Snuff the Gas. It’s Time to Cook Like a Chef with Electric Induction
Professional chefs and expert home cooks have traditionally favored gas cooktops, but induction cooking has most of the culinary perks, and renewable possibilities.
If you’re a fan of cooking shows or are lucky enough to have chef friends, you may think expert cooking requires gas. The sight of flames shooting around the edge of a hot pan adds a frisson of excitement to the act of preparing a meal. But that fun comes at a high cost.
The gas burned on stoves is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas that causes 100 times the damage of carbon dioxide over a 10-year period, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain Institute . That report also found that burning gas for heating, cooling and cooking is responsible for about one-tenth of all carbon emissions in the United States. Equally concerning is the level of indoor air pollution that gas cooking creates that can harm you, your friends, and your family.
While ventilation can reduce the impact of gas cooking a little, the best way to eliminate it entirely is to swap your gas stove for an electric induction cooktop. Many chefs shudder at the thought of cooking on an electric appliance, but induction cooking has been embraced by many professional cooks for its precision.
“Lots of restaurants use at least one induction cooktop in their kitchen because it can be used to quickly make a sauce and can be used to keep some items warm without damaging the quality,” says Ann Nolan, a culinary training chef in Chicago for Whirlpool .
Now You’re Cooking Fast … With Vibrating Molecules
Induction cooktops look like a smooth surface electric cooktop but they’re a lot more exciting to use.
Ann Nolan, a culinary training chef in Chicago for Whirlpool , uses induction cooking for its precise control, speed, efficiency, and cleanability. From a safety perspective, the cooktop can’t be beat: It boasts cool-to-touch surfaces and does not pollute indoor air with carbon monoxide.
“Induction is the most advanced cooking technology available,” says Jessica Petrino, an appliance educator at AJ Madison Home & Kitchen Appliances in Tysons Corner, Va. “ This electric cooking technology has magnets under the smooth glass cooking surface to activate the molecules in your cookware to create heat. When activated, these magnets cause the molecules in your cookware to vibrate quickly for hot temperatures and more slowly for a gentle simmer. The cooktop setting you choose will determine how fast the molecules vibrate.”
Petrino, who has personally cooked with induction for several years, says induction is the fastest-growing cooking technology in the United States because of its efficiency, speed, safety, and cleanability.
“With an electric cooktop, the electric coils underneath the surface heat up the glass, which acts like a middle guy between the coils and your pots and pans,” says Nolan. “With induction, the electric current directly heats the pots and pans.”
Nolan believes induction cooking is the wave of the future, particularly because it is far more energy efficient than other methods.
“Induction cooking is 91 percent to 95 percent energy efficient compared to electric radiant cooking, which is about 80 percent efficient,” Nolan says. “Gas cooking is only about 40 percent to 50 percent efficient because the flames are shooting heat around the sides of the pan and heating up your kitchen, too.”
When Nolan demonstrates the speed of induction cooking to customers and appliance salespeople, she heats up a skillet for just 15 to 20 seconds to get it hot enough to sear meat compared to the three or four minutes needed on a standard electric cooktop.
“Recipes don't need modification for induction cooking; however, it's important to remember that induction is powerful and heats up quickly,” says Petrino. “Our best advice is to do your prep work before you turn on the stove. For example, you’ll want to dice your vegetables before putting butter and garlic in the pan. Otherwise, it could cook too quickly.”
The main difference between induction and standard electric or gas cooking is simply the initial speed and precision of getting to the right temperature, says Nolan. For instance, when Nolan cooks rice, she simmers it for 20 minutes as usual, but the water initially boils nearly instantaneously.
“Because it heats up so quickly, you need to watch your food closely at first,” says Nolan. “But the precision is helpful. If you’re heating up cream for a sauce, it heats up fast but if you turn it down it cools off instantly. A traditional electric cooktop isn’t as fast or responsive.”
Nolan likes to make a queso dip and keep it warm for hours at the precise temperature that keeps it from growing bacteria and prevents it from getting overcooked.
Induction Cooking Benefits Beyond Reducing Carbon Emissions
If you have children or pets at home or just tend to experience little kitchen accidents, a big benefit of induction is that the glass surface stays cool throughout the cooking process.
“Many induction cooktops, including Whirlpool’s, have a lock control panel so the cooktop can’t be accidentally turned on,” says Nolan. “Also, if you press it to start and forget to put on the pan, the cooktop turns off automatically.”
Cooking with induction will be an easy transition, says Petrino. Not only do you have complete control over the temperature and can go from a boil to simmer instantaneously, but you can also clean up around the burners as you go, she says.
Petrino points out that the lack of heat on the surface also means you won't find burnt-on food after you’re done cooking.
Preparing to Become an Insta-Worthy Induction Chef
If you’re building a new home, it’s simple to choose an induction cooktop for your new kitchen. Retrofitting induction into an existing kitchen can be simple, too, but you must check to be sure your electrical system can handle it.
“Induction is a powerful cooking technology and in many cases, induction cooktops require more electricity than standard electric or gas cooktops,” says Petrino. “If you live in an older home with a dated electrical system, you might have difficulty getting enough amperage to accommodate an induction surface.”
One other potential drawback: If you live in an area with frequent power outages gas might be a better solution because you can still cook on a gas cooktop if there’s no power, says Petrino.
Before you start cooking with induction, you’ll need to check out your pans and possibly replace them, says Petrino.
“Induction requires a magnetic connection between your cooktop and cookware, which means your cookware must have magnetic properties,” says Petrino. “An easy way to test your pots and pans is to take a refrigerator magnet and see if it will stick to the bottom. If it sticks, your cookware will be compatible with induction. Most new pots and pans today are induction-ready, including cast iron, metal, and non-stick options.”
Your pots and pans must be absolutely flat to work on an induction cooktop because otherwise, the magnetic connection may not work, says Nolan. She also recommends buying heavier pans that won’t slip around on the surface.
“You also may want to use a silicone pad between your cast iron pan and your cooktop to keep the pan from scratching the surface,” says Nolan.
Silicone pads are only safe on induction cooktops.
“When you switch from any older appliance to a new one there’s a learning curve no matter what you buy,” says Nolan. “Learning to use an induction cooktop just takes a little practice.”
Publisher’s Note: This content is made possible by our Today’s Home Buyer Campaign Sponsors: Panasonic, Whirlpool, Rockwool, and Lee Industries. These companies take sustainability seriously, in both their products and their operations. Learn more about building and buying homes that are more affordable and less resource-intensive on Today's Home Buyer.