An Induction Cooktop on a Boat?

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2013 • all rights reserved

The pros, cons and things to think about

No two ways about it — induction cooktops seem pretty neat.  A nice smooth surface that looks nice and is easy to clean, and you don’t even need a stovetop cover to turn the “stove space” into “counter space” when it’s not in use.

Sounds ideal for a boat, right?  About once a month I get a question asking me if one would be a good choice.

The reality is that an induction cooktop isn’t going to be satisfactory for most boats.  So read on about the pros and cons.  Admittedly, I don’t have one, and only know of one cruiser who did have one . . .

220 Volts

Most 4-burner induction cooktops require a 220-volt hookup, yet most US and Canadian (non-European, that is) boats are only wired for 12 volts and 110.  If you’re at a dock and planning to run it off shore power, it’s an issue there, too, as US/Canadian/Mexican marinas are wired for 110.  Most of the Caribbean is also 110.  You can get generators that put out 220 volts, so that is an option — but it means running the generator any time you want to use the cooktop.

110-volt-inductionIn a quick internet search (not exhaustive), the only 110/120 volt units that I found were single burner “portable” units.  Basically a high-tech hotplate.  Probably not quite what you were thinking of . . . and there are still other issues (see below).

Power Draw

Each “burner” (technically an induction zone) typically uses between 1300 and 1800 watts.  That’s going to take a large generator to operate more than one burner simultaneously.  And if you are thinking of using it off batteries and an inverter, just one burner will draw 125 to 150 amps off a 12 volt battery bank.  For most boats, that’s a lot of power, even if you assume only one hour total of cooking time on just one burner per day (as a comparison, that’s more than our boat refrigerator drew per day in the 100+ degree weather).

It’ll take a very large inverter to do it, too, particularly if you want to be able to use all four burners at once (and why would you want four burners if you couldn’t use them simultaneously?).

Huh?  You might be asking.  I thought induction cooktops were supposed to be energy efficient.

Well, they are.  In comparison to other electric stoves, that is.  But for boats, where electrical power is usually in short supply, propane, CNG or alcohol are usually going to be easier to supply.

No Pot Restraints

If the power problems weren’t enough, you’re likely to have problems keeping your pans on the induction zones.  Since induction cooktops aren’t designed for boat use, they don’t have any sort of pot restraint to keep the pan on the “burner.”  If there are waves — even at a dock, let alone in an anchorage or underway — pans are going to slide on the very smooth surface of the cooktop.

The first problem is that once the pan slides off the induction zone, it stops cooking.  The second problem is bigger — since the pans aren’t restrained, they can fall to the floor or, worse, get launched across the boat and become a missile.

Special Cookware

Induction cooktops heat food via magnetic fields, and that requires compatible cookware with perfectly flat bottoms.  You current cookware may need to be replaced — check with the manufacturer to see if it is compatible with an induction cooktop.  Some stainless pans can be used with one and others can’t.

Magnetic Fields

Did your ears perk up when I mentioned magnetic fields?  Every boat is different, but your cooktop could cause interfence with your autopilot, radios and possibly other electronic equipment as well.

The Good News

Induction cooktops do have a few points in their favor if you can work out solutions to all the above.  First off, they put the least extra heat into the boat of any type of stove.  Second, there is less of a fire risk at the burner — clothing and paper towels coming into contact with the burner simply can’t burn.  And third, they’re easy to clean.

Bottom Line

For me, the few good points can’t come close to outweighing the negatives, particularly the power draw.  I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has installed an induction cooktop and made it work successfully on a boat — the one couple that we know who tried it quickly ripped it out and returned to propane.

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Comments

  1. Sara Peterson says:

    I have been using my Duxtop induction unit since March 2012 when we moved on the boat full time. We had an extremely old propane oven/cooktop on the boat (a 1980 34′ Irwin Sailboat Citation) when we got the boat the previous month. After doing loads of research, I made the decision that I would be more comfortable using a gas grill outside and we got the Duxtop and a Panasonic Convection/Micro to replace the oven portion of the old stove. Both are electric obviously. Both run on 110. So shore power is never a problem. We have a 3000 watt invertor for when we are on the hook and it has never been a problem from a power point of view. We originally had 2 Duxtops but the second one failed and I never replaced it. I already had All Clad cooking vessels so that wasn’t a problem for us either. I love them both.

  2. Becky Robinson says:

    Put a Force 10 EuroKera electrical induction on the boat 18 months ago. But we’re on a power boat and all is electrical. No propane except the bbq.
    Admiral’s comments:
    It’s a pain to keep clean. If something spills over, try to wipe it off – usually need to wait for mess to cool. clean it immediately with ceramic glass cleaner. Weiman glass cleaner is what she uses – found in most grocery stores – 1 or 2 drops per cleaning so goes a long way.
    Most important is to keep it protected. She has a cutting board that fits tightly over the stove top and keeps a hot pad between it and the stove top. If a pot or canister fell, afraid it would crack the ceramic.
    It’s 110v, using 10 amps per burner – 30 amps total for top and 10 for oven – 40 total. Always run generator during cooking time. Seldom use more than the oven and a burner or 2 burners.
    Oven door opening down and in is great space saver in the galley, and no hot door to contend with.
    Oven is very hot and cooks well.
    Using it daily as cruising the Sea of Cortez and area – she cooks constantly and bakes at least 3 times a week

  3. I have a portable induction burner that I had planned on taking on the boat with me. Never registered till you pointed it out about the magnetic field. Thanks Carolyn!

  4. Cindy Balfour says:

    We are an all electric catamaran. We have 12 volt charged by solar and a 22kw genset that charges a 12 battery bank to use for things like the cook top. Problem was the inverter didn’t speak the same wave tones as the induction cook top. We were able to sell it and get a regular glass cook top. Cats do t roll with the water but they will buck with the wind so I cook ahead of a passage. Still new at this. 🙂

  5. I got a note from a reader named Jess who asked if I had written anything about induction cooktops and her comment was:

    the induction stove top can cook anything like on stove top or inside an oven…. I have 2 one burner units… they are very good… power consumption is very low.

    She didn’t give any more details.

  6. There are multi ring induction hobs on the market that never draw more current than the largest burner, the hob simply alternates the feed to each ring in turn rather than powering them all at once.

  7. Windsong II says:

    We have a two burner propane stove with oven on our boat. Our S/S cook wear is a nesting kit from Sailboatowners.com. with removable handles etc. and works well with propane and induction stoves.We bought a single burner induction cook top from Amazon for $70. The current draw depends on the power level. We use it when we are in a slip. It is much faster than a gas stove, and does not heat up the cabin. It is also portable and can be used in the cockpit or on the dock to steam seafood, corn etc. without filling the cabin with moisture. We also use an electric kettle when in a slip and find it very useful.
    Bob

  8. We purchased a induction hot plate nearly 12 months ago as many places in Indonesia propane is hard to come by. It is fabulous, offering cleaner, quicker cooking, exceptionally easy to clean and fits snugly on top of my gas stove and oven.

  9. I use just the NuWave induction Cook top as a shore power unit to save stove fuel and for its efficiency at the dock.We made a sunbrella case and tuck it away when underway.

  10. When at a dock (ESPECIALLY when we have flat-rate electric) we use a single-burner Avanti induction cook top (works perfectly with our Fagor nesting pots and pressure cooker) and saves propane. When underway or planning to be at anchor for an extended period it stows beneath the v-berth awaiting shore power. But when we’re using it? Love it — faster and cleaner than propane.

  11. I like the idea of using it at the dock — just absolutely never thought of it!

  12. I have one. Never have to worry about a hot cooktop

  13. Windsong II says:

    I don’t think there is any concern about magnetic fields around an induction cooktop. Any wire conducting electricity will have a magnetic field around it. Imagine the magnetic fields around 30 or 50 amp shore power cables or your power distribution panel !

    An induction cooktop uses high frequency currents in the base to induce a current into the bottom of the cooking pot, This current in the pot is dissipated as heat.

    It would only create a problem if you were to place a wire over the cooktop while it was on or placing it on your chest if you have a pacemaker. It could not have any effect on your autopilot or boat compass etc.

  14. Richard Hess says:

    I too bought a single burner unit to use on shore power. Doesn’t heat the boat up and is very fast. Easy to stow away on the boat but I ended up keeping it on the counter in my house next to my 5 burner cooktop when not on the boat. Great temperature control that works perfectly with my pressure cooker! Very inexpensive and dual purpose for house and boat. Also works with my nesting cookware on the boat and cast iron in the house!

  15. Mike Brawley says:

    Hello and wanted to add a few thoughts regarding induction cooking for Marine and RV applications. The best method is to go with the single or dual burner portables which are 110 volts. Of course they draw power but unlike a conventional electric cooktop which only utilizes 50% of the power generated, induction uses closer to 90% resulting in quicker cook times and more evenly dispersed heat. Ideally used when in dock but certainly can be used when not. As for the RV side, the idea of being able to set up your cooking station outside on a picnic table and not heating up the inside of the RV has some definite appeal as well. We plan to start distributing them for marine and RV dealers in the very near future. The advantages, safer, more energy efficient and easy to store and clean.

  16. Re: “No Pot Restraints”…We have a single induction cooktop at home, and use a silicone mat (like a Silpat) on the top to keep it clean and protect it from scratches, just a regular small rectangular Aldi brand baking silicone mat. It hangs down over the buttons, but we just lift up the edge if we need to change any settings, and we can see the temp through the mat and It doesn’t affect the cooking at all, and I think it might help with any problem with pans sliding on the cooktop while using it on a boat as I noticed it seems to grip the pan!!

  17. We purchased our boat in Nov/13, and replaced the old propane stove almost right away sine we plan to sail around the world and didn’t want to have to deal with all the various types of fuels (propane, camping gas, kerosene, etched). We have an induction 3 burner stove with oven aboard our HR53 sailboat. It’s a Force10 made by Eno in France, so it runs on European 220, but it can also be purchased for 110 electricity in North America. Each burner uses 1200 watts, and the oven uses 1300 watts. We purchased our boat in Greece, so we haven’t cruised with it in NA waters yet, but we plan to, since we are Canadian. We have a 2500 watt inverter and can use 1 or 2 burners on battery power with no issues. If we want to use all 3, or in combination with the oven, then we turn on the generator. Since we prefer to be at anchor rather than tied to a dock, we had to make sure the stove would work with our existing equipment. One last point, ours came with a gate that surrounds the cooktop and pot holders too, and it fit perfectly where the old stove was! We love it!

  18. Induction is extremely easy to clean because the cook top does not get hot except where the pan sits. There is a learning curve and the base of your pans must be ferrous. Just take a magnet. If it sticks to the base, it works on induction. You can buy a very inexpensive induction hotplate first to see if you like it. It is also MUCH MORE energy efficient.

  19. is anyone running one just with batteries and inverter alone if so how many and what AH are they?

  20. I brought the single induction burner when we moved on the boat and started cruising full time. It was intended as a back-up in case we ran out of propane. A year later, I have only used the propane twice than I can remember. We have a 2000 amp house set, DC centric, using an inverter to generate power, which I realize is a lot. I combine the single induction burner with a microwave and mini-toaster oven, which I can not run simultaneously as it blows a fuse and Frank has to reset it. I like that I don’t have to go out on the aft quarter deck to turn on/off the propane, there is less likelihood of fire, I don’t have to deal with different propane type fuels in various parts of the world (in the Med now) and frankly it’s just easier. Scratching is not an issue, though the pot slides around is so I may try the Silpat described above. Given my experience so far and the comments above, I may replace the propane stovetop with an induction cooker and use the propane as back up and outside grilling.

  21. Wow Nice to have that much in power storage it works and thats kind of what I wanted to know is that it can be done thanks for the info Judy on a working setup…

  22. I just looked up that Force10 induction cooker. Looks good! http://www.force10.com/electric_gimballed_3burner.html

  23. Linc Materna says:

    Hello Carolyn, My wife and I are strongly considering an induction cooktop on our boat to replace the current 220v conventional electric cooktop that came from the manufacturer (Fathom Yachts). Gas is not available to us and I detect a movement away from propane toward electric on newer vessels. So I think a more balanced view of your article should have been: conventional electric vs. induction. That being the case, could you recommend that type of replacement??

  24. I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying the convenience of induction cooking. Recently I found out that Le Creuset is entirely induction capable and when shopping the local outlet store in Williamsburg, as inexpensive as quality stainless cookware. Even the enamel cast iron is induction ready, so stacking and conserving locker space is easy. That being said, the plan was to keep the propane cooker in the galley and use the NuWave induction plate on the counter top. Now the plan is to replace the cooker with a Force 10 induction cooker and keep the NuWave available for cooking up on deck.

    Thanks for all the great comments here… I am really enjoying the blogs and ideas!

  25. Christian says:

    I have a “Pacific PB2650 Hotplate” first one broke in one month. The current one we have had 5 years. Works great! 2200 watt max double burner with power sharing. 220 volt. Cost me US$320.

    I am looking for a 12 volt or 24 or 48 volt DC if such a one exists.

    Bought the above one in Hong Kong. 100% made in China so far so good.

    Christian
    Lamma Island

  26. Bob Wilkins says:

    I think that this article has a incorrect message about Induction cooking on a boat. Motor Homes for years have had built in 110 V induction cook tops for years. Induction top can boil water faster and use less amps then a microwave uses to boil water.

    Almost ALL of the energy is converted into cooking use. With Propane much of the BTU’s produced goes up in the air and does not produce cooking heat. Which also heats up the cabin of a boat. Electric cook tops, also use up a lot of amps, just to get the unit hot, to heat the pan and heat the air and not the pan.

    One of the best cook tops and used by most of the VERY high end motor home MFG’s. is this one.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004BFVWKW/ref=pe_852090_193767940_em_1p_2_des

    Read all the features and the REVIEWS from the users of this INDUCTION cook top.

    Bob Wilkins

    • Most boats — when away from the dock — just don’t have the electrical power for induction or any other type of electrical stove. Yes, some with big generators do. Motor homes, by and large, plug in when they’re cooking . . .

  27. Bob Wilkins says:

    Carolyn, I think a bigger question is “who is your audience” for your wonderful site ? When you use the term “most boats”, I guess you must mean small to med size sail boats. Many of us have went over to the “dark side” and have moved to trawlers or sport boats. I did own 3 sail boats in my life. But as we move to our “BEST years”, many of us just prefer the comforts of a trawler or some type of power boat.

    Your site has so many great articles that ALL boaters can use, not just sail boats.

    Power boats in the 30-34 feet size, most have a 6 Kw gen set. at 120 V, this is 50 amps. The induction cook top that I suggested is 1800 watts or 15 amps. So, you can see takes a small part of the 50 amps of a 6 Kw rated gen set. Boats in the 40′ range normally have a 9 Kw Gen set, which is 75 amps of 120 V.

    And, most of these power boats have a 2,000-3,000 watt inverter, tied to a proper house bank. Which can also accommodate this cook top. In fact, you can just use one burner and limit the power to 900 watts.

    So, again, (“Most boats just don’t have the electrical power”) may not a proper term, unless you only cater to the small to med sailboat audience. I would bet your advertisers would enjoy a much larger audience that would include power boats that do have “the electrical power” (a 6 Kw gen set is a rather small one) to use the advantages of an Induction Cook Top, over a normal electric cook top and even a Propane cook top.

    Keep up the GREAT work with this site.

    Bob Wilkins

    • Actually, Bob, we have many friends with small trawlers and I know that many readers also have them. And no, I’ve never limited my site to sailboats (for three years, I wrote for PassageMaker magazine, too). Induction cooktops are just fine if you have the power and are willing to use it for cooking. They are the most efficient electric burner you can have. Note that in my article, I do say that if you can generate the power, don’t mind running the generator to cook, and don’t have problems with pans sliding due to the motion of the boat (I’m in a rolly anchorage right now and have to have a non-slip pad under the laptop to be able to write, so this is really in my mind right now), it can work. But I also know of two boats (powerboats) that have removed induction cooktops because they decided they didn’t want to run the genset that much, and another that replaced theirs with propane when numerous problems with their genset meant that every time it went out, they also lost their ability to use the stove. So it’s not that it’s a bad choice, just that it’s a choice and for most boats — power and sail — the power generation will be biggest consideration.

  28. Bob Wilkins says:

    Carolyn, thanks for your thoughts on this string of e-mails. I think we will just have to agree to have a different view on this subject. As always, there are more then just one view on a subject. Both can be correct, just different.

    In regards to “slipping pans” I use these, and they work PERFECT and pans go no where, unless I am in a sea condition that does not warrant cooking anyway.

    http://www.amazon.com/True-Induction-Non-slip-Cooking-Cooktops/dp/B00HZ0QD68/ref=pd_sim_328_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=415Lud%2BgkeL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR160%2C160_&refRID=1EGRBFKJJH45W40FSEGT

    As far as running the gen set, after being on the hook all night, in the AM hours it is normal to run the gen set to charge the batteries, via the charger for the house bank. At this time, we also do all our BKST cooking on the Induction cook top. At other times during the day (still in the same spot on the hook) we run the Induction cook top off the inverter for lunch needs or to boil water (just take 2 min) for Tea or coffee. Later in the evening when cooking dinner, we will run the gen set for the period of time to cook (usually about 30-45 min), and also charge the batteries at the same time. So, EASY to cook and also tend to charging the battery bank and could also make hot water with the 12 Gal hot water heater.

    While underway, we can use the induction cook top anytime via the inverter and the 140 amp (24 Volt) alternator charging the house bank. This method more then keeps up with the draw of the induction cook top from the House Bank using the Inverter.

    When I was researching the purchase of a new boat, I found that when I asked, “what percent of buyers spec propane stoves (if they even offer it)” and the answer was around 10-20%. This was from Saber, Back Cove, Grand Banks, Hinckley, Viking, Carver, Beneteau, Sea Ray, Tiara Yachts, etc.

    By the way, the last 5 boats I have had over 35 years, have had Propane cook tops. But when I replaced my HOME gas cook top with an Induction cook top, and found all the features of GAS (instant heat, instant lowering of heat, precise temp control while cooking,etc) with the induction cooking, I looked for one for a boat. Induction cooks at least Twice as fast as a regular electric cook top, that most power boats are equipped with, and use at least 1/2 the electrical power needs during the cook period.

    So, Propane or Induction Cooking, both good choices, but the convenience of not finding Propane, and not to mention the SAFETY of not having the possibility of (heavy) propane gas leaking into the bilges, make Induction cooking a consideration over propane for any boat having a 4-6 Kw gen set / Inverter & proper house bank.

    My best, enjoy the Bahamas !

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