scorecardChef Alison Roman loves her induction stove. Twitter has so many questions.
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Chef Alison Roman loves her induction stove. Twitter has so many questions.

Catherine Boudreau   

Chef Alison Roman loves her induction stove. Twitter has so many questions.
LifeInternational3 min read
  • Electric-induction stoves got celebrity-chef endorsements following a controversy over gas stoves.
  • Induction stoves are popular in Europe, but unfamiliar to many Americans.

"Can you toast marshmallows over it for s'mores?"

"How do you warm tortillas?"

"Does it heat things up (e.g. boil a pot of water) as fast as gas?"

"But no aesthetic copper cookware."

Those questions and comments rolled in for the celebrity chef Alison Roman on Wednesday after she tweeted that she owns an induction stove "by choice." Tom Colicchio, a judge on "Top Chef" and a food-policy activist, similarly weighed in with his support for induction stoves, saying he regretted not installing one at home after opting for a gas-burning unit instead. There's a whole legion of chefs who feel the same.

The chefs' declarations of love for an electric appliance follows a firestorm this week over the Biden administration's stance on gas stoves. Richard Trumka Jr., a commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, told Bloomberg that a ban on gas stoves was on the table. Blowback ensued, prompting the agency to clarify that it wasn't considering a ban, but that it is looking at other ways to reduce gas stoves' risks to public health.

The outrage gave Republican politicians fuel in their culture war with Democrats and revealed a deep passion for gas stoves among some Americans. It also inadvertently raised the profile of the little-known electric-induction stove, much to the delight of climate advocates who want to phase out fossil fuels.

"This is an opportunity to talk about how induction stoves are a better appliance, even if you don't give a hoot about health or climate," Brady Seals, a manager at the think tank RMI's Carbon-Free Buildings program, told Insider. "It cooks really fast, is easy to clean, and very energy efficient."

Americans will need an education. Roman acknowledged that she was "forced" into buying an induction stove because she didn't want to install a gas tank outside her home, but then became a convert. Many of her cooking videos feature a gas stove because she films them in her Brooklyn, New York, rental apartment, Roman said.

Induction stoves are popular in Europe. Even "The Great British Bake Off" is a fan. In the US, however, only 5% of homes have them, according to Consumer Reports.

They aren't like traditional electric stoves or coil-top burners. The main difference is that induction stoves use electromagnetic waves to heat cookware, essentially turning your pots and pans into their own heat source.

Consumer Reports said induction cooktops and ranges generally outperform every other kind of range the magazine tests. Induction units are five to 10% more energy efficient than conventional electric stoves, and three times more efficient than gas stoves. This could save people money on their utility bills.

Roman tweeted that she boils a large pot of water in under two minutes with her induction stove, versus boiling one in 10 to 15 minutes with the gas stove in her apartment at its highest setting.

There are some drawbacks, though. Copper or aluminum cookware won't work on an induction stove — magnetic metals like cast iron and some stainless steels are best. It's also expensive to convert from gas because an electrician has to install a new outlet, according to Consumer Reports. But it's less pricey to make the switch from a conventional electric stove.

The majority of US homes already use conventional electric stoves, while about 38% use gas stoves, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

The price of induction stoves is also continuing to drop, with some selling for as low as $1,000, Consumer Reports found. The Inflation Reduction Act authorized an $840 rebate for low- and middle-income households that don't already have an electric stove. States are expected to roll out the discounts later this year.

Then there are the perks for air quality: Burning gas releases pollutants like carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and formaldehyde, which increase the risk of respiratory damage. A recent study, which Seals coauthored, found that cooking on a gas stove has similar risks to secondhand smoke for childhood asthma.

The air-quality hazards are why the Consumer Product Safety Commission is considering ways to regulate gas stoves.

Proper ventilation significantly reduces the concentration of pollutants from gas stoves, though the appliances are not always vented to the outdoors, and it isn't guaranteed that people will use their exhaust hoods and fans.

Yet, it was the simmer that sold Roman.

"A gorgeous, gentle whisper. Tiny bubbles. Delicate steam," is how she described it.