Author: EJ Daniel
There is lots of jargon out there in the world of induction cooktops... free induction, flex induction,extended flex induction and then there’s regular induction! So let’s break it down.
It might help to start at the beginning. Induction works using copper coils set into a motherboard. These coils can be different shapes and this is where the differences lie.
When induction was first introduced to the domestic market, the coils were in circles of various diameters - in much the same fashion as the ceramic cooktops. Various companies developed these and the shapes morphed into wider ovals that could be “stacked” horizontally to give a broader operating zone. This is Flex Induction. Some companies have extended the positions and amounts of coils to offer Extended Flex Induction cooking and now we have Free Induction when an entire surface is covered with coils and there are barely any gaps at all. Flex, Extended Flex and Free induction all provide a great deal of freedom in pan size, shape and where the pan can be placed on the cooktop. One is no longer governed by the positions and size (diameter) of the original induction tops.
When choosing a brand, it is important to ask for specifics around what size and shape the coils are positioned in underneath the glass. Some companies may tout the name Flex induction, but are still using circular coils with small diameters underneath the glass. This will affect the coverage of heat you will achieve in different shaped or larger pans.
Quality induction cooktops are expensive. Cheaper units won’t be as efficient or as amazing as everyone says they are. It boils down to the simple fact that copper coils are wound more closely together in better brands, creating a superior magnetic field. All brands are not made equal, so it’s worth doing some investigating and asking questions of the retailer.
When an electrical current is introduced to the coils - ie, turning the cooktop on, the electrical current creates a magnetic field and therefore friction in anything it detects that is FERROmagnetic - meaning when you place a pan on the cooktop that is ferrous (cast iron, wrought iron, and zero/low nickel stainless steels), the magnetic field causes friction and the pan heats up.
The beauty of this is that your pan becomes the element. There is no hot element under the glass that is glowing red, saving electricity because you lose less heat to ambient, and creating an even heat distribution throughout the entire surface of your pan. This is brilliant for low temp cooking, saving from “hot spots” in a large pan on a low temperature like you find with gas.
Cool Touch Cooking - MYTH - of course it gets hot! Essentially, the pan becomes the element, heating up the glass in direct contact with the pan by transference. If you touch the glass around the pan,it will not be hot as it is not in direct contact with the pan. However, the surface beneath the pan will of course become home over time and cooking. Most brands offer a “residual heat indicator” - some sort of symbol to let people know the surface of the glass may still be hot after the pan has been removed.
Paper Towel - MYTH - You can NOT cook using paper, baking paper, paper towels or tea towels underneath your pans - just don’t do this EVER! No matter what any sales person says or does (even if they are a chef). This is just a zero-common-sense-fire-hazard! And at my next point, you’ll see why you don’t need to bother…
Easier to Clean - FACT - Induction cooktops are a flat surface that can be cleaned with a hot, damp microfibre cloth, and then immediately dried with a dry glass microfibre cloth to prevent streaking. If you’ve seared steak or duck breast and there is a lot of fatty splatter, just wash all the grease away with a soapy hot cloth, then rinse and dry as usual.
More Efficient - FACT - They are more energy efficient in two ways; they heat up faster, using less energy, and as the pan is in direct contact with the stove top, there is minimal energy escaping into ambient, compared with gas where energy escapes from the space between the pan and trivet.
Induction is more responsive, faster to get to temp and approximately 30% hotter than gas. Its ability to cook on low temperatures is mind blowing. Induction can be at such a low temp, evenly, that you can melt chocolate, or make a hollandaise sauce right in the pan, without the need for a double boiler. Although some people are deterred by the power supply they require, this is a “potential” power supply. Rarely is an induction cooktop using this amount of energy.
Moving away from fossil fuels is a good thing also, especially if you have solar power as well.
You need something ferrous. Cast iron, wrought iron or stainless steel - particularly pure stainless with a low or zero nickel content as nickel and aluminum don’t conduct electricity. Copper will also not perform well on induction, as whilst being a good heat conductor, it is not magnetic.
Rule of thumb - if a magnet sticks to your pan, it will work on induction. But do look for any wedges of copper or aluminum as there are “good” brands out there with only the thinnest web of stainless steel underneath an aluminum base, and whilst the stainless will heat up, it will take a long time to heat the aluminum by transference, significantly reducing the efficiency of your pan.
Some pans will say “induction” underneath but if there is any significant branding indentations, or aluminum or copper within the base, it will compromise the efficiency of the pan.
Both ranges of Solidteknics' wrought iron and nickel-free stainless steel pans are ideal for induction. Cast iron, wrought iron and pure stainless steel are ferromagnetic and will give you brilliant results for lifetimes! Plus, the way these types of materials hold and conduct heat is second to none. Wrought iron can be seasoned to be perfectly non-stick, which means they’re also non-toxic and perfect for your healthy lifestyle. Or if you don't want to season, their noni, nickel free, stainless steel range is perfect.
Written by EJ Daniel
Chef/Founder Bride of the Flames
Culinary Specialist Bosch Siemens Home Appliances and Bora Australia
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