Hardly any apartment on Bainbridge Island has a gas stove, so I’ve purchased a portable induction cooktop so that I won’t have to fight with a conventional electric stove on a daily basis. Of course, I wanted to test it out as soon as it arrived to make sure it wasn’t defective.
Executive summary: induction works much better than a conventional electric stove, but it’s not going to unseat gas as the best cooking method.
First, the good news. It’s true: induction is at least as responsive as gas. When a pot reaches the desired temperature, just turn it down and it will go down. Instantly. Gone is the feeling of driving a car where you have to turn the steering a quarter-mile before the next turn you wish to make.
Now, the quirky stuff. There’s actually less temperature memory then even gas, to the point where you can’t just turn the stove off when you’re done, unless you want the food to get cool right away. An induction stove doesn’t get hot, so if you turn the burner completely off, the cool stove top will quickly suck much of the heat out of the pot via conduction.
Now, the negatives. First, the one everyone already knows: you can’t use any old pot on an induction stove; only magnetic ones will do. Moreover, you can’t use round-bottomed things like woks; only a flat-bottomed cooking vessel has enough metal close enough to the induction coil.
Not so well known is that induction stoves are noisy. Because they contain lots of heat-sensitive electronics, and there’s a hot pot bottom in contact with them, they need cooling fans to stop that conducted heat from building up inside and shortening the lifetime of that electronics. Cook with induction and you will have the sound of a fan going in your kitchen whenever the stove is on. What I find most annoying about this is that I’m used to using sound cues to know when I need to turn the heat down (or up), and the fan noise makes it much harder to hear the boiling or simmering noises.
Take those disadvantages, and to them add that induction stoves are by far the most costly kind (costing at least twice what conventional electric stoves do), and it becomes clear that they will never have more than a niche market.
Just look at electric stoves: there’s enough of a penchant for sacrificing quality in the name of lower price that the extremely modest savings (compared to the total cost of a home) of not running a gas pipe to the kitchen and installing a range that maybe costs 10% more means that there’s a huge number of homes with natural gas service yet which have electric stoves. In a market dominated by that sort of mentality, why would one expect builders to install a stove that costs at least 100% more?
Induction’s niche will be customers like yours truly: people who appreciate just how poorly conventional electric stoves perform, want nothing to do with them, yet for whatever reason do not have gas available in the kitchen as a cooking fuel.