World of Whirlpool and Induction Cooktops

I feel like I lost a solid week or two pre and post bar mitzvah and now I'm trying hard to catch up. (Editor's note: How cute. I wrote that on May 17. Ugh.) I'm also launching a new blog that's keeping me busy (since launched...).

I recently had a chance to visit the World of Whirlpool Product Experience Center in Chicago and learn about their new appliances. The Whirlpool lines include Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid and Jenn-Air. I showed up with a special kitchen issue of Consumer Reports in hand because I am that dorky and many of Whirlpool's products received top ratings.

Knowing I have a kitchen and bath(s) redo, not to mention a new laundry room in my future, I thought this event would provide a good opportunity to learn about new appliances and visit with some of my blog friends.

Chicago is also home to the Kenmore Live Studio (a former client). I think it's interesting to note the different approaches these two companies took. Whirlpool's Center is quite, sophisticated, elegant and elite.

Kenmore, on the other hand, is practically a fishbowl. Located in a busy part of the city, in a street level corner studio with glass walls, Kenmore is for the people. And by the people, too. Parent groups, bloggers, even the Confection Industry trade group have used the space. It seems to me anyone with a good idea and a bit of enthusiasm can host a program there. They even launched their own reality web show.

One thing both Whirlpool and Kenmore have in common is their love of induction cooktops. Their PR folks proclaim that induction cooking is the wave of the future.

Induction cooking is, well, let's just call it electro-magnetic magical and note that in order for it to work, you need ferrous, or iron-containing pots and pans (hint: a magnet will stick to them). Seriously, though, here's a read about the science behind induction cooking.

Induction cooking is the most fuel efficient way to cook.

Not only does it waste less energy, but it heats up more quickly. 

It's safer if you have little ones around because the cooking element heats up the pot, not the surface. Therefore if junior turns the stove on and there's no iron pot on the element, nothing will get heated up- there's no danger of burns or burning down the house. Cool, huh?

So why aren't the masses rushing to buy induction cooktops and ranges?

The unit may require an upgrade in your kitchen wiring.

You may need to buy new pots and pans. Out of the dozen or so pots and pans around my parents house, I only found one ferrous pot. This adds an expense to an already expensive new appliance. Also, of the many pots and pans on the market, only a few lines have labels noting compatible cooking surfaces. I'm not in the habit of bringing a magnet when I shop. Are you?

If you have a gas stove, it's likely cheaper to use than induction, even though it's not as energy-efficient.

I think another key deterrent is that few people know someone who actually owns and cooks with an induction cooktop. Who wants to be the first of their friends to take a gamble on such a costly purchase?

I don't know if there's induction cooktop trade group, but I think a massive sampling program is in order if appliance manufacturers want induction to catch on.

When I worked with Kenmore, they provided a handful of bloggers with induction cookpads, which not only made for the fabulous swag, but in hindsight, was a brilliant move. (Even more brilliant because the pad came with an induction-friendly pan.)

I have one of those induction pads and plan to experiment with it in the coming weeks*.

We're rewiring the entire house, buying new appliances and gave away/sold/tossed our scratched up old pots and pan, so many purchase barriers have been eliminated. However, out kitchen has natural gas service, which means low operating costs, and likely a lower appliance purchase price, as well.

We could stick out necks out and go induction. Or we can stick with a gas range.

What do you think we should buy?

Do you have induction? (This is difference than a glass top electric unit.)  Do you know someone who has an induction cooktop?

I want to thank the folks at Whirlpool for an informative day (read a more detailed account over at West of the Loop) as well as as kitchen design an appliance inspiration, not to mention one of the best meals I've had all year.

*Given the lag time from draft to posting, I already started playing around with induction a bit more and will share my findings at Reluctant Renovator.
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