Cooking With Electromagnetism: Induction Cooktops

Cooking With Electromagnetism: Induction Cooktops

Induction cooktops are becoming more and more popular by the minute, but many people are not even aware of how the operate and some may never even have heard of them.

We will attempt to define and explain these amazing kitchen contraptions so that you may have a greater understanding of their functionality and the reasons why they may be superior to traditional stoves and ranges.

As with any other product, there is a large degree of individual preference regarding which type of cooktop may function best for you. If you read this article and find that induction cooktops do not suit your needs, do not feel obligated to purchase an induction cooktop.

Hopefully, though, this article will be able to convince you of several reasons why induction cooktops may be a better option than more traditional choices.

What Is An Induction Cooktop?

To put it simply, an induction cooktop is a cooktop which functions using the power of induction heating.

We understand that this definition may not provide a very satisfying answer for those unfamiliar with the principle of induction heating, so we will first explain a little bit of the scientific reasoning behind why induction heating works and exactly how it works.

Cooking meal on the induction cooktop

On What Principle Does Induction Cooking Work?

As we have previously stated, induction cooking works using the principle of induction heating. In turn, induction heating uses the principle of electromagnetic induction to function.

Induction heating essentially functions by running a current through a magnetically conductive material, heating it up.

To put it in simple terms, the electromagnetic current "excites" the composing atoms and molecules of your pot and pan and makes your piece of cookware hot without the production of excess heat on the element itself.

While this principle may make it far more simple to heat up your pan without accidentally burning yourself or heating up your kitchen, there are a few drawbacks as well as many more advantages to consider before going and getting yourself an induction cooktop. We will discuss the first of these disadvantages now.

Why Can You Only Use Cast Iron Or Steel Cookware With Induction Cooktops?

We stated earlier that induction heating works through the principle of magnetic conductivity in addition to electrical conductivity.

Chocolate melting on the induction cooktop

The aspect of electrical conductivity would lead one to logically assume that copper pots and pans should be compatible with an induction cooktop, after all, copper is one of the most electrically conductive substances we know of.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. This is due to copper's lack of an adequate margin of magnetic conductivity.

While the material used to make your pot or pan must certainly be able to conduct electricity, it must be able to conduct magnetism better.

Since the magnetic conductivity of metals like copper and aluminum is far lower than that of steel or iron, you will find that an induction cooktop will typically not work well with pots and pans made of these materials.

There is a way around this, however. As you may know, metals like aluminum and copper may not be very magnetically conductive, but they are certainly thermally conductive, meaning that they can hold heat very well.

This makes them ideal for use in pots and pans as they will heat up faster and they will retain their heat for a longer period. This creates an unfortunate situation where you have pans which will conduct heat but not work with your induction cooktop.

The way around this is to sandwich multiple layers of metals into a single pan. These pans and pots tend to have a layer of steel on the outside, allowing the pan to conduct the electromagnetic current, while the copper is on the inner layer, allowing the pot to maintain its heat.

What Type Of Food Can You Cook On An Induction Cooktop?

Many people wonder if there is a particular kind of food which must be cooked on induction cooktops, or if there are any restrictions, but this is simply not the case.

Induction cooktops are no different from regular cooktops besides the way that they cook your food.

Unless you plan on eating a magnetically conductive metal, you will be fine cooking the same recipes you have been cooking all along on your more conventional stovetop.

Preparing food next to the induction cooktop

In fact, the use of an induction cooktop allows you to cook more complex and delicate recipes due to the finer degree of control you have over the temperature of your cookpot. Due to the manner in which an induction cooktop functions, you have a very low amount of thermal inertia, like you would in a typical coil element.

A lower amount of thermal inertia means that you can instantly adjust the temperature output of your cooktop without having to wait for the element itself to cool down before it lowers the amount of heat being transferred to your cooking vessel.

This means that you can cook recipes which require a high degree of care in the temperature, such as sauces which can curdle and all sorts of other, more advanced recipes.

What Are The Benefits Of Induction Cooking?

As we have already stated, induction cooking gives you an excellent degree of control over the temperature of your cookware and the food being cooked, but the advantages extend further past that.

Guy resting his palm on the induction cooktop while cooking

One of the main advantages of using an induction cooktop is regarding safety. Induction cooktops are arguably the safest method of heating your cookware possible as the element itself emits no heat.

As induction cooking works through electromagnetic conductivity, you will never burn yourself by accidentally touching the element while it is on.

An induction element will remain cool to the touch while it is working, so it is ideal for households in which many children may accidentally burn themselves on the stovetop or, like me, if you are a bit of a klutz and you are prone to burning yourself while cooking.

Keep in mind that an induction cooktop does not reduce your chances of burning yourself to zero as the cooking vessel must still get hot.

While you may be able to touch the element while it is on, you will not want to touch it after there has been a four hundred degrees pan sitting on it for the past thirty minutes.

As the pan itself will still get hot, you will have to take just as much care still as you cook to ensure your safety and that of your kitchen.

The fact that the burners themselves do not get hotter also reduces the fire hazard which is posed by accidentally dropping food on the burner as you put it into your cookware.

We have all had a moment of inattention in which a vegetable or stay bit of meat fell on the burner and charred to a crisp.

While this is not a severe fire hazard, it is still possible for an oily piece of food to catch fire in the worst case, and these cooktops reduce that risk by a large amount.

Safety should be your primary concern when you are in the kitchen, with the taste of your food coming in a close second.

If you would like to ensure that your kitchen is the safest place it can be, it would help immensely to invest in induction burners for your stove or a single induction cooktop.

Woman cleaning induction cooktop

Another benefit to induction cooking is that it will typically heat up your piece of cookware far faster than a more traditional stovetop.

Since most of the energy is transferred directly to your pan in the form of heat, your pan will heat up far faster. This allows you to cook faster and have your meal ready for less time wasted waiting for your pot or pan to heat up.

What Is Induction Cooking Used For?

Induction cooking has several applications for which it is ideally suited. One of the main reasons for which it is so popular among more advanced chefs is that it is capable of nearly instantaneous temperature adjustments, which can be somewhat crucial when cooking more advanced meals, but we have already discussed this topic.

Another application for induction cooking is in kitchens which can get stiflingly hot while cooking. The beautiful thing about induction cooking is that it creates very little waste heat to dissipate into the air.

The byproduct of this is a less hot kitchen, allowing you to cook far more comfortably. This advantage also does not extend only the kitchen. If you are cooking while camping, you do not want to waste your limited energy sources on your cooktop creating excess heat.

Induction Cooking Properties

Induction cooking features many unique properties which make it ideally suited for cooking in either your kitchen or in more unusual locations, such as on your RV or during camping trips.

Resilience

Induction cooking scheme

Induction elements tend to be more resilient than other options because there are simply less moving parts to go wrong.

In a gas stove system, there are many valves and igniters which may fail over the course of you using your stove so you may have to deal with replacing these components as they wear out over time, and there are certainly a large number of these elements which may wear out.

The same can be said for electric coil ranges, which feature coils which may fail over time, requiring replacements.

The beautiful part about the construction of an induction cooktop is the manner in which all of the working parts are contained within the cooktop itself, with none of them being exposed.

This makes it far hard to accidentally break your cooktop unless it is exposed to a tremendous shock.

As these cooktops are manufactured to handle exceedingly high temperatures, you will find that they are naturally very resilient products, but all products cease functioning eventually, meaning that your induction cooktop may end up requiring maintenance further down the line.

While fixing an induction cooktop may be a bit more difficult than with an electric coil range, you will find that the reliability and longevity outweigh this small downside.

Noise

Regarding noise, induction cooking is a very advantageous process as magnetic induction itself is almost entirely noiseless.

You will not have any annoying noises in your kitchen from just the induction element being on, but there are a few phenomena which are related to induction cooking that may cause some noises while you cook. This can be caused by anything from imperfections in your cookware to loose handles.

Mainly, the electromagnetic current resonating through the cookware at higher power settings may result in vibrations. These vibrations can become audible due to several conditions in your cookware.

Keep in mind that these are not flaws with the induction cooking process itself but flaws in the way the induction process interacts with cookware which may have these specific features.

Steam coming from the meal being prepared on induction cooktop

These causes include imperfections in the metal which compose the bottom of your cookware. Since many pots are made with multiple layers of metal, any imperfections which lie between these metals may make it, so the layers vibrate against each other and cause an annoying sound, almost like a buzzing.

This can also result from the handle being too loose on your cookware, making the handle vibrate against the body of your pot.

Another cause for noise during the induction cooking process is if your pot has an uneven bottom surface. In these cases, the vibrations caused by high-powered cooking may result in your pot or pan tilting back and forth ever so slightly, causing that dreaded buzzing noise once more.

The best way to ensure that you do not suffer from any of these downsides is to make sure that your induction-compatible pots and pans are well made.

It may take a little bit of trial and error, but once you know which pans work best with your induction cooktop, you will know to use certain cookware over the others so you can minimize the amount of noise in your kitchen.

Energy Efficiency

One of the best aspects of induction cooking lies in the energy efficiency of the whole process. Other forms of stovetops and cooktops tend to be extremely inefficient when it comes to measuring their energy efficiency.

Several different meals being prepared on the induction cooktop at the same time

Gas and electric coil cooktops may only use 20 to 40 percent of the energy that powers them to heat up your cookware.

The rest of that energy is expended in either keeping the element itself hot or the gas burning and whatever remains is lost to the environment in the form of heat.

This is the phenomenon which causes your kitchen to heat up when the element is on, and it costs you electricity. One of the more stunning aspects of induction cooking is that as much as 80% of the energy which goes into your cooktop.

This energy efficiency is responsible for how quickly an induction cooktop can heat up your chosen piece of cookware and also conveniently leads into our next topic: environmental friendliness.

Environmental Impact

Excessive overuse of energy is one of the main causes of carbon emissions worldwide. If we could all lower our energy usage, humanity's ecological footprint would be far lower than it is currently.

Save for a few places around the world which function through hydroelectricity or nuclear power; energy production emits a very large amount of pollutants and many other chemicals which can be detrimental to the environment depending on the energy source.

Since an induction cooktop is 80% energy efficient, you can rest assured that it is one of the more effective ways to cook your food while remaining environmentally friendly.

As we previously stated, other forms of ranges and stovetops have the disadvantage of first converting the electrical energy to thermal energy, and then using that thermal energy to cook the food.

In the case of induction cooktops, the electric power is transmitted directly to the cooking vessel and is transformed into thermal energy through the process of induction heating.

This means that none of the energy is dissipated into the environment and it results in very little wasted energy.

Two teapots on the induction cooktop

Very little wasted energy translates into a greener world as less energy must be produced for each and every user of an induction stove.

Gas ranges also feature the detrimental side effect of releasing gas fumes and byproducts from the burning of the gas itself.

Some people have respiratory ailments who are incapable of using gas elements. Essentially, if you choose to convert to an induction cooktop from a gas range, you will not only reduce the amount of pollution on earth but also within your household.

Cleanliness

Induction cooktops feature another advantage, and that is regarding cleanliness when compared to other forms of elements and burners.

Gas burners are some of the least clean cooking elements you can find due to the residue they leave behind on both your stovetop and on your pans.

Since burning gas creates byproducts, this is an inescapable truth related to gas burners and one of the unfortunate disadvantages to using them.

Preparing fish meal on induction cooktop

Induction cooking, similarly to electric coil ranges, creates no by-products that must be cleaned up, so they make it a far easier task to keep your kitchen and your stovetop clean.

While this may seem like a somewhat trivial matter, when it comes time to scrub the stove and clean your stove's fan, you will be happy that you do not have to clean up the byproducts of gas combustion.

As we stated in the previous section, not only do these byproducts stain your kitchen and your stove, but they can be abrasive to your respiratory tract and trigger any pre-existing issues such as asthma and the like.

How To Cook On An Induction Cooktop

Cooking on an induction cooktop is no different from cooking on any other type of stove or range. You place your cooking vessel on the element, set it to the desired temperature, and you cook your food.

It is a simple and elegant way to cook, free of the dirtiness of gas and free of the low thermal inertia of electronic elements.

The main difference in cooking with an induction cooktop is that the pan must be touching the cooking surface to be heated.

This is opposed to gas ranges where the pot or pan may be held above the flame, and it will still be heated. Just keep in mind that the current must be flowing through your cookware to keep heating it up.

Induction Cooktop Vs. Radiant Vs. Ceramic

Over the course of this article, we have covered the many differences related to induction cooktops and the more traditional options of gas stoves and electric elements.

While gas stoves give you the option of instant heat adjustment, they tend to leave a residue in your kitchen and are dirtier than the other forms of ranges.

On the other hand, electronic elements have the disadvantage of a large degree of thermal inertia, so it's hard to adjust the temperature for more complicated recipes quickly.

Woman preparing two meals on induction cooktop

There is also the matter of safety to consider, in which induction cooktops are far more safe than either of the other two options due to the element itself not heating up.

There is no best option for everyone, you must consider your needs and what you would like out of your stove before deciding on the best cooktop.

Conclusion

We hope that this article has been informative and educational for you. Induction cooktops seem to be the way of the future for cooking, and it would be a wise idea to invest in either a stove with induction elements or a separate induction cooktop for your kitchen

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