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Everything you need to know about induction cook tops


Induction cook tops are the 3rd piece of equipment the average house needs to go all electric, once hot water and space heating has taken care of via heat pumps.  But to many people induction cooking is a bit of a mystery, this article aims to demystify induction cook tops and show why this decades-old technology is the best option for cooking on your range.

First things first, induction stoves work by heating your pan using an alternating magnetic field (or magnetic induction for the geeks) rather than by a hot flame or a hot metal element (in the case of older electric stoves).  The great benefit to this is that if the stove is left on it won't heat up anything that is not affected by magnetism (i.e. your hand); in fact it won't even turn on unless there is a pot on the stove. This means induction cook tops are inherently safer for curious children (for example) who like to switch things on and off while you are not watching, induction cook tops greatly reduce the risk of kitchen burns.  Electric cooking is inherently safer than gas cooking as there is no chance of a gas leak or setting fire to a plastic pot handle if the flame is up too high.

Induction cook-tops are also more energy efficient as they heat up your saucepan/pot etc directly rather than via a flame or hot element (you can think of this as you pot becoming part of the stove).  They use about 40% less energy to heat food than a regular stove which also means your kitchen will be less hot in summer, which is a nice bonus.  More efficient also means that you can cook or boil water faster.

Yes, yes, yes you might say they save energy and are safer, but are they easy to cook with?  Would a Master chef use one?

The answer to that is yes, they are easy to cook with and the reason is you have instant control over the temperature you are cooking at, unlike traditional electric stoves which take a while to change the heat you are providing to your pot/food. This lag in temperature control is why professional chefs tended to prefer cooking with gas (which has instant adjustment but low precision) but now prefer induction cook tops as induction cooking provides even faster (and more precise) temperature adjustment than gas.

Ok this is sounding too good to be true, so what are the drawbacks? These stove must cost a fortune.  Well there is one slight drawback to induction cooking and that is that not all pans work on an induction stove. Basically if a magnet will stick to the bottom of your pan (this is the case for most pans) it will work on an induction stove if it doesn't it won't, so you may need some new pans.  But induction stoves are not very expensive IKEA sell an induction cook top for around $600, Westinghouse sell one for $1,375 and at the very high end Miele have one for around $2,000.

With regards to electrical requirements for installing an induction cook top, many people run their induction cook top and electric oven of the same 32 amp circuit (and have done for years without an issue).  A (typical) electric oven has a max draw of 4kW and a four hob induction cook top will have a max draw of 7kW but it is worth noting that it is extremely unlikely that both the electric oven and induction cook top will be on full blast at the same time.  It is much more likely that, even at Christmas time, both operate at 50% capacity as operating both at full clip is likely to carbonise your food rather rapidly.  In the highly unlikely even you run into problems you can always install another 15 amp circuit for your oven.  

Induction cook tops are safer, more energy efficient and better to cook with. But best of all they will help you get off gas, saving you a fortune in gas connection fees over the long run.  They are quite simply a must have for the all electric home.

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