Safer, more energy-efficient, faster: just some of the benefits of induction cooking, which is now available in inexpensive portable cooktops that look like high-tech hotplates.
Induction cooking depends on electro-magnetism. Electricity coursing through a metal ring in the burner creates a magnetic field. Place a pan on top, and small electric currents swirl within the base of the pan, heating it up. That’s key: the pan heats, not the cooktop, so there’s less danger of fire, the heat is precise and quick, and spills don’t burn on the cooktop. The catch? Pans need to be magnetic: cast iron, including Le Creuset and similar enamel-clad cast iron, works, as does some stainless steel (test with a magnet).
Induction is more efficient than gas or conventional electric burners, but it’s still a hog if you are off-grid. Many portable ones cost less than $200, but running one off solar power needs a lot of panels. Portable units suit a tiny kitchen in an on-grid cabin— it’s a compact, simple cooking surface that’s easy to use and easy to clean.
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