If you’re replacing your cooktop or stove, you need to know about induction cooking.
Homeowners, once limited to electric or gas as cooking heat sources, now have an intriguing third option.
n cooking is more responsive than electric and more powerful than gas. It’s also more energy efficient than both of its competitors.
“Induction is becoming extremely popular. It will outperform any gas cooktop,” said John Maas, store manager at Albert Lee Appliance in Lynnwood, where six induction cooktops are hooked up for customers to try out. “This is not a fad. It is a very big thing.”
That doesn’t mean the open flame of gas — long a favorite of gourmet cooks and restaurateurs — isn’t still king.
It is, Maas said.
But induction’s strengths of power, speed and precision are attractive to consumers, especially those who are tired of the slow response of electric or who don’t have access to gas.
Searing, boiling water and blanching are easier and faster with induction, Maas said.
Induction cooktops can also help home chefs who need more precision at low temperatures, said Rick Kvangnes, general manager of Judd & Black stores in Snohomish County.
“If you want to melt chocolate, you can really control the temperature better,” Kvangnes said.
With induction, cooks can instantly go from full heat to almost none, just as they would with a gas cooktop.
Induction burners, at first glance, look exactly like those found on glass-topped electric stoves.
But rather than relying on hot coils to create heat, induction burners use electromagnetic energy.
Underneath each induction burner is a coil of copper. When electricity passes through the coil, it creates an electromagnetic field.
When a pot or pan that contains iron is placed on top, iron molecules inside the pan vibrate at high speeds, causing intense friction and, therefore, heat in the pan, but not on the stove top.
Because of this, water can be boiling in the pan even though the surface of the stove is cool to the touch.
No wasted heat comes up around the edges of pans with induction, which helps keep kitchens and cooks cooler.
Induction cooktops rank No. 1 for efficiency, an estimated 84 percent efficient, compared with as low as 40 percent for gas and up to 74 percent for electric, according 1993 figures from the U.S. Department of Energy. Every technology has its downside, of course: Not all cookware contains the iron required to make induction work.
Cast-iron, enamel-coated cast iron cookware such as Le Creuset, and most heavy-bottomed stainless steel pots and pans work fine.
But pans made primarily of copper, aluminum or hard-anodized aluminum will sit cold and lifeless on an induction cooktop unless they contain some iron.
To see if your cookware is suitable for induction cooking, hold a magnet under its base. If the magnet sticks, it should work.
You will also likely pay more for your appliance than the average gas or electric cooktop. Prices typically start at $1,500 for induction compared with $1,000 for electric or gas.
Free-standing induction ranges, which include electric ovens, cost even more.
Maas said he commonly recommends the 36-inch, five-burner induction cooktop by Miele, a top-of-the-line model with a midrange price. It costs $2,899.
Undecided consumers can try the 30-inch hybrid cooktop from Electrolux for $1,499. It has two induction and two electric burners in the same unit. It can, when a power-assist setting is turned on, boil water in 90 seconds.
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Albert Lee Appliance: 18620 33rd Ave. W., Lynnwood, 425-670-1110. See www.albertleeappliance.com.
Judd & Black: 2808 Maple St., Everett, 425-258-2591; 1315 State St., Marysville, 360-659-0822; and 16521 Highway 99, Lynnwood, 425-742-2233. See www.juddblack.com.
GE: See www.ge.com to learn more about how induction cooking works.