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How do induction cooktops work? -AOPA

Induction cooking heats a cooking vessel by magnetic induction, instead of by thermal conduction from a flame, or an electrical heating element. Because inductive heating directly heats the vessel, very rapid increases in temperature can be achieved.

In an induction cooktop ("induction hob" or "induction stove"), a coil of copper wire is placed under the cooking pot and an alternating electric current  is passed through it. The resulting oscillating magnetic field induces a magnetic flux which repeatedly magnetises the pot, treating it like the lossy  magnetic core of a transformer. This produces large eddy currents in the pot, which because of the resistance of the pot. heats it.

For nearly all models of induction cooktops, a cooking vessel must be made of, or contain, a ferromagnetic metal such as cast iron or some stainles steel. However, copper, glass, non magnetic stainless steels, and aluminum vessels can be used if placed on a ferromagnetic disk which functions as a conventional hotplate.

Induction cooking is quite efficient, which means it puts less waste heat into the kitchen, can be quickly turned off, and has safety advantages compared to gas stoves. Cooktops are also usually easy to clean, because the cooktop itself does not get very hot.

Here’s an interesting thing to note: if you switch on the power of an induction cooktop and place your hand on top of it, you won’t feel any heat! It would be at the same temperature as any other object in the kitchen. This is because, in order to produce heat, it needs a suitable pan through which a changing magnetic field can induce a current, which could then dissipate energy to produce heat. But before keeping your hand on the induction cooktop, make sure it wasn't  used just a few min ago.


Advantages of induction as compared to ordinary electric and gas stoves

  • Ordinary gas and electric stoves use heating less efficiently. When you cook with a gas stove or an electric cooker only 30% to 60% of heat is directed at heating up the cookware. All the rest is wasted heating up the air in your kitchen.
  • The induction cooktop heats up only the bottom of the cookware, that is why it is more than 90% efficient.
  • The glass cooktop itself is heated up only due to the contact with the bottom of the cooking vessel. That is why it never becomes very hot.
  • Also, using the induction stove you will cook much quicker.

Is induction cooking safe?

Induction stoves are safe. The magnetic field created by them is not strong. It works so that it hardly penetrates into the bottom of the cookware. The magnetic field does not affect the food by any means. The food is heated up by the hot bottom of the cookware. Nonetheless, though the induction stoves have passed all safety tests some people are still afraid of radiation hazards. In any case, if you want to avoid the undesired exposure dangers it will be reasonable not to spend too much time standing very close to a working induction stove.

induction stove

Another important safety advantage is that the coil will not start working if there is no cooking vessel on it which has a suitable size and is made of a suitable material. Some induction stoves can even detect how full the cookware is, therefore, you will not be able to switch on the stove with an empty pan on it.

To be suitable for induction cookers the cookware should have a certain diameter. As a rule, it should be no less than 12 cm or half the diameter of the heating plate. So, if you drop a coin or a fork on the cooktop nothing will happen. The cooktop simply will not be working.

Due to these properties, induction stoves are safe and economical. The cooktop will never work in vain or waste any energy. Even if you lift the pan for a few moments the special sensors will switch off the current. The cooktop is heated only due to its contact with the bottom of the cookware. It never gets hotter than 50°C-60°C. Therefore, you will not burn your fingers if you accidently touch the cooktop. This property is especially useful if you have small kids who often have accidents with hot stoves. Also, if you drop or spill something on the induction cooker it will not be burnt either.

In this regard, operating an induction cooker is much safer than using a gas stove or a traditional electric cooker.

However, induction stoves also have their disadvantages

The drawback is that only pans made from iron will work with induction stoves. Pans made of only copper or aluminum conduct electricity too well to generate significant heat. Cast-iron, stainless steel and pans made with layers of stainless steel all work. 

Using an induction cooktop is a smart thing to do if you care about electrical efficiency, speedy heating, better cooking control and higher levels of safety. As for the suitability of your existing cookware for induction cooktops, just try sticking a magnet to them. If it sticks, then the pan/pot is fit to be used!


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