If there is one part of the cooking market that has accelerated faster than any other in terms of its uptake, it’s induction.
Induction has made huge strides over the past ten years, and now proper commercial induction hobs are around that are reliable and robust. That wasn’t true of the early models, with some struggling to cope with the commercial environment.
Today’s induction hobs are fast, even more controllable than gas, easy to clean and they are very energy efficient: whereas gas is typically 50% efficient, induction is up to 90%, according to industry trade association FEA.
Additionally, they are safer than conventional electric and gas hobs and much quicker to clean.
There is the pan compatibility issue: an induction pan must have ferrous content, as the technology uses a magnetic field to deliver heat. If you’re buying pans for your new induction hob, make sure they are induction compatible – it shouldn’t be a problem, since there is a huge range of products designed for induction hobs.
So how does it work…
Induction cooking works by creating an electromagnetic field between the cookware and a copper coil – known as the inductor – that rests beneath the glass or ceramic top.
The field induces an electrical current to flow through the cookware causing resistance which results in ohmic heating.
As the heating method utilises an electromagnetic current, cookware must be made from a ferrous metal (stainless steel or cast iron) and have a flat bottom. In most cases, other materials will not work with an induction cooker due to the lack of necessary magnetic and electrical properties.
However, some ‘all-metal’ models have been produced combining power semi-conductors, high frequency currents and low loss coils.
Why are kitchens converting?…
One of the main reasons, and incidentally a key benefit for induction cooking systems is their efficiency when heating food and water.
With the electromagnetic mechanism heating the pan directly it means contents, such as water, can be brought to a near boil in up to 50% less time than electric or gas alternatives, according to Alex Neumann, commercial kitchen CAD designer at Alliance National.
“With rapid optimal temperature capability, coupled with less time needed to cook meals, induction cookers work out cheaper to operate. In addition, they require less energy per meal than standard electric or gas hobs.
“Another advantage is their ability to control temperature with more precision than an electric or gas variant. Having accurate command over the heat generated helps to reduce the risk of under and over cooking. The temperature consistency also ensures dish flavour and taste will remain uniform throughout service periods.”
Additionally, since induction burners do not heat the surface of the cooktop, any spillages won’t burn onto the surface. Meaning that almost immediately after cooking has finished, the area will be cool enough to simply clean any mess created.
Dispelling induction myths…
Cooking equipment specialist Hatco has revealed the top six myths it hears about induction cooktops. In a bid to put the rumblings to rest, here they are:
1. Induction isn’t as powerful as gas
There’s a common misconception that gas delivers more power — and consequently more speed — than induction solutions. However, the opposite is true. Induction delivers more power and speed because, unlike gas solutions, it heats the entire pan directly (as opposed to indirectly) with minimal wasted energy.
While induction uses 85-95% of the heat it generates, gas only uses 35-65% and loses the rest to the atmosphere. This means that you can cook much faster with induction, and you can reach and adjust temperatures with zero lag time and greater precision.
2. Induction is like cooking with a microwave
People have unjustly put induction in the same family as microwaves. Sure, microwaves are convenient just like induction cooktops, but the way they cook food is entirely different. Microwaves heat the food, whereas induction heats the pan. By heating the pan — which then heats the food — you can get a crisp sear and evenly-cooked food that’s impossible to achieve with a microwave.
3. Glass tops are not strong
While the word “glass” doesn’t exactly call to mind images of durability, the glass tops used on induction cooktops are incredibly strong.
In fact, they have to undergo stringent testing where they must withstand the impact of a 0.4kg steel ball that’s dropped from 533mm, and a 1.8kg pan dropped 10 times from 203mm. Just look for induction solutions that use ceramic glass, as tempered glass can bow at high temperatures, like when a pan has been heating on the top for an extended period.
4. You shouldn’t use induction if you have a pacemaker.
Induction cooktops have been around for over 30 years, while induction technology has been used in industrial applications for well over a century. There are no recorded cases of any injury (or harm done to a pacemaker user) in all of that time.
The wave only extends about an inch above the surface of the cooktop and is ‘fully captured’ by the pan in place. Without a pan in place, the unit only ‘pings’ looking for a pan, but does not fully energise. Even compatible small objects, such as spoons, are ‘ignored’ as a safety measure.
5. Induction is more expensive
While you may pay more for an induction cooktop up front, you’ll save in the long run. Since induction solutions are efficient and use 85%-95% of the energy they generate — as opposed to only 35%-65% for gas and 40%-50% for electric — you have lower utility bills.
As a general guide, if you use induction, you’ll typically spend 25% less on fuel alone. And, since you aren’t wasting heat, which brings the temperature of the room up, you can estimate about 10%-20% in air conditioning cost savings.
6. You have to spend a lot of money on special pans
Sometimes the phrase ‘induction compatible’ is used by pan manufacturers to command a premium. In truth, any magnetic pan will work but the higher the ferrous (iron) content, the better. This includes pans made of steel, cast iron or aluminum pans with a steel core. All-aluminum or copper pans will not work.
A great simple and cheap compatibility test is a fridge magnet — the stronger the attraction to the bottom of the pan, the better it will work.
USER STUDY: Switching to induction
The Arbury in Hertfordshire, which opened its doors last year in a derelict former Greene King pub site, has turned to induction cooking to deliver food for its 40 covers; opting for induction cooking technology over gas as it bids to speed up the cooking process.
Martin Nisbet and partner Lucy Thompson, the pair behind the Arbury, made an enquiry to bespoke commercial kitchen specialists, Target Catering Equipment, about the possibility of introducing induction cooking into their new restaurant having previously worked with gas.
Convinced by the subsequent conversations and a visit to Target headquarters, The Arbury turned to Target for a full kitchen fit out, including the installation of an induction stove complete with induction solid top, induction plancha and fast action salamander grill.
The whole kitchen was fitted and completed in July 2019 and in the months the bistro has been open, Martin, who operates as effective head chef, pot washer and everything in between, has been experiencing the operational and financial benefits of induction first-hand.
“The power that induction offers is phenomenal,” says Mr Nisbet. “I don’t have to leave things switched on and can now do things instantaneously so, therefore, the ambient temperature is significantly less.
“I went for induction as it’s the way the modern world is heading, and I wanted to use renewable energy. Also, it’s far more pleasant to work in an induction kitchen all day than gas. It’s easier to clean and we don’t have to deal with gas burning all day. Going with induction was a win-win situation,” he added.
With his new induction kitchen, Mr Nisbet can switch his salamander grill on whenever he needs it, with the fast action unit reaching full heat within just four seconds, as opposed to using a gas grill which would usually have to be left on for the duration of full shifts.
“Having worked with gas for many years before opening The Arbury, I’ve noticed a massive difference between the two. It’s quite revolutionary actually and I feel quite emotional talking about it.”
Rational is the Platinum Partner sponsor of the Cooking Platforms category of FEJ Kitchen Excellence Week. For information and brochures, or to find out about free Rational Live demonstrations, call 01582 480388 or visit www.rational-online.com