Gear Reviews: Nuwave Portable Induction Cooktop
A lot of people ask me about the gear I use in my kitchen sessions and cooking demos - and the most asked-about piece of equipment has to be my NuWave portable induction cooktop (or induction range, or induction stove, or induction burner, whatever you wanna call it; the manufacturer calls it cooktop, so that’s what I’m calling it). Many people are still trying to figure out the whole induction thing and want to know more about it, so here’s what I know on the subject along with a review of my experience with this particular brand and model.
As a note of full disclosure: if you are interested in purchasing any NuWave induction cooktops or cookware through Amazon, following my associate links in this post will kick back a small percentage my way. I appreciate you supporting me and hope you find this content of value to you in your pursuit of better home cooking!
What is an induction cooktop: how an induction cooktop works
Most methods of cooking food involve putting food and/or the cookware containing the food in contact with something hot.
A stovetop gets hot or creates flames, making the pan on it hot.
A grill gets hot, making the food on it hot.
The air inside an oven gets hot, making the pan and the food hot.
A fryer gets hot, making the oil in it hot, which then makes the food in it hot.
Induction works differently. An induction cooktop uses a powerful electromagnet to get the metal ions in the cookware moving super fast, creating a type of friction that causes the portion of the pan in direct contact with the magnetic surface to get hot. The heat is created in the cookware, NOT the cooktop.
Induction cooktop vs gas - which is better?
I always used to believe gas was the only way to go. After all, when I thought electric range, I thought of the old stove I had in college with the metal coil that took forever to heat up -- and then forever to cool down again; then there’s the glorified toaster rings under a pane of glass that behave in much the same fashion. Neither of them can hold a candle to what induction can do: converting electricity into magnetism and magnetism into heat.
The thing about gas that always appealed to me was its reactivity and efficiency. Gas gets a pan hotter faster than the conventional electric models. It also works better in reverse - if you turn down the flame, the pan cools down. Yet, when you think about it, much of the heat from your natural gas or propane flame is heating up the air under and around the pan (as well as the handles), so there’s a good bit of wasted energy.
Compare this to an induction cooktop: the pan, in direct contact with the range, gets hot almost instantly at the touch of a button, cools down just as fast, and virtually no wasted energy. It’s genius, I tell you.
The other benefit to no open flames is that the heat (for the most part) stays with the pan: the cooktop itself stays relatively cool to the touch, and the handles of the cookware do not get hot at all. All the heat is in the part of the pan in contact with the heating element.
So, why buy an induction cooktop?
I personally can’t think of any reason NOT to buy one, unless you’re planning to do a lot of cooking where there is no access to an electrical outlet. As you will see, they are lightweight, portable, versatile, reliable, safe, and very affordable. (If you’re worried about power outages, having access to natural gas, propane, or butane cooking equipment does have its place.)
What induction cooktop is best?
This is not intended to be a comparison of a wide range of models, so I can’t say with certainty that the model I use is the best on the market. What I can say is that, on my first try, I happened upon a cooktop with which I am very happy, and I think you’ll be pleased with it when you get one.
Review of NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop
The NuWave PIC cooktop is my cooktop of choice at home and on the go. Let me tell you why I like it so much.
My NuWave portable induction cooktop is lightweight and round - unlike other heavier, boxier varieties I’ve seen and held. I also really like the optional carrying case, since I’m lugging mine around to various places for my demonstrations and kitchen sessions.
Like most induction cooktops, the PIC plugs into a standard outlet, which means you can use it anywhere that gets electricity: in the house, on the deck, in the garage, in the office, at a park shelter, or even most campgrounds.
Many of the low-cost induction cooktops give you very little in the way of control: you’re stuck with low, medium, high, and blazing hot. What if I want something in between? What temperature is medium anyway?
That’s what’s nice about this NuWave model: yes, it does have six presets from low to sear, and it shows you the temperature of each. It also gives you the flexibility to adjust the temperature up or down by 10-degree increments and a range of 100 to 575 degrees Fahrenheit. I have found this function extremely helpful in my kitchen sessions. For example, when we’re learning how to make a chowder, we can bring the soup up to a rolling boil and then crank the temperature down to just the right spot to keep it at a bare simmer - which can vary from workstation to workstation.
Another point I should mention here is the accuracy of the temperature settings. I have used another, cheaper model of induction cooktop that claimed to be bringing a pot of frying oil to a certain temperature, yet the thermometer in the pot did not match the reading on the machine. I have found the NuWave temperature settings to be very accurate; even if they are off by a few degrees, you again have the ability to shift up or down by 10 degrees on the fly.
There are so many things you can do with this baby:
I’ve used it for more obvious applications, like sauteing, boiling, and simmering,
I’ve put a pot of oil on it, set it to 350-375 degrees, and used it as a deep fryer,
I’ve placed a cast iron skillet on it and used it for braising and stir-frying,
And I’ve turned it into a grill with a cast iron grill pan.
Is there anything it can’t do?!
It’s versatility also extends to where it can be used. As a chef performing cooking demonstrations and hands-on kitchen sessions, I’m preparing food in many different places: in homes, inside businesses or offices, and sometimes outdoors. I feel comfortable taking my NuWave induction cooktop anywhere because, 1) there are no open flames to bring into a building or outside in the wind and elements, and 2) it cooks the same anywhere, anytime, under any conditions.
As I mentioned earlier, an induction range only heats the part of the pan that is in direct contact with the heating element. No matter how long the cookware is on the unit, the handles will never get hot. However, I do want to make mention that some units (including this one) may have an element that is smaller in diameter than the base of the cookware. Although the surface may be about 14 inches in diameter, the actual magnet is inside of the thin red-lined circle, so any part of the cookware outside that space will not be as hot. See the image above.
I also want to warn that, if you are using this unit for an application that requires long periods of steady heat, the plastic will become hot, so don’t think you can simmer a soup on there for 45 minutes and it still be cool to the touch. Plastic is not extremely conductive of heat, but it does get pretty warm. Always use caution when handling your cooktop during and just after cooking on it.
Induction Ready Cookware
Does an induction cooktop require special pans?
This is a common concern among those interested in getting an induction cooktop: “will I have to buy all new pans for my kitchen?”
My answer: probably not.
I’d venture a guess and say most of the pots and pans in your kitchen will work with an induction range, but there are some that will not. Anything that is cast iron, steel, or inlaid with iron (such as magnetic stainless steel) will work. Pots made from aluminum, glass, or copper will not react unless they are layered with something magnetic. To find out if your current pans will work with induction, simply take a magnet to them: if it sticks, it works.
If you are in the market for new pans, many manufacturers have added a symbol to indicate induction readiness.
NuWave Induction Ready Cookware
NuWave not only makes their own line of induction cooktops; they also have a wide variety of induction ready cookware to use with them.
I purchased the 7-piece set to use in my hands-on kitchen sessions. As I mentioned with the cooktop, this is the only brand of induction ready cookware I have bought, but I really like them. They, too, are lightweight, and the Duralon Ceramic coating is terrific. Even notoriously sticky things like eggs or chowder soups slide off with ease!
One note of caution on care and cleaning: the coating can lose its non-stick quality with improper storage or scrubbing. Be sure not to nest them with other pans; place something protective between the pans to avoid scratching. When it comes to cleaning, stick to hot water, soap, and a washcloth or non-abrasive sponge. If you follow those steps, your cookware should last a long time.
I hope this helps you in determining whether or not to invest in an induction cooktop. I never realized how much I'd enjoying using one until I got one. Thanks again for using the Amazon Associate links on this page to lend financial support to this blog, and be sure to let me know if you end up purchasing a cooktop or cookware and tell me what you think!