One of our goals with the island home is to burn nothing for fuel. We’re putting in a large array of solar panels. We have an electric car. The climate means that we won’t have anything like the energy demands for HVAC that we have on the mainland. We can use heat pumps for domestic hot water. But what about cooking?

I’d never met an electric stove that I liked. My grandmother — from whom I learned much about cooking — loved electric stoves but I could never get one to work. On top of that, my mother once got a glass-top range because she liked the way it looked, and it was a horror. Temperature control lagged minutes behind changes in the controls. If you started on a low setting, it took forever to warm up. If you tried to jumpstart it by turning it to “Hi,” you’d invaribly overshoot and then have to take the pot off to avoid scortching things while it cooled down. The conventional electric cooktops were only a little better, compounded by the fact that most of my experience with them was in rented apartments with notably low-end appliances.

Still, I’m determined to rid my life of a dependence on natural gas or propane, particularly in indoor spaces. I already replaced the massive gas-burning furnace in the mainland house with a heat pump, and pay extra for green (renewable, carbon-neutral) electricity — though I suspect that the green energy program is largely an accounting gimmick. But what about cooking?

I’ve seen the hype about induction cooktops, but was sceptical: I’ve used many electric ranges where I’d been told “oh, you’ll really like this one” and… nope. To test the waters, I bought a single-burner induction cooker:

induction burner

We have had it for well over a year now and use it multiple times daily. It. Is. Awesome.

The drawback for a lot of folks is that induction cooktops won’t work with aluminum cookware. That wasn’t much of a problem for me: I’m a big fan of ironware, and my saucepan set is stainless steel. They all work great with induction. I did have to replace my non-stick aluminum egg pan with an induction-ready version, but that was no big deal. I only use the gas cooktop now when I absolutely need more than one burner.

So what do I like?

  • It heats pans fast. Faster than our (already ultra-fast heating) gas range, and the heat is remarkably even.
  • It cools down fast. If I see a pot starting to boil over, just a touch of a button turns it down and stops the impending disaster. No need to grab a potholder and try to move the pan away from the source of heat.
  • It’s precisely repeatable. For example, setting it to “3.5” is perfect for fried eggs. Every time.
  • It’s easy to clean. Unlike the glass-top electric range my mother had, where a spill would quickly burn into the cooktop and leave a nasty mess, the surface of the induction burner stays relatively cool and it’s easy to wipe up spills after dinner.
  • You can put it away! Holly Ann and I both love to cook, and counter space is often at a premium. A large chunk of our counter is taken up by our five-burner gas cooktop, even though we rarely use more than 1-2 burners at a time (and often none when we’re prepping). The induction burner just slides edgewise onto a shelf, taking up very little space. In fact, we’ve designed our new island kitchen to have no built-in cooktop at all. Instead, we’ll have a shelf with induction burners, probably one twin burner and 2-3 singles. Just pull them down when we need to cook, and slide them back away when we’re done and enjoy the wide-open spaces of countertop in the mean time.

Downsides? There are some. We already have a microwave oven and a toaster oven, so we have to be careful how much load we put on a circuit. (That won’t be a problem with the island house, where we’re custom wiring the kitchen with four separate, balanced 20-amp circuits.) The burner has a fan that isn’t too loud — but I find most cooling fans annoying, and this one is no exception. It continues to run for a minute or two even after the device is turned off. Our toaster oven does the same thing. There are reasons why this design decision makes sense, but it can get a bit noisy in the kitchen.

The burner we bought is a Duxtop 9610LS BT-200DZ. I have absolutely no idea how it compares to other induction burners, but I love it.

—2p

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