Induction cooktops respond quickly, avoid gas combustion, are tops in energy efficiency, and limit risk of burns.
One of our early decisions in the planning for our farmhouse renovation/re-build was to avoid any fossil fuels. If the State of Vermont can have a goal to shift 90% of our energy consumption to renewable sources by 2050, we want be able to demonstrate 100% renewables for our house today.
That decision meant using electricity, rather than propane, for cooking. Electric cooking was actually a very easy decision for us. When our daughters were very young, roughly 25 years ago, my wife and I replaced our gas range with a smooth-top electric range. I had read too many articles about health risks of open combustion in houses; I didn’t want to expose our children to those combustion products.
And I knew that even the best outside-venting range hoods don’t remove all of the combustion products generated when cooking with gas.
Deciding on induction
We were surprised back in the late ’80s how quickly we adjusted to an electric cooktop. It’s not as controllable as gas, but we made due just fine for 25 years. Nonetheless, friends always complained about electric cooktops being too slow or not controllable enough, so we wanted to try out the electric option that top chefs are increasingly turning to: induction.
For our new house we bought a KitchenAid induction cooktop for our kitchen island. I had wanted to go with the technology leader, Miele, but at about $2,500 for Miele’s 30-inch model, the cost was just too high for our budget. Even the less-expensive KitchenAid version stretched our budget considerably.
What is induction?
Electromagnetic induction, which was discovered in the early 1800s by Michael Faraday, is the process in which a circuit with alternating current (AC) flowing through it induces current in a material placed nearby. It is key to the functioning of induction (asynchronous) motors and most electric generators.
In the case of induction cooking, there’s an electric coil under the glass surface of the cooktop through which AC electricity flows. This current, in turn, generates current in a ferrous metal (iron or steel) pan that’s very close to it (separated by the glass cooktop). Electromagnetic current flows through the bottom of the pan, but because iron and steel aren’t very good electrical conductors, that electric current is converted into heat—more specifically, into electric resistance heat, since the material resists the flow of electric current.