Why I bought an induction stovetop — and what I wish I knew beforehand

Why I bought an induction stovetop — and what I wish I knew beforehand
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DIY smart home

This story is part of an ongoing DIY smart home series. Be sure to check out the latest installments to follow the renovation process from start to finish.

I thought I knew what I was getting myself into when I bought an induction stovetop as part of my recent kitchen renovation. But it turns out there are a couple of things I wish I understood about the magnetic appliance technology beforehand. You may also be interested in discovering what my colleague, Camilla Sharman, found out when she used an induction cooktop for the first time

While the renovation revolved around turning the outdated space into a DIY smart home, I skipped on smart kitchen appliances with smart displays and voice assistants built-in. Still, I wanted my space to feature future-ready fixtures. That’s when I decided to purchase an energy-efficient induction stove that quickly heats up cookware using a magnetic field.

An alternative to the best gas ranges and best electric ranges, induction stoves solve common safety and climate concerns. Not only do induction stoves turn off automatically when cookware isn’t detected, but they’re more energy efficient compared to other smooth-top electric units. And, induction ranges use electricity, rather than natural gas, which makes them better for the environment. Research shows that induction cooktops are 84% energy efficient, while gas tops are only 40% energy efficient.

These swaps used to come at much higher cost, but nowadays induction stovetops are more affordable. This 30-inch Frigidaire range fell just within our budget. But even though I’m a self-proclaimed kitchen whiz, I realized I’d needed to do some research about how to use and care for my stove before whipping up delicious dishes.

How does induction cooking work?

The flow of an alternating current (AC) creates an electromagnetic field on an induction stovetop that excites the molecules in pots and pans that aren’t good conductors, like iron or steel. When these metal molecules are excited, they heat up quickly. They also cool down quickly.

You won’t see the stovetop glow red like you might a standard electric stovetop. And when the molecular connection between cookware and the stovetop is broken, heat stops being produced.

Now, that’s how induction cooking works. Here are 5 other things I think you should know if you’re considering an induction stove for your own home.

1. You’ll need induction cookware — how to check whether a pot or pan will work

Perhaps the most pesky thing about an induction stovetop is that it requires particular cookware to work properly. Originally, I thought ferromagnetic cookware (stainless steel or iron) was optional. I learned the hard way it’s not when I scalded a small aluminum wok I recently bought at Costco.

With the wok in the trash can, I picked up a set of Cuisinart stainless steel cookware that clearly advertised its induction-ready. If you don’t know whether your existing cookware will work, there’s a neat trick: Hold a fridge magnet to the back of the pan. If it sticks, it’s compatible with an induction stove. 

2. You might need to change your techniques

Cooking with induction takes some getting used to, especially if you’re accustomed to cooking over coils. My old stove suffered from slow and irregular heating, which my kitchen rhythms accommodated. But with induction, there’s no more turning around to chop vegetables while oil warms up. It’s ready to saute onions in seconds, meaning I’ve had to practice more mise en place.

Similarly, I’ve had to change how I handle a pan while making sauces. I used to lift and shimmy cookware over a gas flame to combine my ingredients over regular heat (whether this was necessary or my own flair, I can’t say) but this doesn’t work with induction. When you lift your pan up, the magnetic cooktop will sense its absence and cut the power. While I might not look as cool while cooking anymore, induction is definitely safer for this reason. I’ll admit, I’ve forgotten to turn off a burner before.

3. You’ll never boil water the same way

Pasta is my favorite food. Seriously, I make it multiple times per week. Which means I’ve spent more time of my life than I’d like waiting for water to boil. (Of course, I’ve found ways to fill that time, whether it’s fixing a cocktail or prepping my signature pink sauce.)

With the power setting on my new induction cooktop, my well-salted water goes from cold to bubbling in five minutes, give or take. The time saved is a game-changer. And in the case I do need to step away, or forget I have water boiling, the induction stove will turn off if it senses overflowed liquids spilling on its surface.

4. You won’t be able to char food easily

One cooking feature I wish induction cooking offered is the ability to char ingredients. On my old gas range, I could crisp up peppers or get a quick toast on a tortilla. Fajitas are a regular dinner in my household, and I’ve found myself missing certain textures I can’t achieve directly on induction.

That said, you could order an induction-compatible griddle, or use your trusty cast iron pan. In the past I’ve reserved my cast iron pans for special occasions, specifically those when I know I have the time to clean cast iron. I’m using them more frequently now, although it’d still be faster and easier to toast certain foods right on the grate.

5. You’ll need to know induction cooktop maintaince

As simple and safe as an induction stovetop makes cooking at home, you’ll need to take care of it for it to work as well for a long period of time. One thing to be mindful of with each use is to place and pick up pans gently. If the ceramic gets heavily scratched, it could dull the strength of the magnetic field.

Scratches and scuffs also attract food deposits, which can harden and also hinder the efficiency of your induction stove. This cooktop cleaner is effective for long-term care, while regular cleaning with a damp rag is also encouraged.

Be sure to check out my guides to the best smart home devices (and best cheap smart home devices) for more recommendations. Email me at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com or leave a comment below with anything you’d like to see me cover in the connected space — I might just address it in a future installment.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef. 

  • docwhiz
    Generally good advice but totally off base in "how induction works".
    "excites the molecules in pots and pans that aren’t good conductors, like iron or steel." ... This is just wrong.
    Electromagnetic field induces a current in ferromagnetic materials like iron and steel. This current flowing through the iron and steel creates heat. Nothing to do with excited molecules(?) or even excited atoms.
    No "molecular connection". In fact, no molecules.
    Also, generally a good idea to avoid scratches (you can put a paper towel under the pan to prevent scratches) but scratches will not affect the "molecular connection" or dull the strength of the field.
    Best to learn some basic science.
    (BTW, absolutely impossible to "scorch" an aluminum pan with induction. Aluminum on an induction cooktop will do absolutely nothing... no heat, won't turn on, no scorching. Did you just make this part up?)
  • jlehew
    Yes, induction works different than gas or electric coils or electric glass top but at the end of the day it is the best. I’ve had all 4 types of stove tops. It is the hands down winner. Gas is a distant second choice and I will never use electric again

    Induction saves me $50/mo on electricity. More stovetop efficiency means my A/C doesn’t have to pump as much heat outside. When cooking all day my kitchen is much cooler and the length of time the stovetop is on is much less after I installed this. The top is more efficient and on less time. Win-win, This easily pays to switch to induction.

    It saves 10 minutes every time you cook or 30 minutes a day! That time adds up! it instantly heats up sizzling bacon or onions in 45 seconds. It boils water in 2 to 4 minutes, faster than microwaving when using the Boost feature on my Bosch 800 induction.

    An unexpected benefit…. We can now perfectly fry foods at home. Fried Orange Roughy or Chicken Fried Chicken comes out wonderful every time. The auto chef feature keeps the pan and oil at 350 F better than I could do manually. As food finish frying they lose moisture that keeps the oil cool. When they run out of steam literally, the oil temperature spikes and it burns the flour that came off in the oil and that burnt taste would go into the next/last batch of fried chicken. No longer a problem. The Auto chef keeps flour and your foods from burning.

    Cleaning is sooooo easy… a paper towel and fantastic is all that is needed daily. Once a month I, use a magic eraser to get a couple of spots. And once a year I use oven cleaner to get it to look like brand new. The surface doesn’t get as hot and doesn’t turn splatters into baked on black carbon.

    It is safer because it doesn’t get that hot! if your little one reaches up and touches the stovetop, it probably would not burn them where you have to go to the ER, it doesn’t get very hot and the heat it gets is from the pan

    For pans I buy a set of Anolon Nouvelle Copper during Christmas when they go on sale 60% off. They work great. yes you will most likely need new pans. Aluminum pans don’t work but the steel chef pans from France do work

    Careful with cast iron. The instructions say not to use cast iron and I’m not sure why but I suspect the cast iron can get super hot and could damage the pan or glass top. I don’t use it very often except a tortilla iron. When I use it, I put a paper towel under it and don’t put it higher than 5. So far so good.

    For the few times I want gas or need to because the power is out due to a hurricane or flood, I have a portable indoor burner.

    you can try induction and get a portable induction cooktop too, that is a cheap way to try it

    there is nothing better than an Induction stovetop!
  • docwhiz
    Just moving into a new kitchen with and induction range. I have been testing induction for the past year using a countertop induction unit and I love it.
    Best is the easy clean up. No baked on crust. Just wipe with a sponge. Perfect temperature control. Fast heating.
  • EnviroBK
    Other benefits: No carbon dioxide, combustion gases, or soot released in your house. How does it really work? An induction hob in the stove creates an oscillating magnetic field that generates a magnetic flux, which produces an eddy current in the ferrous (iron or steel, which contains iron) pot. The eddy current flowing through the resistance of iron in the pot heats it. Since the heat is generated in the pot, rather than flowing under/around it, induction is much more efficient.

    One of the other commenters mentioned a copper pot: that won't work unless the copper is clad with steel or iron. You can also find aluminum pans clad with copper or iron. The easiest way to see if a pot will work with an induction stove is to test it with a magnet. If the magnet sticks, the pot will work.

    My hunch is that it won't be very long before fire and environmental codes won't allow natural gas in new construction, so now's a good time to get used to induction cooking. Its like moving from a flip phone to a smart phone, you'll never go back.