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The tag used to be “cooking with gas” but when it comes to new kitchens, an increasing number of Australians are choosing induction cooktops – which look similar to ceramic cooktops but use a magnetic field to heat the pan and far less electricity.

Their bonuses – a high energy efficiency, a lack of residual heat (one salesperson says “you can be cooking in a frying pan and you can put a block of ice next to it and it’s not going to melt”), and the ease with which the cooktop can be cleaned are convincing more people to ditch their gas burners during kitchen makeovers.

Parents also like the safety features on offer – that the cooktop won’t fire up unless there is a pan on it, and that it shuts off as soon as the pot is lifted. So there’s no more worrying about whether you left the gas on, or whether small children could turn it on themselves.

There is the downside that induction-friendly pans are needed, but a simple test of whether a magnet sticks to the bottom of your cookware will tell you if you already have pots suited to the job.

Twelve months ago, Tom Mullan, owner of Prestige Appliances, which is based in Victoria but sells across the nation, was selling barely any induction cooktops. Now, about 30 per cent of cooktops he trades are induction.

“It’s an education process and I think a lot of the companies now are doing cooking demonstrations and that’s changing the whole industry,” Mullan says.

Asian customers have baulked at induction technology as it has traditionally required a flat-bottomed wok for stir-fries – because only the section of the pan in contact with the cooktop actually heats up. But some brands now include a concave hotplate, especially for woks.

The other group put off by induction has been those aged over 60. “Older people generally tend to shy away from it [because] every single induction cooktop is sensor-touch control,” says Eva Mazzucchi, a sales consultant at Whitfords of Five Dock, in Sydney.

Mazzucchi says the use of induction cooktops on popular cooking shows is breaking down some barriers. Prices have also fallen and the options available in Australia have grown.

Mazzucchi estimates 20 or 30 per cent of her cooktop sales are induction and expects that proportion to grow further.

“Induction has been in Europe for God knows how long – it’s only just finally become the latest thing here,” she says.

Gas cooktops will be around for a lot longer yet though – partly because home cooks see them as the preferred option for professional chefs and also because there is an assumption that gas is cheaper to run and easier to control.

“There’ll always be a gas market but the reality [with induction] is the glass is very easy to clean, it’s faster to heat than gas, it’s got a lower simmer temperature than gas, they’re better controlled and at the moment they’re fractionally cheaper to run than gas,” says Mullan.

“Induction does draw a fair bit of power in the first few seconds, after that it’s quite economical. But it’s like everything, people are just learning.”

If you’re thinking of buying an induction cooktop, Mullan says you should pay more attention to the features the product has than the price tag.

“They’re all using the same burners,” he says. “Don’t get caught paying six-and-a-half grand to get a name tag on it when the same thing is probably going to cost you two somewhere else.”

Most induction cooktops come from Europe. Chinese manufacturers have recently entered the market but Mullan says it may be worth waiting a few years until quality issues are ironed out for newer products.

Story by Carolyn Boyd property journalist and keen follower of Australia’s housing market. Story source:

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