Food & Drink

September 18, 2012

Bonnie Aeschliman: Induction cooktops gaining popularity

Recently I made dinner for a special event, and everything was perfect.

Recently I made dinner for a special event, and everything was perfect.

The tenderloin 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, the conversation consisted of pleasantries as we chatted about the day’s occurrences.

However, the conversation took a different turn as one guest seemed more intrigued by my kitchen appliances than the meal I had prepared. Of particular interest was the induction cooktop. He was remodeling his kitchen and contemplating installing an induction cooktop and wanted to know why I chose induction.

It is a cook’s dream. Not only does it have a very sleek appearance, it performs beautifully. The heat is instantly on and instantly off — no residual heat remains. Because it cooks magnetically, the cooking surface does not get hot, so it is safer than an open flame. With the smooth surface, 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, they are gaining in popularity. But the questions persist from my cooking students, readers and now even my dinner guests. Let’s answer some of them now.

Q: 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.

A: The appearance 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. However, when a standard electric range is turned on, the unit will become hot whether or not a pan is placed on it.

Q. How does induction cooking compare to gas?

A. 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 the electric range will have residual heat for several minutes.

However, induction cooking is different from standard electric cooking. It is faster than gas, and the heat is instantaneous. There is no waiting for the burner to heat up or to cool down.

Q. What are the disadvantages of induction cooking?

A. You may need to purchase new cookware, as only pans that attract a magnet will work on an induction cooktop. There are two popular cookware brands available locally, and more lines are appearing on the market as induction is becoming more popular.

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