Induction Cooktops - Worth A Second Look?

Cooking over an open flame.  It’s primal, fast, and has become de rigueur for most new construction. But with growing interest in Zero Net Energy, is it time for gas cooktops to go the way of incandescent bulbs and gas-guzzling SUVs? 

Appreciated for offering quick heating and almost infinite, and instantaneous, temperature control, gas cooking has long been popular in both residential and commercial settings.  But with improved electric cooktops – namely induction models – the gap between electric and gas cooking is closing.

Glass-top electric stoves of the past used radiant heat passed through the glass to heat pots and pans.  This presented some predictable problems:  slow heating, hot cooktop surfaces, and lack of controllability.

The newest generation of electric stovetops, though, uses induction, or electromagnetic fields, to transfer energy.  This results in faster heating, greater control, and greater safety, as once the pot has been removed the energy transfer (aka heating) is interrupted.  Plus they look sleek, clean up easily, and don’t present the same indoor air quality issues that gas raises.  The improvements are sizeable enough that they have caught the attention of restaurateurs and Michelin chefs.

There are downsides, namely: cost – ranging from $1200 up to $5000; not all cookware will work on induction stoves; noticeable internal fan noise is not uncommon; and one still may need to choose between setting the heat at “3” or “4” when “3½” is what you really want. 

These are perhaps balanced out by the larger issue of climate action.  As prices for solar PV drop and California moves toward more production of electricity through renewable sources, all-electric homes become not only part of the solution for reducing carbon emissions, but also a way for developers to save on infrastructure costs by eliminating costly gas lines altogether. Unfortunately, old cooking patterns can be hard to break: we can efficiently design homes with electric space and water heating, but on a large housing project we recently worked on, the developer was reluctant to drop gas altogether due to market demand for a gas cooktop.

People, planet, and profit.  Perhaps induction cooking is worth a second look.

More pros and cons of induction cooking can be found here.