“After some exploration among so many kinds, he began to dream of cookers – tall, short, handsome, squat, Dutch ovens, boiler-grillers, waterless cookers, breakfast cookers, baby ovens ….But always he was baffled by the unnecessary food-trapping crevices.”Kathleen Le Riche, Cooking Alone
I travel quite a bit, and sometimes I cook on my beloved Aga, sometimes I use an induction hob, and sometimes an electric-ceramic one; occasionally, when I’m lucky, gas. The electric-ceramic one has given up the ghost and needs to be replaced. I am delighted.
I prod at its touch controls… they skip wildly to top temperature, at other times they are so sluggish I become frantic with impatience. However, on cleaning, the controls of an induction hob will sometimes spring, unbidden, to life.
Also, if water, or any liquid gets onto the touch controls of either type of hob – both ceramic and induction – they don’t function as efficiently as they should. So call me old fashioned but I like knobs. The Smeg Victoria Aesthetic fits the bill.
From the table below the superiority of the induction hob over the electric-ceramic is clear.
But with both there are two other considerations:
The finish – there are four types of finish:
- Standard – full metal border
- Full metal border, but bevelled. The bevelling reduces the number of times a touch control can be accidentally switched on or off by a pan being slid over it.
- Frameless, front facetted. This type might enable you to install a slightly larger hob onto a smaller aperture made for an original standard hob. It looks superb. The front faceting affords the same benefits as the bevelling in (2) above.
And, as I mention above, the controls – there are two types:
- Touch – problems with these as above
- Knobs – miles better. Neff, Smeg, Miele and Viking all offer this option. It is also possible, if you have an oven below the hob, as in the Siemens version below, to have knobs on the vertical fascia. Alternatively, Neff has developed a removable magnetic central control knob. You point the dial towards the element you want to switch on, then you put the dial flat on the surface and turn to achieve the heat you want. I’d be worried about losing the knob, but you can get a couple of spares! See the clip at the bottom of this post for how this removable ‘point and twist’ type knob works.
There is also the ‘domino’ option – abut a couple of gas burners to an induction hob etc, best of all options perhaps if you have limitless space.
|Heat is created by:||Heat is generated by powerful, high-frequency electromagnets which generates a magnetic field which heats the saucepan. The surface of the hob is not heated.||Coiled metal elements under tempered ceramic glass. The coil heats the glass which in turn heats the saucepan.|
|How constant is the heat?||The magnetic field is constant, and therefore so is the heat.||The elements under the ceramic cycle on and off. Heat is not constant.|
|Which is more efficient?||Because the surface of the hob and surrounding air is not heated, induction hobs are more efficient||Having to heat the glass surface makes ceramic hobs less efficient|
|Which offers more control?||Induction hobs react instantaneously to a change in heat settings. They are reactive in the same way that gas is (and preferred to gas by many professional chefs).||The elements in an electrically-heated ceramic top take time to heat up…and cool down.|
|Speed||As a result of control (above) induction hobs can heat up food much more quickly. Cooking time is considerably reduced. An induction hob will boil water faster than a kettle.||The electrically-heated elements take time to get food hot|
|Cost||Induction hobs are more expensive to buy, but more efficient over time and therefore, over the long-term, may be less expensive. Your choice may depend on the health of your cash flow position.||Ceramic hobs are less expensive to buy… but use energy in a much less efficient way so may be a more expensive option over time.|
|Quality of coils||Vary – check the quality carefully||More or less consistent across all makes and models.|
|Safety||That part of the hob which is not covered by a pan will not be hot (although it does get warm from the residual heat of the saucepan) – this means that induction hobs are intrinsically much safer. You will never again melt your best fish slice or burn a tea towel by mistake||Ceramic hobs retain their heat up to five times higher than induction hobs. Most models now have heat indicators to warn that an element is still too hot to touch.|
|Cleaning||Because that part of the element not covered by a pan is not heated, it is much easier to clean spills. Again, gone are the days of browned, hole-ridden and steaming J cloths, and singed scouring sponges.||A spill can bake onto the hot ceramic surface and this can be time consuming to clean up|
|Risk of damage||There is no risk of damage if the elements are not covered||If the elements of a ceramic hob are not covered they can crack. They can also be smashed by anyone being a bit heavy handed with a big casserole.|
|Cookware||Only ferrous pots and pans that react with a magnet will work on an induction hob. Le Creusset/Staub type Dutch ovens are fine. Round bottomed woks are not successful.||Any pot or pan will work on a ceramic hob, although flat saucepans which cover the whole surface of the element work better.
Round bottomed woks don’t work very well on ceramic hobs either.