Induction cooktops are growing in popularity and prices are coming down.
Traditional electric cooktops use some form of electric resistance to create heat, which is transferred to the saucepan and its contents. Induction cooking is based on magnetic fields: each ‘element’ (an induction coil) generates a magnetic field that induces heat in steel cookware placed on top of it.
In essence, the pot becomes the element that cooks the food, so the cooktop surface doesn’t get as hot as other cooktops. Induction cooktops have the same instant control as gas and are the fastest of all cooktop types to heat and cook food — for example, they take about half the time of conventional electric cooktops to boil water.
Induction cooktops are easy to clean. They have a continuous surface with no dirt traps, and the controls are touch-sensitive, so there are no knobs to clean around. Because the surface doesn’t get as hot as other electric cooktops, most spillages won’t bake on, although you do have to be careful with sugar because it can still pit the surface. On the downside, some models don’t have a lip around the edge to contain spills, and you may have to buy a special cream to keep it streak-free.
Induction models claim energy-efficiency over other electric cooktops, however we found they save energy (and money) by heating the pot a lot faster rather than using less energy overall.
They’re capable of all sorts of clever tricks. For example:
- They can detect if a saucepan has boiled dry and turn the element off or down.
- If you turn the element on but the pan material is incompatible or there’s no pan at all, it will indicate the error and won’t heat up.
Four-element induction cooktops range from around $1500–$2500+, so they’re not cheap. You’re also likely to have to invest in new cookware. Pots and pans must have a base made from a ferrous metal (a metal that can be magnetised). Cast iron, steel, some enamelled steel and stainless steel pans with an iron base or core are suitable, but you can’t use glass, aluminium, copper or many stainless steel pans. If you’re not sure about your stainless steel cookware, check it with a magnet — if it sticks it’s OK.