Range-top cooking without a flame brings one image to mind: The orange glow of a spiral electric burner. For many, that image goes hand-in-hand with 1970s avocado and gold appliances and, from a performance perspective, poor heat control.

Range-top cooking without a flame brings one image to mind: The orange glow of a spiral electric burner. For many, that image goes hand-in-hand with 1970s avocado and gold appliances and, from a performance perspective, poor heat control.
No more. Induction cooktops are taking no-flame cooking where electric never could, with precise, user-friendly temperature control, reduced cook times, sleek styling and, the biggest benefit to today’s green-minded population, unmatched efficiency.
Induction cooking essentially makes the pot itself the cooking element. A coil below the smooth-surface cooktop produces an electromagnetic field that reacts with the ferrous metal in the cookware. The heat energy is transferred directly to the cooking vessel, meaning about 90 percent of the energy that is consumed goes toward heating the pot. On electric and gas burners one third to one half the energy dissipates into the air, essentially heating the kitchen.
While improved energy efficiency is the No. 1 draw, the appeal of induction is broader based. Today’s kitchens with their commercial ranges with giant burners and stainless steel finishes are “all about style and not about substance at all,” says Lori Dennis, founder of Dennis Design Group, a Los Angeles-based design firm specializing in green projects. “Induction provides that style with substance.”
Induction ranges are unparalleled from a safety perspective. In addition to the inherent safety of what is essentially a cooler stove (since the burner itself doesn’t heat), the units feature secondary safety features galore. Bosch and Siemens induction cooktops feature child locks. Fagor models shut off if the temperature reaches higher than 600 degrees F (the temperature as which oil can catch fire). Almost all manufacturers feature an automatic shutoff if the cooktop is left on without a pot.
The technology also gives you precise control over the temperature. Turn the knob and the heat increase or reduction is immediate — no lag time like on electric range tops. Plus, there are far more temperature settings.
And lastly, these things look slick. Many, like the new GE Monogram induction cooktop, mount flush with the countertop. GE says its surface utilizes a proprietary reflective material that captures light and colors inside the kitchen, creating a prism-like effect when accented with a decorative backsplash or mosaic tiles.
The only real caveat is a cookware restriction: The technology only works with steel or cast iron pots and pans.