Induction ovens sound like something out of science fiction. While traditional ovens work by heating the environment around a dish or pot, induction ovens use precise electrical currents to create a magnetic flux, which warms the dish itself, not the surrounding area.
Professional chefs from Neil Perry to Ming Tsai rely on induction cooking in their award-winning restaurants, but that doesn't mean that an induction oven is right for every kitchen. Cooks should carefully weigh the pros and cons before getting this high-tech set up in their own homes.
Induction ovens are among the safest on the market. They don't release gas into the air and many have a feature that turns the oven off automatically, eliminating the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. While the cookware and food inside it will be very hot, the oven itself remains cool, and heat transfer stops as soon as the oven is turned off.
Home chefs who use an induction oven have a lower risk of accidental burns and cooking fires.
Induction ovens tend to come in high-end ranges with a larger price tag than a traditional gas or electric setup. Transitioning from a gas oven to induction is particularly expensive, as homeowners may also need to pay for an electrician to install the necessary outlets.
As induction ovens become more mainstream, the price has been dropping, so families with tighter budgets may want to wait a few more years for a better deal.
While installing an induction oven is more expensive initially, they are less expensive to maintain in the long term. Electric and gas ovens lose energy heating the air around a dish. Induction ovens heat the dish directly, do not rely on gas, and use less energy than electric ovens, leading to lower utility bills and better air quality.
Chefs looking for eco-friendly upgrades to their kitchen can't do much better than an induction oven.
Induction ovens work through electromagnetism, so home chefs that rely on ceramic or glass cookware may need to replace many of their pans and dishes. Older cookware in particular may be useless in an induction oven. Some cookware is specifically labeled as induction oven safe, but most cast iron or stainless steel dishes will work.
One easy way to test a pot or pan is to put a magnet against it: if the magnet stays, the dish should work with induction.
Traditional ovens don't always reach an exact temperature, take time to heat up, and heat the edges of a dish before the center. Chefs using an induction oven, on the other hand, don't have to worry about dishes that come out cold in the middle and burned on the sides. The entire dish heats to an exact temperature almost at once.
Induction ovens also heat way faster than traditional ranges, leading to quicker cook times with better results. This is why they are a favorite among professional chefs.
Experienced home cooks may find that they burn food while getting used to an induction oven because of the quicker cook time. The pot has to make contact with the heating element for the induction to work and the oven may automatically turn off if the pot slips or moves. Flat-bottomed pans and pots work best, but home chefs may still become frustrated when they go to stir or check on a dish and find that they've accidentally turned off their oven entirely.
It may be useful to test an induction oven in the store first to make sure the process isn't too frustrating.
Induction ovens use a smooth glass or ceramic surface that doesn't get hot during cooking, so if a bit of food spills, it can be easily and immediately wiped up. A mild cleanser and damp paper towel will have the range looking good as new. Spilled food doesn't burn to the side of the oven like with traditional appliances.
It may also be easier to do the dishes. More even heat distribution means less caked-on or burned food at the edges of the pan.
The glass and ceramic surfaces of an induction oven are more prone to getting scratched or cracked. If a surface is cracked, it needs to be replaced before the oven can be safely used again and replacements can be expensive.
Manufacturers recommend avoiding harsh cleaning products or rough scrubbers on induction surfaces. Using old pans with rough edges or moving the pans around too much across the surface of the oven can also damage it.
In the middle of a summer heat wave, the last thing anyone wants to do is swelter in an overheated kitchen. Induction ovens eliminate that problem. They don't get nearly as hot as traditional ovens, meaning that far less heat is leaked out into the kitchen.
Home cooks can cook chicken for a salad or warm up last night's leftovers without feeling like they're baking themselves. Less heat is better for the environment, puts less strain on the air conditioning, and is safer for cooks.
Induction ovens don't give off the light and heat of a traditional oven. In fact, if a dish wasn't placed in the oven, a cook wouldn't even know it was on. Some manufacturers have added lights and displays to help, but the lack of typical sensory feedback may be unsettling for some cooks.
At higher settings, an induction oven can also make a sharp buzzing or humming sound as the pan vibrates against the cooking surface and the electrical elements turn on.