How to Reduce Pollutants in the Kitchen with Induction Cooking

Induction cooking emits no fumes.

Gas stoves consume planet-heating natural gas and fill homes with pollutants similar to what a car’s tailpipe emits: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and formaldehyde. These pollutants have been associated with a host of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. In this study, a gas stove and oven running for an hour raised nitrogen oxide levels so high that they would be deemed illegal outdoors. And the smaller the home, the quicker the pollution reaches these unhealthy levels.

Gas stoves also emit methane gas, the primary compound in natural gas, the second or so before a flame ignites on a burner. Methane is a greenhouse gas about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. But a gas stove emits methane even when the stove is turned off, according to a new Stanford study. The study found that loose couplings and fittings between the gas pipes and a stove leak methane and these leaks account for about 80 percent of the unburned methane gas that stoves emit. (Read more in the New York Times here.)

So why do we love our gas stoves so when they seem to hate us? Enter marketing

Back in the 1930s, the gas industry sought to convince home cooks to abandon their electric and wood-fired stoves for gas versions. The marketing line “Now you’re cooking with gas” did the trick. Nearly a century later, that line still works. The gas industry now pays Instagram influencers to share posts of themselves #cookingwithgas.

I am obsessed with food. I write this food-themed blog. I teach workshops about foodI have written a cookbook. And although I believed the gas industry’s line about the superiority of gas for years, I’m here like your wizened aunt to tell you that it’s just not true. You can cook fabulous food without gas.

Induction cooking

If you are in the market for a new stove, consider induction. Induction cooktops use magnets to heat pots and pans—and their contents—very quickly. You can heat up water on an induction cooker in half the time of a gas burner (I’ve measured and tested it). The burners themselves do not heat up and they do not give off fumes. When you remove your pot, the heating stops automatically. Induction cookers also regulate the temperature and adjust accordingly.

I took these pictures with a thermal camera. Induction heats the pot only, not the surrounding air.

You may not be ready to replace your stove just yet but you’re still likely thinking about those tailpipe-type emissions. One solution is to buy a portable induction cooker for now. And you could definitely do this if you rent your home and have no say regarding the types of appliances you use. Depending on how much you cook and the cost of the model you buy, the money you save on gas every month could soon pay for a portable induction cooker. 

When I first discussed on Instagram my induction cooking adventures, several people pointed out that the magnets in these cooktops might interfere with pacemakers. The British Heart Association suggests that people with pacemakers stand two feet away from an induction cooktop when using them.

The portable induction cooker I’ve been using

I’ve used the induction cooker model pictured below fairly extensively. (Go here for more details on this model.) Last year, the city of Sunnyvale lent me this model to use during an Earth Day food waste reducing workshop I taught for the city (I was able to keep it for a month). Early in January this year, I borrowed the same model from the library for three weeks. By borrowing one of the library’s 14 induction cookers, patrons interested in switching to clean induction cooking can test drive a cooker before taking the plunge.

black portable round induction cooker on a wooden table
Front view of a portable induction cooker with all the buttons shown. In the background are cloth bags filled with vegetables and two jars filled with sourdough starter.

Right now, my energy provider is offering a $50 rebate on induction cookers bringing the price of this one down to about $50. Look for rebates on appliances where you live at Energy Star.

I’ve also used a ceramic glass induction cooker similar to this one (but I don’t remember the brand). I prefer the look of these sleek models but have more experience with the cooker in this post.

Pots, pans and recipes compatible with induction cooking

I mostly cook with cast iron, stainless steel and enameled cast iron pots and pans. (Read more about choosing pots and pans here.) I do have one fancy copper pot (it was a gift) and an inexpensive copper-bottom pot. Neither of those works on an induction cooker. To figure out if your pots and pans will work, try to stick a magnet to them. If it sticks, they’ll work. I love my pressure cooker but have been afraid to try it. From what I’ve read, they work on induction cookers with a few minor adjustments to the cooking settings.

So far, everything I’ve cooked on the induction cooker has turned out well—the soup and sourdough pancakes below, for example, and also stir-fries, grains like oatmeal, pasta and rice, fried rice, shredded vegetable pancakes, omelets, steamed vegetables, mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, sauces like béchamel and so on. Popcorn in my stainless steel Whirly Pop pops nicely (aluminum wouldn’t). An inability to pop popcorn would be a deal-breaker.

Induction cooking in action. A pot of vegetable soup simmers in a stainless steel pot that's sitting on a round portable induction cooktop.
Stainless steel pot in action, cooking soup
Induction cooking in a cast iron pan. A sourdough pancakes is cooking in the pan. A yellow plate has one pancakes sitting on it, ready to eat. Next to the pancake is a wooden spatula. In the top left, sits a jar of sourdough starter. In the bottom right, sits a jam jar on a scale. The jam jar is also filled with sourdough starter.
Sourdough pancakes in cast iron cooking over induction

A cleaner cookstove fundraiser

Speaking of clean cooking, I’m holding a fundraising Zoom workshop on Thursday, February 24th at 4pm Pacific Time: Make Soup, Not Waste. Pay what you like—a mere dollar will secure a spot! All proceeds will go to Solar Cookers International, which distributes solar ovens in developing countries—and saves lives.

Nearly one in three people on the planet cooks over open fires or outdated stoves, fueled by polluting wood principally but also charcoal, animal dung and agricultural waste. Because these fires and stoves burn inside people’s homes, families breathe in black carbon, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane. Additionally, women also miss out on opportunities to work or attend school, as some spend up to 20 hours or more every week gathering wood. (Read more about the importance of improved clean cookstoves here.)

Don’t grocery shop for this cooking workshop! 

Bring a pot and the random vegetables you find in your refrigerator and pantry. We’ll make soup together over Zoom in this cooking workshop. When you view the registration page, you’ll find the list of basic workshop materials you’ll need. Go here to register for the class. 

REGISTER

You can check out some of my previous cooking fundraisers herehere and here.


9 Replies to “How to Reduce Pollutants in the Kitchen with Induction Cooking”

  1. I learned at Sonoma Clean Power Advanced Energy Center that there is a metal ring that can go between the induction stove burner and a pot that can’t normally heat up on the induction stove to make the stove and pot compatible.

    1. Great! Thank you very much for sharing this information!

  2. I use a catering size one of these at work. Just as quick as gas (without the flickering and fussing with lighting that an old gas stove brings) and so much better than a portable electric hob.

  3. I just switched to a regular electric stove a couple of months ago after cooking with gas for most of my adult life (I’m 70). I miss the cozy blue flame, but I love my electric stove. It heats up so fast – both stove top and oven take about a third of the time my old gas stove did, and it cooks clean. Can’t believe I waited so long to make the switch. Of course, when the electricity goes out in a storm I’ll be looking for my camp stove.

  4. Unfortunately, magnets are the exact opposite of eco-friendly. I suppose it’s a matter of “picking our poison” when it comes down to cooking.

    1. Hi Laura, I have heard the same, but never followed it up. Taking the lazy route now, and asking about it: could you tell me more? I still have an electric hob and a bbq and storm kettle in case of power failures, but trying to think of best alternatives, and I liked the idea of induction. Thank you in advance.

    2. Magnetism is about as natural as it gets being one of the 4 fundamental forces of nature.

      This seems like a reasonable write up of how induction cook tops work
      https://www.cnet.com/home/kitchen-and-household/appliance-science-the-hot-physics-of-induction-cooktops/

      Also induction cook tops are a lot safer as they don’t get hot and can turn off automatically if there is no pot on top of them.

  5. I can not thank you enough for bringing this to my attention. I had always wonderered if there were drawbacks of using one of my most used appliances a gas stove! It had been one of those things that I had yet to travel down the research rabbit hole with beacuse it seems so normal. But I’ve experienced the smell of the plume that bursts up when starting I try to hold me breath… I will look more into this and if I have the power to change stoves next time I will. Your blog is very informative. Thanks for the links. Will check out energy star.

  6. I just looked up Solar Cookers International on Charity Navigator and they earned a “Give with confidence”!

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