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Induction vs Electric Range Comparison

Jake Stone, Appliance Specialist, Frederick

Posted on Mar 17, 2020

Imagine you’re in the appliance store, walking through a sea of beautiful new ranges. You stop at the shiny new gas unit you’ve been eyeing, heavy-duty brass burners promising to send tens of thousands of BTUs worth of flame-searing power blasting into the best meal you’ve ever made. “I’ll take it!” you announce to the salesperson.

Now snap out of it. You’re actually sitting at your kitchen table, a cup of rapidly cooling coffee in front of you as you stare at the boring old range you have. The boring old electric range. Could you convert to gas? Maybe. Are you going to? Well, probably not. Looks like you’re stuck with electric. Or are you?

Induction is a term people who have been looking into new appliances have started to hear more frequently. But what is it? Today, I’m comparing the KitchenAid KFED500ESS Electric Range to the KitchenAid KFID500ESS Induction Range, an induction version of the same range. But worry not! This comparison absolutely translates across different models and brands as the technology is practically the same.

Electric cooking is pretty familiar to most people. A set of coils, either exposed metal or underneath a flat glass top, heats up to glowing red hot and pulses on and off at different intervals, causing a certain amount of heat to transfer up through the coils or the glass and into your pan that then heats up to cook the food. There are typically several layers of separation between the heat sources and the food, resulting in a fair amount of energy loss - the traditional reason electric has never gotten as hot as quickly as gas-cooking. It’s also slightly harder to control since it is basically always pulsing from maximum heat to completely off to achieve that perfect temperature. This can cause uneven cooking that requires you to stand over a pot, stirring more often than would otherwise be necessary. Fortunately, KitchenAid has what they call an “Even-Heat” burner that pulses much faster than normal to help control the temperature more precisely, although they typically only have this option on one or maybe two burners.

Induction cooking works a bit differently. Instead of a set of coils that pulse heat, it heats up using magic. Or, wait... magnets. It heats up using magnets. Basically, it creates an electromagnetic field that vibrates the molecules on the bottom of your cookware causing them to heat up. This has several advantages. The first advantage is that because your cookware has essentially become the heat source directly, there are no layers of separation. This means it gets up to temperature incredibly fast and all that energy goes right into cooking your food. Compared to electric or even gas cooking, induction is blindingly fast. And when it’s time to turn that rapid boil down to a gentle simmer, it gives you an instant response without having to take the pan off the heat, stirring, or blowing on it to get it the temperature you want.

The question most people ask is if you need special cookware. And the answer is… sort of. There’s nothing magical required - it doesn’t need special microchips built into it or anything. But it does need to be magnetic or iron. That means that stainless steel, aluminum, and copper pans aren’t going to work unless they have an additional layer of some sort of ferrous metal in them. You can test your pans at home by using a normal refrigerator magnet on the bottom. If it sticks, the pan should be good to go. You can also use cast iron or any type of iron pan. Additionally, it’s as simple as looking for “Induction Ready!” on the box of whatever new cookware you’re buying.

At the end of the day, I think Induction is by far the best way to cook though it has its downsides. Essentially, if you want the best in speed and controllability, or if you want a cooking fuel that is astounding safe, induction is the way to go. However, it’s generally more expensive than electric and sometimes more than even gas, so that should be a consideration. It takes some getting used to as well because of the speed. So, if you want to keep costs down, don’t want to worry about if your cookware will work, and/or want a slightly quieter experience, you may be best sticking with electric after all.

The other big advantage is that since the pan is the heating element, the burner it’s sitting on doesn’t get as hot. I mean, it still heats up because you have a hot pan sitting on it, but not nearly as hot as an electric element. So, if you have a spillover, it’s way less likely to burn onto your cooktop, keeping induction appliances looking nicer for longer with minimal cleaning. And, if you forget to put a pan on the burner after turning it on, it won’t heat up at all. That’s a solid safety feature.


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