Induction burner - how does one choose one?
I keep readeing references about induction burners. I found several at Amazon. I have questions: how do you use yours, do you buy cheap or expensive, do you like the double burner models, where do you go to see one of these?
Especially I am interested in how having one is helpful to you.
It keeps the kitchen much cooler in the summer; I use it whenever I need to boil a significant quantity of water. When in use it sits on the stovetop on an aluminum half-sheet, in the back corner under the fan, so steam goes right up the vent. [The half-sheet on stovetop idea from paulj's example; thanks!]
It's much more stable and safe at low simmer levels than the gas burners here, as well as more energy efficient, so it's particularly useful for long low cooking. The same reasoning makes it ideal for using in combination with the pressure cooker: precision, no concern about flame going out, and energy efficiency. The steady release of steam from the pressure cooker makes it especially handy to be right up under the fan and vent.
The induction unit can also go out to the porch to do deep frying -- much safer than over a flame, and keeps the frying vapors out of the kitchen.
Those are the big ways in which it's been most helpful.
The unit and the half-sheet together came to just about $100. It's an 1800-watt unit, but I never use it above level 8, where it pulls 1200 or 1500 watts (this is an old house, and I'm very reluctant to push its wiring).
ellabee, just curious, which model are you using? mine goes up to 1800 watts and it does the high heat well. it's the low simmers that are more difficult for my portable unit to achieve, possibly because the settings are in 10 degree increments.
btw, the half-sheet is a great idea, i'm going to try that.
The manual specifies the wattage of each power setting. I rarely go about 5 (the default power setting). 3 is the lowest full time power setting; 1 and 2 are intermittent. I wouldn't mind something lower than 1, but can live with these. I still have an electric coil stove if I want to keep a pot on low or simmer.
I rarely use the temperature option. Temperatures in the pot tend to be 20F above the setting, probably because the thermostat must be under the glass, as opposed to being in the food in the pan. Now a plug in temperature probe would be a nice feature.
(Mine is the 1800w 6000 model).
ellabee has listed a lot of uses.
I'd just add that a portable induction burner is great for communal meals that are cooked on the tabletop (like Japanese nabe or Korean quick-fried beef slices). Much safer than the open flame of a butane hotplate. Similarly, it's also good for keeping things warm for buffet-style serving.
An induction burner combined with a Le Creuset French oven is great for things like stew and chili. I haven't used my Cuisinart slow cooker in years.
I'm on my second burner. The first quite after about 5 years with a blown capacitor. The replacement is a MaxBurton, one that rated top in ATK's tests, but is also one of the cheapest on the market. A Nevada hardware store seems to have it on perpetual sale:
I'm happy with their least expensive model, but if money was no object, and I wanted to maximize durability I'd get a Pro model. I suspect the main difference in the pro model (for the same power setting) lies in the space and ventilation inside the case.
Mine has effectively replaced two of the burners on my electric coil stove. So I use it for many cooking tasks, especially ones where I want a quick response (e.g. boiling water for coffee).
I still use the electric coils for things like:
- high heat (e.g. searing steak)
- very low heat
- pancakes (I know from experience the exact dial setting I want on the coil)
- aluminum pans that don't work on the induction burner.
I could use it at the dining table. However the cooling fan is a bit noisy. I use a butane hotplate more often at the dining table.
You need to look at the power requirements, power output as in how strong is the burner, check to make sure there are enough settings to control the heat, automatic shutoff option if the burner top gets too hot (as in you leave an empty pan on the burner and it is on, you want the unit to shut itself off). First place is to start with the power output. You want it strong enough to boil water quickly. Google induction cooktops, and you'll find cooktop specifications. Places like Thermador will list the power output of each burner. So if you want a strong burner, just find the power output of that burner. From there you can match it to the power output of the portable ones available. Then look at the extra features - you want to have the ability to control the heat, as in up or down and some presets are useful as in "boil" or "fry", which automatically sets the burner for you. As for plugging it in...just plug it in to a circuit without too much else going on. I wouldn't worry too much, at the very worst you might trip a circuit breaker but if I've never had an issue with my portable unit. And you have to make sure you have the right amount of iron in the pot or pan for the unit to work, don't forget about that LOL! These units are fairly cheap as in around 100 bucks (that's what I spent for my Salton unit) and it works just fine. If it craps out, I'll get a new one.
I have this plus an induction cooktop. I use my portable one for tableside if I need it, or outdoors while barbequing to boil water quickly.