When I had a small group for dinner last week, everything was perfect — the tenderloin of beef came out of the oven beautifully browned and medium-rare, side dishes were ready right on time, the table was set and the autumn flowers were lovely.
As the dinner commenced, those around the table chatted about the day's occurrences and the food. Then one guest, it seemed, became more intrigued by my kitchen appliances than the meal I had prepared.
When he noticed I had a gas cooktop as well as a large induction cooktop, he asked which I preferred. That was easy — I love induction cooking, I find it to be quicker than gas, spills wipe up easily, and induction cooking does not blacken the bottoms of my pans as gas is prone to do.
Although induction cooktops are not new and are becoming more popular, I routinely receive questions about induction cooking from my cooking students, readers and now even my dinner guests.
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Let's answer some now.
How is induction cooking different from cooking on a regular electric glass cooktop? They look much the same but there is a major difference in the price tag.
The look of an induction cooktop and an electric cooktop may be similar, but how they work is totally different. When the induction unit is turned on, a high-frequency electromagnetic field heats the pan and the pan's heat cooks the food.
When the pan is removed from the unit, no heat is generated. By the same token, if the induction unit is turned on but no pan is placed on it, the unit will not get hot. That is because induction cooks magnetically. Obviously, when a standard electric range is turned on, the unit will become very hot whether or not a pan is placed on it.
How does induction cooking compare to gas?
Chefs have long contended that gas is better than the standard electric range because gas heats up instantly while an electric unit takes longer. Also, when gas is turned off, the heat subsides instantly while an electric range will have residual heat for several minutes.
Induction cooking, however, is different from the standard electric method. It is as fast (or in some cases faster) than gas. The heat is instantaneous — there is no waiting for a burner to heat up or to cool down. Some believe it is safer than gas because there is no open flame.
What are the disadvantages of induction cooking?
Actually, from my perspective, the only disadvantage is that induction cooktops must have cookware that will work with the magnetic field. Two lines of cookware available locally are Culinary Institute of American Cookware and All Clad Stainless. Both are versatile and will perform beautifully on induction, electric or gas ranges.