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Is Induction a Better, Safer Cooking Method?

What do you think of induction cooking?  Is it safe? 

Answer (Published 12/16/2008)

Induction cooking usually heats foods faster than other cooking methods. It works when electricity passes through magnetic elements under the cooktop's glass-covered surface, creating a magnetic field that heats pots and pans and the food they contain.

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According to Consumer Reports, the newest induction cooktops broke the organization's speed record for bringing six quarts of water to a near boil, simmered sauce flawlessly, and remained relatively cool because most of the heat generated goes into the pan, not the kitchen. Induction elements can also shut down automatically when you take the pot off the cooktop, even if you forget to turn them off.

In addition, newer induction cooktops can sense what is sitting on a burner and automatically adjust energy output to the size of the pan. The big negative is that these cooktops are costly - they start at about $1,800 and (again, according to Consumer Reports) go up to about $3,500.

Since induction cooktops use an electromagnetic current, you must use magnetic cookware. If you don't, no heat will be produced. True stainless steel (alloys made from iron and other metals such as nickel) and cast iron pots and pans work best while those made of copper or aluminum won't heat up at all. You can determine if your current cookware can be used on an induction cooktop by doing a magnet test: if the magnet sticks to the cookware, your pots and pans should work fine - providing that they have flat bottoms (textured bottoms don't heat evenly).

Although there may be some question about exposure to electromagnetic fields, overall, induction cooking is very safe. Some years ago, I had one of the original magnetic stove tops and liked it a lot, but I couldn't get parts for maintenance so I had to give it up. It uses very little power, is instantly responsive and nonpolluting. I think it is a good cooking method.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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