An induction burner is a type of burner used for countertop cooking that uses inductive heating. Instead of flames, it uses both electricity and magnetism to heat a cooking vessel. The heat is generated by the cooking vessel itself rather than through a burner or standard electrical plates. Some advantages of induction burners over traditional cooktops are their efficiency, safety, and speed. They were used originally by professional chefs, but are becoming increasingly available as a high-end kitchen item.
The basic parts of an induction burner include electrical components, coils, and the ceramic top. An electric current flows through the coils from the electric components. These coils then generate an electromagnetic field that passes through the ceramic top. Heat is not yet present at that point. The actual heat is generated by the cooking vessel when it encounters the electromagnetic field.
As of 2008, most induction burners on the market are of the built-in cooktop type. Installation can be difficult and will add considerably to the cost of the unit. There are a few freestanding and portable models that are useful for catering and buffet services.
Cooking with an induction burner is energy efficient. Heat is transferred directly into the cooking vessel, and less heat is wasted as it does not conduct in the cooktop nor dissipate into the surrounding air. The top remains cool during and after cooking, and it emits no fumes, radiation, or flames. It is safer than conventional burners, which retain heat long after cooking is done. Because inductive heating is direct, food is heated up to 50 percent quicker than conventional burners.
Induction burners must be used with a cooking pot or pan with flat a bottom. The cooking vessel should be made of ferrous or magnetic material, such as stainless steel or cast iron, in order to conduct the electromagnetic current. These burners will not work with cooking vessels made of aluminum, copper, or pyrex.
Another drawback is that induction burner cooktops are more expensive compared to traditional burners. A single induction burner cost anywhere from $1,500 to $3,500 US Dollars (USD) in 2008. It may be cost efficient in the long run because less electricity is used for half the cooking time.
The use of induction burners originated in Asia and Europe. They were first introduced to North America in high-end restaurant kitchens around the late 1990s. The high price tag and poor understanding of the new technology resulted in weak sales. Renewed marketing efforts and lower prices in the early 2000s increased sales.