If you thought gas and electric were the only option for your stovetop, it is time to think again. Induction cooktops are the next wave of unique stovetops. This type of cooking technology is the master of the quick change—delicate enough to melt butter and chocolate, but powerful enough to bring six cups of water to a boil in just three minutes.
The innovative technology is already popular in Europe, but is still being introduced into the U.S. market. However, it seems falling prices and ever-growing consumer awareness might finally help the superior technology to be adopted into U.S. homes.
WHAT IS INDUCTION?
Induction is unique, it uses electromagnetic energy to directly heat pots and pans. In comparison, gas and electric cooktops heat indirectly, using either a burner or heating element to heat cookware from underneath. That radiant energy is then passed on to your food.
Induction cooktops don’t use heating elements or burners underneath the pan. Instead, they employ a series of magnets that excite the iron atoms in a pan to generate heat.
It is far more efficient to heat cookware directly, rather than indirectly. Induction is able to deliver roughly 80 to 90 percent of its electromagnetic energy to the food in the pan. Compare that to gas, which converts a mere 38 percent of its energy, and electric, which can only manage roughly 70 percent.
That means induction cooktops not only heat up much faster, but their temperature controls are also far more precise. Induction cooktops can achieve a wide range of temperatures, and take far less time to boil than their electric or gas counterparts. Additionally, the cooktop surface itself stays cool. You don’t have to worry about burning your hand on a burner that’s cooling down, and it’s even possible to put a paper towel between a hot frying pan and an induction burner to keep oil from spattering on a cooktop.
WHY IS IT SO RARE?
Induction is all the rage in Europe. In some areas—particularly Scandinavian countries—induction cooktops command more than 60% of the market. (Sweden takes the cake, with a 75% market share for induction.) It’s no coincidence that these are countries with high electricity costs, where energy-efficiency is a must. In the U.S., energy prices are lower and, gas and radiant electric still reign. But, interest in induction cooktops is rising.
Cookware is one major reason Americans have been slow to adopt induction. Since induction relies on electromagnetism, only pots with magnetic bottoms; such as steel and iron, allow the transfer heat. But that doesn’t mean you need to buy all-new cookware. If a magnet sticks to the bottom of the pots and pans you already have, they’ll work with induction.