Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Jan 12, 2010 11:48 AM

Buying Apt w/o Gas—Electric or Induction Range?

I'm a pretty passionate home cook very much in favor of a gas range, so let's not get into that debate, gas versus whatever. The building we're looking to buy in (our first!) has no gas hookups. It's a sponsor, and we've maybe got a little bit of money to play with up front, so I'm almost certainly swapping out the base stove set for—let's dream big—a double oven and a top of the line range. I'm thinking about induction, but is it worth the cost? It seem like it's the closest I can come to gas in an all-electric building. Does it even compare? I know that induction is only a few years old, so has the tech gotten noticeably of late? What about the prospects of a top of the line electric range? Again, I cook a few nights a week and can't bear the thought of being miserable in my wonderful new apartment with a dreadful kitchen. I hate to say it, but could this even be a deal breaker? Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Induction is what some high end restaurants are now using. I would be excited to try induction. I also have always used gas but if I had to use another fuel I think induction is well worth it.

    1. Induction ranges are much more expensive than electric ranges. However, induction technology is way more than a few years old.

      1. Hot_soup, you asked us, "let's not get into that debate, gas versus whatever." How, then, can we answer your inquiry? Induction heats a pot faster than gas; induction can be more powerful than gas; and induction turns down more quickly than gas, and can be set to simmer settings at levels where gas burners would not sustain a flame. Yes, induction really is "the closest [you] can come to gas in an all-electric building" but it is close to gas on the "other side" -- the superior side -- as distinguished from resistive electric technology which is on the inferior side of gas; that is, in the very same areas (one exception below) where gas is better than resistive electric, induction is "mo' better" than gas.

        The exception is the time when you want flames licking up the side of a wok (or into the pan for a flambé). The energy transfer from an induction inverter to a cooking vessel takes place in a limited area within a centimeter or two of the surface of the hob, and any heat that you want higher on the sides of the wok needs to get there by conduction within the wok, rather than from direct application of energy to the outer sides of the wok well above the hob's surface.

        Some will argue that there is a second class of exception: that some pots and pans, being nonmagnetic, will not work at all on induction. While that may be an inconvenience in terms of sunk investment in cookware, I have yet to see any nonmagnetic rangetop cooking vessel that is not matched by a magnetic pot that is at least as good; so while some pieces of your existing cookware may not work, those pieces can be replaced by induction-capable pieces that are every bit as good.

        Induction technology has been around for 75 or 80 years now; I consider that more than a "few" years, but your definition of "few" may differ. What has changed of late is that the costs of induction units has dived with economies of scale of production and distribution. Part of the increased demand comes from restaurants finding that they significantly reduce HVAC expenses by not having to deal with the waste heat that goes into the kitchen, and also feeling pressure from their insurance carriers who like the absence of open flames that can light a sous chef's sleeves on fire, and the insurers adjust their rates accordingly.

        10 Replies
        1. re: Politeness

          As always, Politeness expresses themselves thoughtfully, concisely, accurately and with good explanations. I would like to add my backing to the above post.

          My concise opinion ...

          1) induction is better.
          2) if you are passionate about cooking then it is far,far better.
          3) It is cooler in more ways than one

          And Wiki is always worth a browse:

          1. re: Politeness

            Politness, your post was very informative but can you explain how induction turns down more quickly then gas? TIA

            1. re: KTinNYC

              KTinNYC, during the process of cooking, a gas range transfers energy to the pot entirely in the form of heat, while an induction range delivers the energy in the form of an alternating magnetic field. However, there is a simultaneous small transfer of energy back FROM the pot TO the induction rangetop in the form of heat: you have a hot pot on top of and in contact with a less hot Ceran surface, and the heat flows from pot to Ceran.

              When you turn a gas burner down or off -- for simplicity, let us say off -- the pot remains seated atop the spider -- which is usually made of a dense cast metal -- that kept the pot suspended above the flame, and that spider, having been closer to or immersed in the former flame, is hotter than the pot; the spider is a heat sink that retains some of the heat from the now turned-off flame. For a brief period of time, energy in the form of heat continues to flow from the hotter spider to the cooler pot.

              When you turn off an induction range, the transfer of magnetic energy stops instantly, but the transfer of heat energy that already was taking place while the magnetic inverter was on continues from the hotter pot to the cooler Ceran. There is no transfer of heat energy from Ceran to pot analogous to the transfer of heat energy from spider to pot in a gas range.

              1. re: Politeness

                Of course, my pre-lunch brain hadn't taken into account the heat transfer from the grates.

                1. re: Politeness

                  I am not 100% sure that additional hear transfered from a gas grate to the pot would exceed the heat radiated/convected from the base of the pot. In the case of an induction ring the ring will be at a temperature similar to the pot and there will be minimal losses due to convection, conduction or radiation through the base.

                  I am not saying you are necessarily wrong, but your argument is not rigorous.

                    1. re: Paulustrious

                      Paulustrious, you make an excellent observation: "I am not 100% sure that additional hear transfered from a gas grate to the pot would exceed the heat radiated/convected from the base of the pot."

                      It would be simple to devise a (not rigorous) test for a gas range: Heat a pot of water to a boil, turn off the gas, and measure the rate at which the water cools. Then (after the surrounding air in the kitchen has normalized) repeat the procedure, but at the time the gas is turned off, move the pot to an unused burner where the spider is at room temperature, and measure the rate of cooling. Ideally, the spider of the second burner should be covered with an insulating material that does not obstruct convection; or a pseudo-spider made of insulating material could be substituted for a real spider.

                      On the induction side, our experience is that the Ceran cooktop is considerably cooler than the pot at the time the inverter is turned off. That is, when the pot is very often too hot to touch with a bare finger for even a few seconds without risk of burn, the temperature of the cooktop surface is merely uncomfortably hot for sustained contact, but not a danger to cause an immediate burn. Whether that is due to poor contact between pot and Ceran for the conduction path or due to the continuous fan blowing cooling air on the underside of the Ceran sheet during the time the inverter is in operation, I cannot determine.

                      1. re: Politeness

                        A few days late to the game, but I perform something similar to this experiment every morning. I make coffee in a vacuum pot. Heat the lower chamber until the water is mostly upstairs, brew for 90 seconds, then cut the heat, allowing the coffee to flow back downhill.

                        If I just turn off the gas, it takes approximately 40 seconds for the downhill flow to start. Shifting the pot to a cold burner, it happens in less than 10. In the interest in saving (infinitessimal quantities of) gas, I turn the burner off at 60 seconds and let the residual heat finish the brewing process.

                        So, yes, there's a fair amount of heat stored in the grate and the burner.

                        1. re: alanbarnes

                          alanbarnes: "I make coffee in a vacuum pot."

                          Aha! Another member of the all-but-secret fraternity of vac-pot devotees. But the vac pot in which I brew a pot or Yirgacheffe every morning (Hario Nouveau) cannot be heated by our induction cooktop (the lower bowl is made of glass, and has a round, not flat, bottom); we use an alcohol burner instead to supply the heat for coffee brewing.

                          Thank you for presciently performing the experiment as to retained heat in a gas cooktop's spiders.

                          1. re: Politeness

                            Sometimes ass-covering weasel words are a good thing...

                            <<I am not saying you are necessarily wrong>>

              2. I switched from gas to induction about 4 or 5 years ago, and I'd never go back.

                IMO, the advantages of induction are:

                1. Amazingly fast heating
                2. Instant level adjustment
                3. Great for simmering (You can set a really low level.)
                4. Very little wasted energy (doesn't heat up the kitchen)
                5. Easy cleanup (smooth cooktop surface, food doesn't burn on, you can put your pot on old newspapers while cooking)
                6. Advanced functions (timer on/off, digital temperature setting for deep frying)
                7. Safety (cooktop stays reasonably cool, auto turn-off function, no open flame to catch your sleeve on fire, handles stay cool)
                8. Impress your geeky technophile friends (or your geeky technophile self)

                A few disadvantages:

                1. Limited to induction-capable cookware (although more makers are jumping on board every day)
                2. Your pans have to be perfectly flat (Warped pans will wobble or spin.)
                3. No open flame if you need it
                4. Powerful range hood required (You don't get a powerful flue suction effect from heat rising past the sides of the pot, so you need a powerful exhaust fan.)

                Based on the advantages/disadvantages above, I think induction is the clear winner over gas or conventional electric.

                2 Replies
                1. re: tanuki soup

                  Are there times when you miss having an open flame? Roasting peppers we can do on the gas grill outside. We don't use woks, but I am wondering if I'd miss the heat of flames lapping up the side of a pan. I'm not worried about the cookware issue.

                  We are putting in a new stovetop and are leaning towards induction, but I am wondering if we would be unhappy if we didn't put in one small gas burner (although we don't have the space for it). We love to cook.

                  1. re: happy_macomb

                    After cooking on gas for 15 years, I had the same concern when I installed my induction cooktop, so I bought one of those little cartridge gas burners that are popular here in Japan (see picture). In the 4 or 5 years since, I have never once used the gas burner.