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New user question for those with induction ranges


LocalHero
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Hi everyone, with all the negative press natural gas ranges have been getting, I've decided to try out an induction range.   I bought a Frigidaire Gallery (one of the less expensive induction ranges) and have noticed that when I put a 10.5" cast iron skillet on the "auto sizing" burner, there's a ring about 5" in the middle that gets hot way faster than the rest of the pan.  I had been expecting that the heat would be even across the pan.   Larger skillet gets the same results and changing burners doesn't seem to make a difference.   I put thin layer of water in the pan as an experiment and the pic here shows the ring where the water is starting to boil.  I've checked and the bottom of the pan is flat

Is this normal for an induction range?  

 

Thanks,

John

Note:  I don't normally boil water in cast iron, this was just a test.  I first noticed there was an issue when things were scorching in the middle of the pan while barely cooking on the outer edges.

Screenshot 2022-02-22 183250.jpg

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I don't have induction any more but kind of wish I did. It looks like the auto-size only has a couple of settings so you don't get the spreading effect you might from gas as you crank the burners. An option is to lower the heat so the pan has time to spread the temperature out to keep from scorching. One thing about induction is that it is very efficient so the pot heats up very fast so you are really depending on the pot bottom to keep things even. High quality pans with copper in the bottom might help. You could also try putting a griddle on the burner beneath the pan to help spread the heat.

 

Unfortunately, this might be a place where a more expensive unit might be better. The other thing I didn't like about my induction was that the temperature control wasn't fine enough. That could also be a problem in getting the whole pot to the exact temperature you want.

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11 hours ago, haresfur said:

I don't have induction any more but kind of wish I did. It looks like the auto-size only has a couple of settings so you don't get the spreading effect you might from gas as you crank the burners. An option is to lower the heat so the pan has time to spread the temperature out to keep from scorching. One thing about induction is that it is very efficient so the pot heats up very fast so you are really depending on the pot bottom to keep things even. High quality pans with copper in the bottom might help. You could also try putting a griddle on the burner beneath the pan to help spread the heat.

 

Unfortunately, this might be a place where a more expensive unit might be better. The other thing I didn't like about my induction was that the temperature control wasn't fine enough. That could also be a problem in getting the whole pot to the exact temperature you want.

 

I do agree about the temp control not being fine enough as well.  I find I want 6.5 too often.   I haven't looked into exactly how induction works but I was assuming it simply energized the whole of whatever magnetic surface was placed on the burner.   Now I'm thinking it only energizes a certain ring size though why it wouldn't use a bigger ring for a larger pan, I don't know.  It's possible this one isn't working as it's supposed to.

 

11 hours ago, ElsieD said:

I have an induction cooktop so thought I would test this out.  Mine does not "auto-size".  I did it in a non-stick pan and again in a cast iron pan.

 

 

 

Thanks for doing that, it's very helpful!   It looks like you're getting the results I was expecting (but not getting).  Did you put that on the highest temp to get that result?

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I have a relatively inexpensive high powered induction burner (my apartment building has no gas service) and I have the same issue as the OP.  Cast iron conducts heat relatively poorly so on induction you wind up with hot spots just above the induction coil if you crank the heat up right away.  I also did a great job of warping the bottom of my flat bottomed carbon steel wok!  When I do anything on cast iron, I let the empty cast iron pan heat slowly on relatively low heat for maybe 10 minutes before I need to use it.  Using an induction compatible pan with aluminum or copper sandwiched in the base will make your heating much more even.

 

Hopefully soon I'm going to get a better (and unfortunately not inexpensive) induction burner that supposedly has a more even magnetic field distribution - but I'll know more once I get it.

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I have a love/hate relationship with induction.There are three things I hate about (most) induction cooktops. The uneven heat is perhaps the most bothersome. The other things I hate are a lack of fine grained temperature control (10 power levels isn't enough, people) and not having a control knob to control the temperature (membrane switches suck). I have a commercial induction burner in the form of the Vollrath Mirage Pro, which has 100 power levels and a knob so it avoids two of the three pitfalls. But it still unevenly heats larger cookware because of the relatively small size of its induction coil. As others have noted, cast iron is a bad conductor of heat but cast iron isn't the culprit here. I have a similar boil pattern in my All Clad Copper Core and D7 cookware, and it never gets better no matter how long you let things boil. And if I put something massive like my Modernist Cuisine baking steel on it and let it heat up slowly for an hour, it's still abysmally unevenly heated. This promotional photo is a stupid lie:

on-induction-burner-with-fried-eggs.jpg.1306acd32094488773c6f6ce05604783.jpg 

 

Induction coils only heat what's directly above them. And they they don't evenly heat even that circle; they create a ring of heat with a colder spot in the middle. For some applications, like boiling water in a medium sized pot, this uneven heat is not really an issue. For other purposes, it can be intensely irritating. Trying to get an even sear on proteins in a 12" pan isn't going to happen. Trying to fry three or more eggs evenly isn't going to happen. It sucks. Even super expensive units like the Control Freak have this problem. Here's the scorch pattern of a cast iron pan on the Control Freak:

 

ctrlfreak.thumb.jpg.a2daa4c7c264edcb67f4ac0497a57f96.jpg

 

You can mitigate this with more conductive cookware, but it never fully gets rid of the problem. Did I mention that you should be careful about slowly heating up your pans because they're liable to warp? Grr... so stupid. I had to hammer the bottoms flat on some of my Dartos because I used them at high heat on induction. No longer. I now use portable butane burners for high intensity searing.

 

I don't know much about what's on the market for 240V induction rangetops, but because they have multiple burners, they can "solve" the problem by offering induction coils of different sizes. I hope that some of them actually have large induction coils so that you can evenly sear or boil in 12"+ pots and pans. The one system that seems to avoid this problem is the Thermadore Freedom induction cooktops because they use an array of small induction coils instead of large ones. It dynamically detects the position and size of your cookware and turns on only the coils beneath it.

 

thermadore.png.600e35f5c3d4cdfac86eaafb69be4bf2.png

 

Seems like a cool system, but it it multiplies the number of parts that can fail because you're using like fifty induction coils rather than five. And it's very expensive. And you have to control your range through a touch screen. Grr. Induction has so much potential but it also kind of sucks.

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18 hours ago, LocalHero said:

Hi everyone, with all the negative press natural gas ranges have been getting, I've decided to try out an induction range.   I bought a Frigidaire Gallery (one of the less expensive induction ranges) and have noticed that when I put a 10.5" cast iron skillet on the "auto sizing" burner, there's a ring about 5" in the middle that gets hot way faster than the rest of the pan.  I had been expecting that the heat would be even across the pan.   Larger skillet gets the same results and changing burners doesn't seem to make a difference.   I put thin layer of water in the pan as an experiment and the pic here shows the ring where the water is starting to boil.  I've checked and the bottom of the pan is flat

Is this normal for an induction range?  

 

Thanks,

John

Note:  I don't normally boil water in cast iron, this was just a test.  I first noticed there was an issue when things were scorching in the middle of the pan while barely cooking on the outer edges.

 

Maybe I missed it - negative press around gas ranges!?

 

I would not trade in my gas range (wolf in this iteration) for all the ranges in China!

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@Btbyrd, this is interesting. So many pro cooks seem to raving about induction. But I can't imagine them liking it if their ranges had all these problems. Do you think they're using better technology in the high-end commercial market? (it looks like mostly high-end kitchens adopting it right now)

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There are a lot of advantages to induction and induction burners can be great depending on the task. They're easy to clean, don't heat up the kitchen, are very energy efficient, are as responsive as gas, can boil water in a hurry, and some of the nice ones offer an unbeatable level of temperature control. If you're doing pastry work or running a catering operation or something, I'm sure they're great. And I assume that somebody somewhere is making hobs with giant induction coils in them. But for all the chefs raving about them, I've never seen anyone rocking induction on a hot line for service.  High end places will have gas or wood fire or charcoal setups or planchas for that kind of thing. Induction is nice to have around, but if it's all that you have around, you're missing out.

Edited by btbyrd (log)
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@LocalHeroNo, that wasn't on the highest setting.   I don't remember what the setting was, possibly 8?  I've posted another picture when it was set around 6.  My cooktop goes from 1 through 10 and also has a booster function for if you are in a hurry or have a big pot of liquid to bring to a boil.  It also has a keep warm feature.  The levels run from one through ten and you can increase/decrease any one of those levels by 1/2.  So 22 settings?

20220222_195957.jpg

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Well I appreciate the replies but I'm disappointed in the info.  It seems like this is an inherent problem with induction cooking and I never heard it mentioned when I was looking into them.  This morning I was frying 3 over-easy eggs and it really highlighted how uneven it cooks.    I'm assuming the coil must be bigger than 5" or so.   I had figured that more than one coil would go into effect when the "auto sizing" detected a larger pan.   I hadn't tried the biggest burner but I just did now and it seemed to have a bigger ring but maybe 6" instead of 5".    The ring pattern on the burner is a good 12" across and suggests at least 3 separate rings so I was assuming that would match the coil arrangement.  

 

I also only have 10 settings... no half settings here.

 

TicTac, some cities (and I think states) are banning gas stoves in new construction.  It's viewed as a culprit in global warming and also is considered bad for your indoor air quality.  

20220223_182308.jpg

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I should mention that if my pan is considerably smaller than the burner, that burner will not come on.  I don't have a problem searing meat, it sears evenly.  If I make say, pancakes, I do need to move the outside rim of the pancake to the inside to get 100% even blowing.  My induction unit is a Thermador, if that makes any difference.

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13 hours ago, LocalHero said:

banning gas stoves in new construction.  It's viewed as a culprit in global warming and also is considered bad for your indoor air quality.  

 

I'm wondering if this is because it's just easier than making the real changes (congestion pricing, better mass transit, etc. etc.) that might actually make a difference.

 

As both @dcarch and @paulraphael have noted, every change to be made has a related cost - be it environmental, affordability for the masses, etc. etc. I believe there are no free lunches.

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Agree with all that @btbyrd said above. The gripe I’d add to the list is the constant second guessing that induction burners do:

 

  • I briefly take the pan off the heat, they assume I’m done cooking and shut down
  • I try to cook on high for a while, they assume I’ve forgotten something and turn themselves down
  • i put a tray or something else on the top (away from the one burner that’s on), they go into full meltdown mode and turn off the whole unit

literally none of this happens with my gas range. If I leave a pan on too high too long and it burns the food, that’s on me and that’s fine. On induction I’ve lost count of the number of times the “intelligent” unit has messed things up for me by trying to protect me. 
 

they're great for boiling water but I can’t think of a single other thing I’d use induction in preference to gas. 

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35 minutes ago, &roid said:

Agree with all that @btbyrd said above. The gripe I’d add to the list is the constant second guessing that induction burners do:

 

  • I briefly take the pan off the heat, they assume I’m done cooking and shut down
  • I try to cook on high for a while, they assume I’ve forgotten something and turn themselves down
  • i put a tray or something else on the top (away from the one burner that’s on), they go into full meltdown mode and turn off the whole unit

literally none of this happens with my gas range. If I leave a pan on too high too long and it burns the food, that’s on me and that’s fine. On induction I’ve lost count of the number of times the “intelligent” unit has messed things up for me by trying to protect me. 
 

they're great for boiling water but I can’t think of a single other thing I’d use induction in preference to gas. 

 

If I take my pan off the heat, that burner stays on for 1 minute and 30 seconds then shuts off.  I just timed it.

Mine has never shut itself down, but that is not to say it wouldn't, under particular circumstances.

If I have something cooking on a burner and I put something anywhere on the cooktop but not on the control panel, nothing happens.  If it touches the control panel, it will get excited and beep until you move it but the burner stays on.  It's possible that if the foreign object stays on the control panel for any length of time, the unit could shut down.  It has never happened to me.  If you are interested, I can check the manual.

 

When we lived in our house I had an Electrolux Induction stove and loved it.  When we moved into this condo, it had one of those horrible radiant heat flat cooktops.  I hated it which is why we bought this one.  I have also had gas, and there was not a single burner that would go low enough to simmer.  

 

I love induction.

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16 hours ago, LocalHero said:

Well I appreciate the replies but I'm disappointed in the info.  It seems like this is an inherent problem with induction cooking and I never heard it mentioned when I was looking into them.  This morning I was frying 3 over-easy eggs and it really highlighted how uneven it cooks.    I'm assuming the coil must be bigger than 5" or so.   I had figured that more than one coil would go into effect when the "auto sizing" detected a larger pan.   I hadn't tried the biggest burner but I just did now and it seemed to have a bigger ring but maybe 6" instead of 5".    The ring pattern on the burner is a good 12" across and suggests at least 3 separate rings so I was assuming that would match the coil arrangement.  

 

I also only have 10 settings... no half settings here.

 

TicTac, some cities (and I think states) are banning gas stoves in new construction.  It's viewed as a culprit in global warming and also is considered bad for your indoor air quality.  

20220223_182308.jpg

 

 

The current narrative in the media is that everything contributes to warming (i only exaggerate a little) and there is uncritical reporting of every wisp of "news" on the subject.  Most of it is clickbait, I think.

 

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6 hours ago, ElsieD said:

 

If I take my pan off the heat, that burner stays on for 1 minute and 30 seconds then shuts off.  I just timed it.

 

Mine gives me three beeps - maybe five or six seconds - and then shuts off. I'm pretty sure that setting can be changed, and one day I'll finally remember to look it up.

 

It's irritating, but I work around it. And use my cheap-crap induction hob for everything, though admittedly my "everything" is much less diverse (and demanding) than those of most present.

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