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The State of Rangetops and Cooktops


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I have noticed that most of the cooking shows with chefs I respect seem to have 5-Star cooktops. The two features that impress me is the ability to grill steaks, chicken etc on the center placed grill and the fact that the burner basins are black and don't show the grease charring that seems to inevitably occur on my current stainless steel Dacor. I have a grill with my 46" Dacor and it is pretty much worthless. The specs show a 11,000 BTU burner beneath the grill and it it just too underpowered to do much more than melt ice. As far as heating a wok is concerned, you cannot get enough BTU's legally inside a residential kitchen to do the job that is needed. Take your wok outside and use a turkey fryer to heat it.

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We decided to go with induction when we upgraded our Mid-Century Eichler-style home, and selected cork for the floors, a Wolf 36" Induction cooktop, and Quartz counter tops. Oh, I added a new Wolf computerized exhaust hood that matches the top.

The big item to consider with the induction top is that you'll need cookware that a magnet sticks to. I'd been buying pieces of Viking stainless over the years, so combined with the Le pots, I was all set.

I'll add some pictures soon, as soon as the painter is out of my hair!

Carpe Carp: Seize that fish!

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  • 3 months later...

I have the new Kenmore (Electrolux) induction range, and I LOVE it. I will never go back to gas. The precision and range of the burners is incredible, it's easy to clean, and not insanely expensive (I think we got ours for $2700). When I'm cooking something that will make a spattery mess, I spread paper towels and put the pan on top--imagine that! Cooking pasta is now a 15-minute project from the the glimmer in my eye to lifting the first forkful. It used to take longer than that just to get the water to boil.

The only thing I don't like about it is the exhaust fan makes a high-pitched whine. It got on my serious nerves for the first couple of weeks, but now I don't hear it anymore. Beyond that, it's perfection.

Edited to add: The low is so low that you can melt chocolate directly over the burner. The high is so high that I'm still learning how to deal with it. Used to be I could barely get a wok hot enough and it wouldn't stay hot enough once the food was added. The first time I tried it on this range, I incinerated everything within about ten seconds. And I was deliriously happy about it! The oven has true convection, too.

So, does Kenmore make the Electolux or vice versa? I am considering an electrolux. Ihave electric now and I hate it, but I have no choice so I thought induction might be the way to go. Am I correct?

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What do you hate about your electric? I've got an electric smoothtop and you couldn't pay me to replace it with gas.

I hate that you can't really regulate the temp - if you're on high and you need to reduce the heat, etc. Also, put a pot on top and turn it on and the white top gets streaked with brown. It's a pain to clean.

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With the smoothtop I've gotten pretty adept at sliding the pans on and off the heat to regulate temperature: sometimes I don't even bother to turn the heat down, if I know I'm going to just turn it back up. And talk about easy to clean! Seriously, it's not like I've never used gas; I just think the advantages are overblown. Any smoothtop, electric resistance or induction, blows a home gas range (including those fancy wannabe pro models) out of the water, in a home-cooking setting. And don't get me started on those pathetic "wok burners" they include in some of them. 22k BTUs? Not even close to useful, I complain about my 65k burner not putting out enough heat.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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I have gas in my home and use that when cooking normally, but when I travel to Canada and cook in my parents' home, I use their electric smoothtop range. I adapted just as Chris does - I keep a couple of the burners going at different temperatures, and switch the pan between them, and the cool middle of the range. It works fine, but it's not the sort of thing I would do with kids in the house, for example. My complaint was that their pans are all good, heavy bottomed ones that really held the heat. I usually cook with a cheap $10 skillet, which responds quickly to heat changes. I always burn things for the first day or so until I remember to adjust my cooking.

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I think that "regulating the heat" business is a red herring in practice. You rarely, if ever, need to go from low to high in a split second, and it's easy to pull something off heat for a bit while an electrical burner cools -- and that doesn't take that long.

FWIW, I moved into a house with a 1970s-era Thermador rangetop, and I love it to death. Like Other Chris, wouldn't go back to gas if you paid me.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I had a smooth top electric in my last house. The limitations on cookware was at times an issue. The cookware had to be perfectly smooth on the bottom and not extend 2" past the element, IIRC. This prevented me from using cast iron griddles, most tagines, and my wok.

For now, I have a Frigidaire 4 coil cooktop that I would like to replace with a propane fired unit (no gas around here).

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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The house we're in now came with a gas General Electric (Hecho Mexico) range. I believe the "main" burner put out a whopping 9000 btus. Finally got rid of it when the glass panel on the oven door exploded--all by iself-- at 3 in the morning.

In the end we chose a "Sears Special". A bit better constructed, but not a whole lot better.

Why did I choose gas again?

Because the house didn't have a 220 v outlet for a range, and it would hae costed me at least $500 to put one in--assuming I could find an electrician who would stoop so low as to take on such a small job...

I'd much rather have electric, but I'm too cheap.......

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Excuse my questions if they're silly - but here we go:

We're in the middle of closing on a new house (yay!) and it currently has an electric range. I'm only familiar with gas, and I like it, but I'm willing to expand my horizons a bit. We are planning on replacing the range, mainly for style reasons sometime this year. I'm kind of leaning toward an induction cooktop for the high heat and low simmer (and my cookware is all magnetic).

Question 1: I fancy myself a fancy cook (I'm not, but I pretend), and I do like to light things on fire occasionally. For instance, when I make omelette's, I use some home made salsa and light it on fire in my omelette pan over the flame before I add the batter. Why? I don't know, in my head it gets a 'roasted' flavor. How on earth will I accomplish this on an electric or induction cooktop and impress the kiddos?

Question 2: When you lift a pan off the induction surface, you lose your 'heat source' so to say. Has anyone noticed this affecting their cooking when tossing vegetables/etc?

Question 3: Has anyone installed a single burner (like the viking wok burner) next to an electric range - any recommendations?

Thanks in advance!

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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A lot of us fancy ourselves fancy cooks!

For flambé, I'd use one of those butane-powered barbecue lighters like this one, which looks classy enough for indoor use.

Lifting and tossing can be a problem on induction. I was working on an induction unit just last night, and concluded that I had about a second of non-contact time before the range decided that there was no longer a pan on the burner and turned itself off. If I had an induction cooktop at home, I'd probably have to retrain myself.

For the benefit of others' concerns here, I'll also point out that since induction relies on contact, warped pans and pans with lips or ridges on the bottom are problematic. The former heats only where the pan is flat, which can lead to unexpected performance issues; the latter won't work at all (that includes most any reversible grill/griddle and some cast-iron skillets).

ETA: I've never used a standalone induction wok burner, but I remember being pretty impressed with one Ming Tsai used on his show a few years back.

Edited by Dave the Cook (log)

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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What advantages does induction have over an electric smoothtop? I guess I don't really understand why you'd choose one, when it severely limits your cookware options, and it sounds like the unit is too smart for its own good.

I second the question. I've heard it said they're more energy efficient - how much?

PastaMeshugana

"The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd."

"What's hunger got to do with anything?" - My Father

My eG Food Blog (2011)

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What advantages does induction have over an electric smoothtop? I guess I don't really understand why you'd choose one, when it severely limits your cookware options, and it sounds like the unit is too smart for its own good.

I second the question. I've heard it said they're more energy efficient - how much?

"According to the U.S. Department of Energy the efficiency of energy transfer for an induction cooktop is 90%, versus 71% for a smooth-top non-induction electrical unit, for an approximate 20% saving in energy for the same amount of heat transfer." The quote is from Wikipedia; this is their source (Dept of Energy pdf).

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What advantages does induction have over an electric smoothtop? I guess I don't really understand why you'd choose one, when it severely limits your cookware options, and it sounds like the unit is too smart for its own good.

One big advantage is the surface does not get hot, except through the absorption of heat from the pot or pan. This is great if you want to instantly kill the heat going into the pan. I have used them in the past for chocolate work and they do wonders. You can safely place a stainless bowl on the induction burner at a low setting for a couple of seconds to nudge the chocolate up a degree or two without worrying about it burning.

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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A lot of us fancy ourselves fancy cooks!

For flambé, I'd use one of those butane-powered barbecue lighters like this one, which looks classy enough for indoor use.

Lifting and tossing can be a problem on induction. I was working on an induction unit just last night, and concluded that I had about a second of non-contact time before the range decided that there was no longer a pan on the burner and turned itself off. If I had an induction cooktop at home, I'd probably have to retrain myself.

For the benefit of others' concerns here, I'll also point out that since induction relies on contact, warped pans and pans with lips or ridges on the bottom are problematic. The former heats only where the pan is flat, which can lead to unexpected performance issues; the latter won't work at all (that includes most any reversible grill/griddle and some cast-iron skillets).

ETA: I've never used a standalone induction wok burner, but I remember being pretty impressed with one Ming Tsai used on his show a few years back.

I think you just changed my mind about the induction. I think I'll stick to the electric - it's hard to clean but at least my pans will work!

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I just tried removing a pot on an induction burner on our cooktop, and the cooktop stayed on for over 20 seconds. Dave, I don't know why yours would have turned off in one second!

Can anyone else with an induction top try this and report back?

Is there anyone else that has changed from an electric glass cooktop to an induction cooktop? Would any of you even consider returning to the old top? We sure wouldn't, and I just sold our old Dacor on Craigs list.

Carpe Carp: Seize that fish!

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I just tried removing a pot on an induction burner on our cooktop, and the cooktop stayed on for over 20 seconds. Dave, I don't know why yours would have turned off in one second!

Can anyone else with an induction top try this and report back?

Is there anyone else that has changed from an electric glass cooktop to an induction cooktop? Would any of you even consider returning to the old top? We sure wouldn't, and I just sold our old Dacor on Craigs list.

Mine stays on a long time, too--at least 20 seconds.

I switched from gas and before that I had electric smoothtop for twelve years. I also have electric coil at a second home. I would never consider returning to any of those. I've been canning lately and this thing brings a gigantic water bath canner to a boil in just a few minutes. I realize I forgot to do something, turn it off, then half an hour later turn it back on and it literally comes to a boil again in about a minute. Having had it for many months now, the only improvement I would make is to change the controls from a touchpad to a knob that you turn, like on a gas stove. The stovetop itself is lightning fast once you tell it what to do, but it takes too long to change the setting using the touchpad. Minor complaint. Overall I love it.

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I just tried removing a pot on an induction burner on our cooktop, and the cooktop stayed on for over 20 seconds. Dave, I don't know why yours would have turned off in one second!

Mine stays on a long time, too--at least 20 seconds.

Could have been three or five seconds. I was teaching a class, so precise timing wasn't uppermost in my mind, but there's no way would it have waited on me for 20 seconds. As for why, I suppose it varies by brand (this was a Miele), and perhaps it's even programmable.

Dave Scantland
Executive director
dscantland@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics signatory

Eat more chicken skin.

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