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Induction Cooking: Everything You Need to Know

Looking to renovate your kitchen? If so, you may want to upgrade your cooking appliances, which means making a few decisions, like:

  • Do you want a cooktop, or a range or stove? 
  • Do you go with gas or electric?

 

Every household is different, and every kitchen has its own needs. It’s about choosing what is right for you.

If you choose an electric range or cooktop, you will have one of three options: radiant, induction and coil. There’s a reason that induction cooktops or ranges have been growing in popularity. They are highly efficient, easy to clean and are able to reach a boil or drop in temperature quickly. This may result in faster cooking, especially in pots, with water coming to a boil sooner.

In this guide, we’ll look at what induction is, how induction cooking works, induction cookware and how to test for compatibility, the benefits of induction cooking and more.

What is Induction Cooking?

There are several types of induction appliances, including cooktops, commercial rangetops and ranges or stoves. 

The first thing to know about induction ranges or cooktops is that they are fueled by electricity.

Induction cooktops or ranges offer efficiency by heating the cookware directly, not the cooking surface, as is the case with other electric range or cooktop options. This turns the actual cookware into the heat source, and allows effective high heat cooking and low, consistent heat for cooking tasks like melting chocolate.

As an example of efficiency when boiling water, select brands of Whirlpool Canada induction cooktops, compared to their radiant and gas cooktops, generally had:

  • A 25% savings of time vs. radiant, and 45-52% with respect to gas units.
  • Energy efficiency (defined as the percentage of energy effectively used to boil water) of 75% vs. 57% for radiant and 36% for gas.
  • Energy consumption (defined as the total energy consumed to boil water) of 285 watt-hours (Wh) vs. 402 Wh for radiant. 

Other electric ranges or cooktops, like open coil-type and smooth cooking tops, are less efficient in heat transfer. This is due to the heat having to first be transferred to the cooking surface and from there to the cooking vessel. 

Induction cooktops or ranges use electricity but actually generate heat through electromagnets. This makes them a safer option, and enables an increase in the speed of cooking, offers greater temperature control, and makes them easier to clean than gas or electric ranges or cooktops. 

Induction cooking requires either an induction stovetop or rangetop or an induction cooktop.

Induction Cooktops and How They Work

An induction range or cooktop is equipped with a copper coil under the cooktop. This generates electromagnetic energy, which then interacts with compatible cookware to heat it.

It achieves a quicker cook time and results in more even cooking by removing the need to heat the induction range or cooktop. This technology also allows the cooktop to quickly cool down once the pan is removed.

PRO TIP: The first few times you use your new induction range or cooktop, closely monitor what you’re cooking. This will help you adapt to this cooking method’s speed.

Cooktops vs. Ranges

Induction ranges and cooktops run on electricity. Cooktops are installed in the countertop with the controls positioned on its horizontal plane. Induction ranges or stoves come with an induction rangetop or stovetop built into them, and offer the same benefits as an induction cooktop.

You can learn more about the difference between cooktops and ranges or stoves here.

Induction Cookware: Which Pots and Pans Work Best?

What is generally important with cookware is the number of layers that the cookware is made of. One layer is typically made of aluminum, which helps uniformly spread the heat. This, in addition to each layer’s thickness and the diameter in relation to the coil, impacts the cookware’s performance in the following areas:

  • Ability to reach maximum power
  • Heat uniformity
  • Pan detection
  • Heating spread
  • Heating retention

Pots are an integral part of the induction system. They are responsible for actively defining the electrical response. A drawback to induction ranges or cooktops that you should consider is that they are only compatible with special types of cookware.

Induction technology works on a certain type of pot because of a layer designed to react to the magnetic field. This type of cookware has a layer made of a stainless steel magnetic material that comes in contact with the cooktop glass and turns the cookware into the heat source, not the cooking surface. All this means is that induction cooking requires magnetic or ferromagnetic cookware.

Non-magnetic and non-ferromagnetic cookware will not heat up on an induction cooktop or range. The burner will not recognize the cookware and the cookware will not interact with the electromagnetic energy that the burner generates.

Compatible induction cookware materials include enameled steel, cast iron and stainless steel designed for induction cooking.

Non-compatible induction cookware materials include glass, ceramic and certain copper or aluminum pans.

PRO TIP: Cookware’s ply-type (layers) does not affect the overall efficiency of an induction cooktop. It does affect the ability of the cookware to evenly spread the heat. It’s important to note that you may experience better performance with 5-ply rather than 3-ply. This also means that induction can further enhance the performance of the cookware.

How to Test if Your Cookware Is Induction Compatible

To achieve optimal heat induction, use cookware with a flat bottom that is roughly the same size as the surface area of the burner to ensure direct contact with the range or cooktop. 

Don’t use pans that are too small for the element as the burner may be unable to detect the pan, and as a result, will not generate heat. Incidentally, if the pan is too large, heat will only generate where the burner makes direct contact with the pan, resulting in uneven cooking.

There are two ways to test if cookware is induction compatible:

  1. Confirm if your pots and pans are compatible by using a magnet. The way to do this is to flip the pan over, hold a magnet to the bottom, and note if it sticks. If the magnet sticks to the bottom, then it is ferromagnetic and can be used with an induction cooktop or range.
  2. Look at the bottom of your cookware. If you see a stamped coiled spring symbol, this indicates induction compatibility.

Induction or Gas or Electric?

Comparing induction with either gas or other electric cooking appliances really comes down to the cooking needs and style of the owner.

Induction vs. Gas

Gas ranges or cooktops use either natural gas or propane, resulting in quick, convenient heating and precise burner control. Gas is perfect for searing or simmering and is ideal for wok cooking.

Induction cooktops or ranges are easier to clean than gas ranges or cooktops. This is because gas ranges or cooktops tend to have grates and burner caps that need to be removed or cleaned around, whereas the surface of induction cooktops or ranges is smooth.

Induction vs. Radiant vs. Coil Cooktops

Radiant ranges or cooktops have metal coils that heat quickly for boiling and simmering. They are compatible with any type of cookware and feature expanding and contracting burners to better match your pot sizes. Select cooktop models have easy-to-clean ceramic cooking surfaces and a protective coating to avoid scratching.

Coil ranges or cooktops are typically more affordable than radiant and induction cooktops or ranges. The downside is that they tend to be tougher to clean.

 

One thing to know about induction ranges or cooktops is that they may produce a small hum or buzzing sound because they slightly vibrate when in operation. If you’re sensitive to sound, then consider purchasing a gas or electric cooktop.

How to Clean the Induction Cooking Surface

Another reason that induction ranges or cooktops are easy to clean is that they don’t get as hot as cooktops that use gas or radiant heat. Spilled food, boiled-over pots and other splatters and messes are less likely to burn onto the cooktop surface and can be cleaned as soon as you’re done cooking. Before you start cleaning your ceramic glass range or cooktop: 
  • Turn off the controls.
  • Review the instruction label on cleaning products.
  • Do not use steel wool, abrasive powder cleansers, chlorine bleach, rust remover or ammonia. These could all damage a range or cooktop. 

These steps can help remove burned-on stains from the ceramic glass cooktop or range surface. Remember to follow the product use and care instructions that accompany your appliance before beginning any task. Treat this as your primary source of information. 

Step 1: Remove food and/or residue with a scraper designed for ceramic glass ranges or cooktops.
  • Hold the scraper at about a 45° angle against the glass surface and apply pressure to scrape the residue.
  • Allow the range or cooktop to cool before starting the next step.

Step 2: Apply a few dime-sized drops of a ceramic glass range or cooktop cleaner, such as affresh® cooktop cleaner, to the areas you want to clean.
  • Rub the cleaner onto the cooktop or range surface with a cooktop scrubbing pad. Apply reasonable pressure to remove stubborn stains.
  • It’s often best to let the cleaner dry before starting the next step. 

Step 3: Polish the surface with a clean and dry cloth or paper towel. 
  • Repeat Steps 1–3 as needed for stubborn or burned-on stains. 

Watch this video to see how easy it is to clean an induction cooktop.
PRO TIP: Ambient heat from your cookware may heat your induction range or cooktop. Wait for the surface to cool before you start cleaning.

What Are the Benefits of Induction Cooktops?

Some of the benefits of induction cooking include:

  • Improved temperature control and cooking results.
  • Faster heating and cooking.
  • Easy to clean.
  • According to the Department of Energy, induction ranges or cooktops1 can be up to 85% more efficient in energy transfer. This is because 85% of the energy goes directly to the cookware. This improved efficiency typically leads to faster cooking times.
  • The pot gets hot but the rangetop or cooktop doesn’t, making it a safe option.
  • Ventilation is another benefit as less hot air is released into the kitchen with induction cooking. It is still recommended to use a hood vent for things like grease.
  • Immediately responds to a change in temperature.

 

Are you looking for a new cooktop? Check out our Appliance Finder to find the right match for your needs.

1) Energy.gov, last visited Oct 17, 2019.

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