In the '90s, commercial ranges made for the home were the biggest trend on the kitchen design scene. But today, another culinary advancement is taking hold of the appliance marketplace: the induction cooktop. A recent study by Thermador's research team showed that 88 percent of homeowners looking to remodel their kitchens were interested in induction cooktop—and a full 93 percent would consider an induction cooktop if cost weren't a factor. This ever-increasing consumer acceptance suggests that induction could soon leave gas (long the darling of the culinary world) in the dust.
So what's all the fuss about? Well, as anyone who cooks regularly would surely agree, a good cooktop will have a fast response as you raise or lower the heat. With induction cooktops, the response isn't just fast, but instant! Have a pot that's about to boil over? You can stop it as quickly as it takes to push a button. And because induction cooking only heats the pot and the area directly under it, you can easily wipe the surrounding area clean if your pot does boil over. (The cool cooktop is an important safety feature as well.)
Photo by: Susan Serra. Demonstrating the hot/cool burner on a Bosch induction cooktop.
The energy savings are impressive, too. Because of its concentrated heating ability, induction cooking is 60 to 70 percent more efficient than gas, making it the greenest cooking method available in the marketplace. It's also considerably more powerful than gas; an induction burner can boil water in just a few minutes. Some induction cooktops may include a burner with a power boost, which draws energy from a neighboring burner. Induction's wide heat range means you can get a super-hot sear on filet mignon or slowly melt chocolate without using a double boiler—something few other cooktops can offer. But perhaps the most exciting feature of induction cooking is the new burner-less cooktop, which allows you to place a pot anywhere on the cooktop without regard to burner "boundaries." If you move the pot elsewhere, the cooktop automatically sets it to the same temperature (a busy cook's dream come true!).
From a design perspective, the sleek look of an induction cooktop is perfect for today's modern kitchen designs—its understated look is perfect for an open floorplan. You can be much more flexible when installing an induction cooktop, too: They're available as freestanding ranges, traditional separate cooktops or even individual two burner modules. Some models can be installed "unframed," which makes the cooktop sit flush with the countertop. Other helpful features include child or whole-cooktop locks, illuminated and sound notifications, and cooking programs that maintain a precise temperature.
Photo by: Susan Serra. Gaggenau's burnerless induction cooktop.
Here are a few of my favorite induction cooktops:
Wolf Unframed Cooktop: This type of installation allows the cooktop to be seamlessly integrated with the countertop for a super-minimalist look.
Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop: This cooktop gives you the freedom to place pots and pans anywhere you choose.
Electrolux Induction Built-in Range: One of the first slide-in induction ranges, I like its Wave-Touch Controls, which show and then fades cooking options for an elegant look. It's also got a great convection oven feature and low-temperature cooktop setting.
Bosch Induction Cooktops: The AutoChef sensor feature is innovative—it provides a precise level of energy to your pan to maintain a specific temperature without wasting energy.
Fagor Portable Induction Cooktop: I love the versatility of a portable induction cooktop. It expands the kitchen, creating an additional work station anywhere you need one, and it's a great way to introduce yourself to induction cooking.