An Induction Cooktop on a Boat?

By Carolyn Shearlock, copyright 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!

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