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Induction Cooktop Comparison

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Because of the recent interest in induction cooking on this forum, I thought I would offer my experience with two models of induction cooktops that I currently use.

There are currently two types of induction cooktops available:

Multi-element induction cooktops resemble a flat electric range and are hardwired with 220 volt electricity. They have individual burners with ratings up to 3600 watts. Typical built-in induction cooktops cost $2000-3000.

Portable induction cooktops are self-contained units with a single element and have a standard 120 volt electric cord. These units can be used on any countertop or work surface and are the type compared in this article.

General
Induction is unlike any other form of cooking heat, but the results of induction heating have the same affect on food. Unlike gas or electric cooktops, an induction cooktop does not generate any heat. Instead, the induction cooktop creates an electro-magnetic field that causes the metal of the pan itself to get hot. All of the energy is transfered directly to the bottom of the pan so no heat is lost in the process.

Induction is not like microwave cooking which uses a different type of cooking process. Induction creates a hot pan exactly like a gas or electric burner. If you can cook it on gas, you cook it on induction, AND achieve the identical results.

Benefits
The two major benefits of induction cooking is speed and energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency is one of the main selling points of induction cooking. The US Dept of Energy says that induction cooking has an absolute efficiency of 84% while gas and electric have efficiency ratings less than 50%. But the overall benefit of induction may be even greater because often the lost ambient heat from gas and electric cooking must in turn be cooled or mechanically removed from the kitchen. There is an amazing difference in ambient heat when using induction; standing within 12 inches of pot of boiling water on a gas range, you will feel a lot of heat in the air, but with induction, you see steam rising from the pot but feel absolutely no ambient heat unless you put your hand directly over the pot.

The speed of induction cooktops depend on its wattage rating; with a higher wattage rating, more heat will be generated at the maximum power setting. The heat produced by the induction process is regulated by adjustable power levels. An increase or reduction of the power level results in more or less electro-magnetic energy, and has the same affect as turning a gas burner up or down.

Hot Water Test
I compared the time required to heat 8 cups of 61°F tap water to 200°F. All tests used the same All-Clad stainless steel pan, except the microwave test which used a pyrex bowl. Measurement of the water for all tests used the pyrex measuring bowl. Here are the results in order of speed performance. Times are in minutes and seconds.

Vollrath Mirage Induction (1800 watts) = 8:55
Gas range (2100 btu) = 10:29
Waring Pro Induction (1400 watts) = 11:27
Microwave oven (900 watts) = 17:52

Use in Cooking
You can cook literally any type of food on an induction cooktop. The only difference with induction cooking is the mechanism for making the pan hot--nothing more, nothing less. While speed and energy efficiency are often sighted as quantifiable advantages, there are other benefits which are slightly more subjective.

Once I became accustomed to induction cooking, I was pleasantly surprised by the instantaneous pinpoint control that I have over the temperature of the pan. While it is hard to imagine anything more intuitive than a gas flame, numerical power settings combined with instant response are very addictive, and I find them more accurate.

Both my wife and I agree that cookware cleanup is easier with induction, particularly cooked liquids. Food does not seem to adhere to the bottom of the pan as readily, and evaporating liquids do not create as much crust on the side of the pan at the liquid line. I can only guess that this is because all heat is generated from the bottom of the pan--there is no fire/heat enveloping the sides of the pan.

Cookware
The cookware (pots and pans) used for induction cooking must be magnetic metal. If a magnet will stick to the bottom, the pan will work. Stainless steel and cast iron are good choices, but aluminum, copper, and glass will not work. Suitable cookware with non-stick coatings are also OK to use.

Reviews
The two units review below represent two different price points but still fall within the midrange of currently available models. The Waring Pro is an inexpensive unit with minimal features. The Vollrath is a more powerful unit with more features, including temperature controlled cooking. The Vollrath also has a longer electrical cord and more safety features.

The Waring Pro was a gift from my wife. It served as my introduction to induction cooking and has performed flawlessly. Once I was hooked on induction, I decided to get another unit to fully convert from gas to induction. I found the Vollrath at my local restaurant supply store and was intrigued by the additional power and temperature control.

Waring Pro Induction Cooktop (ICT100), 1400 watts, 120 volts, approx. $170.00
• 11 long x 13/5 wide x 3 high (inches)
• brushed metal and plastic housing with glass cooktop
• On/Off, power level, and timer touch controls
• 7 power levels
• 99 minute timer
• ceramic cooktop
• 45 second auto-shutoff if no cookware is present
• power levels and timer controlled by touch controls
• 36 inch power cord

Vollrath Mirage Induction Cooktop (59500), 1800 watts, 120 volts, approx. $450.00
• 15 long x 14 wide x 3 high (inches)
• brushed stainless steel housing with ceramic cooktop
• On/Off and function touch controls
• rotary knob controls power levels, temperature, or time
• 100 power levels or F°/C° temperature control
• 180 minute timer
• 60 second auto-shut-off if no cookware is present
• empty pan shut-off and overheat protection
• small article detection so unit will not operate if a spoon, watch, etc. is left on the cooktop
• 72 inch power cord

Conclusion
The price difference of these two units is substantial--$170 vs. $450--but I feel both are a good value.

The Waring Pro is a very adequate entry level appliance that works exactly as promised. Although it may not heat any faster than your existing range, you will still benefit from significant energy efficiency.

The Vollrath Mirage offers 28% more power, temperature controlled cooking, longer timer operation, and more precise power level control via the rotary knob. It also remembers your last used power level, time, and temperature settings, even after the unit is turned off.

Both units have a very quiet internal cooling fan that will continue to run, as needed, after the unit is turned off. In addition, the Vollrath LED display will read "hot" until the cooktop cools to a safe temperature.

Price and power aside, I feel the Vollrath is a good choice for anyone who would enjoy the temperature controlled cooking feature. For a long simmer or any number of other tasks, the set it and forget it temperature accuracy is a great feature. In practical use, I have found it will maintain temperatures at ±5°F.

Other Brands
In addition to Waring and Vollrath, a quick web search found portable induction cooktops also available from Sunpentown, Viking, Max Burton, CookTek, and Fagor, with prices ranging from $82-1586.
post #2 of 21

Induction cooktop comparison

ajoe, thank you for such a useful post - I've been trying to find people with direct experience of these and had resorted to finding cooking stores where I could try an induction cooktop out - I was impressed and am considering switching out my ceramic glass cooktop in favor of induction (alas no gas supply to the house). In my travels I did find this site which at least gave an introduction - induction-cooktop.com
post #3 of 21
A quick web search turned up the Vollrath unit for a coupla bucks over $400.

Might help a little.

Mike
travelling gourmand
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post #4 of 21

Questions on the Vollrath Mirage

:)
I was hoping one of you that has owed/used the Vollrath Mirage could help me out.

I want to know if the Mirage can take a full 14" bottom of a saute pan or brazier as it is advertised. Does the glass top sit above, below or flush with the metal or whatever that surrounds it? In some pictures I've seen (see below) the glass seems to sit below but in one it seems to sit flush or a hair above. Which is it?

Also, this original post is over a year old, I am interested to hear your thought on the the Mirage today. Has it held up? Does it see enough use in your life to justify its cost? Are there any other products you might consider in place of the Mirage?


post #5 of 21
I'm very interested in this topic too. I'm planning to remodel my kitchen in the near future and I'm looking at induction ranges. I decided that before I put down $2500+ for one, I should buy a portable unit to test out the technology and just ordered a Viking (good reviews and I liked the knob control). Can't wait 'til it arrives. FWIW, Cooks' Illustrated just reviewed portable induction units this month and didn't like a bunch with touchpad controls. One of the Max Burton units was a top pick for less $$. They didn't review the Vollrath though.
post #6 of 21
That was a very nice rundown, ajoe.

After the CI review, we have the Max Burton 1800w countertop on order. It was just $125. Right after the CI review came out, all the internet sources were "out of stock" so we're still waiting.:rolleyes:

Let you know how it works after it gets here.

Mike
travelling gourmand
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post #7 of 21
A couple of reviews...

I bought the Viking induction cooktop ($500 from cooking.com). When it arrived, the box was open and the unit had water spots on it, making me think it was someone else's return. I gave it a test drive by boiling water in a 2 qt SS sauce pan. The Viking has a knob, which I liked, instead of push-button controls, and it was very intuitive and easy to use. The water boiled in under 2 minutes, definitely faster than my electric glass-top stove, and most likely faster than gas. When I took the saucepan off, the glass-top was very warm...I could touch it but not hold my finger on it for more than a couple seconds. The unit's fan made only a low hum and wasn't obtrusive at all. I couldn't hear any noise during the heating of the cookware.

My second use was sauteing leeks for a potato soup in a cast iron Dutch oven. This only required a low-medium setting. It worked fine for about 5 minutes, then the unit turned off and wouldn't come back on again. My suspicions about a previous return appeared confirmed. It has now been returned to the seller a second time.

I then ordered the Max Burton 6000 ($100 at centralchef.com). These 2 units received the highest ratings in Cooks' Illustrated's recent review. This unit has electronic push-button controls, but there are only several buttons so it's still pretty intuitive. You can set a specific power level (1-10) or a temperature level (140-450). It also boiled water in under 2 minutes, and the surface temp was about the same. However, the fan is very noisy (about the same as the medium setting on my range hood), and there is a noticeable whining noise when heating cookware. The fan does turn off automatically a few minutes after the unit is turned off.

My next experiment was an omelet. To digress here, most of my cookware is Calphalon HA or Cuisinart SS, neither of which will work with induction. I pulled out an old All-Clad SS skillet, which was somewhat warped. To my surprise, it worked fine even though the bottom didn't make great contact the induction surface. I started at medium, and quickly turned it down to low, but my egg-swirling abilities couldn't keep up with the heat produced, and I ended up with my first brown omelet in years. :blush: More testing to follow.

My conclusions:
This technology is amazing, but I'm not sure that all the bugs have been worked out of it.
There will be a learning curve in adjusting to the speed at which pans heat, as well as the acquisition of new cookware.
I wish the Viking had worked...I liked the controls and the quietness better...are those things worth an additional $400...I don't know.
post #8 of 21
Viking has excellent customer service. Maybe the product you received was defective.  Perhaps they would send you another one it it's place.  You can order from Viking's site directly
post #9 of 21
Great post!  I have a Vollrath Intrigue 1800W induction cooktop that I won through Ebay.  The unit is VERY sturdy and capable.  I was a little surprised though in comparison with my electric range top in that they boiled water equally as fast with the induction just slightly beating it out.  The best parts of the cooktop is its portability and relative speed and lack of "wasted" heat.  The ability to precisely control the temperature is also a huge plus.  Thus it lends itself to making delicate sauces and soups a relative breeze.

Plus there is always the "Wow" factor when cooking for others/company.  Everyone wants to talk about the technology. 

One hint/tip that is very valuable when using "slightly warped" SS cookware and keeping the cooktop clean is to place a towel over the glass surface.  It allows for even induction and keeps the top clean in case of spills.

Cheers.
post #10 of 21
I recently purchased a Vollrath Mirage 1800W Induction Cooker. I am really impressed with it's performance. I am using All-Clad's new d5
5 ply stainless cookware and it works wonderfully. I also have used the Le Crueset 5 quart oval Dutch Oven and it is equally compatible with the Vollrath.

Placing a sheet of parchment paper under the cooktop will prevent scratching and soiling the cooktop surface. It is a little slick though, so the kitchen towel tip that Buellride offered is a good method too, particularly when vigorously stirring or whisking.
post #11 of 21

KCZ,

I happened to purchase the same 2 portable induction cooktops as you.  I first purchased the Viking unit a year ago ($400 at Surlatable.com). I too enjoyed the ease of use . . . a single knob that you turn with a few helpful labels around the knob to indicate power levels: off, simmer, low, med lo, med, med hi, hi. There is a single indicator light that lights up when the unit is on, and blinks when an incompatible pan is placed on it.  The internal fan is very quiet.  The unit is 1800 watts and therefore heats water as quickly as any consumer unit could be expected.  I did notice that a few of my cooking pots that held a magnet well would not work at all on the Viking, giving me the blinking light.  That included a Tramontina enamel cast iron 3 qt braiser.

 

Since I was not yet ready to replace my gas cooktop (I like gas in the winter), I purchased an 1800 watt Max Burton for $76.00 on ebay, and made sure it's plugged into a separate circuit from the Viking.  First, I noticed that there is a loud beep whenever you press a button, whether it's being turned on, or when adjusting the temp or power levels.  That's a lot of beeping.  I do like the option of cooking with temp settings rather than just using power levels.  Most surprisingly, the Tramontina that was incompatible cookware on the Viking worked perfectly on the Max Burton!  I regretted my hasty decision to give away my Emeril by All-Clad large saute pan which did not work on the Viking although a magnet clung strongly . . . it might have worked on the Max Burton.  Now I will never know.

post #12 of 21

I cooked on both Jenn-Air and Sears Kenmore induction cooktops (not portables) for about two years and the results were exemplary as compared with gas.  Their speed equaled or exceeded a gas cooktop's but without the extraneous heat.  And, clean-up was minimal as nothing was cooked onto the cooktop.  As a wonderful side note, I used the previous day's Washington Post as a liner: place one sheet of newsprint on the cooking surface and fire away!  When you're finished cooking, wrap up the newsprint and throw it away.  Minimal cleanup!

post #13 of 21

A friend has built-in  Bosch induction stove and loves it. You can hold your hand over a burner set on high and not get burned! Food cooks quickly without heating up the kitchen and there is no worry about accidently burning yourself by touching a hot burner after the stove is turned off. The biggest drawback is, as has been already pointed out, that you can only use certain pots and pans with it.  

post #14 of 21

Missyjean, my experience with Viking customer service was only "fair."  I purchased the Viking portable induction unit from SurLaTable.com.  When I used it with my induction compatible cookware, sometimes it would turn on, and sometimes it wouldn't.  Since it was brand new and still under warranty, I first contacted Viking customer service via email and described the problem.  Their response was that I would need to send the unit to their repair dept (at my expense), they would inspect the unit, repair it, and send it back to me.  Estimated turnaround time around 3 weeks (at best).  For a brand new unit, that response was somewhat disappointing.  So then I contacted SurLaTable.com customer service.  Their response was much more impressive.  They offered to immediately send me a 2nd factory sealed unit (my credit card would be charged for the 2nd unit), and the defective unit would be picked up by UPS at SurLaTable.com's expense. Upon receipt of the defective unit, they would refund my credit card.  So within 5 days I had a factory sealed new unit.  Couldn't have asked for better customer service.

 

By the way, the 2nd Viking unit did the same peculiar thing as the first.  I finally figured out that I needed to first turn the knob from off to simmer until the indicator light went on (took 1 full second).  Once the indicator light was on, I could quickly turn the power knob to high or any power without problem.  The problem of not turning on only occurred when I tried to go from off to medium, or from off to high. With this understanding, I am perfectly satisfied with my Viking unit.

post #15 of 21

This response is for  Jelliot: The Vollrath Mirage ceramic cook surface is level with the surrounding stainless steel case  of the unit. I have used a 13 inch diameter saute pan with no problems. The active area of the induction coil is 8 inches so larger pans tend to have a hotter spot in the center depending on how  well they distribute heat. My All Clad  d5 pans heat very evenly, however on the larger diameter pans it is advisable to start at  a lower heat and allow the pan to heat evenly before increasing the heat to the preferred  cooking level.  In a previous post I recommended using parchment paper between the cook top and pan to avoid scratching the ceramic glass. Since then I have purchased a Silpat silicon cooking  sheet and have found  it to work flawlessly. Protects the cooktop and keeps grease splatters off the unit.

 

post #16 of 21

I'm excited about induction cooktops, especially in a restaurant where the energy savings would be more readily observed.  However, my concern is that they will be EXTREMELY slow to catch on in commercial kitchens because cooks have been taught to swirl and shake the pans and with a glass/ceramic cooktop, I see nothing but problems in that regard.

 

However, the idea of setting a TEMP on a burner and having it be reasonably accurate is extremely exciting.  It seems like it would add a level of foolproofing and a lot less burner fidgeting. 

 

Again, in a restaurant environment, the drop in ambient heat would help on energy bills for cooling the kitchen, in addition to the savings in efficiency.  The cost of cookware would have to be considered though as cheap aluminum skillets would have no purpose. 

 

I'm waiting to see if this is a fad.  The prices are dropping on residential induction stoves to an acceptable price point (I think I saw a couple for around $1500, which includes a convection oven), so I hope to see the technology catch on in the mainstream -- IF it's all it's made out to be. 

post #17 of 21

My experience with induction cooktops on a commercial scale was as a hotel/resort facility planner for Marriott International.  Some cities in the world have no natural gas service and the cost of LP gas would have been prohibitive on that scale.  In those cases, induction equipment is specified and the culinary staff is trained in how to use them.  Commercial induction surfaces are not as polished as those for household use and therefore do not show as much surface wear.

 

I currently live a county with no gas service and very expensive LP suppliers so the use of induction is beginning to catch on here especially in light of escalating electricity rates.  I've had at least two neighbors ask about it as they plan their kitchen renovations.  The upfront cost can be daunting but having your power bill cut by a third is proving very desirable.

post #18 of 21

What brands of induction commercial equipment are you seeing?  I can only find the single burner countertop models in the US (on restaurant supply sites), and as I'm currently putting together a business plan for opening a restaurant, I would love to look at the options available.  The thought of having gas performance without the gas heat is intriuging.

 

Holy snot.. I found one.  http://www.cooksdirect.com/product/cooktek-6-burner-commercial-induction-range/commercial-ranges  $19 freaking grand.  ugh! 


Edited by gobblygook - 9/5/10 at 7:41am
post #19 of 21

I bought a 36" Viking Induction Cooktop in 2008.  The concept is great but I have had nothing but problems with the unit.  It has been repaired over and over and now I have one burner out of 6 that is actually working.  I have been in contact with the extended warranty agency as well as Viking and I am sad to say they do not stand behind their product.  They have offered to repair it yet once again knowing full well that the unit has problems.  They know this and they know that I know this but still refuse to replace it.  I purchased this item because of the Viking name and now I know that they do not stand behind their name.  They are supposed to be the cream of the crop as far as appliances go but apparently this is not the case.  I would never purchase another product from this company and I would strongly advise others against buying anything from them.  Their customer service is located in many different regions; one being Manilla.  I am sorry but this is unacceptable as well.  Beware as a consumer as this company will not stand by their name or product as well as treat their customers fairly. 

post #20 of 21

My Volrath Mirage, which I really like, will easily and quickly take a thin empty enamelware pan to 675 degrees measured with an IR gun, which quickly chars parchement paper. 

 

It hasn't burned yet, but the paper is only rated for 400 degrees.  Not a good idea to use anything that chars or is  flamable under the pans I think. Also, paper or cloth or plastic under the pan limits temp regulation in the temperature mode by introducing insulating thermal delay so the temp sensor doesn't feel the pan as quickly or as directly. 

post #21 of 21

I have 2 induction single-burner cooktops that are a joy to use.   Now that HubbyDearest and I are building a new home,  I will finally get the induction range that I've been lusting after for a number of years.  I was looking at the Kenmore,  but the builder's appliance package includes a GE Profile as a choice,  so that's what I'm going with.  Consumer's Report show similar reviews for both.  I already have a set of induction-compatible cookware,  and a number of odd pieces that will also work with it.  As noted,  the cooktop itself does not get dangerously hot (although very warm to the touch).  I like that there is no open flame or hot burners to accidentally ignite anything that might be on the stove that shouldn't be there. 

 

Occasionally I hear some mention of halogen cooktops.  Can anyone explain those,  and what, if anything, is their advantage? 

 

I would not advise placing anything flamable between the burner and the pan.  The heat generated between the magnetic field and the pan could definitely ignite some items.  Cleanup is not difficult.  It's another reason I like the induction.  Just wipe the cooktop,  and if necessary,  use the type cleaner recommended by the manufacturer of the stove.  Still lots easier than removing the drip pans and scrubbing them.

"The pressure's on...let's cook something!"
 
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