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Why I switched to induction cook-tops (from a gas stove)

A couple of cheap single induction stovetops.

I decided to make the switch to induction stovetops around 7 years ago and have never looked back since. It wasn't a painless transition, I can assure you that. I had to give away some of my much cared for cooking utensils that weren't compatible with induction cooking (much to the delight of my mom who promptly asked me to bring it over to her - I can only wonder what the x-ray machine technician at the airport thought about my luggage full of pots and pans). And I had to make certain adjustments to how I cook. Each experience will vary depending on the brand and model of the induction cooktop used. For me, it is realizing that not all the cooking presets that are conveniently available on a push of a button may be appropriate to what you are cooking. The presets I only fully trust in my cooker are "Boil", "Keep Warm", "Low Heat", and "Hotpot". I am not really complaining. After all, you only get what you pay for, right? And my induction stovetop is far from state-of-the-art.

I started with a basic Philips induction cooker model and was quite happy with it. However, it was both a little underpowered, and I couldn't really use the "High Heat" setting too long as it will trigger the High-Temperature trip setting (therefore not suitable for searing meat at high temperature). I got a second cheap Hanabishi induction cooker and this one was more powerful than the previous one (power levels typically measured in watts) but the preset modes are almost always on the high side. Not a big issue as I could always adjust the setting manually and not rely on the preset modes, but this entailed a lot of fiddling around with the controls until I got used to it.

The Philips cooker eventually died (meaning it was out of warranty and having it repaired was more costly than getting a new one) and I bought a second Hanabishi (exact same model as before - not because I was such a huge Hanabishi fan but because I was already used to its quirks). For some reason, I am never comfortable with just having a single stove, I much prefer 2 or more in case I am preparing more than one dish. Finally, my two induction cookers in the kitchen were of the same height and don't look mismatched (the Hanabishi has touch-sensitive glass controls while the Philips had plastic covered buttons at the front).

Aesthetics aside, the following is a summary of why I decided to go to induction cooking:

More energy efficient heat transfer

Other cooktops (hot plate, gas, ceramic) will have a heating element in which heat is transferred to your cookware via conduction. That's why good heat conducting cladding at the bottom of pots and pans (such as copper bottoms) used to be the rage in cookware since it increases the sensitivity of the temperature control of the surface of the pan as you correspondingly adjust the heat source (more on this on the next section). For induction cooking, the bottom of the induction compatible cookware becomes the heating element (the surface of the cooker only gets hot because it is in contact with the hot pan bottom). So energy consumption is minimized which would just have been heating up the immediate area of the stove and cookware (as unnecessary waste heat). This is especially advantageous for a tropical climate (such as here in Southeast Asia) as the temperature in the kitchen can be quite uncomfortable due to the heat and humidity without sufficient ventilation.

Responsive temperature control

This one is close to my heart for reasons which will soon be apparent. Although I wouldn't say that temperature control can be more finely tuned with an induction cooker (they do have discrete jumps in temperature/power setting - a good gas burner will offer more fine tune control), the response you get when you change the temperature setting is excellent (almost as good as a gas burner using cookware with highly heat conducting bottoms). I have used ceramic hobs and hot plates and the lag response is horrible (I do not know if the fact that I'm a process control engineer has anything to do with my intense displeasure with laggy temperature control haha!).

Built-in safety features 

Depending on the particular brand and model, most induction cookers have built-in safety features that make them superior to traditional gas stovetops. These may include automatic cookware detection which automatically shuts off the power if compatible cookware is not present at the start of the cooking process (or is removed when the cooking process is in progress after a short amount of time). Needless to say this also works if the pot used is incompatible with induction cookers (it will turn on but will auto shut down after a while since it can detect that you have not placed compatible cookware on top of it).

Another nifty feature is an auto shutoff function if the cooker senses overheating via a temperature sensor beneath the surface of the cooker (remember that the surface itself is not the heating element but is the bottom of the cookware itself). This is particularly useful if the pot dries out of liquid (the temperature of the pot will surpass the final boiling point of the liquid, at a given pressure, only when all of the liquid has evaporated). The cooker will automatically then auto shut off (usually accompanied with an error code in the cooker). The temperature sensor is presumably also used to automatically detect boiling water in the boil function. This will depend on the mode selected on the cooker (braise, soup, and hotpot modes are good examples) when this feature makes sense. High heat applications like searing will most probably not have this safety feature active (or will be set to a much higher temperature) but will compensate by having a much shorter maximum default timer setting.

Speaking of default timers, this is also a very effective safety measure. How often do we hear about fires starting from people forgetting that they were cooking something in the kitchen? Having a default timer every time ensures that you don't run into that problem (you can always change the default timer setting if the recipe calls for it). This is so useful when using a pressure cooker with the induction cooker. Just set the timer to the desired cooking time when the steam starts to vent.  Default times will depend on the cooking mode.

Speaking of temperature sensors in the second point above, I believe this is also what they use for boiloff protection logic when in soup mode (I honestly do not quite understand how this works). Some more sophisticated models will have a water detector on the stove surface which will also trigger an automatic shutoff.

Since there is no combustion taking place unlike gas stoves, there's also no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and other harmful combustion byproducts if you do not have sufficient ventilation.

The fact that the surface is usually easy to clean (especially for those models with an all-glass surface with touch-sensitive controls), there is less likelihood of grease accumulation which can be a fire hazard for combustion type cookers.

And the cat seems to like it :)

Other things to consider:

Before you make the leap to induction cooking in your household, there are a few things you should first consider.

  • Not all induction cooktops are created equal. Be mindful of the maximum wattage rating of the cooker you are about to buy. Higher wattage models are good for searing meat. Do your research first if other owners have problems with frequent overheating error messages when attempting to use the high-temperature setting.
  • At the other end of the temperature range, also find out how low can the cooker go for a slow simmer.
  • What are the preset modes that the cooker offer? Search online for reviews if these modes are in any way useful in normal day to day use (in my experience they are not really useful most of the time but that doesn't mean there are no good ones out there. I find the Boil and Soup function very useful though.
  • How big is the induction area? Bigger hobs can sometimes report an error when attempting to use a pot that is too small so just be mindful of that.
  • Do you want to go with the individual single induction tops like I did or would you rather have the multi stovetop induction hobs that can be installed flushed to your kitchen counter? Multi hobs can be more expensive but they do look much better than individual units sitting on top of your counter.
  • Do you need a safety lock? Do you have small kids at home? My cat accidentally turns on the induction cooker by walking over the power button then the fry button (my cooker doesn't have any safety locks but I have since made sure that there are no pots or pans on top of the cooker when I am not using it and to turn off the main switch at night or if I'm leaving the house). 
  • How much of your existing pots and pans can you actually use with the induction cooker? Sometimes, the cost of switching to induction is not as straight forward as looking at the cost of the cooker. You have to include the purchase of compatible cookware if most of what you have isn't. Subject your existing cookware to the reliable "magnet test." It will be induction compatible if a magnet sticks to it. It is that simple! In my experience, it works great with my stainless steel pans and cast iron cookware (skillet, grill pan, and dutch oven).


Razel Estrella said...

Hi there! Glad I found your blog. I've been using an induction cooker as well and was recently given the exact Hanabishi model you have (my old one 'died', too).

So am on the experimenting stage with my new cooktop. May I know, what preset do you use to cook rice? I use Hot Pot for the old one, but I'm wondering if it'll work the same with this brand.

Thanks. =)

JEP said...

Hi Razel. Unfortunately, I do not have any experience cooking rice with this model since I am using a dedicated Toshiba rice cooker. But if I were to cook rice over a stovetop, I would probably just use Hotpot mode (just so I can control the power level manually) at level 3 (1000 watts) and when the water is on a rolling boil, I would just switch it to Slow Fire mode until all the water has evaporated and the rice is cooked according to your preference. Hope this helps. :)