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Induction Cooking: The Magic

By Lee Davis

The first time I saw a demonstration of induction cooking, it reminded me of a magic trick. The demonstrator placed a newspaper on an induction cooktop, placed a pot of water on top of the newspaper, and then brought the water to a boil. Once boiling, he removed the pot to show that the newspaper was neither burned, charred nor even singed. Then he did the unthinkable: with the burner still set to “high” he laid his bare hand directly on the burner and didn’t even flinch. Magic!

That is how induction cooking is. After centuries of cooking on open flames, and generations of cooking on electric stoves, induction cooking seems nothing short of miraculous. But if you plan to buy, sell, or use induction cooktops, there are only a few things you need, and don’t need, to know.

What you don’t need to know about induction cooking

You don’t need to know it works. Props to the brilliant scientists, engineers and designers who came up with it, but the theory and explanation of induction cooking is full of words and concepts like Joule heating, magnetic flux, electronic oscillator, Foucault currents, ferromagnetic metals and electric hysteresis. The fact is, we put a man on the moon before the first commercially available induction cooktop ever went into production. That tells you something about the science involved.

What you need to know about induction cooking

It is faster. Because the electromagnetic energy is directly transferred into the metal of the cook-pot, induction cooking is very fast and responsive: even faster than gas.

It is safer. There is no open flame or red-hot heating element to ignite clothes or flammable materials. There is less of a burn risk for cooks, and less of a fire hazard for the venue.

It is cleaner. There are no grates or grease catch to clean. Simply wipe up spills immediately (remember, the surface is not hot to the touch).

It is more efficient. Estimates are that induction is 85-90% efficient because the energy passes directly into the cookware without any heat loss. In the case of gas, the number is closer to 50% and for electric cooktops, 60%. In addition to energy cost savings, that also means a cooler kitchen.

It can be explained. If you need an explanation for those who inevitably ask how your induction cooktop works. You can answer by simply saying: “instead of a direct flame or heating element, induction cooking uses electromagnetic energy to heat up the cookware.” The key phrase is “electromagnetic energy.” Upon hearing that, most folks will accept and understand that your new stove is, well, magic … and that they really don’t want to hear all the science behind the explanation.

Not all pots and pans will work. Because induction cooking relies on electromagnetic energy, glass, copper and aluminum cookware will not work on an induction cooktop. Any of the readily available pots and pans marked “induction ready,” or cast iron, are your best choices. Unmarked stainless steel cookware may or may not work depending on how it was constructed and what other metals were used. If a common refrigerator magnet sticks firmly to the bottom of the pot, then it has enough ferrous metal content to be used on an induction cooktop.

Induction cooking is not magic. It may be a bit mysterious, but it is hardly to be feared. Check the Suppliers' websites below for more information about induction cooking and cookware.
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