Down a lane in a small corner of Northamptonshire, a road leads to a building that backs onto a cricket pitch. Inside a group of engineers are assembling, fitting and testing a series of components and copper wire coils.
Welcome to the HQ and factory of Induced Energy, Britain’s only manufacturer of commercial induction cooking technology. For almost 25 years, the Brackley-based company has been manufacturing induction cooking equipment, and its original brief to ‘build the best induction hobs in the world’ remains as pertinent now as it did then.
Although best known for its range of portable induction hobs, the firm’s appetite for innovation has led to the introduction of a mobile cooking station with integrated ventilation and an ‘iPlate’ system that uses induction to keep food hot. The latter is quick to achieve and maintain the desired temperature once it has detected the presence of an induction-friendly dish, and energy is only used when it is needed.
But the company’s latest invention could eclipse all that has gone before it if the initial reaction to it is anything to go by. Building on the concept of the iPlate, Induced Energy has conceived a system called the ‘invisible cooking station’ that allows operators to prepare, cook and hold food on the same surface without any visible sign of the induction technology beneath it.
As the picture below demonstrates, what looks like an ordinary prep surface actually conceals a focused coil that allows the unit to cook directly through a solid lava stone surface. Those that have seen it in action say it has the potential to revolutionise the way that operators serve their clients in the most hygienic and safe manner without the need for vast amounts of heat. From a flexibility point of view, it provides the option to perform multiple tasks on the same surface and offers more preparation space when required.
“Following the success of our invisible iPlate we saw that there was a gap in the market for the possibility of cooking in front of the customer in the same way, and using similar technology to our existing single zone hob,” he explains. “After many months we eventually came across a lava stone product that would not crack, which happens in most hard stone tops caused by the thermal shock.”
The invisible cooking station is manufactured to each individual customer’s bespoke requirements and can vary from a mobile 600mm square, which is ideal for directors’ dining or table cooking in restaurants, to a full service counter. The lava stone glazed tops are available in any commercial colour or as a natural grey top similar in colour to a dark slate.
“As the lava stone does not hold very much heat, and due to all of the energy being focused through the stone to the pan, the countertop does not get hot. It is therefore ideal for front-of-house cooking in any application, but especially where it is likely that customers can actually touch the service counter. In addition to the front-of-house possibility, the trend for open kitchens gives the operator the opportunity to really show off with countertop colour schemes to suite in with the colour scheme of the restaurant.”
It has the potential to change front of house theatre cooking in the way that the combi oven changed
Available in single, twin and four zones, with each ring requiring a 13 amp (3kW) supply, Induced Energy believes the invisible cooking station will most resonate with operators involved in B&I catering or who have a high emphasis on servery counters, show kitchens or high-end presentation.
The company gave the market its first glimpse of the equipment when it exhibited at the Gulfood exhibition earlier this year, and Banner says the response has given it confidence that the market can see the value in it.
“Many of the comments that we received were that it has the potential to change front-of-house theatre cooking in the way that the combi oven changed the kitchen,” he says. “Operators have always been very hot on safety in customer-facing environments, quite rightly so, this may well put them at ease. The wow factor when we demonstrate this hob to the trade is amazing as people initially cannot grasp what they are seeing, and how it is possible to cook through a stone with no visible signs of a hob.”
It might sound ironic, but seeing really is believing where the invisible cooking station is concerned.
Introduction to induction
Induction was once the chosen cooking method of the select few, but it is now an accepted and affordable option for all types of operator. Here are some of the reasons why it is gaining mainsteam acceptance.
Induction is a highly energy efficient cooking method. Induced Energy claims it is 50% more energy efficient than halogen and 86% more than gas. Extraction costs are reduced and there is no need for gas cut-off equipment.
Induction hobs are much more responsive than gas, particularly as the hob surface is not directly heated. Power settings on some hobs range from one through to 99, giving the precise control that is ideal for sauces, simmering, boiling, frying and wok cooking.
Because induction heats the pan and its contents and not the hob surface, a significantly cooler and more pleasant working environment is created.
There are no naked flames or directly heated surfaces with induction. It is therefore almost impossible to ignite a spillage. If no pan is present, energy cuts off automatically while pan sensors prevent the heating of utensils left on the hob surface.
Induction produces no poisonous gases or wasted background heat. Carbon deposits on pans and on the hob surface are eliminated, ensuring no unhealthy carcinogenic carbon particles reaching the air.