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Induction vs. Gas Stove [moved from Home Cooking]

Title pretty much sums it up. We are redoing our kitchen and have all clad stainless steel pots so that is not a problem. What are advantages/disadvantages? Also, what is the typical cost of running the induction stove because gas would be included in the apt building.

Thanks,
AJR

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  1. In somewhat of a nutshell:

    On flat-bottomed pans, induction spreads the heat (especially lower heat settings) more evenly than gas. Even when using cheap, thin stainless on the induction and high-end copper on gas, induction still delivers a more even heat. So, less hot spots.

    On the flip side, you can really only use flat-bottomed cookware on an induction stove, so no woks or chef's pans. Gas is definitely more versaitile than induction.

    When using high heat settings (such as for boiling water), an induction stove will heat the air in the kitchen much less than a gas stove will. It's the same at lower heat settings, however the effect is much less pronounced. In the winter, when your furnace is being used to heat your home, the excess heat won't matter as it's simply lowering the amount of heat the furnace needs to produce. If temperatures are mild and your windows are open the excess heat again doesn't matter. However in the summer, if you use air-conditioning, it's a different story. Your air conditioner will have to remove that waste heat. So, using your gas stove in summer may cause your electric bill to go up somewhat. However, if gas is free then it's still going to be cheaper than induction.

    Gas and induction are equally responsive and controllable. Turn the heat down and the food responds instantly. Induction can have a slight edge though, as most cookware for gas cooking is thick and heavy, thus can retain quite a bit of heat. Meanwhile a thin dimestore stainless pan will perform just as well as All-Clad copper core on induction and actually respond to changes in heat input faster.

    Depending on which model of stove you buy, gas and induction are comparable in the amount of heat they can supply to your food. However an induction stove will likely cost much more than a gas stove with similar heat output.

    Induction cooktops are much, much easier to clean than gas cooktops, as they're flat, seam free and remain cool. Plus your pots and pans will be easier to clean as the sides and top edge will be exposed to less heat. However cleaning a sealed burner gas stove isn't much of a chore in my opinion.

    So:
    If the most even heat distribution is your primary concern, get induction.
    If flexibility is a primary concern, get gas
    If operating costs are most important, get gas (especially if you live where it's cold).
    If initial costs are a concern, gas stoves are cheaper (in general).
    If cleanup is a big issue, get induction.

    I've used both. Personally, I prefer to cook on a gas stove simply because I don't have to worry about any limitations on cookware imposed by induction. I do the occasional stir-fry and use my chef's pan quite often. I'm also quite comfortable and familiar with gas, and I find it easy to 'eyeball' the flame to get the right heat. One nice thing about induction though is repeatability. If turning the heat up to #6 on the knob was perfect last time, then you can duplicate the heat level exactly. Some gas stoves have 'detent' knobs, but most don't, so you may have a burner set a bit warmer or cooler than last time. The amount of levels available on induction cooktops used to be a problem, but most modern cooktops now have at least 10, and some as many as 19, levels of heat between off and high.

    As for typical cost, I can't tell you. No one can, really, because we'd need to know how often you cook, what kinds of things you cook most, etc., plus the cost of electricity where you live. In general though, gas is cheapest, induction is next, then regular coil electrics and lastly smoothtop electrics.

    *If* I could have my 'perfect' kitchen, it'd have both induction and gas. Two gas burners and two induction elements. I'm pretty sure DAC makes something modular with which you could have the best of both worlds, and I'm sure other manufacturers do too. However you'll pay a premium for them.

    10 Replies
    1. re: ThreeGigs

      First -- I would agree with most of your points, ThreeGigs, except for... two, maybe three. First, I bet most people would not notice the difference between the eveness of heat in a gas stove with a copper pan vs. the eveness of heat with an induction burner -- I would be interested to see if it's actually detectable with a high quality, thick copper pan. Second, different pans are different on induction; just like different materials are better or worse at conduction "gas heat" some pans are better or worse at conduction "induction heat" -- it most likely has to do with the amount of magnetic energy a given material could accept. Thus, a cheap $2 pan will not conduct the same as a $200 Demeyere skillet, nor will it be able to get as hot.

      To the OP, other than that, I agree with what ThreeGigs said -- another thing to remember, if you're the type of person who likes to pick up your pan while cooking, a lot of induction burners will either beep at you, or they will shut off after a few seconds without a pan, something I personally find annoying.

      1. re: mateo21

        Cast iron works fantastically on induction, and can be had for little money. Ditto enameled cast iron.

        I have a Kenmore Elite induction cooktop and it doesn't beep at you or shut off prematurely when you take the pan off the burner. It actually does exactly what I would want if I were designing it: it turns off the power and flashes an 'F' on the LED display. However, as soon as you put the pan back, it detects it and turns back on instantly. It will eventually give up and turn off, but I've had pans off the burner for 30 seconds and when I put them back, the cooktop turns the burner back on automatically.

        The main things I love about induction are the response time, energy efficiency, and the fact that it doesn't heat up the kitchen with waste heat the way gas does. Also, as ThreeGigs mentioned the digital controls are great. Mine has (I think) 17 power levels, and once you know what those power levels can do on the different burners, you don't have to guess about the size of the flame or whatever. I can melt chocolate without a double boiler on the lowest power level.

        One thing to remember is that a 4000 BTU (or whatever) gas burner and a 4000 BTU induction burner are not equal. With a gas flame, a good bit of heat is lost because it naturally escapes around the sides of the pan. With induction, the pan itself generates the heat, so very little energy is lost between the burner and the pan.

        1. re: mateo21

          True, most wouldn't notice it, or care if they did simply because most people don't cook anything difficult enough to require even heat. However, any cook that regularly makes somewhat delicate sauces, or cooks things for a long time over low heat will *definitely* notice the lack of the gas 'hotspot'. And yes, it's very detectable. 3.5 mm of copper between a small flame and the food at the center of the pan, versus the heat having to diffuse sideways for 2 or 3 inches results in uneven distribution. Simple physics dictates it. I have Mauviel and Falk copper pieces, and if I have one of them on my stove at its lowest flame with, for example, tomato sauce in it (keep warm scenario), I tend to see the occasional steam bubble form at the very center, right above the small flame. That doesn't happen with induction.

          Yes, different pans are different on induction, but in general 18/0 stainless is 18/0 stainless. You *can* pay more for specialty compositions, but they'll only raise the efficiency from ~85% up to about 91-92%, and will have no effect on heat distribution. Induction works by generating an alternating magnetic field which induces electric currents in the ferromagnetic component of your cookware. Since stainless steel is comparatively bad at conducting electricity, the resistance generates heat. It's basically half of a transformer in the stove, and your cookware acts as the other half. A good piece of induction cookware will use a stainless alloy composition that maximizes magnetic coupling and has a higher than normal electrical resistance. It'll also cost a lot more and only give you a relatively small boost in energy efficiency compared to plain 18/0 stainless.

          And, oddly enough, that dimestore $2 pan is probably made of thicker stainless steel than the 0.2mm stainless used as the outer layer on most tri-ply these days. Plus, heat conductivity doesn't really matter on induction because the *entire* bottom of the pan will get equally hot, from center to edge. No need for thicker metal to help diffuse the heat. In fact, thinner is generally better because the heat generated will have less metal to diffuse through before it gets to the food, thus getting more energy into the food and even less into the air (the air being heated only by the hot pan).

          Really truly and honestly, the cheapest (18/0 magnetic) stainless cookware you can get, used on an induction cooktop, will perform *better* from an evenness of heat point of view, than even the thickest copper used on a gas stove. There's absolutely no need for high quality cookware, aside from a desire for sturdiness or personal preference (I like tight fitting lids myself).

          1. re: ThreeGigs

            First! Where are you getting the figures you're citing? Have you done wattage in vs. heat output calculations? Just curious.

            On the cookware note, your assertion that the thinest cookware will be the best is predicated on one very faulty assumption -- that the cookware always exactly matches the burner size. All of the induction stoves I have cooked on have a two "patches" of heat distribution: one small and one large. When I used my oval dutch-oven on the cooktop, which was not the "correct" shape, all of the cooktops I have worked with defaulted to the smaller heating patch. So unless you only use pans the exactly match the patches all the time, you need decent cookware because you will need the pans ability to conduct heat evenly. I used skillets daily that range from 6.5" up to 14" -- there is no cooktop, induction or other, that perfectly matches all of those sizes -- thus the necessity for quality, good conducting cookware.

            1. re: mateo21

              What characterizes this 'good conducting cookware'? Just the bottom thickness, or does it combine a magnetic steel layer with conductive copper or aluminum layer(s)?

              1. re: mateo21

                Since when is it appropriate to use oval cookware on any stovetop? Kind of a stretch to make your point.

                I would direct you to my comment here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5485... about efficiencies. Data is from the US Department of Energy, though it is slightly dated. I saw the old, 84% efficiency cited elsewhere, as well. SOme induction manufacturers claim 90% efficiencyYou can find the kWh to BTU conversion rate easily on the internet.
                1 kilowatt hour of electricity = 3413 British thermal units (Btu
                )1 cubic foot of natural gas = 1,008 to 1,034 Btu
                1 gallon of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) = 95,475 Btu

                ThreeGigs: here is induction wok picture and one is offered by Demeyere, though I have no idea as to its functionality.

                1. re: Scargod

                  Actually, my range has 5 burners and the center one is a long oval - absolutely perfect for oval cookware.

                  1. re: flourgirl

                    Yea, but it's gas, isn't it? Kenmore? Craziest thing I ever heard of; must be for a griddle.

                    1. re: Scargod

                      It's a GE Cafe (it is gas - I know I wasn't contributing to the induction discussion - just making the point that there are oval burners out there.) It comes with both the grate and a griddle surface.

                2. re: mateo21

                  Image that didn't get uploaded with my comment.

                   
          2. Thanks for all the great advice.
            AJR

            1. Hi
              for costs there was a study done for the US govt which raked induction cooktops as the most efficient of the electric options. The running cost did not compare well with gas but that all depends on your local supply costs. Equally, a cooktop will suck in much less electricity than say your tv, washing machine, dishwasher etc so should have a negligible effect on utility bills unless you are cooking all day long for lots of people. More detail plus other pros/cons can be found at http://www.induction-cooktop.com

              1. I've used gas, electric coil, imbeded electric cook top and induction.As noted else where, induction has the most/best benefits. I had a GE induction that broke every 6-9 months. Fortunately I had insurance. After about 6 repairs, GE offered me their top line inbeded electric cook top. I hated it. Burnt most every thing. After 6 months of daily bitching, wife gave in and I got a "Diva" made in Canada. Out standing unit - would never use anything else. We have All Clad cook ware - you MUST have magnetic cook ware. Check it with a magnet!.

                1. I'm also wondering about energy efficiency in terms of the electricity bill. Does anyone know if induction is actually cheaper (not including the up front cost)?

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: eatzealot

                    I don't know if people see an actually difference in electricity bill, but various of us have commented on a reduced room heating. The induction burner just heats the bottom of the pan. There isn't any heat radiating around the edges, or hot gases heating the pan sides, handle, and air. After bringing 12 oz of water to a boil for my coffee, I can still touch the pan rim. (My experience is with a 1300w induction 'hot plate'.)

                    The electronics of the burn do produce some heat. I don't feel it, but can hear a cooling fan inside the burner.

                    I'm not sure if the published efficiency figures refer to the efficiency of the electronics, or to effective heat transfer to contents of the pan. There may be too many variables to measure meaningful heat transfer numbers - things like pan size, pan material, type and volume of the food. Efficiency may also differ depending on whether you are just bringing water to a boil, frying something, or braising.

                    1. re: eatzealot

                      It IS the most efficient electrical form of cooking, if you use the best pots for induction cooking. I have a friend (an engineer), who argues that as distance increases from the coil (under the glass surface), the more efficiency drops. He argues that if the pot is not flat efficiency will drop significantly. He should know, he designed induction heating and welding tools.

                      I think you could also argue that if the material is not an ideal steel then there would also be losses. It has been argued that thin and cheap steel works just fine but I would suspect that there is an ideal mass for the wave resonance with each of the different coils in a cooktop. Unfortunately, I can not speak from experience. I wish someone with an induction cooktop could try a cheap, thin enameled pot, a thick Le Crouset pot and a Demeyere SS one and see which boils the exact same amount of water the fastest.
                      Has anyone seen any testing along these lines?

                      1. re: Scargod

                        I've done that testing, Scargod, and the pan or pot with the lowest mass won every time. Less energy used to heat metal means more going into the water.

                        Your friend is right on the distance. An induction cooktop is essentially half a transformer. Your cookware makes up the other half. The more tightly coupled they are, the more efficient it is.

                        1. re: ThreeGigs

                          I tried several pans with a qt of water on my 1300w induction burner. The blue enamel steel was marginally faster than the 3qt enamel cast iron (by 10-20 sec). The wide wok-like pan that came with the burner was a bit slower (light stainless steel with magnetic base). Surprisingly, a commercial weight SS mixing bowl was nearly a minute faster (4" base, 3qt, 18/10 steel).

                          1. re: paulj

                            Were they all small enough in diameter to fit within the coils diameters? Were they all consistently flat on the bottom? No hills and valleys?*

                            The mixing bowl... True 18/10 stainless steel is not magnetic; this is getting fascinating. I have stainless mixing bowls that have zero attraction, some that are mildly magnetic and some with a strong magnetic attraction.
                            Sounds as if the woks base is not making solid contact with the bowl. I see that Demeyere uses silver to bond stainless to copper is some pans.

                            I found this, which has some interesting comments. http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/...

                            Demeyere is cofounder of a branding organization which says that participants adhere to certain standards for their induction cooking and cookware products. http://www.classinduction.com/pages_a...
                            I've read numerous claims that Demeyere's products are used as a "test standard" for induction stoves and cookware. On class induction's site I cannot find substantiation for that claim. Links to their technical documents don't work!
                            Diva, a induction cooktop and stove manufacturer says this about cookware*: http://www.divainduction.com/cookware...

                            1. re: Scargod

                              The 18/10 mixing bowl is a puzzle. A magnet is not attracted to it.

                              The cheap enamel pot is closest in diameter to the induction coil. I have an idea of the coil size from the ring of bubbles when using the 10" cast iron skillet.

                              The flat bottom of the mixing bowl is somewhat smaller than the coil, but bubbling indicated that some heat was being produced in the sloping sides.

                              The 'wok' that came with burner has a flat base that is somewhat larger than the coil. It has a magnetic base layer, but the bonding between that and the body of pan may not be that great. It looks more like it has been spot welded on, as opposed to being formed from a bonded sandwich.

                              I think that the convection pattern that develops in the pot is an important variable. In the wider, sloping sides pan, I get a rolling boil in the center, with cooler water around the edges. In the mixing bowl, and the cheap enamel, all the water comes to a boil.

                              I just tried omelets in a French steel crepe pan. Apart from the fact that I could not lift the pan off the burner to let egg flow under the edge, it worked like a charm. I don't know if more sophisticated burners do this or not, but mine turns off as soon as I remove the pan from the burner.