Cooking while camping in your RV is a great way to save money, sample local foods, and bond with the family. Most RVs come equipped with a microwave, propane stove/oven, and perhaps a propane cooktop. Induction cooktops can definitely be used in an RV too and they have become increasingly popular in the RV community. As an alternative to carrying other forms of camping fuels.
They provide a clean and relatively safe way to prepare meals while on the road. Let’s take a look at some things you may want to consider when deciding if adding an induction cooktop to your RV kitchen is a good idea.
How Much Power Do Induction Cook Tops Use?
For RV use you’ll want to choose a lower power induction cooktop than the typical household model. An average residential 1800-watt induction cooktop would draw 15 amps at full power. Most of these will have a maximum power consumption of up to 1500 watts which makes them more compatible with a standard RV electrical system.
There are also a number of portable induction cooktops which can make a great addition to any RV kitchen. Most cooktops in the category use between 100 to 1500 watts depending on the maximum output of the unit and the power setting you are actually using.
Induction cooktops are rated in watts and the amount of power they use will depend on the power setting, size of the cooktop, and the number of available burners. The typical power consumption of a residential induction cooktop is between 1200 and 3000 watts with 1800 watts being the average. Most induction cooktops run on AC power, which here in the US is 120V at 60 HZ.
To determine the number of amps the cooktop will draw, you use Ohm’s law: W=A*V (watts equals amps times volts). Solving for A we get A=W/V. This is probably too much for use in a typical RV without dedicated wiring and 50-amp service.
Do You Need To Buy New Pots And Pans For An Induction Stove?
If you don’t have induction-compatible cookware, then you will have to buy new pots and pans to work with your new induction stove. The best way to test your cookware is to try sticking a magnet to the bottom cooking surface. If the magnet sticks, then the pos should be good to use on your induction stove. If it doesn’t then you’ll need to do some shopping.
Induction cooktops generate heat by creating a magnetic field that vibrates the iron atoms in your cookware. Those vibrations generate heat and are what cause the pan to get hot, even though the surface of the stove alone does not. The key factor in the process is the presence of magnetic material, or iron atoms, in your cookware.
Without it, there is no induction and no heat generated. Aluminum and copper pans won’t work. Cast Iron, some stainless steel, and some clad pans will work. A clad pan is one that is made up of a sandwich of metals fused together to form the material the pan is made from. As long as one of the metals clad together to form the pan is magnetic then it will work on your induction stove.
If you plan on shopping for anything other than cast iron then make sure you search for induction-capable pans. For example, search for “Induction stainless steel pans” rather than just “stainless steel pans”. The latter will give some results which are not induction capable.
How Long Does It Take To Boil Water On An Induction Cooktop?
Induction stoves can boil 4 cups of water in as little as one to two minutes. Using the same pan, the volume of water, and initial water temperature you can expect an induction stove to boil water 2 – 4 times faster than any other stove type. Induction stoves don’t work like other traditional stoves. In a traditional gas or electric stove, the burner heats the pan.
In an induction stove, the pan is the burner. So, the bigger the pan, the bigger the burner, and the faster your water will boil. A small bottom 2-quart saucepan may take 3 – 4 minutes to boil 4 cups of water while a larger 12 quart may do it in 90 seconds. The actual amount of time it takes will vary depending on a number of factors:
- Initial water temp: You have to raise the water temperature to 212 degrees Fahrenheit to reach boiling. The closer you start to that temperature the sooner boiling will occur.
- Pan bottom to volume ratio. A larger bottom pan will create a larger heat source so us the widest pan you have for faster boiling.
- Power Setting: The higher the setting, the faster the boil.
- Pan type: Different pans will heat differently. You may have to try a few and see which is fastest at boiling water.
Can You Use An Induction Cook Top With A Solar System?
If your solar system can provide the proper power wattage to your Induction cooktop you can use it with your solar system. For example, a 120 V AC 1500 watt cooktop will require an inverter capable of a sustained power output of greater than 1500 watts. You’ll also need large enough batteries to supply power for the amount of time you plan to cook.
There are solar-powered induction cooktops on the market which include everything to cook from solar power alone. A good example is the Greenmax Technology Solar DC Induction Cooker. There are also a number of DC induction cookers that can tie directly into your 12 or a 24-volt solar system like this one.
What Kind Of Inverter Do I Need To Run An AC Induction Cooktop From Battery Power?
To run an AC induction cooktop from batteries you’ll want to use a pure sine wave inverter with a sustained power output greater than the maximum power rating of your cooktop. For example, for an 1800 watt induction cooktop a 2000 watt or larger inverter will do the trick. Induction cooktops rely on the oscillating wave of AC power to generate an oscillating magnetic field.
Those oscillations in the magnetic field vibrate the magnetic particles of the pan to create heat. A pure sine wave inverter makes the smooth waveform in the AC power that allows this to happen. Modified sine wave inverters generate a stair-stepped wave which will not allow the induction coil in the cooktop to generate the proper magnetic fields to operate correctly.
What Is Required To Use An Induction Cooktop?
All that is required to use an induction cooktop is a proper supply of electricity to power the cooktop and induction stove-compatible cookware. If you choose a portable unit, you’ll need a flat space large enough to set the cooktop on. The space will also have to be large enough to accommodate the cookware you are using on top.
It will also have to be sturdy enough to hold the weight of the cooktop, cookware, and whatever ingredients you are cooking. Lastly, you’ll need an appropriate electrical outlet or connection within the unit’s cord length to power it. If your unit is designed to be permanently installed then refer to the owner’s manual for installation requirements.
Regardless of the type of unit you choose, you will likely also need to purchase (or make) cleaning supplies made specifically for induction cooktops so you can keep your new cooktop in tip-top shape.
Can You Use An Induction Cooktop For Boondocking Or Overlanding?
Induction cooktops can be a good option for cooking while boondocking or Overlanding. The most important factor is having the proper power available to run the cooktop. In boondocking and Overlanding situations shore power is usually not available. Given that, you’ll need a good solar system or a portable generator capable of powering your induction cooktop.
Running an 1800 watt induction cooktop at full power through a typical inverter will use about 100 amp-hours of battery capacity every 36 minutes. The best ways to combat that amount of usage is to:
- Run the induction cooktop at lower settings.
- Choose a smaller cooktop with a lower power rating.
- Add batteries to cover your needs.
- Add solar panels to recharge your batteries faster and provide more direct power while the sun shines.
- Run the induction cooktop from a generator. Small 2000 watt inverter generators will be sufficient for an 1800 watt cooktop. These don’t weight much, have a small footprint and use a relatively small amount of fuel.
Downsides To Using An Induction Stove When Camping?
While induction stoves have several advantages for campsite cooking there are a few downsides.
- Special pans can be heavy. Weight is always a concern when camping. Campers and RVs have very specific weight limitations, carrying a bunch of heavy pans may mean you have to leave something else behind.
- High power consumption. Any electric cooking appliance requires a relatively large amount of energy to operate and induction cooktops are no exception. You can buy low power units and you can cook at lower settings to minimize the amount of power needed. However, without a robust solar system, shore power or a decent sized generator an induction stove simply won’t work effectively.
- Requires electricity. Induction stoves require electricity which isn’t always available while camping. Taking a power source large enough to power an induction cooktop is significantly more difficult then carrying fuel for most flame based stoves of equivalent power. Even completely solar based induction cooktops are much more cumbersome to transport with their heavy batteries and large solar panels.
Do They Make 12v Induction Cooktops?
There are a few 12 V DC induction cooktops like this one available. These tend to be lower wattage units, so they won’t cook as fast as their 120 V AC cousins. The majority of 12- or 24-volt DC-powered induction cooktops that are available will be found on foreign manufacturing websites like Alibaba.com. Ordering products from these sources can be a hit or miss proposition so always do heavy research before proceeding. The better alternative is to run an AC induction cooktop using an inverter.
To power most induction cooktops from a DC source, you’ll need to use an inverter large enough to power the cooktop at the highest settings. For example, a 2000 watt or larger inverter would be a good choice to run an 1800-watt induction cooktop. Remember that amps = w/v, so pulling 1800 watts at 12V is 150 amps. You can also use an online calculator to determine the amp draw at the battery.
This calculator is nice because it takes into account a 15% loss of power in the inverter due to inherent inefficiency. You will have to check your specific inverter specifications for the actual loss in your system and adjust your numbers accordingly. Using the 15% loss gives us 166 amps between the battery and inverter, make sure you use appropriately sized wire for such a connection.
The lesson to be learned here is that running an 1800-watt induction cooktop at full power through an inverter will drain a fully charged 200 amp hour battery bank in around 72 minutes. It takes a lot of battery to run an average induction cooktop for an extended period.
Are Induction Cooktops Waterproof?
To a limited degree, induction cooktops are waterproof enough to prevent damage from spills and boil overs while cooking. You’ll want to research your specific model for the level of water protection it has. Most will be protected from boil overs and spatters, but not from submersion in a sink or dishwasher.
What Happens If You Spill Liquid Food On Your Induction Cooktop?
Spills on your induction cooktop are inevitable, fortunately, your cooktop manufacturer probably took that into consideration when designing your unit. While the top of an induction cooktop does not heat up during the cooking process on its own, it will still get hot from the transfer of heat from the pan resting on it. Given that, spilled foods generally won’t burn onto the surface as severely as they would with a coil or flame heated stove.
Induction cooktops will require special cleaners to remove any burned-on food without scratching the glass surface. The typical home DIY solution is to wipe the cooking surface down with an ammonia-based cleaner. Then sprinkle the surface with baking soda and cover it with a hot damp towel.
Let the towel sit on the cooktop for 15 minutes and then wipe it down. It may take some scrubbing and multiple tries to remove all the burned-on materials. If you catch your spills before they burn on, dampening a rag in water and wiping it down should be all you need to do.
If you prefer “professional products” made specifically for the task you can go with any number of glass cooktop cleaners at your local big box store. Weimann makes a cleaning kit that includes the cleaner and tools for removing heavily burned stains from glass cooktops.