The next time you’re frying or using a skillet at home, take a careful look at how it all works. Pay attention to not just the stuff in the pan, but the pan itself, and even what’s underneath. It’s all too easy to take your burners for granted, to assume that your cooktop is as good as it gets, whether electric or gas. But even if you don’t want to replace your entire stove or oven, there is a solution. And the same is true for your pans- you don’t have to spend a fortune replacing an entire set, and can simply focus on the small number of pieces that you use most often.
We check out a lot of nifty stuff, from amazing knives to bizarre microwaves. And we’ve also seen and tested induction cooktops in the past- the Fissler CookStar was solid, easy to clean, and precise- but expensive and fairly large. If you don’t have quite that much space, or want to save some money while still enjoying the latest and safest method of cooking, we recommend looking at Hearthware’s NuWave Precision Induction Cooktop. Available for around $120, it’s an impressive price point for a pretty sophisticated piece of kitchen technology.
Let’s start with some induction basics, for those who aren’t familiar. You’ll need capable cookware (more on that shortly), which basically means something that a magnet can stick to. If you use and love your aluminum, copper, or glass cookware, this product isn’t for you. Stainless steel and cast iron work great, though. On the plus side, induction is far more energy efficient- no waste heat means up to 90% less energy use- and it is generally safer (no open flames). It’s cleaner, and important for us, adjusts immediately so you can pinpoint temperatures and change them quickly.
With the Precision Cooktop, you can choose to warm, saute, simmer, boil, or even sear. You won’t quite get that char, but we were impressed at the fairly hot and stable temperatures the unit was capable of, up to 425 degrees. The LCD is fairly easy to use, and controls decent- it will take some getting used to, but you can control the temperature in 10 degree increments. The unit’s completely portable and weighs only five or so pounds, which might not be a big deal for some users, but makes it perfect for use in RVs, smaller apartments, dormitories, and even camping. You can also program the unit for a specific set of instructions- say cooking an item for a long time, then searing towards the end. We didn’t find this feature particularly straight forward since it does involve a fair bit of manual entry, but it’s a nice addition that isn’t available on your gas or electric stovetop. For non-commercial users looking for an inexpensive induction solution, the Precision Induction Cooktop is available now, at a great price.
And for those who don’t already have induction-ready cookware, Hearthware offers some. Their PerfectGreen line is made from stainless steel and uses a Duralon non-stick coating that is free of PFOA and PTFE.. We tried out the Fry Pan, and found it a decent value. We liked that their line is oven-safe, though were disappointed that it is not dishwasher safe. Also, if you’re used to using metal tools on your pans, this one does scratch easily, and should only be used with silicone or wooden tools.
Little to no oil was required, thanks to the decent coating- at first. After a few uses, we did start having some trouble lifting eggs and such with ease. Also, the handle is not great, and the weight is a bit off. In general, you get what you pay for, and this is incredibly affordable cookware. Just be a bit skeptical of their comparison chart (other pans may be more durable, as easy or easier to clean, and offer superior environmental credentials). For $20 though, this is a solid buy for starter or occasional use cookware.