The NuWave PIC (Precision Induction Cooktop) claims to be a versatile, oversized 12-inch countertop cooking device that uses induction to heat your food, which is claimed to prevent spillovers and burned food, and to remain cool to the touch while in use. Because of this, even if a spillover does occur, food won’t stick and you won’t have to worry about lengthy cleanups.
In addition, the NuWave PIC is claimed to use 40% to 50% less energy than traditional stovetop cooking methods, which can save you money in the long run. The NuWave PIC’s induction cooking is also claimed to reduce trans fatty acids up to 10X more than gas or electric cooking, and to provide up to 145% less saturated fat and up to 195% less cholesterol.
Based on this, the NuWave PIC sounds pretty awesome, right? Fortunately, NuWave PIC’s manufacturer reached out to us and sent a complimentary cooktop our way, so we were able to test it out first-hand and see how well it performed. This, along with some intense online research, helped us to form a more informed opinion about some of the NuWave PIC’s strengths and weaknesses and to help us gain a better understanding about who might find it most useful. We’ll definitely get to this, but first, let’s take a look at how the NuWave PIC claims to work.
How Does the NuWave PIC Claim to Work?
In order to accomplish all of these benefits, the NuWave PIC uses magnetic induction coils to warm iron and steel-based cookware, which means that your food is heated directly from its container, and not from the cooktop itself. The manufacturer also claims that 90% of the heat generated from the NuWave PIC goes toward cooking your food, compared with 50% for traditional gas or electric cooktops, which means that your cooking time can be cut in half, regardless of whether you’re boiling, simmering, deep-frying, stir-frying, sautéing, steaming, searing, slow cooking, barbecuing, melting, or grilling.
The NuWave PIC features 6 precise temperature control settings that range between 100 and 575 degrees, along with a digital display, so you’ll always know exactly what temperature you’re using to cook your food. And because there are no open flames or red-hot coils, we found the NuWave PIC’s cooktop to remain cool to the touch when in use, and to make cooking safer, which we’ll cover more in-depth shortly.
The Nuwave PIC Gold in Action frying chicken sausages.
After using the product, at just 5.4 pounds, we found that the NuWave PIC can travel with you wherever you need. And as long as you have access to a standard U.S. electrical outlet, you can cook and warm food for just about any occasion, whether at home or on the go.
So how did the NuWave PIC hold up? As it turns out, we found that portable cooktop could be very useful in some circumstances, while being much less useful in others. However, we’ll need to cover some important information in order to explain our findings, so let’s dig in shall we?
Induction Cooking Versus Stovetop Cooking
First, what in the world is induction cooking? According to Wikipedia, “Induction cooking heats a cooking vessel by electrical induction, instead of by thermal conduction from a flame, or an electrical heating element.” In the instance of the NuWave PIC, this is accomplished using an internal series of copper coils that generate a magnetic field within your pots and pans. In turn, this magnetic field causes invisible molecules to begin vibrating rapidly, thereby creating heat, which causes the magnetic part of cookware to heat the food. In layman’s terms, traditional stovetop cooking heats the contents of your pots and pans, while induction heats your pots and pans directly, which is then transferred to your food.
While this sounds pretty cool, according to TheInductionSite.com, keep in mind that there are several primary pros and cons you should consider if you’re thinking about an induction cooktop:
Induction Cooktop Pros
Instant adjustment – As with the NuWave PIC, you’ll be able to instantly adjust your heat to the exact temperature you desire.
No Wasted Heat – Since heat is being applied directly to your pots and pans, none of it is wasted.
Safety – Because induction cooktops remain cool to the touch (more about this in a moment), there is a much lower risk of fire or of burning yourself.
Portability – While not all induction cooktops are portable, the NuWave PIC is, which is obviously and advantage, whether you need to cook when camping or just to keep food warm at the dinner table.
Induction Cooktop Cons
Special Pots & Pans – This one is a biggie. In order to take advantage of the benefits provided by induction cooktops, you must use pots and pans made of magnetic materials. While stainless steel and cast iron are the most popular, any ferromagnetic material will work, which you can check by holding a magnet to your pots and pans. Alternately, many manufacturers have begun providing an “induction compatible” sticker on their cookware.
Noise – As we’ll briefly discuss in the Consumer Feedback section below, many induction cooktops (the NuWave PIC included) use a fan to remain cool, which some might consider bothersome.
With all of these pros and cons in mind, remember that portable induction cooktops are not a new invention. Because of this, if you’ve decided to give induction cooking a try, remember that you have numerous options from which to choose. In fact, some of these options may be less expensive than the NuWave PIC.
Will the NuWave PIC Really Save You Time?
When you were watching the NuWave PIC commercial, it’s most likely that the 2 biggest benefits that grabbed your attention were its ability to 1) cut cooking time in half, and 2) to help you cook healthier. Is this really the case?
In order to find out, we timed how fast it took 1.5 liters (7 cups) of water to boil on the NuWave PIC compared to stovetop methods. Here’s what we found out:
The NuWave PIC took between 10 and 12 minutes on average (based on three trials). This is in sharp contrast to the cooktop’s box, which claimed to boil water in 90 seconds. Perhaps this is possible with a much smaller amount of water (perhaps a teaspoon), but certainly not 7 cups.
On a gas burner, this same amount of water took 15 minutes.
Our electric stovetop took 9 minutes to heat the water.
This means that the NuWave PIC actually took longer than an electric range to heat water in our test while being about 30% faster than a gas cooktop. However, how fast water boils doesn’t have much of an impact on how long your food takes to cook, especially once it’s been added to your pot or pan, so we’re uncertain how the manufacturer can claim that the NuWave PIC can cut your cooking time in half.
Is the NuWave PIC Healthier Than Stovetop Cooking?
As we mentioned at the beginning of our review, the NuWave PIC claims that its induction cooking can reduce trans fatty acids up to 10X when compared to gas or electric, and provide up to 145% less saturated fat and up to 195% less cholesterol. According to the manufacturer, these numbers come from tests conducted by Northland Laboratories, although it’s fair to say that the results won’t mean much to a layman.
However, it’s not indicated what types of foods were being cooked or under what conditions these tests occurred, so it’s difficult to put these numbers into perspective or to have them positively reflect on any of the claimed benefits provided by the NuWave PIC.
How Safe Is the NuWave PIC?
True to the manufacturer’s claims, during our testing we found that the NuWave PIC’s surface does not get hot enough to burn your skin. However, here’s the catch:
While the outer rings remain cool to the touch, it does become increasingly warmer as you move toward the center. And if you were to touch the very center of the NuWave PIC immediately after cooking something, while it won’t immediately burn your skin, it won’t be cool enough that you could keep your hand comfortably in place for more than a few seconds. In fact, we even tried the “ice cube test” featured in the NuWave PIC’s commercial, and found that it did melt while in the center, but fairly slowly.
Long story short: While the NuWave PIC’s entire surface may not be “cool to the touch,” it’s highly unlikely that you’d burn yourself why using it to cook. So at least from this perspective, it appears to be safer than a traditional cooktop.
With this said, we should point out that during the cooktop’s commercial, a firefighter is interviewed who tells a sad story about a teenager who was cooking fries on their cooktop, forgot about them, and subsequently burned his parent’s house down. While the NuWave PIC claims to automatically turn off if a pan is lifted from its surface (more about this in a moment), we can’t see how an induction cooktop would have prevented something like this specific scenario from occurring.
The Real Benefits of the NuWave PIC
Considering everything we’ve talked about, in reality, the NuWave PIC appears to work similarly and to provide many of the same benefits as traditional cooktops—that is, unless you’re used to boiling water on a gas burner. Outside of this, the fact that the NuWave PIC’s burner doesn’t get blazing is also a benefit, although one that any induction cooktop would provide, regardless of the manufacturer.
Other benefits include:
Its slim design and fairly light construction, making it easy to transport.
The full-size cooking service will accommodate most of your cookware (assuming it can be used with induction heating), and is even big enough to use for stir-fry.
Easy to operate – simply unbox it, plug it in, set your desired temperature, and press start.
Features an easy-to-use timer (hours and minutes) that can be set to automatically shut the NuWave PIC off at your desired time.
Pause option - what’s the benefit of this? Pending.
Who Could Benefit Most from the NuWave PIC?
When it comes down to it, based on our testing and independent research, it appears that the NuWave PIC’s primary benefit lies in its portability. So, if you need an extra burner when cooking Holiday meals, need to cook food while staying in a hotel, or need something to take with you on camping trips (as long as you have access to an electrical outlet), the NuWave PIC seems like it could provide a solid option.
In addition, the NuWave PIC seems like it might be especially useful if you’re a college student living in a dorm, are living in temporary housing while moving between homes, or are just in a period of your life where you need a fast, easy cooking option.
However, if you’re planning on using your NuWave PIC to cook food on a daily basis, it might be inconvenient to take it out of the cabinet, remove it from its case, plug it in, and then wait for it to warm up. In cases like this, it’s likely that you’ll find your traditional cooktop to be handier.
Keep Ventilation in Mind
Even if your specific circumstances dictate that the NuWave PIC would be useful, you’ll typically need to cook in a well-ventilated area, similar to what you’d find over a traditional cooktop in your kitchen. However, this obviously isn’t something that’s included with the NuWave PIC, so this is yet another factor you’ll need to keep mind before making a purchase.
In other words, if you’ll just be boiling eggs, making soups, or cooking very basic foods, ventilation may not be quite as important as if you’ll be frying sausages or making large dinners. But why is this important in the first place? According to a 2013 NY Times article, “frying, grilling or toasting foods with gas and electric appliances creates particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, and volatile organic compounds.” And once these compounds build up within your home and you’re repeatedly exposed to them, “the population-wide health impact of indoor pollutants is on a par with that of car accidents, and greater than that of traditional concerns like secondhand smoke or radon.” In other words, “It’s not a small risk.”
What Are Other Consumers Saying About the NuWave PIC?
Taking a look at the NuWave PIC website, the induction cooktop appears to have received all 4 and 5-star customer reviews.
However, reviews found on Amazon.com, ComplaintsList.com, and elsewhere online make it appear that the NuWave PIC has mixed customer reviews. While some customers seemed to have been pleased with its portability and ease of use and cleanup, some of the most common complaints cited:
Excessive S&H fees (we’ll talk more about this next) and long shipping times.
Many consumers complained about their experience with customer service (rude, unable to help solve problems, etc.).
Actual temperatures differ from what’s displayed on the NuWave PIC’s screen.
Did not work as well as a traditional cooktop. In fact, numerous customers noted that the NuWave PIC does not perform as well as the commercial might make it seem.
Numerous consumers also claimed that the vinyl over buttons begins to crack, as well as its plastic dome. Granted, many of these reviews were older, so we’re unsure if the manufacturer has since addressed these issues.
Despite the lack of a flame, food can still burn and stick to the NuWave PIC’s cooktop, especially eggs, cheese, and chocolate.
While the NuWave PIC’s automatic shutoff feature could be considered a positive, many consumers complained that this can become annoying if you need to lift the pan to turn over the contents (e.g. flipping a pancake or a fried egg).
Some consumers found the fan noise generated by the NuWave PIC to be bothersome; so much so that they noted it probably wouldn’t be useful for warming foods at the dinner table.
Finally, we read more than one complaint during our research where customers claimed their dogs freaked out after turning on the NuWave PIC, so there might be a high-pitched noise it emits that is inaudible to humans.
Outside of the product itself, NuWave as a company (previously known as Hearthware, Inc.) holds an F rating with the Better Business Bureau, based on more than 1,300 closed complaints (as of 12/19/14). Most of these complaints appear to reference problems with service (e.g. receiving wrong/incomplete orders, excessive S&H charges, long shipping times, etc.). In fact, a January 2014 BBB review of Hearthware, Inc. found a strong pattern of customer complaints filed against the company, although it appears a plan of action was implemented to address many of these ongoing issues. And while this is positive, it doesn’t appear to have stopped many of these same complaints from continuing to be filed.
NuWave PIC Pricing and Refund Policy
The BOGO NuWave PIC offer is priced at 3 payments of $33.33 plus $29.95 S&H, bringing your total to $129.94. For this price, you’ll receive the following:
- 2 NuWave PICs
- Duralon 2 non-stick ceramic cookware, including 10.5-inch and 9-inch frying pans
- An 18/10 stainless steel, 2.5-quart pot
- 9-piece fondue set
- Premium vented lid
- Steamer basket
- An in-depth instructional DVD that contains long infomercials as well as a quick how-to-guide, which could be great for visual learners.
- A recipe book that contains dozens of recipes, although none of these are specific to the NuWave PIC.
For an additional $29.99 plus S&H, you can also purchase the bonus cookware set, which includes:
- 9-inch hard anodized aluminum NuWave Duralon™ 2 Ceramic Non-Stick Fry Pan
- 10.5-inch hard anodized aluminum NuWave Duralon™ 2 Ceramic Non-Stick Fry Pan
- 12-inch hard anodized aluminum NuWave Duralon™ 2 Ceramic Non-Stick Fry Pan
- 3-quart stainless steel NuWave Duralon™ 2 Ceramic Non-Stick Saucepan with Premium Tempered, Vented Glass Lid
All NuWave PICs come with a 90-day refund policy, less S&H charges, as well as a 1-year warranty.
In order to initiate a refund or process a warranty claim, you’ll need to contact customer service at 877-689-2838, M-F Central Time.
Bottom Line: Can the NuWave PIC Help You Cook Healthier in Less Time?
The NuWave PIC’s induction cooking surface can help you heat some things faster than a traditional cooktop, and its portability means that you’ll be able to cook almost anywhere than features an electrical outlet. However, for the most part, we didn’t find that the NuWave PIC would help you cook meaningfully faster than other methods, or that it would help you cook more healthy foods.
As such, if you constantly find that you need an extra burner when cooking at home, or that you need something reliable to use for cooking when you’re away, the NuWave PIC might be a right fit for you.