Hands on with induction/brands with safety technology

mtimmerMarch 25, 2014

We're considering induction for our cooktop as part of a gut remodel, but we're a bit nervous since it's new technology. (By that I mean, new to us--I know it's been around a while.) What doesn't help is that unlike a gas cooktop where you can play around with the knobs, 95% of the induction cooktops I see aren't turned on, which means they just look like a nice piece of glass with circles on it. Presumably, how the controls work would be a major part of our decision, but we're just not sure how to test that. Is our experience common or are we looking in the wrong appliance stores?

I also have a bonus question: the safety aspect of induction is also a major appeal to us, but I'm not sure we've sorted that out through the various manufacturers. I *think* that Bosch and Miele seem to be the leaders here in terms of having timers in the hobs and technology that senses that you've left a burner running too long. Am I correct in that or are there other brands that I should also include in that discussion?

Thanks Team GW!

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There are variations among induction cooktops that make complete generalization difficult. I believe the following to be true:

Electricity is a safer heating and cooking source than gas, but have no supporting reference beyond years of reading the news.

Induction is a safer cooktop technology than electric coil due to the lower temperature of the cooktop, particularly if the pans are gapped from the cooktop by thin pieces of silicone rubber.

My induction cooktop uses electronic touch controls to set the power (watts) coupled into the pan; some other designs use knobs. One expects touch controls to be easier to accidentally change, but they do require some pressure. It is possible to brush across touch controls with hands or damp towels and induce changes, but this is rare and easily corrected.

Because induction transfers heat more efficiently than gas or coil, it is possible (and initially likely) to induce boiling much sooner than one expects. I always set a WestBend timer when I have a hob set at a level that will overheat the pan if allowed to run indefinitely, and have learned what setting will allow stable cooking or boiling once the pan contents achieve the desired temperature.

For all the positive aspects of induction unrelated to safety, search "induction" on this forum and sit back for a long read.


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 10:30AM
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A good way to find out about the operations of various cooktops is to go to the manufacturers' websites, where you can look at the owners' manuals. They will show you how the controls work, whether there are automatic off switches, etc.

A great many of the induction cooktops out there (perhaps most or almost all, but I don't know the numbers more than a feeling that it's very common) will turn off the elements a few seconds after you lift your pan, and I think some actually pause while you're lifting and just preserve your setting for when you put the pan down again. A similar wide variety turn themselves off if you haven't fiddled with them for four hours, or similar. Something to remember if you're simmering all day. :)

In addition, many have a "doorbell" setting, that turns everything off at once. Mine just has a power on/off, which accomplishes the same thing.

For operations, each company is different. There are up/down circles which you tap tap tap to change the number, sometimes with shortcut circles for low, high, and, if you're lucky, medium. Some have a slider you draw your finger across. Some have circles that you just hold your finger on while the numbers change.

I have a Gaggenau, which has a magnetic knob like a little air hockey paddle. You turn it to adjust the temperature or the timer, and you push it toward the readout for the element you want to control to select that element before you turn to adjust the setting.

Many cooktops require you to select the element first, from a central control area. Others have separate controls for each element. Some, like mine, have separate readouts for each element, whereas others with central control have only one readout, so you have to select to see what your level is. The ones with sliders, and some others, give you a graphic representation of the level of the setting, whereas most give you a number.

The numbers usually go from 1-9. Most nowadays have half levels, 1.5, 2.5, etc. This can show as a number on the readout, or just as a dot: 1, 1., 2, 2., etc. A few years back, Miele let you change between nine levels (no halfs), and 17 (standard number with halfs), but you had to choose it as an option from the back of the manual. That kind of thing makes it important to look really closely. I had to show that to the representatives in the Miele showroom--it had only been open a few months, but still!

Another good safety feature is a boil over sensor. Some units have it, some don't. Mine doesn't, specifically, but it will shut off if there's a puddle over the controls, so it would turn off in a serious boil over.

Many units also will turn themselves off if the electronics get overheated. While it's true that the cooking heat comes from the pot, and the heat of the glass comes from the pot, too, the magnets do also create waste heat. There are fans to disperse it and keep the electronics from melting down (hyperbole, but they could get fried without). The installation instructions show you how to have a sufficient air volume in the cabinetry below to provide cooling air for the fans. Usually, it's an open volume in a cabinet, or a channel behind, if it's drawers. This is another thing to be aware of when simmering all day. I sometimes have to open a drawer to let in some cooler air for cooling the electronics.

Yet another common safety feature is the child lockout. If you allow kitties to walk on your kitchen counters it also keeps them from fiddling with the controls. It's also important, even if you have no children or cats, to know how to undo it if it gets accidentally tripped. :) One great feature of my Gaggenau, even though it also has a child lockout, is that one can disable the unit by removing the knob (it's flat glass underneath--the knob is just held on with a magnet). This is also a drawback, because a mischievous child can also remove the knob and hold it for ransom.

Many units will also have a tizzy if you put cookware (i.e., steel/iron) on top of the controls, or if you rest your hand on them. They'll start beeping in a scolding way, flashing or something, or maybe just turn off. Which is good, because you wouldn't want them taking casual intransigence for commands.

Touch controls are great because they keep the whole unit sealed. No worries about liquid and crumbs. A downfall, however, is that they kind of depend on your fingers being warm, which is another reason I like my knob. The on/off, timer on/off, boost and memory are all touch control, and if my hands are too cold from refrigerated veg, ice, or something, it's annoying. I'd really hate it if I had that kind of trouble during cooking.

Do call around to some of the showrooms and see if they have units plugged in on display. If you're rural, perhaps make an appointment with a place in your nearest city. I was able to test quite a few before I made my choice.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 1:36PM
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There are up/down circles which you tap tap tap to change the number, sometimes with shortcut circles for low, high, and, if you're lucky, medium. Some have a slider you draw your finger across. Some have circles that you just hold your finger on while the numbers change.

Two of the things I like most about my Bosch 500 series induction cooktop are the individual hob timers (which I use daily) and the fact that it's "direct select" (no tap-tap-tapping, no sliding, just select the level you want with one press, which makes it very easy to go from, for example, boiling (9) to simmering (2 or 3)).

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:23PM
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Those are some mighty helpful answers and I very much appreciate the detail given. I actually have been going through owners' manuals to see how the controls work, but that's no substitute for being able to play around with them. For example, I think I'd rather have a slider (or a dial), but I don't really know until I try them out.

That said, apparently you can find more than a token cooktop that's actually working. I live in Southern California so I think that means I just need to get out and try more appliance stores.

I also like the safety features that you mentioned, which (from what I can tell) are mainly found on the Bosch and the Miele. From an "aging in place" perspective, we'd like our cooktop to be as safe as possible, so we feel these are valuable features.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:29PM
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just curious...
How many years does a technology need to be out before it loses its New Tech moniker?
10 years ?
20 years ?
30 years ?

Consumer Induction cooking products have been available for over 40 years now but it's still called new tech.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 6:45PM
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The safety features are pretty much "Universal" among the induction cooktops. Most all will shut off if something boils over, and most all have protection circuits to protect the actual hobs from too much heat.

In fact, I have yet to read about any induction cooktop that has overheated or melted a pan, which is easy to do with a radiant cooktop.

The fact that the cooktop only gets hots under the pot/pan is also a great safety feature, I do recall how hot our entire radiant cooktop got~~~soooo glad we got rid of that thing!!

What sets the Bosch and Miele apart are the "real timers"~~~when they time out, they shut off the hob.

I've had an Electrolux Icon for 5 years now, and in those 5 years I've only had it shut down once, I spilled the pot of boiling spaghetti water on it, whilst removing it from the cooktop, It shut down, I wiped off the water, and it turned right back on.

Another safety feature of just about all induction cooktops is if you remove a pan/pot from the hob and leave it removed for more than 3 minutes, the hob shuts off.
This could be an even more important safety feature, as we age, Ya Thinks?


    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 6:45PM
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Excellent point, javkis! But induction was news to my wife and I (we're in our late 50s) until I started getting prepped on GW. I think that unlike other consumer products (TVs and such) appliances stay in place for a very long time and we don't think about what has changed.

That's why this is a HUGE decision for us and the more safety features that we can find in a specific product, the better the value proposition in choosing induction. That's because *unknown* is a big part of any value proposition.

Everyone here is waaaay more advanced than we are. We're getting there, but I must admit we're getting there slowly.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 11:30PM
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Reverse your priorities:
Go for long standard (or extended) warranty not fancy names.
Try theinductionsite.com for lots of good background info.
If you have gas now, think about sticking with it a bit longer, perhaps. If radiant electric, go with induction. Be aware today's radiant ranges and such will be doing well to reach 10 years and shopping the wrong outlets for the "good price" overseas made stuff can deliver you to bad service prehell even more unwelcome than that of domestic makers.
It's a different world out there now and the smiling faces usually disappear rather quickly at the slightest hint you are coming to them with a problem re your purchase.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bad experiences site

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Thanks for the tip about the induction site--it looks like it will be very helpful! Since we're doing a gut remodel of a home we will soon be moving into, there's nothing to stick with at the moment. We've always had gas (particularly after eating beans), so the assumption was we would have a gas cooktop in the new home. Then I started reading how much everyone here digs induction, which corresponded with a week in which my wife twice absent mindedly left the gas burner on at our current home.

But after all the good advice on this thread, my wife told me last night that she's leaning against induction. While I still like the idea, she does 70% of the cooking so I will respect her wishes. Maybe the induction website you referenced will make her change her mind!

As to bad experiences, that scares the crud out of me with all of our potential appliance purchases! It seems that as a whole they're not nearly as reliable as they use to be.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:03PM
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my wife told me last night that she's leaning against induction.


    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 2:04PM
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My wife and I switched from our beloved Wolf gas range to our Gaggenau induction top about a year and a half ago. We haven't had one regret. Period. It is just so darn quick and the control is so fine. My biggest like is the clean up aspect. I would rather clean the induction top 10 times before i would clean our old gas range top once. For that they aren't even in the same universe as far as I am concerned. I don't think I have heard or read about someone who has regretted the switch?? Like anything though there will be a slight learning curve.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:03PM
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I think a lot of my wife's concerns come down to familiarity. She's cooked on a gas cooktop forever (as have I). She says she likes being able to see the size of the flames and likes the idea of knobs better than something she touches. (I do realize there are induction cooktops with knobs, but they're more at the expensive end of the range from what I can tell.) She's concerned about electronics versus the basic simplicity of a gas cooktop.

In all fairness, I'm mildly apprehensive about those things as well. So even though I'm ready to make the switch to induction, I can understand her point.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:06PM
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I hope you get to try it before you make a final decision. I'm concerned about the electronics too, but as far as control goes (not to mention cleaning, which is a breeze with induction), nothing beats induction (I have had coil electric, radiant electric, gas and induction).

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:15PM
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Why don't you take your wife to a demonstration at Purcell Murray, and make an appointment to make sure she'll also be able to try induction out herself. They have chefs in regularly to show off their products.

She might not want to change her pots and adjust her way of cooking, or she might want a fancy range, but she should have all the facts before she decides, which means trying it. :)

I came into this thinking Wolf rangetop, but folks here in the Appliances forum were importing induction from New Zealand and Canada, and a few were coming on the market commonly in the U.S. after a long drought. By the time I was ready to buy, I was sold on induction and it was readily available everywhere. I had the luxury of not having to choose. I got a two burner Wolf gas cooktop and my three element induction. This is also useful in a blackout. :) But if you have a good grill or barbecue you're covered for that. :)

I don't use the gas often. I do when I need all burners for company, and gas is better for things like toasting tortillas. But a lot of the time, I don't even think about it. It's induction all the way.

Re The Induction Site, it is useful, but I don't think the equipment part has been updated recently.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:25PM
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Getting your hands on one is the best way to decide about induction. I had my heart set on a big honkin Wolf range, because I'd cooked on gas before and loved it. But I was really intrigued by all the reviews of induction on this site. So I went to Ebay and bought a refurb Viking induction burner. I was sold in the first 15 minutes of use. My new kitchen has a 5 burner Miele and I've never regretted it once. I cook from scratch, and I use it multiple times per day--pretty much every day. I absolutely love it. Excellent control, plenty of power, and cleanup is ridiculously easy. Before making her final decision, she owes it to herself to find a working model and give it a spin. Or buy an inexpensive countertop model an use it for a week--realizing, of course, that it's about as powerful as the smallest hob on a built in unit. But even that was enough to totally sell me on this technology. ;-)

Best of luck,


    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 8:48PM
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I second pillog's recommendation for a test drive, especially if you can go to Purcell Murray. Amazing places for an appliance geek (My SoCal cousins tell me there is now one in Huntington Beach now in addition to the one that I went to in Brisbane some years ago when I was last on that coast.)

Getting hands on time -- cleaning up as well as cooking --- is, as they say, priceless. Not everybody likes induction, but most who try it find that they like it a lot.

To be sure, you and your wife might still find that you prefer one or more particular gas cooktops over the specific induction units you try, but, as pillog says, you won't know for sure until you try them out.

I say this as somebody who likes induction a lot --- I've used induction at various times over the last thirty years --- but nonetheless ended up choosing a particual gas range over the two induction stoves I was looking at when I was last stove shopping.

I "get" your wife's preferences for seeing flames while cooking and for having a stove that is simple enough for me to maintain and repair by myslef. I, too, prefer rotary knobs on stoves to digital touchpads, (Unlike some, I'm not opposed to touchpads. After all, I make my living in digital media production. Still, when it comes to stoves, I'm happier turning large knobs.)

But those are only a few of many factors which can affect how well or poorly a stove or cooktop will serve you in your cooking in your kitchen. Every appliance is a mix of attributes and design compomises. You choose a balance that you think may suit you better than another.What I found when I was shopping -- wow, almost three years ago --- was that the balance of factors slightly favored this one particular gas range over the two specific induction ranges I was looking at. Were I shopping today, I would still consider my gas range but the newer models of induction ranges are now available and the balance (for me) might very tip to one of them, instead.

For me, it would really help to lay hands on the actual equipment and get a test drive. Hands on time will likely tell you and you wife more than reams of further commentary here. So, if you can get the opportunity, take it.

And, to go back to one of your original questions about safety features, the boil-over shut-downs work a bit differently on different models and brands. There is a thread currently on chowhound with some discussion of this subject. Apparently, some folks (with JennAir models, IIRC) find it over-sensitive and annoying to them. Others, with different models, report experiences in line with what Gary reported. (I've never had problems with it myself, either.) Here's the link if you want to plow through another induction thread.


This post was edited by JWVideo on Thu, Mar 27, 14 at 21:05

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Test drive !!!! Induction will win you over ... While you can't see the flames you can certainly see how fast the food reacts to your actions .. You have to remember with induction , the pan is your heat source , not the flame heating a pan..reaction time is immediate..You will become at one with your cooktop!!
I'm with you on the knobs , big reason I picked the range I did .. Easy of cleanup can't be stated enough!!!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 6:32AM
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Not to mention how inefficient gas is in comparison. Most of the heat from the flame ends up in the kitchen and not in the pan which can be a problem in warmer climates.


    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:10PM
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Induction was "new technology" to me, too. I had never heard of it until I started hanging around the Appliances thread of GW almost two years ago, when researching a total kitchen remodel. Just reading about it had me sold on it.

Our Thermador (made by Bosch) temp control looks like a slider, but one only has to touch the desired temp level number. No taptaptaptaptap to reach the various levels. That would drive me batty.

@mtimmer - surf around in youtube.com also. Put "induction cooktop" into the search box and you'll get a lot of videos. Some are better than others, but if you cannot get a hands-on test drive, it is the next best thing.

I understand about your wife wanting to stay with gas. So many of my friends do a complete remodel and go from elec. coil to gas. "It's a fast on and off". "I have so much control." Whatever. I have that with induction. We are all 60+ years old and if they don't mind lifting those heavy cast iron grates to clean, more power to them. My arthritic hands have no interest in carrying those things to the sink and scrubbing. Wiping down solid glass is so much easier and only takes a minute, and then voila!, my work is done. And I have no fire hazard worries.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 9:25AM
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I so much appreciate everyone's thoughts on this, plus the leads on how to see how they actually operate. There is a Purcell Murray about 30 miles from here, so that will be immensely helpful. We'll see where we end up!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:56AM
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Mtimmer, are you in SoCal or NorCal? If the latter, I'd be happy to show you mine "in action". (I have the Bosch 500 series 30").

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Thank you for the offer sjhockeyfan! Unfortunately, I'm in Southern California. I would have to say that Bosch 500 series 30" seems like the most likely contender if we do end up going induction and the one that I'd most like my wife to see "in action."

If it turns out that induction is still in the mix, you may hear from me with some questions about your cooktop!

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:03PM
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