Thinking About Induction Cooking

It took a well-placed comment from The JimRay™ in my last post, but induction cooking is beginning to look very interesting to me.

Check out this illustrative image from GE showing ice cubes sitting calmly on one side of an induction burner and a half-pot of boiling water on the other:

You don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to set ice cubes randomly on a burner.

Anyway, induction cooking is more than just an impressive technology for party tricks. It heats pots faster than even gas and expends less energy doing so… all via the power of magnetic force. The chief downside appears to be that you need to use iron or steel cookware, which isn’t a big deal to me since I only own a few pots and all are magnetic. The other downside is that I haven’t found a model which includes any sort of built-in griddle, which kind of sucks.

For more information on induction cooking, check out GE’s Induction Cooking site. It looks like you can get models ranging from about $1000 to several thousand, depending on what you’re looking for.

Anyone have any experience with induction cooking? Is it all it’s cracked up to be?

22 Responses to “Thinking About Induction Cooking”

  1. Jake Says:

    I checked out the GE site, and the Alton Brown video sold me on the technology.

  2. Matt Says:

    It sounds cool, but I wonder how well it would work for real cooking needs, like using a wok, where you want some heat on the sides. Anything en flambé is just not the same without the gas flame to light it on fire. Also, the control of gas is hard to beat. The only two “upsides” to this induction technology I see are some energy savings and perhaps a safer surface.
    Then again, I’m partial to gas. I just bought a house that had electric and had it all converted to gas.

  3. Oh man … I hope you get a little feedback on this. I’m thinking of doing induction, too, and would love to hear folks’ experience with the tech.

  4. Jim Ray Says:

    Actually, the control on induction is much finer than the control on gas. Because it’s the pot or pan itself doing the heating, not waiting to be heated (or cooled) by a flame (or lack thereof), induction is far more precise. Induction gets the pan hotter more quickly and can sustain low temperatures for basically an unlimited amount of time, something difficult even with gas. External heat is basically additive and will always have the problem of sustaining low temperatures like a simmer.

    Even better is that because it’s literally vibrating the atoms of the pan, you don’t have to worry about cool spots (they happen even with gas) because the heat of your cook surface will be as even your pan.

    As for lighting things on fire in the kitchen — that’s what blowtorches are for!

  5. Andrew Says:

    My father had something along those lines installed in his house. It looked neat and heat up fast. But it was a pain to clean so you best make sure that shit won’t burn on to the range constantly.

  6. @Andrew: I think your father must have had a halogen cook top. They were notorious for getting crusties. Since the cooktop never gets hot, there’s no way to get that “baked on” grossness.

    @Matt: Yeah, the wok issue a great observation. I don’t use a wok frequently, but it’s certainly something to consider. A quick google shows that there are induction woks, but I don’t know … 

  7. Jernej Says:

    Walk around an appliance shop over here in Europe and you’ll probably see at least half of these things running induction plates. Haven’t used one myself yet but my parents are getting an all new kitchen with induction burner.

    My only concern is the plate itself getting scratched, no matter how scratch resistant it’s claimed to be.

  8. Nic Says:

    Take a look at the “domino” units if you’re interested in mixing and matching cooking types. These are smaller units, usually with only two “burners” on a unit.

    @jernej I shouldn’t think that getting scratched should be a big issue – glass or ceramic cooking surfaces are not a new idea.

  9. Nick Says:

    We went with induction and really love it. Everything heats up so fast and the glass surface cools down relatively quickly.

    The downside was that we did have to get an entirely new set of pots and pans, and there were not a ton of induction compatible options. This wasn’t a huge deal, but the sales guy never mentioned it to us at all.

    So far I have not noticed any scratching at all.

  10. nick Says:

    Bought one two years ago. It absolutely rocks. You’ll never go back.

  11. erik spiekermann Says:

    hi Mike,
    i’ve not been following your progress recently, but just caught the induction entry. Go for it!
    We had gas installed at our new townhouse (that you know about), but at the last minute switched to induction. Susanna is a serious cook and was very doubtful, but now she loves it. The kettle boils before you have the cups out to make tea, and you can control cooking temperatures really well after a few days of practice. No wasting left-over heat and much easier to clean than gas. We also got a steam-oven, next to a regular oven and love that too for cooking fish.

  12. akamaya Says:

    1. cooking experience: heats up fast. cooks evenly. almost as responsive as gas. induction has gained a lot of ground in a lot of commercial kitchens.

    2. pots and pans: pointed out in previous posts. induction requires steel/iron cookware. anything you can stick a magnet to. be warned, the frustration of putting a pot on it that won’t work is just that: frustrating. pyrex is useless. i may be wrong but my impression is that at least 90 percent of cookware market in u.s. is aluminum – not induction compatible. as recently as a couple of years ago, the major cookware makers did not have induction lines. some still don’t. the compatibility problem is easing up as more makers recognize the trend. be warned.

    3. my new favorite piece in my kitchen is a beautifully engineered, gleaming micro-wok that is one of all-clad’s foray into the induction market . also, cast iron cookware enthusiast will find induction perfect. le creuset fiends will be glad to know that i’ve found induction to be gentle to enamel coating. so far.

    4. i was curious about the tech but i did not want to invest big bucks in something i have not tried or fully comprehended. so here’s what i did. i bought a portable induction cooktop. they call em “mr. induction”. they’re big in china. lol. under a hundred bucks. online or from your friendly neighborhood oriental store. bonus: in the summer, it dances perfectly with my grill…in the great outdoors.

  13. Nancy Says:

    Friends of ours have an induction cooktop — because she is blind. It is not hot to the touch, so that’s a huge benefit. In any case, we spent a few days there (before we were able to move in to our new home) and I did not like how it functioned at all. I’m not sure of the brand. It cooks extremely fast even on a low setting — great for boiling water. I had a hard time cooking bacon on it. It just burned very fast. I guess you would eventually get the hang of it. Also, they had to buy special pans – as the previous poster pointed out. Personally, I MUCH prefer gas – I just really like to see the flame.

  14. stew Says:

    We’ve got a four-ring induction hob by AEG, the 78000.

    After a year of use, there is not a scratch on it. I boiled an enamel kettle dry once on it, but the heat and enamel didn’t mark the surface. I work at home, so we cook on it three times a day. It is far far easier to clean than a gas hob.

    It is extremely fast to boil water and very controllable once you get the hang of it. Some new models in Japan can even automatically detect and hold a set temperature for deep frying etc. With the model we have, its possible to use two rings simultaneously for a large oval Le Creuset type pot or a roasting tin when making gravy.

    We can’t use crock pots or the fondue pan we have, but have a table top single burner that uses small gas canisters for such occasions.

    If you like cooking with a wok, forget domestic appliances and get a proper industrial strength burner.

  15. Byron Says:

    How does it work for melting a ball of hash between two knives? Would it conduct that and flame the hash up for proper nose hits?

  16. My parents got an induction stove when they completely remodeled the (old) house they bought, years ago when I was still living with them.

    It took a little bit of getting used to for us, because it cooked everything so much faster than the ceramic stove we had at the old place, but once we became adjusted to the instantly-heated pans we started to really love it.

    It’s the easiest to clean, easiest to use (principally), and most energy-efficient way of cooking. If/when I go for a house of my own, induction is definitely the way for me.

  17. Toronto Modern Says:

    Hi, Mike

    Congratulations on an amazing website! What a great resource. Unfortunately, we can’t directly benefit from the information you are sharing as we were about a year ahead of you in the process. We bought our property at the beginning of 2007, and moved in to our rebuilt contemporary home early summer 2009. We are still working out the final details – landscaping, furniture, lighting fixtures, etc. That being said, I am really enjoying reading your posts and relieving our own experiences. I could go on and on about the things we learned in the process and the angst we suffered but may I pass along my thoughts on the appliances?

    1) INDUCTION. We went with a 36 inch Bosch induction cooktop. It was a tough decision between gas and induction, but I am thrilled with the choice we made. You already know about the speed – it is amazing!. But the other big benefit for us was that we could get a range hood that handled fewer CFMs. If you go with the 5 burner gas cooktop, you will need some serious ventilation because of the natural gas. (Choosing a good quiet range hood deserves a separate long discussion.) People also express anxiety about the fact that they will need to get new cookware. I didn’t find this that big a deal. Maybe my standards for cookware are too low, but I just headed out to our nearest Winners (I think the US equivalent is TJ Maxx?). I checked to see whether the magnet on my blackberry holder would stick to the bottom of the pans and pots. A surprising amount of the pots and pants were magnetic. I spent less than $200 to replace all my cookware. You can spend a lot more if you want, but my point is that you don’t have to spend a lot.

    We wanted to use induction, but were worried we might not like it, so we also had them rough in the gas for a gas cooktop as well, so we always have the ability to swap out if we want to – but I can’t see us doing that. That being said, for the risk averse (like me), installing a fallback is a good option.

    I’m not an electrician so I may not be explaining this very well, but you also need a lot of power for the induction cooktops. We needed 50 amperes for ours – so your electrician needs to put in the appropriate wiring in advance, so it’s not a decision that can be made on the fly.

    I love my Bosch cooktop (they also manufacturer the Thermador induction cooktops and Thermador has a really slick looking silver model that cost too much for me to justify). I do wonder if I should have ponied up for the Miele cooktop. I believe that one has a shut-off timer – i.e. you can decide you want to simmer something for 15 minutes, set the shut-off timer, and then it will turn itself off. My cooktop only has a countdown timer. My recollection was that the Miele would have cost about $1,000 more – and it wasn’t worth the extra to me.

    2) DISHWASHER – Please make sure you know how the filter for the dishwasher you are looking at is removed and that it’s easy to use. We narrowed it down to Bosch and Miele and were going to buy Bosch, but then at the appliance store, I asked the sales person about how the filters were cleaned out. The sales person showed me how to take out the filters for Bosch and the Miele dishwashers. The Bosch system was kind of finicky and difficult to use. The Miele filter is incredibly easy to remove and reinsert. This was our first European dishwasher. Our previous ones were all North American style (i.e. they had grinders not filters). I will say that occasionally washing out a filter is a small price to pay for the quiet operation. I read somewhere that the Miele produces 61 decibels and the Bosch produce 60 decibels and that 60 decibels is the level of a conversational voice. Our Miele is so quiet, I can’t barely tell that it’s on. I will also note that these new efficient dishwashers have incredibly long wash cycles. We’re talking 90 minutes plus for the normal cycle. The long wash cycle is a bit annoying, but all in all, I love my Miele. We went with the basic “Inspira” Miele model. No delay timer – it’s so quiet, I don’t need to use the delay timer to have it operate at night.

    3) LEAD TIMES – The logistics of timing the appliance delivery can get a bit tricky. I ordered my appliances about a year before I actually needed them – I could have waited to see what new things hit the market, but I got really good pricing guaranteed, and despite a recession, during the 2 plus years we worked on our project, high end appliance prices moved up, not down. Just remember that the appliance supplier does not want to keep any extra inventory on hand. You may have ordered the appliances (and paid a deposit), but it’s likely that the appliance supplier will wait until the last possible moment to actually order the stuff from the manufacturer. You need to find out exactly what the process is at the retailer in terms of timing and arranging for delivery. In our case, we needed to let them know about 4 weeks before we actually needed delivery. But even then, there were some complications with securing items on the desired timeline. (What do you mean the fridge drawers aren’t here? I ordered them a year ago!) You don’t want the stuff delivered too early (theft is unfortunately a bit problem on sites), but you don’t want your project or move in date delayed unnecessarily.

    Thanks again for letting me relive the fun through your website!

  18. erik spiekermann Says:

    Gaggenau have a griddle to go with their induction tops. It’s an electric grill that heats lava stones. You can place a heavy griddle pan over it. We use the grill all the time and the griddle occasionally (hamburgers or pancakes are not part of our traditional diet here in Germany, even though my wife comes from Chicago).

  19. Mike D. Says:

    Good tips Toronto. We are going with a GE Monogram Induction Cooktop, mainly because it’s badass in silver and also because I get a GE Employee Discount. As for the dishwasher, yeah, I am all about the Miele. I heard that some of them have disposal/grinders, no?

  20. Toronto Modern Says:

    IKEA FAVORIT COOKWARE – For those of you who are interested in reasonably priced non stick cookware that works with an induction cooktop, we made a surprising discovery: the Ikea Favorit line. It’s pretty easy to get induction compatible cookware that is “not nonstick”, but good nonstick induction cooktop cookware that works well and doesn’t cost the earth is a bit more of a challenge. So far we have a couple of pieces – the large fry pan and the saute pan with lid and are thinking of getting more (grill pan looks very tempting). The pieces are heavy and seem very well constructed. After a couple months of regular use, they seem to be holding up well, and heat up quickly and evenly. They cost us about $50 Canadian (would be about $40 US at the US stores) each which puts them at the top end of the Ikea line up price wise, but a lot cheaper than some of the specialty lines that are out there (I refuse to pay $200 plus for a mere pan). Not all Ikea lines work with induction cooktops, so you need to read the label.

  21. Janet Says:

    Love my 1 burner portable induction. the only thing that’s been an issue in the 1+ year I’ve used it, is that my kids tell me that when it’s on maximum, there’s a high pitch that ony they can hear. So they’ll just get old like me, and that problem will solve itself. I’m redoing the kitchen next year and getting a 2-burner, not sure if I want portable or built in. I was always a gas cook, but never again–cheaper, more efficient, safer, cleaner, better in my small kitchen.
    My husband is a chef, and he loves it, and read that a lot of restaurants in Europe have switched over.
    Getting pans wasn’t a problem, either: all cast iron works, and if you need anything else, Ikea pans are all compatible. I also found a wonderful saucepan at TJ Maxx for $5.

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