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Induction vs. Electric

Thanks all for the advice so far on my "tiny kitchen" post. I'm moving on to picking appliances now, and am pondering the merits of induction vs. electric.

I visited several kitchen supply stores and shopped on line. I'm either going to go with a slide-in electric range, or an induction cooktop + electric oven below.

RANGE
-cheaper
-I can use all my existing pots and pans on electric

INDUCTION
-I really don't have that many pots and pans that don't work with it, and all the ones that don't work are my cheap old aluminum pans anyway
-I could pick different brands of cooktop and oven if I learn different brands excel in different areas
-I could have a hybrid with both electric and induction burners
-I could have a 36" cooktop instead of only a 30" option

Is the cooking on an induction oven truly superior to that on an electric? I've used portable induction cookers before, but never a full range. I do cook a lot, and am already disappointed that my new kitchen cannot have a gas cooktop. I do a lot of Asian cooking, and have always thought gas = better. But induction cooktops are popular in Japan, right?

It's all very confusing. Any thoughts? The brands I'm looking at include GE, Electrolux, Thermador, and I would consider Jenn-Air but did not see any today.

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  1. Three additional reasons to go with induction in a small kitchen:

    1. Less waste heat released into the room. (Small rooms heat up fast.)
    2. No risk of fire, less chance of burns. (You would be working closer to the cooktop in a tiny kitchen.)
    3. The smooth glass top can be used as additional counter space.

    7 Replies
    1. re: tanuki soup

      Less burns is a great incentive!

      With either, how much do I have to worry about scratching the surface with the bottoms of my cookware, or with my cleaning products? I know I won't be shaking pans or tossing woks like I would on a gas stove, but how easily do electric vs. induction cooktops acquire damage?

      Another plus of induction that I just thought of: since the surface doesn't heat up, other than a little latent heat from the hot pot, I can safely put ladles or pot lids down on it while I'm cooking (I do this a lot, bad habit).

      1. re: Pei

        I've had my induction cooktop for 3 years or so now. No scratching problems at all with stainless steel pots and pans, carbon steel pans, Lodge Signature cast iron frying pans, or Le Creuset enameled cast iron cookware. For cleanup, I use special induction cooktop cleaner or just use that gentle liquid cleanser stuff.

        Speaking of scratching and cleanup, I almost always lay a folded sheet of old newspaper over the entire cooktop (with the pots and pans sitting directly on the newspaper) when I cook. It avoids scratching, and cleanup is a snap - remove the pots, crumple up the newspaper, polish the cooktop with the crumpled newspaper, and then chuck the newspaper.

        I was initially kind of skeptical when I read about this trick on the web, but it works great! Even after searing a bunch of spare ribs or cooking up a batch of porkchops in a HOT cast iron skillet, the newspaper is only slightly browned directly under the pan.

        1. re: tanuki soup

          That is fascinating. Now I want an induction cooktop just so I can dazzle my friends with that trick. But how do you know where the burners are if you put paper over them?

          1. re: Pei

            On my cooktop, there is an LED bar graph under the glass immediately below each burner to indicate the temperature setting. The LEDs are bright enough to be visible through two layers of newspaper. Also, since a burner won't operate unless a pot is properly positioned over it, you could just eyeball it.

            1. re: tanuki soup

              May I ask which brand you're using? I'm hearing good things about Kenmore Elite and Eletrolux Icon. There is also a Bosch that I saw, but it's a little too thick to be installed over an oven.

              1. re: Pei

                My cooktop is a Panasonic. However, sorry to say, I don't think that Panasonic sells its induction cooktops outside of Japan (where I live). Here in Japan, many of the major electronics companies (Toshiba, Hitachi, Panasonic, Mitsubishi, etc.) sell induction cooktops, but it seems they are intended only for the domestic market. Based on what I've read, most folks in the US buy European induction cooktops like Electrolux.

                For what's available in the US, you might want to check out "The Induction Site" at http://theinductionsite.com/. Good luck - I suspect you will be very happy when you switch to an induction cooktop!

          2. re: tanuki soup

            I don't think newspaper under a very hot surface is such an good idea. If you let your pan burn dry, it could get hot enough to ignite the newspaper. The other concern is toxic fumes. Since newspaper is not designed to be exposed under high temperature in household environment, you run the risk of releasing dioxins while heating it. Your particular newspaper could be safe. But it is your family's safety we talking about, any risk is unacceptable.

      2. Pei,

        Induction cooking has a lot of advantages, but since you must have heard of all the advantages, I will point to its weakness. Not sure what you means by Asian cooking, since Indian cooking is Asian and so is Mongolian cooking. There are way too many different styles of Asian cooking.

        Induction cooking is popular in Japan, but Japanese do not usually use a wok. Many people consider a round bottom wok is better than a flat bottom wok and most induction range cannot take care a round bottom wok. Even those really expensive curved induction range do not do a good job on round woks. In addition, manys induction range do not generate enough thermal power to do hot stir fry. Induction by itself do not create heat, so you can not use a flame to heat your foods. Let's say you want to use flame to lightly toast your already cooked kabob. Well, no can't do.

        Finally, I want to point to the biggest "untruth" of induction. It is NOT greener. A lot of people claim induction cooking is greener because >90% of electric power go directly to your pan, so it is more energy efficient than gas cooking, where only 40% of heat go to pan and 60% go to the surrounding. Well, I am a bit unhappy when I heard about these half-truth misleading advertisements. If you sit down and think about it, it makes no sense. To use induction cooking, you need electricity. Electricity does not come from nowhere. We generate our electricity from power plants which mostly use coal and gas. Yet, the energy conversion from today power plants is about 40% at best, so there are plenty energy waste upstream, just not at your home.

        Sorry, I guess I am a scientist, so it saddens me when I see other people buy into false ideas so easily, like induction cooking is green or green pans are green....

        By the way, I am not against induction cooking at all. Induction cooking heats up pans faster than gas and electric cooking. This is its biggest advantage.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          Since this is an apartment, don't forget to check with the board/association to see if the apartment currently has wiring that can handle induction or if you're permitted to upgrade it. If you need to upgrade the electric, you'll want to check out the cost before committing to induction.

          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            In terms of efficiency, the original poster was asking about induction vs. conventional electric cooktops. All of your points concerning the inefficiencies of electrical power generation and transmission apply equally to both. If an induction cooktop is more efficient than an electric cooktop *in your home*, the difference will be directly reflected in your electricity consumption and your power bill.

            I don't really know how induction and gas compare in terms of overall energy efficiency. It is true that "electricity does not come from nowhere", but neither does gas - exploration, drilling, pumping, transport, etc. In addition, induction does at least have the potential to run on electricity generated by solar, wind, or tidal power plants.

            1. re: tanuki soup

              The reality is that the US produces half of its electricity by burning coal, and natural gas and nuclear each account for around one-fifth. Everything else -- hydro, solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, tidal -- accounts for less than 10 % altogether.

              Another reality is that the fastest growing producer of electricity in this country is natural gas (90% of new power plants being built in the US in the next 20 years will at least have the ability to run off of natural gas).

              Finally, one-third of the power generated is consumed between the plant and your home.

              The environment takes it on the kisser either way. Forget about trying to "go green" -- choose a stove that you will enjoy cooking on.

              1. re: MikeB3542

                Thanks for the interesting information. The figures are rather different for Japan (where I live). 27.8% nuclear, 27.4% coal, 23.3% gas, 11.1% oil, and 7.9% hydroelectric in 2006. I agree with you, though - "choose a stove that you will enjoy cooking on". Finally, I suspect that cooking at home on *any* kind of cooktop is "greener" than driving to a restaurant to eat dinner!

                PS. Just for general interest, I've attached a chart of electricity sources for various countries.

                 
                1. re: tanuki soup

                  Tanuki,

                  I believe the original post also mentioned "and have always thought gas = better". As for the logic of electricity is not coming from nowhere, I believe you are missing the point. Sure, gas does not come from nowhere, but that is not the point. Electricity is not a raw energy source. Coal is. We can mine coal and gas, but we cannot mine electricity. Electricity requires additional energy ON TOP of whatever you spend on the raw energy. Let's say your electricity comes from a gas power plant, ok? (For ease of explanation). So the electricity requires all the effort of obtaining natural gas and then pays the energy lost from converting gas thermal energy to electricity, whereas a gas stove only pays for the effort of obtaining natural gas, not the energy lost in a power plant.

                  I hope I am not being confusing, but basically in my example:

                  induction stove = energy for obtaining gas + energy lost from converting gas to electricity.

                  This is exactly what I mean mislaeding advertisements.

            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

              When I need a flame, I use a table top butane burner, the type that is quite popular in Japan and Korea.

            3. I have gas and induction. If I had to choose, it would b induction, hands-down.

              1. Thanks everyone. I'm definitely leaning toward induction now. Does anyone have a preferred brand?

                1 Reply
                1. re: Pei

                  I have a Kenmore Elite (rebadged Electrolux) 4-element induction cooktop that I've had for about 2 years now, no complaints. At the time it was one of the least expensive induction cooktops available (about $1500 on sale).

                  And to add my vote to everyone else's: yes, you should get induction. I was cooking a big meal on gas over the weekend for the first time in quite a while and couldn't believe how irritating it all was compared to induction. Mainly, so much waste heat is generated from 4 gas burners that I couldn't touch the handles on several pots without using potholders. That rarely happens on my induction cooktop.

                  The only disadvantage it has compared to regular electric is the up-front price, and maybe the cost of repairs if it breaks down. But your electric bill will be cheaper.

                2. Pei, we are coming to this discussion late, so this lucky 13th reply will mostly reinforce the previous twelve replies.

                  We have had induction as the primary surface cooking method in our kitchen for over a decade now. Until last December, we had a hybrid Jenn-Air (two 1400 watt induction burners; two ribbon radiant burners, one 1300 watt and one 3000 watt). We found that we used the induction side almost all of the time, even for the big pots where one might think we would have gone for the 3000 watt radiant first. Only when we needed three or four burners to be going all at once did we use the radiant side. Induction seduces one that way.

                  You made a passing reference to Jenn-Air: after Whirlpool Corporation acquired Maytag a few years back, it completely and thoroughly orphaned all legacy Maytag and Jenn-Air appliances in the field; it not only did not maintain a warehouse stock of repair parts, but it did not even maintain a list of model numbers, so far did it distance itself from the Maytag history. Prior to the acquisition, the Jenn-Air brand had been a direct competitor of Whirlpool's KitchenAid brand, and Whirlpool has been expanding and promoting KitchenAid of late -- you can purchase KitrchenAid spatulas now. Do not expect to see Jenn-Air to be re-ascendant in our lifetimes. Therefore, when our Jenn-Air cooktop needed a repair (to its induction side) that required a Jenn-Air-specific part, our only course last December was to replace the cooktop; it could not be repaired, period.

                  After much research, we purchased the LG induction cooktop (LG has only one model of induction cooktop for North America, so it is "the" LG). As a _product_, the LG is very satisfactory; it does almost/* everything very well, and we are quite happy with it as a _product_. (/* It does have one very strange quirk: when power to the cooktop is OFF, placing a conductive material (pot or pan) atop the controls for the bridge unit on the left side for more than a couple of seconds makes the cooktop go crazy, and it is necessary to turn the power to the cooktop ON, then OFF, to stop the bells and whistles.) The power of the largest "burner" on the LG, 3200 watts, is not as great as the big guns on some other cooktops, but I cannot imagine needing anything more -- it provides more energy to the pot than any other burner on any gas or (resistive) electric range burner that we ever have had in our home. And by holding the maximum power down, the LG is a bit more tolerant of home wiring amperage than any of its competitors. (However, if your wiring has sufficient capacity for a resistive electric cooking surface, it almost certainly has capacity for even the most power-hungry induction cooktop.)

                  Another advantage of the LG is that it is incredibly thin, needing less than two inches of depth below the cooking surface and -- just as importantly -- very little additional clearance between the bottom of the cook top and surfaces below. We have a drawer of spatulas, wooden spoons, and pot lids immediately under the cooktop -- the Jenn-Air was relatively thin, also, though not _this_ thin -- and we are glad we did not have to abandon that drawer to install a replacement cooktop. Had we replaced the Jenn_Air with some other currently available cooktops -- the Electrolux hybrid is an extreme example -- we would have had to reconfigure the entire cabinet area under the cooktop. Unusually, the LG's cooling vent exhausts above the counter in which it is installed, in thin horizontally oriented vents in the stainless trim at the rear. (The Jenn-Air had exhausted into the drawer under the cooktop.) We find the above-counter rear vent ideal, but depending on your kitchen layout, you may wish to consider the implications for liquid spills.

                  We emphasized above that the LG _product_ is good. Between the date of purchase and the date that the cooktop that we had purchased was installed, we got a foretaste of LG's customer service, and it was very, very ugly, probably the most customer-hostile (non)service of any company we have ever dealt with, ever. Had we known of it before purchase, we might have sought out other brands. As we near the anniversary of our purchase, we are getting letters almost weekly from LG urging us to purchase an extended warranty from LG; that is of some concern. Also, we registered our warranty online for the LG cooktop, using a unique email address that we have never used for any other purpose; we have since received hundreds of UCEs (unsolicited commercial emails -- spam) addressed to that address. Apparently LG sells its customer information. Be forewarned.

                  One final note: Demeyere makes a wok especially for flat-top induction cooktops. We do not own one, and we have not tried it; we are just aware that there is such a beast out there.