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Induction Induction

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I honestly believe that in 20 years we’ll look back at electric and gas stovetops the way we chuckle at vacuum tubes and crank-start car engines. There’s just no competing with induction stoves: They're more energy efficient, which will come in handy after the apocalypse. They allow for more precise temperature control. And they look badass.

Until recently, the only factor keeping me from buying my own induction stovetop was cost. Built-in units cost thousands; portable burners haven’t been much cheaper. I'd also have to replace all of my pots and pans: In order to work with induction heat, pots and pans need to be ferrous—that is, made of a magnetic material, such as iron, steel or the right kind of stainless steel. A quick test when buying your next pan: if it holds a magnet, it’ll work on induction.

But things have changed. Not only are cookware manufacturers making the majority of new pots and pans induction-friendly, the technology itself is getting more affordable. Whereas the portable induction burners (such as this one, from Viking) used to run $500 and up, there are new burners (such as this one, from Fagor) that cost about half as much.

Last week I tested out Circulon’s new $250 portable induction burner at home. Because my kitchen is essentially a closet with running water, I appreciated its turntable size and efficiency; my kitchen didn’t get nearly as hot as it does when I use my gas range. The induction burner was also faster—a pot of water came to a boil in about half the time I’m used to with gas. And don’t forget portable; when searing smoke-emitting steaks, I simply set the induction burner up next to an open window. There were a couple of drawbacks: The machine turned itself off when my cast-iron grill pan got too hot. The temperature-based control wasn’t very accurate. And the noise! There’s one thing gas and electric stoves still have on induction: They’re quiet. At one point, my roommate yelled from the living room, “Why are you drying your hair in the kitchen?” (Record straight: I do not own nor ever have owned a hair dryer, hair diffuser or any other electric-powered hair appliance. Unless you count my Flowbee.)

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