Pros and Cons of Induction Cooking for Camping
Gas, it seems, is an increasingly dirty word and there is a big push to replace gas with cleaner, more efficient methods of heating and cooking.
The Victorian Government has banned natural gas connections in new homes from 1 January 2024.
But it’s not just our homes that will be gasless in the future. Some forward-thinking caravan and camper van manufacturers have been making gasless vehicles for years and the trend is increasing across the sector with many models now on offer. Often customers will have a choice of having an induction stovetop inside the van or camper, built-in or portable, as well as an induction hotplate in the outside slide-out kitchen.
Whether it’s the potential health implications (particularly for those with asthma), soaring gas bills or a desire to minimise reliance on fossil fuels, many travellers are looking at alternatives to cooking with gas and turning to induction stovetops.
What is induction cooking?
Induction technology works through electromagnetism. Unlike traditional stovetops — gas and electric — that transfer heat to the pan using flames or a coil, an induction element heats the pan directly.
When you place a pan on top of the cooktop, it creates a magnetic field that makes the pan heat up. The heat is then transferred to the food. Because the heat is coming from the cookware itself, rather than the cooktop, your pan reaches the desired temperature more quickly, cooking your food faster.
So, you won’t actually see that your induction stove is working until you add food to the pan.
There are plenty of benefits in choosing induction cooking over gas. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.
Safer: For families with young kids, safety is one of the biggest reasons to go with induction over gas. Even when it’s operating an induction cooktop will stay cool to the touch, reducing the risk of accidental burns. However, remember that the pot or pan itself will still get hot. Open flame in the confined space of a caravan or camper also means that you must have the space well-ventilated.
Healthier: There’s conclusive evidence that gas cooktops contribute significantly to poor respiratory health, particularly for children and the elderly. Gas stoves emit pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO₂), which is a respiratory irritant linked to asthma.
They also release carbon monoxide (CO), a toxic gas that can cause acute or chronic health issues, hence the need for good ventilation while cooking inside. Gas cookers can also leak methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
Quicker and more efficient: A test undertaken by CHOICE found that it took just 2.37 minutes to bring a one-litre pot of water to the boil on an induction cooktop, while the gas cooktop took more than four minutes. Induction is superior when it comes to efficient cooking. Energy is directed into the cookware base instantly, transferring with approximately 85 per cent efficiency, compared to cooktops that transfer energy via gas-powered heating elements operate at an efficiency of 32 per cent. When there are hungry hoards waiting for dinner, faster cooking is a good thing.
Convenient: A single induction hotplate is portable and lightweight compared to the weight of a couple of gas bottles on the front of your van or camper. They are easy to set up inside or outside and you don’t have to worry about cooking in windy conditions which is a hassle when the gas flame under your pot keeps getting blown out.
Inexpensive: The price of a single, portable induction cooktop has come down significantly in recent years. You can pick up a portable hotplate at Kmart for as little as $50 these days but work out your cooking requirements and do your research before you buy.
Easier to clean: Anyone who has spent hours trying to clean those fiddly burners and trivets on a gas cooktop will find cleaning an induction cooktop a breeze. With their knob-free, smooth glass surface, induction cooktops are generally much easier to clean. A wipe with a microfibre cloth — nothing too abrasive — will do the trick.
240V power: Induction cooktops need a 240V power source which is fine if you’re hooked up to mains power in a caravan park and the like. However, when you’re free camping off-the-grid you’ll need some battery power and an inverter in your rig to do the cooking.
To run an induction cooktop, you’ll need an inverter that can provide at least 1200 to 1800 watts of power. If your induction cooktop has a higher wattage, consider using a heavier-duty inverter. Here are some guidelines:
- Induction Cooktop Wattage: Most induction cooktops typically range from 1200 to 1800 watts. Ensure your inverter can handle at least this much power.
- Inverter Capacity: For an 1800W induction cooktop, a 3000W inverter is recommended. This inverter has a continuous output rate of 2400W, allowing you to use other appliances simultaneously without any issues.
New cookware: You will need compatible cookware. Induction cooktops work by producing an electromagnetic field, creating energy that heats your cookware. So, your pots and pans need a ferromagnetic base to work on an induction cooktop. Most induction-ready pans are made from stainless steel. But there are also aluminium ones with a stainless-steel bottom.
A quick way to check is to stick a magnet on the underside of the pan. If the magnet sticks, it’s induction-ready. If it sticks weakly or doesn’t stick at all, you’ll have to buy a new set of pans for induction cooking.
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