The design brief: TreeHugger founder Graham Hill's 420-square-foot apartment in New York may be micro-sized, but his life calls for a great deal of outsized entertaining. So in spite of wanting to find a close-to-zero footprint for his pad -- which he is renovating as part of the LifeEdited project -- Hill also wants the look and feel of a real, this-is-where-the-fun's-at kitchen.
That means a three- or four-burner stovetop. When aesthetics and efficiency are taken into account, we're talking an induction stovetop, 24 inches wide, matching the oven visually.
The five induction cooktops here stood out for the pack. Have better cooktop options? Let us know in the comments!
Induction: A Micro-PrimerGraham is choosing induction for its efficiency benefits. Unfortunately, no life cycle analysis of the most common cooking methods is readily available. But the U.S. Department of Energy admits that the "efficiency of energy transfer" of an induction cooktop is 84% versus 73% for a "smooth-top non-induction electrical unit."
The magic of induction is that coils of copper underneath the cooktop receive electric current to produce a magnetic field. This field 'induces' electric current through ferrous (magnetic) pots, which most aluminum pots are not. (You can check your pots -- if a magnet sticks, they can be used on induction cooktops.)
This electromagnetic current between coil and pot produces the heat that cooks the food -- and makes the heating up (and cooling down) process quicker than with radiant-heat cooktops.
Compared to gas, which many chefs favor, induction involves no open flame, making it inherently safer -- though its ability to ramp the heat up and down stays comparable to gas. With induction, while the pots get hot, the stovetop not directly under the pots does not. Heat regulation is very efficient, and burners cool down pronto when pots are removed.
Lastly, induction cooktops are easier to clean than traditional cooktops as there is less baked-on, burnt-on mess due to no gas flames or red-hot electric coils. In a tiny home, not generating a lot of heat during summertime cooking is a definite plus.
And because induction uses electricity, the homeowner has the option to purchase renewable energy -- that's not the case with gas.
The downsides? Unless they are clad with magnetized metal, aluminum pots and pans will not work on the induction cooktop, and glass won't work at all. Some very small pans may not be big or heavy enough for the burner to sense them and turn on.
Also, for the three- and four-burner models described here, Graham will have to be sure that the wiring in his LifeEdited apartment will be able to supply 40 amps of dedicated service to the cooktop -- the most common wiring is 30 amps.
1. Summit SINC424220 Induction Cooktop
Generally, cooktops come in 30-inch and 36-inch varieties. Luckily, Summit Appliances has a four-burner model that fits Graham's specifications perfectly for the LifeEdited kitchen. Summit also gives Graham other options -- either one or two-burner Summit models if he wants to play around with the countertop arrangement and use 2-burner + single-burner built-ins to gain a bit of countertop real estate.
Pros: The four-burner 424220 is just 23 inches wide.
Cons: Three different sizes of burners would have been a nice extra.
Price: Around $900.
2. Kuppersbusch EKI4571 Induction Cooktop
This Kuppersbusch EKI4571 wok pan may at first seem like a novelty, but could end up heralding a new way to cook in the tiny house. Many daily meals are made with saute, steam, and fry functions that could be accomplished on this single burner, with one wok pan. This would yield more counter space for other prep functions. Kuppersbusch also does have a 24-inch built-in stovetop with four burners.
Pros: Three different burner sizes on the four-burner model could come in handy.
Cons: Higher pricing than some models, especially on the special wok burner.
Price: Four-burner cooktop: $2,540. Wok induction unit: starts at $3,270.
3. Diva DDP3 Three Burner Induction Cooktop
Pros: The larger burner size. Diva also has a two-burner built-in option.
Cons: Fits the 24 inch requirement, but only delivers three burners.
4. Fagor Countertop Induction Cooktop
Almost all of the major suppliers offer one-burner countertop induction units (Fagor's is nice and All-Clad's is especially sleek) so Graham could start with a countertop burner -- and possibly have one or even two built-in 12 inch two-burner units. A countertop burner boils water for coffer or tea in just a few minutes.
Pros: The two-burner, 12-inch unit and the countertop model offers flexibility to a small kitchen, and the ability to have four burners for just over 24 inches (provisioning a little space between the two units) really allows Graham to start with two and build more capacity if he needs it. Also, Fagor cooktops have 12 levels of heating for precise control.
Cons: Adding a unit would entail cutting another hole, and planning ahead with under-the-counter space.
Price: The two-burner Fagor: $1,099.
5. Wolf 15-inch Two-Burner Induction Cooktop
Wolf is another company offering a two-burner (one 6-inch and one 9-inch), built-in cooktop. Wolf's 15-inch module could be paired with another two-burner induction unit in another part of the kitchen (though the total would top the specifications by a few inches) or a standalone one-burner unit.
Pros: Starting with just two burners may truly determine whether Graham needs more, or whether he'll be happier with more counter space.
Cons: This high price tag discourages experimentation.
Price: Approximately $1,800.
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