Induction cooktop could perhaps be the most radical advancement in the culinary world, where delicious food and scrumptious meals are made without the use of fire at all!
But how does the food cook without any fire? What else could be the source of heat?
Well, to answer your question- MAGNETS! Let us understand how an induction cooktop works.
An induction cooktop works based on the principal of electromagnetism. AS electricity passes, it creates a magnetic field which causes the electrons to create ‘eddy currents’ which currents cause scattering and heating up.
The copper coil wire sits right beneath the cooking surface which could be made of glass or ceramic. Upon this surface the vessel sits to get heated up. Here, the burner doesn’t heat the glass but the alternating magnetic current heats up the pan directly
But how is this different from electric cooktops?
The electric burners have multiple interfaces in between the heat generating component and the vessel where the food is to be cooked. Due to the material in between there are different temperature drops along the way.
The ‘thermal interfaces’ are- the resistance coil under the glass surface which gets heated up by electricity, then there is the ceramic top and then the top surface.
This essentially means that unless there is a proper heat transfer, the vessel would not get hot enough.
This is also the reason why induction cook tops take lesser time to heat the vessel than an electric burner does.
Utensils for induction based cooking
Since the heat is generated by the use of electromagnets which is designed to heat up the vessel directly, even the vessel should have a magnetic flat bottom.
The regularly used utensils made of steel, aluminum, copper or glass, Pyrex will not work.
So, the cookware must be of a magnet based material like cast iron, enameled iron or magnetic-base steel cookware.
Saftey – one of the key features
Its has been repeatedly said that induction cooktops are safe to use, but what exactly are its safety features that sets it apart from the rest of the options in the market?
Let us understand how this advancement in the world of cooking will minimize hazards and make cooking safe and fun!
Absence of fire makes them very safe to use, even for the youngsters!
There is very little chance of overheating/ overcooking or burning of food that is being cooked as a timer can be set as per the need.
Since the heat is absorbed by the vessel itself, the surface of the cooker below the vessel is not hot, making the user less susceptible to burns.
Temperature control feature can be used to regulate the energy supply, like a knob is used to control the flame size in a traditional gas stove sans the risk involved.
It has an inbuilt control system which stops the process of if a vessel isn’t kept on the cooker or the vessel isn’t of the correct size.
The magnetic field produced to create electromagnetic current gets projected to about 2-3cms. Hence, even people with cardiac implants could use them. However, they should first consult their doctors before using it.
Some induction cooker companies went a step ahead and installed an anti-magnetic wall that ensures safety for users who might get affected by the magnetic radiations.
Factors to be considered before buying an induction cooker
For those who need to multitask, and need to get the dishes done as the clock runs, it would be recommended to go for the cooktop with two zones so that you can cook at the same time.
An induction cooktop comes in varied sizes and can have from 1,2,3,4 to 5 induction zones. The tops with single zone can be seen very commonly.
The single zone small, portable stand-alone induction cooktops are relatively inexpensive and are commonly used and found India. The size of the cooktop also depends upon one’s personal choice and also the size of the kitchen where the cooktop would be placed and used.
The most pocket friendly inductions are the single zone countertop model inductions that are handy and can be easily moved around.
On the other hand, one can also find built-in inductions but the prices for the same soar higher. Other features that affect the price of the cooktops are the branded value of the company offering the counter top, the style, design and features in the cooktop.
Although the smaller zoned cooktops are more popular in the market, it is a better idea to purchase an induction with a bigger body size as the passage of air is better; the air circulation ensures that the insides get to cool thereby lending the induction’s life.
A point to note here would be, if there are many zones on the cooktop that are cramped very close to each other, then the cooking space becomes cluttered which might hamper the control when using all the zones at once, and cooking multiple dishes on one cooktop can make the controls greasy which will blot the sensors.
Cooking zones are largely dependent on the size of the cooktop itself. Most of the large cooking zones usually have a diameter which is larger than 21cms, this also ensures that the cooktop is handled easily without having to compromise on the comfort and ease multitasking.
The cooking zones in most cooktops are clearly defined and outlined, for each given size of cookware. It is always better to pick an induction cooktop which is spacious enough to see that you can move around, compared to a small cooking zone.
Control panel is what lends the user all the setting options for cooking are available. The control panel displays the available features like- power settings, temperature settings and other preset settings as per each model.
The standard controls in place can be categorized into 3 major panels.
One option is the rotating knob control, second being the press button control, and the third being the controls via touch.
The physically sturdy would be the knob type panel but touch panels are easier to navigate and gives a sleeker look, however it is slightly more expensive than the other 2 options.
Power/ Temperature settings
Power and temperature setting would be the biggest features that affect the rate at which the food gets cooked.
Cooking a dish becomes easier to control and cook. Would you like it rare, medium rare, soft boiled or at par? Smaller intervals ensure that such controls stay in the hands of the user.
A slight increase or decrease in the temperature if permitted to be regulated effectively, can make it a lot more user-friendly.
Also, just because an induction cooktop is marketed as a technology which sees that not a lot of time is being spent in the kitchen, it does not mean that everything has to be done in a hurry.
So it is important to ensure the induction starts with low temperature/power settings by default. It is suggested to get the temperature controllable cooktops that can be adjusted from 140-430 degree of Fahrenheit.
Most of the portable inductions have a maximum power of 2100W. Some inductions may have a lower threshold power of 1500W or 1700W.
Low power options would result in lower usage of power consumption, but if most of the cooking activity is done on the induction, it is better to opt for a robust power.
Most of the induction cookers come with varied levels of power that allows the user to control and set the amount of heat needed for cooking a particular dish.
If the wattage is high, some of the cooking zones are equipped with a power management system which divides the power between the cooking zones. In such cases, maximum power function can be set only when a single cooking zone is used at a time.
In case multiple cooking zones are used simultaneously the power will not work at its highest.
If we want to cook two dishes with maximum powers together, then they need to be in opposite zones.
Design of the Induction Cooktop
Although the design and style depends upon one’s personal choice, it is important to keep the other factors in mind.
For example, the tops that are framed can be more prone to having dirt and grime getting stuck at the corners and crevices. However, it helps in containing spills from running through on the base.
The downside of designs that don’t have edges is that they are more prone to getting cracks and can easily breaks if the unit is dropped form a height or something heavy on the edge. But such models are very simple to wipe clean and maintain.
Portable vs Non Portable
The biggest thing about a portable inductions is that can be carried anywhere. The only requirement that’s needed to make the unit function is an electrical socket.
Also, it is ideal for those people who are living on their own, away from home in hostels etc as it doesn’t take up much space, sufficient for a single person does not create a fuss and cooks in lesser time.
Useful Features in Induction Cooktops
Induction cooktops are easy to clean and maintain. They have a plain falt surface with no dirt traps, unless ofcourse the boarders are rimmed.
Most of the controls are touch-sensitive, so there are no knobs grime can build. Since the surface doesn’t get as hot as other electric cooktops, and the cooking is stopped due to spillage, the food that spill doesn’t bake on the surface.
A soft cloth can be used to wipe the cooktop clean. For further cleaning, specific handbook and instructions can be followed.
Induction cooktops gives good value for money as it maintains a relatively cool kitchen temperature and the cooktop itself remaining cool is a win-win situation.
Its space efficient and easy to use which is ideal for bachelors, small families, teenagers beginning to learn how to cook and those having small children.
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Geetha Srinivasan is a homemaker by profession and choice. Her passion and skill in understanding the nuances of electric appliances prove handy in providing information about Home & kitchen appliances in the most straightforward manner possible.