Induction cooktops create magnetic fields that excite the metal base of your cookware, heating it up. This is a much more efficient process than traditional electric resistance heating—90% of the heat made by induction goes directly to the food (with an electric range it’s 65-70%; for gas it’s only 40-55%).
People are passionate about their gas cook tops, but more and more people—from home cooks to professional chefs—are converting to induction. Induction cooking allows for even finer temperature control, especially at low temperatures, than gas. And because it puts most of the energy into the food instead of the surrounding air, induction actually heats up food even quicker. Boiling water can take a fraction of the time!
Something else cooks love is that induction units are topped with one continuous piece of hardened glass, so they’re easy to clean.
The only thing is... your cookware has to be susceptible to the magnetic current, which means it has to contain iron. Most stainless steel works fine, and you can buy specific induction-ready stainless cookware. But some cookware won’t heat up at all on an induction cooktop. Glass pots, copper, and aluminum generally won’t work (unless they have a base that includes iron). The easiest way to find out if your cookware will work with induction is to hold a magnet to the bottom—if the magnet sticks, the pot will work.
Because induction cook tops heat the pots directly, the cook top itself stays relatively cool to the touch—once you remove the pot, even with the unit still “on”, it can’t get hot (though there can be some residual heat of the glass surface for a few seconds when you first take the pot off).
If the unit is left on and someone (your child or an elderly person, for example) touches the surface, there’s no danger of getting burned.
One reason professional chefs like them is that they don’t heat up the surrounding air like gas cooktops do—anyone who’s worked in a kitchen knows how much of the cooking unit’s heat is wasted in the surrounding air!
Because of the electromagnetic current, people with pacemakers should be cautious around induction cooktops. Many sources recommend maintaining a 2-ft distance when they’re on.
Induction cooktops use electricity but they’re significantly more efficient than electric resistance cooktops (the glowing coils you may be more familiar with). So, they use less energy overall, and that energy isn’t being supplied by fossil fuels. That makes them an excellent choice as part of an overall strategy to eliminate fossil fuels in your home to help address climate change.
Indoor use of fossil fuels like gas and propane also has more immediate consequences. While all types of cooking can release high concentrations of particulates—tiny particles that are harmful to the respiratory and circulatory systems—cooking with gas is particularly harmful. Cooking with gas releases dangerous chemicals that affect indoor air quality, including carbon monoxide, nitrous oxides, toluene, xylenes, and especially benzene—a pollutant that has been linked to anemia, reproductive disorders, and various forms of cancer.
Studies show that particulate emissions can be twice as high when cooking with gas versus electricity—and that there can be significantly high levels of harmful chemicals that leak from gas stoves even when they're off. Homes with gas have significantly higher incidences of asthma and other health problems. Cooking is the single largest source of particulate emissions in most homes. So, if possible, install and use your exhaust fan, and reduce the amount of gas in your home.
Portable induction cooktops start at just about $40 for a single-cooktop unit. These units plug into a regular 120V outlet, and can be used as-needed and easily tucked away when not in use, making them perfect for small kitchens.
Full ranges with multi-burner induction cooktops and convection ovens completely replace traditional ranges. These cost roughly $800 to several thousand dollars and require 240V service. But because they’re so efficient, they can save you money over time. And because they’re so easy to clean, they’ll save you a lot of frustration, too.
Last updated October 21, 2022