New Kitchen - Can I get away with just 2 induction burners?
We are building a very small house with a small kitchen (L-shaped, about 13' x 9' with a small rolling island in the middle). We're going with an OTR microwave, a wall-oven, and (until yesterday, we thought) an induction cooktop. In reading the NY Times article on induction yesterday, I remembered seeing a cooking demo recently where the chef used 4 single-pan free standing induction burner units set on top of the counter, then removing them when he was done. So I thought ... why couldn't we do that? It seems like it would save lots of counterspace and also $$.
My question: what do you think - can I cook without a traditional range/cooktop? Can I get away with 2 (ok, maybe 3) of those countertop induction units?
Good luck ever trying to sell the house. Serously, while this idea may work for you, it won't for most people, Oh and before you buy the island, live with the kitchen a bit and make sure you have room for it. I bet you change your mind. Sorry. to be the one to say this, but it really needs to be said.
Good luck with the new home!
I think you make a good point and I'd like to carry it a step further. Can you even get your final inspection signed off on if you don't have a range?
As far as can you operate with two burners, sure. I've done it many times, esp. in other countries when renting for a week or so. And I used a two-burner hot plate for weeks when we were remodeling. But I'd say if you're at all into cooking, you're probably not going to be happy long term. BTW, I bought a free standing range with induction cooktop and convection/regular oven for $1750 so it's not all that expensive. Plus your induction cooktop essentially is extra counter space when not in use.
And, yes, congrats on the new house.
re: c oliver
The builder is checking into the local code requirements for us. We will likely have the electrician put wiring in the wall behind the cabinet so we could in the future just cut a hole in the countertop and drop in a conventional cooktop (there will be a wall oven so no concern there).
bluegoat: "Can I get away with 2 (ok, maybe 3) of those countertop induction units?"
You will be limited much more by the wattage than by the number. Almost all countertop induction units are designed to work on 15 amp 110-120V circuits, and very few deliver more than 1500 watts (those that do deliver only a very few watts more). Many are 1300 watts. That kind of wattage will serve you well for most frying and small saucepan work, but when you need to fix pasta, you are going to want to bring a 3 or 4 quart pot of water to which salt has been added to a rolling boil, and you will find yourself at the outer limits of the capability of a countertop unit.
Built-in induction cooktops and ranges, on the other hand, usually operate on 30 amp or 40 amp 220-230V circuits, and typically have at least one burner that delivers over 3000 watts. Sometimes you need that.
Ah well. Your OP stated that one concern was counterspace so I just thought.... I guess you mean you're looking for few linear feet of counterspace. But you'd still need room for all those stand alone burners if you got them. I don't see where you'd save any room. And when you're cooking, then you'd have even LESS counterspace. I guess I'm just confused is what I am :) Do you just not cook very much and very often? In that case, then you're probably fine. But if you're going to install a cooktop later, then why not now? Again, I'm just having a confused morning :)
re: c oliver
Good point about the storage issue for the burners - I figured they'd just fit in a shallow-ish drawer right under the spot where I'd use them (under the hood). I should have been more clear on the use of the counterspace - I need space to roll out dough and make pasta, etc. I was thinking the small rolling island would be helpful but I don't think it can be big enough and still fit in the small space.
I think an induction range is the best choice for a small kitchen. It provides extra counter space when it's not in use, it's safer because there is no open flame in a cramped area, and it doesn't heat up a small kitchen nearly as much as other types of cooktops.
Maybe as a compromise you could get a 2-burner built-in induction cooktop and supplement it with 1 or 2 extra portable induction pads.
This is slightly off-topic, but (and I know you're dealing with space issues) I have always felt that the micro over the range is a really bad idea. For two reasons:
If you're vertically challenged - as I am - it's never a good idea to lean over burners to reach and remove something from the micro, esp if it's a container of hot liquid or whatever.
Second, I've never seen them placed high enough to allow for easy access to the back burners. I know so many people who now regret doing the OTR because they didn't realize it until it was installed. If you raise it up to standard height for a vent, you're again creating a risk for anyone needing to use it. Especially children.
My sister just contracted to completely re-do her kitchen and the designer, yes, you guessed it - put the micro over the range. I told her don't...do...it....uh oh. She then had the designer do the same thing I have: 30" convection wall oven placed a bit lower and the micro above that. No worries about gas flames or leaning toward a full pot of boiling water, etc.
Just my two cents. (I also have a smaller kitchen - pretty challenging.)
I have an above the range microwave. We use the back burners with ease. Ours is a smooth top electric range. An induction would be even safer. Our microwave replaced the original hood. Plenty of clearance for big stockpots on back burners. I'm about five-four and have no problem getting stuff into or out of the microwave. Of course, I don't cook the Thanksgiving turkey in it.
I think you're two cents are worth a nickel easily. We were determined not to do a full remodel of a kitchen that was only done five years ago. I got lots of good advice from a Chow-buddy. What I wound up doing was buying the induction range and then a HUGE MW/convection oven. It could have been installed over the range but, as it's convection also, I DO want to safely put heavy things in it. We already had that 6' tall, metal shelving unit that Costco sells for $100. The MW has always been on it so that's where we put the new MW/convection. So I have the equivalent of an induction cooktop, two ovens and a MW and it was all about $2300. It works like a dream.
We've had OTR units in almost every place we've lived in, and have been very happy with them. My husband and I are both over 5'8" though so maybe that's more of a comfort thing. We find it a huge space saver in a small kitchen. Good point about kids though ... not currently an issue in our house but perhaps some day.
Others have at least touched on these points, but...
Saving counterspace shouldn't really be an issue. Especially if you install a frameless unit, the cooktop (or any portion of it) can function as usable counterspace when it's not being used for cooking. But if you're really dead-set on minimizing your cooktop's footprint, install a built-in 12-15" "domino" unit that has two burners or one that's 24" wide and has 3 or 4 burners.
Emphasis on "built-in." You're going to want several thousand watts of power, and the only way to do that in a typical American kitchen is with a dedicated 220-volt circuit.
One of the major advantages of induction is the ability to put a lot of heat in the pan in a hurry. Most built-in units have at least one 3000-4000 watt element. That's more than double the power of the typical portable unit. When you're waiting for pasta water to boil, that extra power will be extremely welcome. And you have to have a built-in unit to get it.
The reason that portable units (with the exception of commercial stuff) are lower powered is that they run on 110 volts. So your maximum power draw is 1800 watts. But even the most anemic of the bunch are rated at 1200 watts, which means that you can only run one burner at a time on a typical residential circuit. Try to run two off the same receptacle and you'll trip the breaker. You might be able to avoid this problem by running several circuits to the cooking area, but that seems like an inelegant and expensive solution to a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place.
That's not to say that you can't supplement whatever cooktop you end up choosing with a portable burner or two. But the portable burner(s) shouldn't be your main cooking surface.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. We've ordered a portable unit from Amazon and once it gets here, we'll give it a spin and see how it compares to our current electric range. I think the building code requirements here require that any two electrical outlets that are closer than 3' to each other must be on separate circuits ... I guess I can see if they can wire a 220 circuit in one of those at the same time.
I know what you are saying about power usage is wise. Our ancient house was rewired, and not very well. There are quirks.
But even so, I was well able to use a short-cord HD power strip with a surge protector, into one wall outlet on a 20-amp circuit, and plugged  max. 1300 watts induction burners into that. Usually we only use one at a time, or 2 on lower watts. Occasionally, we do use both at same time, on max. 1300 watts each---with NO trouble. No overheating, now blown breakers, no overloads.
Now, if I tried to also use the high-speed blender on that circuit, there'd be a shut-down [yep, tried it].
We'd love to find a built-in 2-burner induction unit that uses 220, but can't locate them.
Also trying to locate a compact oven, and haven't found one yet.
2 burners do very well for 2 people; we've handled 4 for Thanksgiving, and probably could handle 6 or 8 with good planning.
Induction burners, even the cheap, low-watt ones, make cooking safer, more efficient, easier clean-up.
I call it well-worth it.
Individual induction burners only use maybe up to 1300 to 1800 watts each.
Electric supplies MUST handle that load.
Those low watts are NOT going to boil a teakettle of cold water in one minute, but will do a 2 qt. kettle in about 9 minutes on 1300 watts.
We 1st tried a Berghoff dual-burner unit--nice lines. but their "1800" watts is a TOTAL of what's used on one or both burners: one can ONLY use a total of 1800 watts at any time [BedBathBeyond was lowest cost for that one; great return policy].
We returned that; found  Mr. Induction units [Amazon][very cheap] that top out at 1300 watts each.
We plugged both into a protected HDappliance power strip, which is plugged into a single 20-amp outlet with the standard Code Ground-Fault plug compliances.
We have used them simultaneously at 1300 watts each, no problem. I LOVE being able to set the temperature reliably. Have even done some canning in our large pressure cooker on these things.
Some folks don't like the ventilation fans that keep the electronics cooled--they are a bit noisy--we don't care.
We also have a small toaster oven, that's about 30+ yrs old, for baking and toasting.
At Thanksgiving, we added an ancient, propane RV oven outside on the porch for additional baking capacity, and made T-day dinner for 4: could have been 6 or 8. Recipes adapted to cooking in small spaces---pieces of turkey, instead of whole turkey, for instance.
The 2 of us use the basic 2 burners and toaster oven for daily use--easy.
We replaced the bulky old electric stove with a rolling cart that holds pans, etc. pantry items, which rolls under a new section of countertop where the burners sit.
We REALLY like the efficiency of even these low-wattage induction burners: especially the timers.
We now cook at lower temps, there's far less over-cooking or burning anything. The timers are a GREAT safety feature. This brand has a lock-out button, which prevents kids or pets accidentally turning them on--and even if they did, unless there was a pan on there, the burner would auto-shut-off.
Even though these are low-end efficiency, they are far more efficient than regular electric burners, and far better than gas, even. When they are on, they immediately cook, and immediately off when turned off--can't ask for faster response than that!
Cleaning is a breeze, too.
Sure, some folks would not recognize it as familiar--hey! It's new tech---if you have to sell that, point to new, more efficient tech / energy savings/ less burned food/ healthier. Even professional chefs like induction burners and convection ovens!
It's a learning curve, sure--we've been sheepled to think a stove must have 4 to 6 burners and a huge oven--we really don't. People would be amazed to learn how many families DON'T use their stoves beyond one or 2 pans, or, rarely use the oven. The old, standardized house paradigms need changed--we're helping them do that.
So are all those choosing to live in tiny houses.
IF you think you might need more burners, get a couple more cheap portable induction burners and keep 'em in the cupboard. Bet they don't get used much, if at all!
Beware of marketing scams like used for a certain as-seen-on-TV induction burner--they say 2 units for $100 and the pans to go with them, but you pay nearly that in shipping for the 2nd unit--and it doesn't cook any hotter than the Mr. Induction units we bot.
We also learned, many of our old pans were already induction ready--magnets stick nicely to their bottoms. FLAT bottoms are kinda important--so if your old cookware has warped bottoms, you might need new ones. But we also learned: we need far fewer pots and pans.