Why Induction Ranges Will Be the Next Big Thing
As much as I love visiting my parent’s home outside of Chicago, I used to grimace at the thought of cooking there.
My parents had their own system for storing ingredients and utensils, and it didn’t necessarily sync up with mine (naturally). But the biggest bane was the induction cooktop they bought to replace their old electric cooktop. You had to turn it on by patiently resting your finger on the 0 and then swiping up to the desired level. And you couldn’t set anything else on the cooking surface, or else you’d get an error code.
Why couldn’t they just have installed a gas stove? I remember thinking this was cooking torture. But once I spent a week doing intensive cooking in March 2020, the once irritating Miele became my liebchen.
Real Chefs Do Use Induction
This was not long after hearing celebrity chef Curtis Stone at the KBIS 2020 do a cooking demonstration where he spoke about the upside of cooking with a Bosch induction range.
I had thought that gas was what real chefs use. Working over a roaring flame is great in the movies, but that’s not how it is in the top kitchens, where precision and consistency matter. The French Laundry switched to induction cooking around 2010. When Daniel Boulud renovated the kitchen at his Westchester County country home, he installed a Dacor induction stove, along with a gas range.
Actually, magnetic induction cooktops and stoves are pretty common outside the United States. Though it’s slow to catch on in the states, the technology has been around for 90 years.
It was introduced at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, and Frigidaire promoted it in the 1950s. The induction cooktop creates a magnetic field that’s absorbed by a stainless steel or iron pan, which creates heat.
Induction stoves are about to show up more across the US. They’re a modern option for city dwellers in high-rises without gas. And, a growing number of eco-minded cities like Berkeley and Santa Rosa in California, and Brookline, Massachusetts have banned the installation of new gas lines. Gas is the leading source of greenhouse gases, according to a 2019 study led by Stanford University researcher Robert Jackson. So, as more cities make similar moves to control greenhouse gas production, here are some compelling reasons to consider an induction cooktop.
A Safer Option
Most parents teach their little ones to stay away from the stove since it’s hot. Even for adults, both gas stoves and traditional electric stoves can be a burn hazard.
While the induction cooktop gets hot, there’s no open flame to burn your hand or ignite a sleeve or kitchen towel. You have to set your hand pretty much on the glowing cooking surface to get burned since the surrounding surface stays cool.
Turning on an instant gas flame makes it seem like you’re getting dinner done quickly (hence the phrase now you’re cooking with gas.) But how many times have you turned that flame to what you thought was low, and come back to find charred garlic, burnt bacon, or scorched scrambled eggs?
A live gas flame can be hard to control. Induction, by contrast, offers precise heat. Set a burner to number 3 and you know how it will perform each time. “Unlike a (gas) burner where there are hot spots, induction tops are great,” says Nathan Geis Coulon, chef of Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in San Diego. “They heat fast and cook completely evenly.” He prefers induction for sauces, roux, pastry cream, and caramel–things that you don’t want to scorch.
A Cooler Way to Cook
Since an induction stove isn’t releasing heat into the room, unlike a conventional electric or gas stove, it doesn’t heat up your room. That bonus may become more important as climate change pushes temperatures higher in formerly temperate regions.
Induction ranges even come with burners dedicated to low heat or high heat so you don’t have to take time to pick the right setting. In his Las Vegas demonstration, Stone showed how you could sear a steak or boil water on the high heat burner. The simmer burner is perfect for making cream sauces or eggs, which need a gentler heat.
Easy to Clean
And they’re easy to clean. After doing his cooking demo, Stone just wiped the flat cooktop down with a damp sponge. There were no grates or burners to clean. Though the induction cooktop looks like glass, using ammonia on it will leave a stain. Instead, go old school and wipe it down with a white vinegar and water solution.
The Right Stuff
Ray, a customer service technician from Bertazzoni, says that the right pans make a difference with induction cooking. “Just make sure they purchase an induction cookware set,” he says. “The way they’re constructed they conduct electricity.”
Traditional copper, aluminum, and tempered glass cookware won’t work unless they have a magnetic core added. But enameled cast iron, stainless steel, and even old-school cast iron will work fine, just be careful not to slide it around to avoid scratches on your cooktop.
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