Chances are you've heard of induction cooking, but you don't really know how it works and why you should have it in your kitchen. That's OK, you're not alone.
Long used in Europe, but just starting to gain ground in the United States, induction hot plates and cook tops are the most accurate, energy-efficient, and safest cooking equipment you can use in the kitchen. In many cases, cooking with induction is a chef's dream. So why aren't more induction units found in commercial kitchens? Many think that you need induction-ready cookware in order to use an induction unit, which is true (sort of). However, what many don't realize is that "induction-ready" cookware is already found in most kitchens. Do you like cooking with cast iron? You're induction-ready my friend.
In this buying guide, we'll go over how induction works, what type of cookware is compatible with induction units, and why induction is the best way to achieve your sustainability goals.
Contrary to popular belief, induction cooking is not a new technology. Induction relies on the power of magnets to generate heat—specifically, oscillating magnetic fields. With the use of electricity, an induction unit utilizes an electric current to create rapidly alternating magnetic fields. When an induction-ready pan is placed on the induction cookware, the resistance of the pan material converts the electrical energy into heat, which is then transferred directly to the food inside of the pan; this results in heat being generated by the pan itself!
Due to the nature of induction cooking, induction units are generally 50% or more effective at energy transfer than their electric or gas cooking equipment equivalents (some induction ranges like the Vollrath Mirage Pro Induction Range boast an impressive 90% energy efficiency). Why? Only a portion of the energy conducted by gas and electric equipment options actually makes it to your cookware—the rest simply floats away into the room.
When it comes to a preference of a gas range versus an electric one, you'll often find that in most circumstances the gas range will always win (if a kitchen is able to be equipped with one). As compared to electric ranges, which notoriously have slower temperature changes, gas ranges offer the precision that chefs rely on. And because gas ranges generate heat in a short amount of time, cooking time on the line is drastically reduced. With its consistency and reliability, it seems as though the best option on the market for commercial kitchens would be gas ranges.
But not anymore.
Enter induction, which by all accounts is like having a gas range on steroids. With induction hot plates, you have everything you know and love about gas ranges and then some. If precision is your top priority, you'll love the ability to heat incredibly slowly or at low temperatures, enabling you to simmer with more care. Plus, induction units lack the hot spots found on electric and gas ranges because the heat source is the pan itself, instead of located below the pan. Don't be surprised if your risotto comes out perfect each and every time on your induction unit—with consistency comes less waste (No more throwing away burned food!), and ultimately, more money in your pocket. But let's talk speed. What might have taken a gas range 8 minutes to boil 2 quarters of water (and with electric, it's 10 minutes), induction can get you there in 5 minutes or less.
Finally, an equally important benefit of induction that we don't think about (but should) is safety. Since the pan itself generates the heat in induction cooking, you no longer have to worry about hot surfaces. You can even touch the surface of the induction hot plate surface—no really, try it! Take your induction hot plate to your next event and know that you can cook your dishes safely and with ease, both in and out of the kitchen.
Perhaps one of the best parts about induction cooking is that it won't interfere with your sustainability goals. Traditional gas and electric ranges heat up the air around the pan, losing up to half of the heat generated to fill the surrounding environment. Conversely, induction cooktops and hot plates heat the pan itself, making it 50% (or more) energy efficient. And consider this—what happens when the air heats up in your kitchen? It gets unbearably hot at times (particularly those in smaller basement kitchens), often forcing you to crank up the air conditioning or keep fans running just to get a sense of relief. Induction cooking equipment ensures that your environment stays at a more tolerable temperature. Many induction units also feature sensors which detect whether a pan is there or not, automatically turning the element off if you forgot to do so yourself.
Chefs always look to consistency when it comes to cooking, and with good reason. Every time a dish is ruined because it was scorched by a hot spot or otherwise means it goes straight to the trash (or it should, lest you risk serving bad-tasting food to guests). With induction, you can spare yourself the cost of wasted food.
Less waste, whether it's food waste or energy waste, always leaves more money in your pocket.
One of the biggest questions surrounding the use of induction cooking is, "Will I need new induction-ready cookware?" Well, yes and no. Because induction utilizes magnets to generate heat, you need cookware made from materials with magnetic properties; this includes cookware made from: cast-iron, ceramic-clad and enameled cast iron (think Le Creuset cookware), magnetic stainless steel, etc. If your pots and pans are already made from these materials, you're in luck! Cookware that will not work with induction include those made from aluminum, glass and copper pans (unless layered with a magnetic material) because these are not magnetic materials.
Still guessing if your cookware is suitable or not? Grab a magnet from the fridge and hold it near the bottom of your pan. If the magnet sticks to your pan, you're in luck! If it doesn't, then it's time to go shopping.