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Feb 29, 2012 08:02 AM

Questions For EXPERIENCED Induction Users...

Hi! Recently (maybe a month or two ago?) I bought a Max Burton 1800 watt induction hot plate, which now sits atop my rather expensive electronic (no knobs) radiant glass electric cook top with an ugly heavy duty extension cord connecting it to one of the two kitchen power outlets that are strong enough to serve it. Not exactly the look I had in mind when I redid my kitchen several years ago, BUT... I live in an all electric house with an impossible power company that seems to have eating up my discretionary monthly income in as big bites as it can manage as one of it's primary goals! So I plan on using the induction hot plate for most of my stove top cooking for some time to come. With my utility company, induction is an energy saving tool!

One of the first things I noticed with my hot plate is that the percent of ferrous metal in the pan makes a HUGE difference in the pan's responsiveness, as well as what temperature setting works well with it for the purpose I have at hand. In other words, my cast iron pans will smoke at a power setting of 3, whereas my induction friendly stainless steel pots and pans take about a 6 or 7 power setting to get the same result. Is this standard across the board with ALL induction cooking, whether hot plate or built in?

I recently bought a new 12" flat bottom wok to use with the induction burner. My old 14 inch round bottom wok with wok ring is just too dangerous to try to use on the induction hot plate, even though I do use the wok ring small side down on electric cooktops. When I tried to cure the wok on the induction hot plate, I got an exellent cure on the BOTTOM, but the curved sides were impossible, so I had to end up curing it in the oven, which did work great. I got the directions from, the Grant Avenue, San Francisco (Chinatown) wok shop. Hey, they sent me some fun free goodies with the wok too! This new wok is carbon steel, just like my old one, but I don't THINK it gets as hot as my cast iron, which may be associated with the quality and density of the ferrous metals in it. So... Has anyone used one of those rather costly (made in China) cast iron traditional woks with induction? (No. I will NOT use ANY teflon or ceramic coated woks. That's just ridiculous!) It seems plausible to me that I MIGHT get real "breath of the wok" stir fry on an induction cook top with a cast iron traditional wok. Anyone have any experience with this kind of wok on their induction?

And finally a question for those of you who cook on induction built-ins or full blown stoves. Do you have "blank spots" from the shape of your induction coils? This has ONLY been a problem for me when I was trying to cure the new wok on the induction hot plate. I got a small uncured spot exactly in the center of the wok after the hot plate cure that I could only reduce a bit by moving the pan around to try to cure that coin sized spot in the center of the pan. I'm sure there is probably a variance in how the induction coils are set up and aligned, depending on the manufacturer. Do any of you have "no cold spots" induction burners on your cooktops, and if you do, what brand is yours?

And now for a final drool over technology not yet available. Both Gagganeau and Thermador are in the process of unveiling new "full surface" cooktops that allow you to set a pan anywhere and use it. I assume there is probably some sort of limit on how many pans, but hey, a full roast pan with drippings in the bottom that will receive full heat in every part of it? I'm there! Now, if someone will just combine full surface induction with the new Japanese all metal induction in one big beautiful cook top, I'll be sooooo ready to throw my induction hot plate out the window! Assuming I can afford it.... Ah well. When you no longer have a dream, you know you're dead. '-)

Thanks for your input.

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  1. This video seasons a cast iron wok on a portable gas hot plate

    Notice how the wok is tilted and rotated to get an even seasoning despite the limited size of the stove's flame.

    I normally use my induction hotplate on a coil stove like this - but sitting on an inverted half sheet pan. Since I'm wary of heating the electronics, I usually move the burner when I am using the stove's oven. But I've had to do less of that since I got a decent toaster oven.

    1 Reply
    1. re: paulj

      Thanks, Pau! I checked out the video. I don't have your location problem. My smootth cook top and ovens are in diferent locations -- the ovens in the wall and the cooktop on the island with the vent hood over it. And I DO keep my cooktop electronically locked so it can't be turned on by accidentd Wouldn't THAT be a nightmare!


      This should help. These are fantastic - for knowing EXACTLY how hot the center and edges of those pans are, and on what setting with your cooktop or induction hot plate. They are really super cheap now. I first had gotten it to help figure out energy loss in my house. Now ... it sits in my kitchen and gets used regularly.

      When I got one it was nearly $50 and I still thought it was essential. Nowadays you can get one for like $20-25 delivered to your door. A Freak'n bargain.

      11 Replies
      1. re: PepinRocks

        That's amazing! It must be a year since I last priced them, and the prices have dropped through the basement. Thanks.

        1. re: Caroline1

          Hi, Car:

          I just bought a IR gun, one by Thermoworks. I think it works pretty well, but it is quite inconsistent between empty pans and between different angles and distances. Even when you adjust emissivity to account for different materials (leaving the hob at a constant temp), the results are quite different. But you DO get to see how much cooler your CI pans are at the periphery and corners, and they're better than a WAG. I figured it was a justifiable expense to keep my "new" wood cookstove safe.

          Maybe the FLIR cameras will come down, too. Then we can have some real fun.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            Huh? That's interesting because mine is really consistent. The ONLY thing I can think of is that some of these units aren't as fond of measuring highly metallic pots/pans. I recall reading about that somewhere? I can't say for me - since I use mine on walls, cast iron, cats(2), nonstick crepe pans, a parrot and the girlfriend ("yep she's hot"). You may wish to see how yours does on different surfaces?

            In any case you are making a VERY good point - that it is worthwhile to look at the specs of all those models and get one with as high a ratio as possible for the relative price point. And .. one with lots of good user reviews!

            1. re: kaleokahu

              Hi Kaleo,

              To get consistant results you need to know the D:S ratio and you need to be consistant with the distance. For example, some inexpensive IRs are 1/1 which means they measure a one inch pattern when 1 inch away from the surface. Most better units are as much as 12/1 so you get a 1 inch pattern at 1 foot away. If you have a 6/1 D:S ratio and you are two feet away, you get a 4 inch pattern, so you are measuring a large portion of the pan.

              1. re: mikie

                Thanks mikie. Mine is 1:12. There was so much variation in readings that I standardized the angle (45 degrees) an distance (12"). Even with the emissivity setting adjusted to the specific metal or PTFE surface, the readings are quite different. Is there an *ideal* distance and/or angle? I mean, it's still a useful tool, but I'm doubtful now that apple-apple comparisons will be good.


                1. re: kaleokahu

                  Hi Kaleo,

                  It should be more accurate than that, although I must admit, we don't use them in our plastics molding technical service group. We use a pyrometer with a surface thermocouple attached. These are fairly accurate and consistant, especially for the high temperatures with which we deal. We have one here at the house, I'll have to play with it a bit and see what I come up with.

                  1. re: kaleokahu

                    Hi Kaleo,

                    I pulled the following from the Omega web-site: "...Some polished, shiny metallic surfaces, such as aluminum, are so reflective in the infrared that accurate temperature measurements are not always possible." This may be part of your problem. It should be relatively accurate on the dark PTFE surface, but your shiny tin surface on the copper or even polished SS may be difficult to get accurate readings. I also think you would get more accurate and consistant results with a 90 degree shot at the spot you are trying to measure. Even with your 12:1 D:S ratio, it's easy to forget the lazer dot is the middle of the zone you are reading and near an edge at a 45 degree angle, you could be measuring part way up the sidewall.

                    Something like the 88108K would work extremely well for measuring various areas of a shallow pan, fry pan or shrot sauté. That's if you don't mind spending over $300 for the pyrometer and thermocouple.

                    1. re: mikie

                      Hi, mikie:

                      Too rich for my blood. I measured tinned (oxidixed) copper, bare black cast iron, a Swiss dIamond nonstick and a Revereware clad pan on the same hob and setting. None yielded the same readings, although the PTFE and cast iron were closer to each other but still far apart. And all of them read differently from 90 degrees AOA than they did at 45. Good advice though about keeping the pointer 1/2" away from the corner (from 12" away). In the same vein, what happens if the dot comes within a 1/2" of the *rim*? Does this mean true rim measurements aren't feasible with an IR gun?


                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Hi KIaleo,

                        "In the same vein, what happens if the dot comes within a 1/2" of the *rim*? Does this mean true rim measurements aren't feasible with an IR gun?"

                        The only way to get an accurate rim temperature would be to get close enough to the rim that the field of the reading is no wider than the thhickness of the rim, otherwise you get an average of the rim and both sides of the rim. So for your unit about 1 and a half inches away from the rim would measure a 1/8" rim.

                        It's just not likely the best tool for the job and the best tool is expensive.

                2. re: kaleokahu

                  Hi, Kaleo. I'm not surprised by your experience. I've questioned the benefits of using an IR gun for cooking for several reasons, such as not finding (or being able to afford) a gun that will measure the temperature of a wide area. On the other hand, the purpose of an IR gun is usually to check the temperature of a narrow area so you can check different areas of a hot surfaace. I know from experience that no matter what method you use to heat a pan, it's practically impossible to find a heat source that will heat any pan evenly over its entire surface UNLESS you put the pan in an oven! I also know that it's damned painful to try to stir an omelette in an oven. Therefore the heat distribution abilitty of the metal is of utmost importance in cooking. And that is why for many years my pots and pans have all been either copper or cast iron or enameled cast iron, with high grade aluminum reserved exclusively for dedicated omlette pans. As I've aged, I've developed some serious conflicts though... Cast iron is not the most user-friendly material for seriously arthritic hands! Bummer. BUT, if I want performance, you gotta do what you gotta do.

                  For me (and possibly for me alone?) I don't think an IR gun will be all that useful. I think it's easier to just "cut to the chase" and use the best pans possible for even heat distribution and for some specific things I cook, a long-slow preheat is important. There's a VERY old cooks trick of dancing a drop of water of the surface of a frying/sautee pan to check how hot it is. For example, to sear a steak you want the drop of water to vanish almost immediately and not have time to dance before evaporating. For pancakes, I want the water to dance or maybe even puddle for two or three seconds before evaporating. With time, most cooks develop a "sixth sense" using this method.

                  I do question the qualities of induction friendly layered stainless steel cookware for induction cooking. I broke down and bought some MIU induction friendly ss cookware on sale. I like the large stock pots for any heating method because they have quarts and quarts of water in them during cooking, and that makes even surface heating of the bottom of the pan a moot point. BUT... the sautee/frying pans are not as satisfactory as cast iron on my specific induction unit because they take longer to heat and higher heat settings than cast iron or carbon steel. I *SUSPECT* the problem is related to the aluminum plate that is encased in the bottom of the pan. Logic says that if my specific induction unit will not heat aluminum, then the less dense ferrous qualities of the induction friendly stainless steel will have to work harder to heat the aluminum, and it's just not going to be as efficient as a TOTALLY ferrous metal pan like cast iron. Seems to me.... '-)

                  Bottom line is I question how helpful an IR gun would be for ME. When I want to know where the hot spots are in a pan, whether on a gas burner or alcohol or electric or a wood stove, I just put a shallow amount of water in the bottom of the pan and set it on the burner. Small tiny bubbles will form as the pan heats, then the bubbles will grow before finally breaking loose from the bottom of the pan for a full boil. The earliest bubbles will begin forming in a pattern that indicates where the burner is heating the pan more quickly. I can then compensate for those hot spots by rotating the pan at intervals while cooking. This is especially important for things like slow browning pancakes or crepes as well as for high temperature searing of things like steaks. It's one of the things my chef mentor taught me waaaaay back in the fifties! '-)

                3. re: Caroline1

                  Sure - once you start using it, you'll use it pretty regularly. It can be really amazing the temperature gradient in the middle vs the edges, until a pan warms up. Also ... how long a pan takes to really get HOT ... often longer than expected.

                  With cast iron (butane gas burner), I find that I'll get a more even heat by letting it sit over a low to low-med flame and covered - for a while - instead of blasting the heck outa it. But ... I expect that this probably is entirely different for you, with that fob.

              2. We are on our second induction unit. The first was a GE, made by some one else, and it kept burning out power coils until GE gave us a new electric imbeded coil unit. Sold it after a year and now have second induction top. Several weeks ago I got a 14" flat bottom wok from the Wok Shop, S.F and it gets smoking hot on #9 of 1 - 12 settings. Could not get the high areas of sides seasoned, but I don't cook that far up the sides. Put a layer of news paper under wok while cooking to absorb grease splatters and to avoid scratching cook top when "flipping the contents'!

                3 Replies
                1. re: subal

                  Hi, subal... You're talking "built in" induction, right? Either way, I'm curious what brand you replaced the GE with? And as for woks on induction, the type of ferrous metal pan I use makes a HUGE difference in how well the pan will utilize induction heating. As a result, Im now considering replacing my new carbon steel wok with a traditional Chinese cast iron wok. Only problem is I can't find a traditional cast iron wok with a flat botttom, and trying to use a wok ring on a hot plate is courting disaster! I suppose there could be some sort of flaw in my particular Max Burton unit, but there *IS* a marked difference in how different induction-friendly metals work on it. Just because a magnet will stick to the side of a pan apparently does not mean that pan will give maximum induction performance! At least not on my unit.

                  Anyway, I had difficulties trying to cure my new smaller wok with induction too, and I love your idea of newspaper under it to catch grease! I'm going to try it next time I use my wok. However, I do use the sides of my wok, not for cooking as much as maintaining temperature for some ingredients while I cook more in the bottom/center of the wok, so in the end, I just wasn't happy with the “induction cure”. The great thing about woks is that you can "re-season" them again anytime you want to. In the end, what worked best for me was to use the oven cure method as given on the wokshop website with some adaptations. First, I rescrubbed the wok inside and out with SOS pads, rinsed it impeccably clean, dried it with a paper towel, then further dried it by heating it on a conventional electric burner to push all moisture possible out of the metal. Let it cool, then took the wooden handle off the wok and wrapped wet paper towels around the non-removable wooden "helper handle" with a piece of aluminum foil pressed around the outside to keep it from drying out. Then I rubbed a THIN layer of peanut oil all over the wok, inside and out, and rubbed it into the surface as much as possible. (wokshop directions say not to do the outside, but it helps with rust protection of the exterior of the wok, plus I will be using it with the induction unit so it should work just fine.) Then I put it face down on the middle shelf of my oven with it set for single shelf convection at a temperature of 475F (the wokshop directions say 450F, but convection ovens drop the thermal temperature a bit to compensate for the air circulation and prevent burning of food) and let it bake for 25 minutes, again a bit longer than the website directions. I let it cool and baked it again. The cure was gorgeous! I had a bronze wok!

                  And then I did the very old traditional Chinese cure of using peanut oil and chives to give it some flavor again. With this method you heat the wok really HOT, then add some peanut oil and a handful of washed and dried chives and smear the chives around the entire interior of the wok using chopsticks to move them until the chives are toast! You don’t want to really burn the chives to the tastes-bitter point though.

                  You can scrub down a wok with SOS and cure it again, no matter how old the wok is. It’s kind of like giving it a “face lift.” And no matter what method I use to re-cure a wok, I always make sure the final one is with the chives or green onions (NOT sliced large onions) as sort of a “breath mint” to ensure good “hee.” If you don’t need this information, here’s hoping it will help someone. ‘-)
                  Oh, and in cleaning my wok after cooking, I always use the traditional bamboo “scrub brush” because it will remove any burnt material without cutting through the cure the way steel wool will. Then heat the wok to drive out moisture and a thin peanut oil coating before going back into storage.

                  If you’d like to look over the wokshop directions for cures, you’ll find it here:
                  Except I see they have “improved” it for the new website. <sigh> I like the old version much better. Had more methods and info. Rats!

                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Caroline1, there is such a thing as an induction wok burner. The burner is concave to fit the shape of a round-bottom wok. These are available as both drop-in and portable units. Seems like this would be the way to go if you want to use a round-bottomed cast-iron wok.

                    A quick search turned up this one:

                    I'm sure there are others out there.

                    1. re: MelMM

                      Yes, there are several induction wok cookers on the market today. I haven't yet read any reviews by anyone who has used them and raves about them, and as far as I know, all of the "home" versions are very pricey built-ins. The problem with my kitchen is that it LOOKS big, but in practical cooking terms, it will shrink VERY fast if I start trying to put in many built-in counter top cooking appliances. It's already contracted enough with the counter-top appliances! Which is hy my DREAM cook top will be full-surface all-metal inducttion. I suspect I either have to wait another fifty years in the USA or move to Japan to get one of those sooner... Ah, well... There are billions of people in this world who have to gather sticks to boil their rice for dinner. I have MUCH to be grateful for! '-)

                2. I have a built in cooktop.

                  It's interesting to see that you use 3 for cast iron and 6/7 for stainless steel. I have a cast iron griddle and I think it takes a lot longer to heat up. Once I get the pan, cast iron or ss, to be hot enough, I keep it at 6 if I want to brown meat.

                  I do have cold spots on my cooktop. Here's a photo I took earlier.

                  To be honest with you I hate curing / seasoning pans at home on the stovetop. I tried it once, never again. My whole kitchen smelled afterwards. My throat was hurting for a few days. Ugh.

                  Once I invited an Indian family over for dinner, more like an Indian cooking class for me. The wife wanted to show me how to make chapati. No open fire? No problem. She thought a cast iron griddle should work just as well. She basically wanted to lay the dough on the pan for 10s, flip, and cook for another 10s and done. Hence the pan had to be kept at pizza oven temperature. We put the burner on boost for like 15mins and the cooktop overheated. Oh man I felt like being cooked by standing there as well as well. Fortunately only one burner complained and we could use the other ones to finish cooking.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: cutipie721

                    I've been reading about and researching induction cooking for several years now, and my observation is that all induction heating for cooking is NOT created equal, regardless of whether they are hot plates of built-in. One of the majo variations from brand to bbrand is the configuration of the induction coils. WIthout exception, as far as I know, ALWYS circular. From there, the variations are how many circles. I have yet to discover any induction heating for home cooking coils that do NOT have a "hole in the middle." They never seem to fill up that center cold spot. Yet I do know it is possible. Cheap? Probably not. How do I know? Because way way back in the seventies, my then-husband was the "den mother" (electronics tech) for the nuclear magnetic resonance mass spectrometer in the chemistry lab at UCSD. NMR is the precursor of MRI. Same principle, larger diameter specimen chamber. NMR mass specs use super cooling to super chill the specimen (liquid nitrogen with liquid helium to keep the liquid nitrogen cold enough), then use magnetic coil detectors to detect the frequency at whch the atoms warm up enough to regain their spin. It is the spin frequency that determines the elements in any given compound, and it's an important tool in some applications of chemical and medical research. Anyway,, Rick (husband) read a research paper about adding a new ring of coils around the existing coils to increase the accuracy and power of the NMR spectrometer and it worked beautifully! As a result, Carnegie Tech contracted him to make the same modification to their NMR, and I got to spend some time sitting on our balcony watching the whales swim by while I wound coils for an NMR spectrometer. The principles of magnetic coils and the focus of the magnetic fields are pretty similar, if not exactly the same, for both NMR and induction heating, so logic says that there SHOULD be some way to design a really good induction cook top that doesn't have cold spots in it. However, even the new "full surface" induction cooktops that are now being heralded and about to debut on the American market simply have an array of small induction coils distributed at intervals under the entire glass cooktop, so there WILL be cold spots in it too, but they'll be more evenly distributed.

                    Research continues, and advances will be made, but it's a slower process than need be simply because every manufacturer of home induction heating applications is doing their own proprietary homework trying to beat the competition to the market with their "newest and latest" product to maximize the recovery of their research costs. So as is the case with ALL electronics, first kid on the block with a new electronic toy is also the first kid on the block who is outmoded. It's he way of the world today! Whatcha gonna do? '-)

                    I am interested in what brand your built-in is and how old it is. If it's a couple of years old there's a fair chance that a similar cook top from the same company today will perform differently than yours... <sigh> Thanks for the information! Much appreciated!

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      Interesting post, although I must say the last couple of paragraphs would be enough to sway me not to be an early adoptor, if that's the correct term. Some technologies change rapidly and it appears induction cooktops may be one of them. Others, the price comes down as the technology becomes more wide spread, but the basic technology hasn't changed much. It would appear induction is still in the steep part of the curve.

                      1. re: mikie

                        Yes! I am currently STILL wrestling (daily!) with Windows 7 on a year old HP/AMD 64bit computer, and they ain't friendly with each other! The difference between computers and induction heating home appliances is that the home appliances are NEVER outmoded by a new operating system. There is a LOT to be said for old fashioned Ticonderoga wooden pencils and cast iron wood burning stoves! <sigh> And now the nightly news is telling me that my about-to-turn nine year old grandson will most probably grow up with attention deficit disorder because of all of the elctronic toys and games and cell phones and tablet PCs he's growing up with. DAMN!!!

                      2. re: Caroline1

                        Mine's a Miele 30" bought in 2010.

                        I'm not sure if the cold spot affected any of my daily cooking, although it did create an uncured spot in your wok. No stove sold for home use today gives you 100% coverage. So even if it's possible, maybe someone has a prototype ready hiding in the secret closet, going after excellence aside, what incentives do companies have to mass produce it, especially when the price is going to be more than what it already is?


                        I don't have any extensive experience with a regular glass cooktop. Do you think regular ceramic electric cooktops somehow heat things up more evenly? Can it be because pans are not being heated up as quickly? In other words, longer pre-heating times make hot/cold spots less significant?

                        Well, I went to stay at an apartment over this past weekend, which I'll be spending a few months over there very soon. There's a ceramic electric range for use. I tried cooking a few meals while I was there. Man, that was brutal. I ordered an induction hotplate without a blink.

                        1. re: cutipie721

                          The Miele heat pattern in your burners is interesting! Thanks! As for even heat distribution with ANY pan on ANY burner, there is no such animal. In one of my posts upthread (or is it in another thread? I don't know, but you can find it by going to my profile page and clicking on my recent posts) I explain how I determine where the hot spots are on any burner with a shallow pan of water and simply watching where the bubbles form first. I've been using that method since about 1958. What it has taught me is that the ONLY cooking method that will deliver 100% even heat distribution to a pan is a well tuned electric oven because gas ovens are especially prone to hot spots. Even when I cooked on gas stoves my frying pans would show hot spots over the burner. Once digital cameras were available, I used to set a frying pan on the burner, as soon as the heat distribution pattern began to show, I would take a picture and file it on my computer for reference. The handle on the pan was "the big hand" on the clock so I knew which way and how much to rotate to compensate for the uneven heat. And as I said in the other post, when you're boiling or braising something, the uneven heat distribution just doesn't come into play all that much.

                          But specifically, do regular ceramic cook tops heat more evenly than my induction hot plate? Yes, but not by a whole lot. BUT my electric company is a band of bandits, and induction or me is soooooooooooo much cheaper than my very suave and lovely ceraminc cook top. So currenly about 97% of my cooking is done on either the induction hot plate or in my Sous Vide Supreme. When I make risotto, I use my gas hot plate because my automatic "StirChef" that stirs my risotto for me won't fit on my induction friendly ss sauce pans because they are too shallow. I have to use my copper sauce pans, and they won't work on induction and I don't like the induction trivet to transfer the heat to them... <sigh> I don't know which is the bigger pain in the posterior, picky eaters or picky cooks. We all make eating more difficult! '-)