What is Induction Cooking and What are the Pros & Cons?
I’ve been looking at induction cooking pros and cons and how it is supposed to be great for the environment, but for me, I wanted to mostly understand if actually cooking with one is at least on par with a gas stove, my preference whenever cooking.
It was a wonderful discovery to find out how cooking can be done so quickly and efficiently using induction cooking. The gas cylinder at home must be silently complaining that it is being made redundant.
There are of course pros and cons in using an induction cooker or any type of cooking appliance for that matter. But before we delve into that, let us for the benefit of those who have yet to use an induction cooker or who have not heard of induction cooker before – just like ignorant me until recently – look briefly at what an induction cooker is.
What is an induction cooker or what is induction cooking?
Essentially, an induction cooker has an element (which in the case of a gas stove is called the “burner”). This induction cooker element is a high-frequency electromagnet, with the electromagnetism generated by electronics in the “element” under the unit’s ceramic surface similar to a travel kettle.
When a magnetic material – such as a cast-iron skillet – is placed in the magnetic field that the element is generating, the field transfers (“induces”) energy into that metal, causing the metal – the cooking vessel – to become hot.
The amount of heat being transferred to the cooking utensil – instantaneously – can be adjusted by controlling the strength of the electromagnetic field. The purpose of this lens, which looks at induction cooking pros and cons,, is not to go into the technical aspect of an induction cooker – which must have electricity input of course.
Here are the pros of induction cooking:
- Instant adjustment: Unlike the ordinary electric cookers, in an induction cooker, the heat is instantaneous and as exact – as in the case of gas but without the disadvantages – and the degree of hotness can be adjusted.
- No wasted heat: With induction cooking, energy is supplied directly to the cooking vessel by the magnetic field, so almost all of the source energy gets transferred to that vessel. Side benefits are a cooler kitchen and a cool stovetop.
- Safety: No burned fingers or hands as the stovetop stays cool.
- Ease and adaptability of installation.
Cons of induction cooking:
- The cooking utensils: This is not exactly a drawback as I shall explain later. Induction cooking works with cooking vessels made of magnetic materials such as stainless steel and cast iron. So if you already have a stock of mostly expensive aluminum, copper, glass or Pyrex cookware and little or no cast iron or stainless, you will have to invest in some cookware and find a guide with recipes for induction cooking. But this is not exactly a drawback as it is a one-time affair. And moreover, from my own experience, induction cooking utensils are not very expensive.
- Electricity failures: When electricity supply is interrupted, one can’t use induction cooking. Gas supplies too can be interrupted but this won’t be frequent.
P/S I will not go into cooker, electricity and gas costs as they differ from country to country.
Economic and environmental considerations
Induction cookers are getting popular and less expensive than traditional cookers. According to the Department of Energy, the efficiency of energy transfer for an induction cooktop is 90%, versus 71% for a smooth-top non-induction electrical unit, for an approximate 20% savings in energy for the same amount of heat transfer…
When the environment is taken into consideration, a more appropriate measure should be from the source to output. It needs to be noted that even though induction cooking is efficient at cooktop, the overall efficiency from the energy source to the food is comparable to cooking with gas.
Currently electricity generation efficiency from a coal or gas fired power plants (responsible for 80% of total electricity) is about 33%, and the energy lost during transmission is usually about 5%, therefore the overall source to food efficiency is 28%.
While cooking using a gas burner has about 30% efficiency at the stove and the gas transmission loss is about 6%, leading to the overall efficiency for gas cooking over a range to be about 27.9%. However, if 100% “green energy” is being used (i.e. produced wholly from renewable sources, such as wind or solar), then an induction cooker has zero effect on the environment.
Before this happens which may well take decades, a new cookware with an overall efficiency over 50% can be a good practical interim solution to reduce CO2 emissions from range top cooking.