Induction cooktops look like standard electric smooth tops, but the method of heating is entirely different. Instead of an electric heating element, the induction element is a high-powered magnet. The cooking vessel, which must be made of magnetic material, heats while the stove top stays cool to the touch.
Because the element itself does not heat up, very little heat is lost in the cooking environment, saving energy and keeping the kitchen cooler.
How It Works
The induction cooking element contains a powerful magnetic coil, which creates a high-frequency electromagnetic field. When a cooking pot made of magnetic material is placed on the cooktop and the element is turned on, the magnetic field transfers energy to the cooking pot. The heat is induced in the cooking vessel, cooking the food inside. The heat is adjustable, just like a standard electric cooktop, except the heat level responds instantly to the change in temperature in much the same way gas does.
Because the heat is instantly induced in the cooking vessel and not in the element, the element stays cool to the touch. This property makes the induction element faster, safer and more efficient than gas or other electric elements.
The only drawback to induction cooking is that the pot must be made of magnetic materials. Aluminum, ceramic and copper vessels will not work on an induction cooktop. When buying pots to use on an induction cooktop, look for labeling that declares them suitable for induction cooking or take along a magnet to test their magnetic properties.
Power and Precision
Induction elements are more efficient than other types of electric burners. With an induction element, 84 percent of the energy required is converted to heat to cook the food. Compare this to 52 percent for a standard electric burner and 40 percent with gas.
Induction elements are also faster to heat, so there is no waiting for the burner to get hot. With induction cooking, the heat is on instantly and generated directly in the pan. A quart of water will boil in just over two minutes on an induction cooktop. This is the same amount of time required to boil a cup of water in most microwaves.
You have greater control of the heat as well, because changes made are transferred instantly to the magnetic power applied to the pot. Induction heat is also controllable. The fine control makes low-temperature cooking easy: Melting chocolate or simmering is easily accomplished with the low, even heat.
Because the cooktop does not get hot, it is very safe for households with small children. And that plastic container or utensil you accidentally left too close to a hot burner is not a problem with an induction cooktop.
A great advantage to an induction cooktop is the ease of cleaning. Because the cooktop does not get hot, there are no burned-on stains that must be scrubbed. Spills and drips easily are cleaned with a sponge or cloth.
How to Use an Induction Cooktop
An induction cooktop uses an impressive technology. The only part of the cooktop that heats up is the part that touches the...