Cooking Tips · Techniques

Induction versus gas cooktops

For all of my married life (32 years this May), we have moved from house to house every 2-3 years. Almost all were rental houses and, thus, I had no say about the kitchen or the kitchen appliances. When my husband reached mandatory retirement from that job, we moved here to Colorado and began building our retirement home. Finally, I could have the kitchen I wanted! As I planned that kitchen, I just assumed I would have a gas cooktop. Afterall, doesn’t every avid cook use gas?

About that same time, I began to hear and read about induction cooking. After much research, I finally decided to put in an induction cooktop. Because of a bit of concern, though, I also installed a small two-burner gas cooktop next to my main induction cooktop. Now, three years later, I can tell you that I LOVE my induction. The only time I use my little gas cooktop is if I need more space than I have on my induction or if I want a real flame for something like quickly roasting a pepper. In this Cooking Tip, I would like to explain why you need to consider induction the next time you have a choice about your cooktop.

I love the way Consumer Reports describes induction cooking. “The power and precision of the technology comes from an electromagnetic field below the glass cooktop surface that transfers current directly to magnetic cookware, causing it to heat up. Essentially, induction cuts out the intermediate step of heating up a burner and then transferring the heat to the pot.”

What is so great about induction? It heats much faster than gas/electric but you also have infinitely more control. If you want to turn down the heat, it responds immediately. Compare that to an electric cooktop where you may need to take the pot off the heat until the burner responds. Even with gas, the grate remains hot for quite a while. I can take a large pot of water to a rolling boil in a short time and when I turn off the heat, the boiling ceases within a second or two.

Depending on the cooktop model, you can achieve & maintain very low heat for as long as you want. Most experts will tell you that you should not melt chocolate over direct heat due to the risk of overheating and/or burning. On the induction, this low heat level allows you to safely melt your chocolate and hold it in that melted state. I also often use the lowest settings to keep food warm without overcooking.

These cooktops are very easy to clean. In fact, since the cooktops themselves don’t heat up (although they will be warm from being in contact with the hot pan), you can quickly wipe up spills or splatters as soon as they happen.

So, why not go with induction? Firstly, you do need the proper pots/pans. If a magnet will not stick to the bottom of your pan, it will not work on induction. I have seen an accessory you can supposedly put between a regular pot and the induction cooktop to allow your regular pot to work. I have not tried this but, if it does work, it would not be nearly as efficient or effective.

A minor disadvantage is that most induction cooktops do emit a buzzing and/or a clicking noise. This doesn’t bother me but I did know someone for whom this was a major problem.

Another problem is one that I was not aware of until very recently but, as I think back, I can testify that this is true. I am a big proponent of using digital thermometers for everything from cooking meat to custards and more. The magnetic field of an induction cooktop can interfere with those digital thermometers. Removing the pan from the cooktop is necessary to get an accurate reading. Alternatively, you can use an analog thermometer.

When I decided on this cooktop, I was pretty nervous. Afterall, it is a big purchase and not one you are going to easily change after it is installed. Now, three years later, I can tell you that I am so happy I purchased my induction cooktop. It is wonderful! And, I have never heard the opposite from anyone else who also installed this type of appliance. That says a lot.

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