league.  I got excited for a moment when I found some on sale, but they were a cheaper version of the beautiful ones and didn’t pass the magnet test.  We ended up with a nice set from Costco, they work well, but they are a little noisier than our old cast iron pots.  I think it must have something to do with the construction of the pot and the vibrations that occur within the plies.

If I were to do it over I think I would buy one pot at a time, bring them home and test them,  and get just the pots we were sure we needed.   There are a few pots in the new set that get a lot of use, but the others spend a lot of time in the drawer.

Efficiency

Cooking with induction is more efficient than with a standard electric cooktop or gas. All things being equal about 90% of the energy goes right to the food with induction, while with conventional electric it’s 74% and with gas it’s only 40%. Thing is, cooking is only a small slice of the energy pie, at about 3% it doesn’t make a huge difference.  Homes where the energy efficiency might be noticed are net-zero energy homes where you would be counting your kilowatt hours.

Precision

Induction is as responsive as gas.  Touch the control and instantly the temperature adjusts.  This is a nice feature, especially if you are like me and have always sworn by cooking with gas.  

Indoor Air Quality

I didn’t think I would notice the change in indoor air, but I do.  It’s subtle, and I’m probably only noticing it because I’m tuned into it, but the air seems a little fresher without the particulates from a gas flame.  It feels a little healthier to be cooking this way.

So....?

I’m happy to report that induction passes all of my tests with flying colors.  The only caution I have is to test the stovetop and pots before you buy ..if possible, to make sure any noise it makes is okay by you.

Now that I’m familiar with cooking on it, it’s just another appliance in our lives that does what it is supposed to.

When it comes to cleaning though, I still marvel. I’m not a clean freak, but I have never found cleaning a cooktop easier and therefore more enjoyable.  Of all the cool things about induction, I’m surprised that this is my favorite feature.  Weird, but true.