No stupid questions—what real people want to know about induction cooking
A quick FAQ about induction.
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The fact is that most Americans don't know the first thing about induction cooking. And that's ok. It turns out that a lot of our own staff didn't, either. Sure, we have TV experts and camera experts and professional deal hunters in our home office, but not all of them are kitchen whizzes. So we forced them to ask the questions they were afraid to ask, along with common questions we get from readers.
Here are the actual questions we got.
1. How does induction work?
In short, yes, it really is magnets. We won't go into all the science behind induction cooking here, but basically, an induction cooktop excites the iron atoms in a pan to generate heat. It only heats the pan—dish towels, your hands, or stray food splatters. Hence, it's a little safer and a lot cleaner.
2. Do I need special cookware to cook with induction?
Yes, but you probably already have what you need. Flat-bottomed pots and pans made of ferrous materials—iron and some steel—are ideal. That includes many stainless steel pots and pans.
If you have any doubt about whether one of your pans will work, try sticking a magnet to the bottom. If it sticks well, it has enough iron to use for cooking on your induction cooktop. Cast iron pans are magnetic, but use them carefully because they can scratch a glass cooktop. And when you’re buying new pots and pans, be sure to look for the induction-compatible symbol on the bottom.
3. How long does it take to boil water on an induction cooktop?
Users love the fast boil time. Induction cookers heat up more quickly than gas or electric burners. Although cooktops vary, you’ll probably find that it takes half the time to bring water to the boiling point. We’ve watched a 48-ounce pot of water boil in under three minutes.
4. How can I tell if an induction cooktop is hot?
It's obvious when a gas flame is lit, and electric coils glow orange. But induction isn't as conspicuous, so we understand the concern. First of all, if you turn on an induction cooktop and forget to put a pan on it, the cooktop surface won’t get hot. The burner will only heat up surfaces made of ferrous metals (see Question #2). Safety win! But all induction cooktops have some visual indication, usually a light on the surface or the control panel, that indicates when a burner is on.
5. Can I accidentally leave an induction cooktop on and burn the house down?
We're not saying that induction is definitively safe, but it seems a lot less prone to some of the obvious hazards of gas and electric. When it comes to induction, there’s no heat where there’s no metal. If you set a dishtowel or potholder down, it won’t ignite. In fact, it won't even get warm. Could you burn a pot of food on an induction cooktop? Sure. Same as with any other cooktop, you have to keep an eye on the food while it's cooking.
6. Do I need a special hookup in my kitchen?
It depends. If you’ve had an electric stove there in the past, you already have the 240-volt outlet you need for induction. You'll just need to make sure that the amps are sufficient. A quick look at your breaker box should tell you how many amps you're working with. Most induction ovens are in the 40-50 amp range.
If you’re moving to induction from gas, you need to call an electrician to install a 220-volt outlet. That cost will certainly affect your budget.
7. Is it hard to clean an induction cooktop?
It is no harder to clean an induction cooktop than it is to clean the glass of an electric smoothtop. In fact, it may be easier, because an induction element doesn’t generate enough heat to create baked-on messes.
Here’s all you have to do:
• Turn off the cooktop before you start cleaning.
• Wait until the cooking area cools down completely. Although the cooktop doesn't heat up to cook, pots and pans transfer some of their heat to it.
• Use a small amount of cooktop cleaner.
• Wipe the product around using a paper towel or microfiber cloth.
• Use a clean paper towel or a clean, dry cloth to wipe off the product.
8. How do I turn an induction cooker on or off?
You turn a knob or press a button to activate a burner—read the user manual for your individual model’s instructions.
9. Can I control an induction cooktop from my phone?
Yes. Some induction burners allow you to set time and cooking temperature using an app.
10. What’s the difference between induction and convection?
The words sound similar and are mixed up more often than you might think. In fact, "induction" and "convection" are not related, aside from the fact that they’re both related to cooking. Induction happens on a cooktop, and convection takes place in an oven. Induction cooktops heat iron-based cooking pans using electromagnetism. Convection ovens use a fan to circulate air.
11. Is induction cooking more expensive?
Induction cooking is more efficient than gas or traditional electric cooking, so you can save on energy. What's more important—prices are coming down on induction cooktops and ranges, making them affordable to more families. We’ve seen some excellent induction ranges selling for less than $1,000. But if your budget is closer to $500, you'll need a wait a few more years.
12. Can I cook on an induction range if the power goes out?
No. You can’t use an induction cooktop without electricity.
13. Will an induction range increase the value of my home?
Maybe. There's no guarantee that it will make your house worth more—you never know which way the real estate market will go. But according to some developers and contractors we spoke to, in some parts of the country an induction range or cooktop is already a plus at re-sale time.
Still have questions? See our entire Induction 101 series and get answers.