What about induction cooktops? There are some out there, but the penetration of this technology, originally developed in Japan nearly 30 years ago, in the U.S. remains quite small. Induction is more common in Europe and Asia than in the U.S. Available cooktops with induction choices remain quite expensive compared to traditional resistance electric or gas burner stoves.
The important thing to remember is that glass, copper, and aluminum cookware will not work on induction “burners”. The reason for this is that only magnetic materials–i.e. iron and steel–can be heated by induction. In Europe and in the U.S. many traditional aluminum pans are now being sold with a magnetic stainless disk impact bonded to the bottom of the pan in order to impart the desired magnetic characteristics. Stainless steel pans may or may not work, it all depends on if the pan has a carbon steel or a 440 stainless (the so-called magnetic stainless) layer inside the stainless steel or bonded to the bottom of the pan.
On the positive side, induction units are efficient in that they don’t waste energy heating anything other than the pan itself. The heat is quite controllable, much like gas is. You turn down an induction “burner” and it ceases to heat the pan immediately. Typically the induction unit is covered with a hard, heat resistant smooth surface that is easy to clean.
The negative? Well there’s the cost. For instance, Sears advertises a slide in 30″ induction range for over $2,900. A Whirlpool conventional range from Sears cost: $479. That’s a lot of difference. Until major appliance producers get the price of induction units down to neighborhood of conventional cook tops and ranges, I predict a continued uphill slog for this product which does show promise, just not an economical one.
Update, September 15: Someone must have heard me! Samsung has just announced a four-burner induction unit for just under $2,000 which is available now at select retailers and which will be widely available by the end of month. Here’s a link to the actual press release.