Induction cooking: what is it and what's in it for you (and the environment)
Induction cooking is not some radical new technology. It has long been widely used around the world, but in the last few years the technology has improved so much – and the costs have dropped so much – that a new wave of induction-cooking equipment has become available, both for professionals and home cooks.
How does it work?
Induction is completely different from all other cooking technologies. It does not involve generating heat which is then transferred to the pan; it makes the pan itself the original generator of the cooking heat.
In a nutshell:
- An induction-cooker element (what on a gas stove would be called a ‘burner’) is a powerful, high-frequency electromagnet. The electromagnetism is generated by sophisticated electronics in the element under the ceramic surface.
- When a good-sized piece of magnetic material – such as a pan suited for induction – is placed in the magnetic field that the element is generating, the field transfers (‘induces’) energy into that metal. That transferred energy causes the pan to become hot. The heat is then transferred to the pan’s contents.
- By controlling the strength of the electromagnetic field, you can control the amount of heat being generated in the pan. As soon as the pan is removed from the element, or the element is turned off, heat generation stops.
What are the most important benefits?
- Instant temperature control: You can adjust the cooking heat instantly. As with gas, yes, but induction elements can run at very low cooking-heat levels and you can adjust the heat with great precision, something gas is not always good at.
- Energy-efficiency: With gas or conventional electric cookers (including halogen), the energy is first converted to heat and then directed to the pan. A lot of that heat goes to waste: only 40% of the energy in gas gets used to cook – the rest is heating up your kitchen and your cheeks instead of the food. With induction cooking, energy is supplied directly to the pan: 84% of the source energy gets transferred and used to cook. And there’s more: thanks to a feature called ‘pot size recognition’, available on some induction stovetops, the electromagnetic element only stimulates the metal that touches the zone. So a small pot activates a smaller area than a larger pot. That way, nothing is wasted and energy is saved. Talk about environmentally friendly!
- Safety and easy cleaning: Not only your kitchen stays cooler with induction, even the stovetop barely gets warm. That means: no more baked-on spills and especially no more burned fingers or hands. Turn an induction element to ‘maximum’ and put your hand flat over it… No problem!
What are the main drawbacks?
Of course, induction cooking has pros AND cons. To name but one: the type of pots and pans you use will have an effect on efficiency. If in doubt, check the pot or pan with a magnet: if it’s magnetic, it should work well with induction cooking.
That being said, it does happen your induction suitable cookware does not work right away on your induction stovetop. If this is the case we have some tips:
Make sure to carefully read your stovetop's manual for cookware choice tips.
Size is everything in the induction world! Make sure to choose an induction hob which has the same diameter as the bottom of the pan’s to ensure a good flow of magnetic current from one side of the pan’s bottom to the other.
If your pan does not heat on a hob, because it is smaller than the hob, it helps to position the pan a bit off-center so it comes over the edges of the hob side to the same effect.
Try your frypan on the other hobs if it doesn’t work on one.
HOT NEWS: Samsung’s induction stovetop with virtual flames
Are you intimidated by induction cooking due to the lack of visual cues concerning the amount of heat being used? Samsung has created Virtual Flame Technology, in which LED lighting embedded below the glass cooktop casts a flame-like glow onto pots and pans when in use. The brightness is directly tied to the heat level that’s been set, providing you with an innovative and clever indication of the temperature you are cooking at. A clever new feature that is surprisingly functional when you have a full plate in the kitchen!
(Sources: the inductionsite.com - motherearthnews.com - samsung.com - gizmodo.com)