WHAT IS INDUCTION COOKING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Induction works with an electric power coil producing a high frequency electromagnetic field. That field penetrates the metal of the ferrous (magnetic material) cooking vessel producing a circulating electric current which generates heat. The heat generated in the cooking vessel is transferred to the vessel’s contents. Nothing outside the cooking vessel is affected by the field and as soon as the vessel is removed from the element or the element is turned off, heat generation stops. Sounds complicated but isn’t.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO THE COOK?
One benefit is a cooler cooking surface. Because the induction system creates heat in the cooking vessel and contents only, heat on the glass surface is what is transfered back from the pan. If a spill needs cleaning, it can be done immediately. A traditional coil or gas top would need as much as 10 minutes to be cool enough to safely wipe clean. A cooler cooking area is also achieved because there is no open flame spreading heat, or in the case of radiant electric, no “red hot” element radiating heat. Speed and control are also a benefit because induction is faster than electric, yet comparable to a high-powered gas burner. I tested the speed myself for this writing by bringing eight cups of water to a full rapid boil on an induction cooktop vs. using a 12,000 btu gas burner. The induction cooktop achieved full boil in 4 minutes 50 seconds and the gas burner took 13 minutes. A real advantage is that when adding– let’s say pasta, the boil will return faster. Safety is great with induction also as you don’t have an open flame or hot surface that can cause severe burning. This may be particularly important as more seniors are on their own and active in the kitchen. The safety also is important for young families with children who cook.
A LITTLE HISTORY OF INDUCTION
This new technology was introduced in the “Kitchen of the Future” at the Chicago “Century of Progress” World’s Fair in 1933. Fairgoers witnessed the miracle of “cool heating” using electrical power. For the next 40 years the technology was used primarily for annealing metal for industrial applications. In the 1970’s European companies took the lead in developing induction. In the US, NASA developed it for the space program. In the 1980’s US manufactures introduced induction which was my first knowledge of this technology as I was fairly new to the appliance industry at that time. The product was not as successful as hoped and went away in the US until the late 1990’s.
Today, in addition to the benefits already mentioned, many consumers prefer the idea of “green” in making appliance and material choices. The induction cooktop is the most energy efficient cooking surface available. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the efficiency of energy transfer for an induction burner is 84% vs. 74% for a smooth top electric burner, or approximately 12% savings in energy for the same amount of heat transfer. Gas burners are about 25% to 40% efficient. The majority of induction products from virtually every manufacturer and price point today is impressive and very complete, especially in cooktops. The design possibilities are endless. There is a benefit in cooktop island placement because a downdraft system will work very well with induction due to the lower temperature and exhaust cfm requirements. You also don’t have gas combustion byproducts to exhaust. Another design benefit could be that these cooktops can be flush inset to the counter top creating a totally smooth installation. The designs vary in appearance- some with stainless steel frames and others with full ceramic glass. They are also available in mirrored finishes that can accent or highlight backsplash materials and colors. Free-standing and slide-in ranges with the induction tops are available from a number of manufacturers.
INDUCTION: WHY THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED
What few drawbacks associated with induction cooking are disappearing? One of those is the need for “special” cookware. The only requirement is that the cooking vessel be able to hold a household magnet to the bottom. If you want induction and don’t have appropriate cookware, buy some new cookware. The benefits are worth the small additional expense.
Development is well underway on induction systems in all-metal technology, meaning pots won’t need to be magnetic. The Asian market already has a large following of consumers using induction woks. Thermador & Gaggenau offer a full surface induction cooktop that features a natural-mapping user interface that intelligently recognizes cookware size, shape and position to deliver heat anywhere and in any shape across the cooktop surface.
I say, “The Future Has Arrived,” and it is induction.
Andy Welemin, Account Manager with Westar Kitchen & Bath, has been involved in home products since 1977 and, specifically, in the appliance industry since 1983. Andy is a member of NKBA and NARI and a past board member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association, Minnesota and Arizona.