Switching to induction cooking: tips and tricks from a chef

Credit: Original article can be found here

There’s plenty to love about induction cooking.

It doesn’t involve natural gas, a fossil fuel sourced from destructive drilling.

It’s highly efficient and environmentally friendly, as New Zealand’s electricity is almost all renewable.

And it’s fast, boiling water in about half the time of a conventional stove top.

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* We switched to induction cooking and will never go back
* Induction v gas: Which cooktop comes out on top?
* A culture war has ignited in the US over the future use of gas stoves
* How electric stoves are poised to dethrone the mighty gas range

We need to switch away from gas, but how can you cook me he tē – like a boss – using induction?

Here’s what else you need to know.

A new way to heat

We’re not talking about old glowing glass ceramic cook tops that took an age to heat up, with a temperature range that wilfully alternated between very hot and hardly warm at all.

Induction is electromagnetic. That’s why induction cooking only works using pots you can stick a magnet on. It’s also why if you accidentally turn on an induction zone with no pot on it, it won’t get hot.

Chef Paul Mounsey, Global Cooking Experience Manager with Fisher and Paykel, says the extreme precision of induction makes it a popular choice for “control freaks” like him and many other chefs.

Chef Paul Mounsey, Global Cooking Experience Manager with Fisher and Paykel, says the extreme precision of induction makes it a popular choice for “control freaks” like him and many other chefs.

Meanwhile, the case for gas just gets worse. New reports confirm that gas cookers cause air pollution, and a study by a non-profit found indoor pollutants to be significantly lower in homes without gas stoves.

More to buy less to run

Induction stoves are typically more expensive than most conventional electric and gas models. But their efficiency makes them more cost-effective to use.

An induction stove is 5-10 percent more energy-efficient than conventional electric stoves and about three times more efficient than gas stoves. After the initial outlay, these efficiencies save money over time.

Fast is good, slow is better

Unlike gas, induction stoves provide even temperature across your frying pan, pot or Dutch oven – and the ability to control it precisely, says chef Paul Mounsey, Global Cooking Experience Manager with Fisher and Paykel.

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Mounsey was in the restaurant trade for over 25 years and converted to induction a decade ago. He says having such control means being able to melt chocolate in a pot, and leave it there all day without it sticking or burning. The degree of control makes it the top choice for pastry chefs.

Likewise, for busy households, it means being able to set a quick spaghetti bolognaise to simmer and walk away while you bath the kids.

Pots or pans don’t need to fit the induction zone

Induction cooking warms the pan and not the surface or surrounding area, so very little heat escapes. The cook top only heats the metal that’s touching the surface. If the pot is larger than the zone, the overhanging parts won’t heat up.

Induction is a popular choice for families due to its efficiency and greater safety when using, as well as being better for a home’s air quality.

Induction is a popular choice for families due to its efficiency and greater safety when using, as well as being better for a home’s air quality.

But a pot’s base matters

If your pan isn’t flat, but curves down at the sides, the cooking medium (oil or butter) will run to the edges and items in the middle of the pan may catch. You also lose efficiency because the base of the pan is not in full contact with the induction zone.

“A pot’s base needs to be totally flat, and so does its interior. It comes down to a quality question – you get what you pay for,” says Mounsey, suggesting checking new cookware for manufacturer stamps, logos or dots on the base.

“The best cooking equipment for induction cook tops has no stamping on the base”.

Surfaces need care

Induction stove tops are easier to clean than gas hobs. They are made with toughened glass, so some models can scratch if heavy pots are dragged across them.

Some models buzz

When at high settings some models give off buzzing, humming or vibrating sounds, as well cooling fan sounds for electronics.

Induction cooking allows you to set a dish to simmer and leave it unattended for some time.

Induction cooking allows you to set a dish to simmer and leave it unattended for some time.

Chargrilled effect

Getting a true smokey chargrilled flavour – such as with eggplants for baba ganoush, – is possible, but can be challenging without the use of an open flame.

Griddle plates can be used on an induction cook top, to help char ingredients. But Mounsey says for that true smoky flavour, he’d probably look at the recipe rather than the cooking technique to achieve that result.

Wok workarounds

A flame is a concentrated heat source, which is good for traditional Cantonese, Peking wok cooking because you want the heat concentrated in the curved base of the wok, says Mounsey.

The key to successfully cooking using induction, is getting the right shaped wok.

Mounsey recommends investing in a “hybrid-wok”, with a large flat-bottomed base and high sides. Instead of lifting the wok up to toss ingredients, as is typically done, leave it on the heat and stirring everything instead.