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What are the differences between an induction stove and a regular electric stove? They are both electrically powered, and don't look all that different, but the induction cooktops I have seen are a lot more expensive.

What difference does the type of stove - induction vs electric - make to the actual cooking process?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

A regular electric oven uses a large coiled resistor as a heating element. A large electric current is passed through this element which generates heat, similar to the tungsten filament of an incandescent light bulb.

An induction stove doesn't actually generate heat itself, but rather induces it the pot or pan. It does this using a rapidly oscillating magnetic field. This field induces an electric current in a ferromagnetic pan which generates heat, thus heating the food.

Induction stoves are faster, safer, and more energy efficient than traditional electric stoves. It requires significantly less electricity to create the magnetic field than it does to drive enough current through a resistor to make it heat up. They are safer because they don't actually generate heat themselves. After taking a pot off the "burner" (glass surface) it quickly begins to cool.

With regards to differences in the cooking process, there's not much. You just need to be aware that it heats up much more quickly and cools down much more quickly than a traditional electric stove. It does affect your choice of pans however. All aluminum pans will not work, nor will some lower quality stainless steel ones. If a magnet sticks to the pan then it will work just fine. The pan must also have a flat bottom to make full contact with the surface.

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Voting up this answer for the technical info, which is spot on. It is very popular in Europe. And clearly superior to electric elements. There is quite a bit of debate over whether induction is preferable to gas. A little googling will take you to veritable rafts of opinion in both directions. –  Michael at Herbivoracious Aug 11 '10 at 5:37
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one other thing that is worth noting is that induction produces much less residual heat as the heat is generated in the pan, so the kitchen does not get so hot when cooking with them. –  Sam Holder Aug 11 '10 at 9:19
    
Induction stoves were reported to be safe for children, in the commercials made in Italy. The induction element can transmit heat only to a metallic element (induction is the transmission of heat inside a metal, or between two metallic elements); if you put your hand over an induction element, you should not feel any heat. I don't actually have an induction stove, and I cannot report it's what really happens; there is difference between a physics principle, and how it is applied (theoretically, there are superconductors, but none of them is pratically usable). –  kiamlaluno Aug 11 '10 at 16:02
    
@kiamlaluno: That's correct. In fact, you can put a paper towel between the glass and the pan and cook on low to medium heat with an induction cooktop! That's pretty handy if you've got an old, rough pan that would scratch the surface if you just plopped it down. –  Harlan Aug 11 '10 at 18:48
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I just want to clarify: Induction stoves are "safer" than a regular stove because they don't have a heating element, but if you remove a very hot pot and immediately put your hand directly on the induction zone where it was, you will burn yourself. The area will have been heated by the pot. –  hobodave Aug 11 '10 at 20:04

I had a question a few weeks ago regarding induction vs gas. Since that time, I have spoken with a few people who have switched to an induction range from either gas or electric.

A couple of aspects not mentioned above, regarding differences between resistive electric and induction, are control and response. According to my sources, the temperature in a pan can be dialed in very accurately with an induction range. Also, changing a setting happens very quickly as there is no resistive element to heat up or cool down.

  • One of my sources is a 'chef on wheels' who uses countertop induction units, and another who owns a culinary supply shop and gets to experiment with lots of cooking toys.
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