Induction cooking is an emerging technology, one that differs from traditional gas and electric range cooking. You might be interested in its performance or still getting used to this idea of cooking. It’s a radical shift! I get it. From knowing whether an induction cooktop gets hot to child safety to speed to energy-efficiency, these are things people want to know about when looking to buy an induction cooktop.
Does your induction cooktop get hot? One of the biggest selling points of induction cooktops is the fact that their cooking surfaces do not get hot. This means that users are safer from burns, and that clean up is easier because spills don’t get burnt on. However, many people are surprised to find that their cooking surface is hot after use. It’s important to know why and what to do about it.
You may have seen the advertisements for induction cooktops where they use a pot or pan that has been cut in half. While the cooktop boils water inside the pan on one side, the other half of the cooking surface remains so cool that the ice doesn’t melt much less burn a person who touches it.
So why then, when you get your induction cooktop set up at home, do your find that the cooktop surface gets hot?
Why Does Your Induction Cooktop Get Hot?
Understanding where the heat comes from and where it goes is the key to understanding how your induction cooktop works to heat your food and why the surface might be warm or hot when you touch it.
While their cooking technology makes them much safer than open flames or electric heating coils, their use still involves making things hot, and knowledge is the key to avoiding unfortunate accidents.
We all know that a gas range uses open flames to produce heat and that this heat is transferred to the pot or pan and then the food inside. This heating process is pretty inefficient.
All you have to do to take note of this fact is feel for heat on the surfaces around the cooking surface. All of the heat lost to areas other than the pot or pan and food inside is the energy that got used up without contributing to the goal.
Electric vs induction cooktops
Electric stovetops are more efficient than gas ranges when it comes to getting more of the heat energy to the cooking pot or pan. But they are still less efficient than induction cooktops when it comes to getting the most heating done possible with the amount of energy that goes into it.
In addition to that, electric ranges are less responsive to adjustments than either gas ranges or induction cooktops.
So, what is the process that takes place on an induction cooktop that results in hot food? Why is it more efficient than gas or electric? What makes it safer? And, perhaps most importantly, if it is so safe and efficient—why do you still need to be careful around the cooktop after using it?
How Induction Works
Induction cooktops use friction to produce heat. This happens when a coil in the cooktop is energized, which turns it into an electromagnet.
If the pot or pan that you are cooking in is made of a ferromagnetic material, the magnetic pull of the cooking coil will draw on the molecules in the pot or pan. Their response to that magnetic pull creates friction that generates heat.
This entire process takes place within the material of the pot or pan.
As such, there is no heat generated by or in the cooking surface. That’s why the cooking surface stays cool when there is no pan on the surface or if you use a pan made of solid ceramic, glass, aluminum, or copper. The friction generated in the pan generates heat that is transferred directly to the contents within.
I cover the pots and pans that work on these cooktops in my article on the best induction suitable cookware.
Since the heat source is a magnet rather than an open flame or an electrical coil, the process is not only more efficient but also safer.
A gas or electric range will remain hot enough to cause burns for a considerable time after it is turned off. They are also capable of causing burns if they are inadvertently turned on when no pot or pan is on the surface.
It’s hard to miss a gas range burner when it is active, but since the cooking surface doesn’t get glowing hot, it’s hard to know it is still hot when the cooking is through.
An electrical range has glowing coils and warning lights to let people know there is a hot surface. Induction cooktops also have warning lights, but you probably wonder why if the surface isn’t supposed to get hot. It’s to warn of residual heat transference.
Residual Heat Transference
You probably wouldn’t take a pot full of boiling water, simmering stew, or some other hot food directly from the stovetop to your granite countertop or your wooden kitchen table.
You would use something like a potholder, a cooling rack, or a trivet to protect those surfaces from being heat damaged by the pan. Well, the cooking surface of your induction cooktop is no different than those other surfaces.
When you heat a pot on an induction cooktop, some of the heat from the pot will be transferred to the cooking surface. Since heat tends to rise, the amount of heat energy lost to the cooking surface will be minimal, but it does happen.
If you were to put your hand on the cooking surface immediately after removing a pot of boiling water, you would feel the heat—in fact; you might get burned.
The heat that is transferred dissipates rapidly but not instantly. So, it is important to recognize the potential danger to you and your family.
It’s not the same amount of risk that you would find on a gas range or an electric cooktop, but it is worth worrying about. That’s why most induction ranges come with a warning light that alerts users to a hot surface.
If you don’t know how induction cooktops work and just take the commercials and infomercials at their word, you might not realize that a reduced risk of burns is not the same as zero risks of burns. Because heating occurs, heat will be present.
Heat can be transferred from one material to another. If enough is transferred from the pot or pan to the cooktop, then the cooktop will get hot enough to burn a user.
Induction Cooktop Safety
As we’ve already noted, most induction cooktops are equipped with a warning light that lets users know when the cooking surface is hot.
It’s important to consult the owner’s manual of your induction cooktop to determine if yours has a warning light and where that light is.
In addition to the warning light, it’s important to understand how the cooling fan on your induction cooktop works.
As you become familiar with your cooktop, you’ll get a better understanding of how long it takes the cooking surface to cool completely after use. Until you know your cooktop well enough to be sure that you are safe, proceed with caution.
Because induction cooktops are still a fairly new technology, many people don’t fully understand how they work. As a result, people might not know how to use them safely.
Advertisements that fail to give us the full story can set us up for a bad situation.
Induction cooktops have many advantages, especially the two or single burner types that I cover in my article on portable induction cookers.
In order to avoid negative consequences, it’s important to know how induction cooktops work and how to use them safely.