Induction technology, long preferred by professional chefs, is once again auditioning for a starring role in the American home kitchen. Diva de Provence, a French manufacturer that has made induction products in Europe since the early 1990s, is on a huge push to market its domestic ranges in the U.S. And American mainstay Kenmore is introducing an induction range in its Elite line that boasts a retail price of less than $1,499.
Induction cooktops use electromagnetic frequency — instead of heating up burners on the stove, heat is induced directly into the pan holding the food. The pan heats up while the cooktop stays cool. Induction cooking is exceptionally fast. Water boils in half the time as on a gas or an electric burner. Power can also be more easily controlled. Kenmore's cooktop has a “warm and serve” feature that holds pans at a low temperature after the food is cooked. Diva's ranges have the option of sharing power between the cooking zones or using full power on each burner.
Despite these impressive features, induction has yet to get hot in the U.S. It has always been popular in Europe and in Asia due to high energy costs and limited gas availability, says Amir Girgis, managing director of Diva de Provence. Induction ranges use 90% of the energy produced, according to Kenmore, compared with gas burners at 55% and electric at 65%.
Other manufacturers have introduced and later discontinued induction ranges. Jenn-Air's vice president Rusty Zay says that people weren't willing to switch out their pots and pans to those that work (iron and steel) on an induction range. Diva anticipates this reluctance to change and includes a five-piece stainless steel cooking set from All-Clad with every 30- and 36-inch range.
Even when induction first went “domestic,” it was extremely expensive. Girgis acknowledges that when Diva first began dedicated consumer business in 2002, its initial target market was very small. “There are more people interested in the technology now. It's still expensive, but we're marketing to a much larger audience. People want the power and the flexibility of the power.” Now, Diva's cooktops sell for $2,700 to $3,600.
Time will tell if lower price points and bigger marketing budgets will get induction ranges more than a cult following in the U.S.