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Induction Cooking: Functional AND Energy-Efficient. What's not to Love?

Are you contemplating a kitchen renovation?  From both a functional and an environmental standpoint it’s time to consider induction cooking as an alternative to both conventional electric and gas cooking.

Thermador 36-inch Masterpiece Series Freedom Induction Cooktop (model CIT36XKB).  Photo: thermador.com blog

Thermador 36-inch Masterpiece Series Freedom Induction Cooktop (model CIT36XKB).  Photo: thermador.com blog

My mother-in-law died recently after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.  She was an extraordinary cook, and we often traded recipes and menus.  Here’s what I wrote in my tribute for her Memorial Service:

Four years ago, when we purchased a weekend cottage with an antiquated kitchen that we didn’t plan to renovate, Joan took me to Zabar’s and bought me a set of pots and pans as a housewarming gift.  She also bought me a plug-in induction burner to supplement what the old electric stove could do.  By the time Joan bought this gift for me, she was already showing symptoms of the cognitive impairment that would take a greater toll on her more recently.  But back then it manifest itself in odd ways – and one of those ways was her frequent and dogged questioning of me about that burner.  In truth, I only used it twice.  My kitchen was small and the burner lived in its box inside a cabinet above my fridge.  Most of the time I forgot it was there.  And, frankly, I didn’t really know much about induction cooking. 

Many of you know that our home was made uninhabitable by Hurricane Sandy…and that now we’re getting ready to break ground on our new house.  I only wish Joan were here so I could tell her that two weeks ago, when I finally settled on my kitchen appliances, I decided to forego gas altogether…in favor of induction.  Joan was a pioneer.  And truly a woman before her time.  When I use my induction cooktop for the first time, I’ll think of her.

And it’s true.  I WILL think of her.  And she WAS a woman before her time.  And now that time has come.  Time to think about induction not only as the cutting edge in cooking technology, but as the most energy efficient and environmentally friendly choice as well. 

With an induction cooktop, as much as 90% of the energy used goes directly to heating the pan.  Contrast that to a gas stove, where up to 50% of the heat produced dissipates into the air around the stove.  Even though - regardless of your heat source - cooktop energy consumption is relatively low compared to other home appliance energy hogs like your refrigerator, water heater and clothes dryer, the energy efficiency and greenhouse gas generation of all major appliances should still be considered - particularly if you are undertaking an upgrade or major renovation. 

However, for something as personal and important as the cooktop, energy efficiency can’t be the only decision factor.  I’m convinced that induction makes great functional sense as well.

I attended a cooking demonstration last week at the Bosch showroom in Manhattan.  The in-house chef took the Bosch 36” Benchmark cooktop with Flex-induction (model NITP666UC) through its paces.  I watched a pot of water at a rolling boil instantaneously come to a simmer at the push of a button.  That level of responsiveness just isn’t possible with gas or conventional electric cook tops.

Searing scallops on a teppanyaki pan and steak using the grill accessory on the Bosch model NITP666UC induction cook top

Searing scallops on a teppanyaki pan and steak using the grill accessory on the Bosch model NITP666UC induction cook top

And, when the chef removed the pot from the stove, he placed his hand directly onto the cooktop, which was already cool enough to touch.  For those of us who have children or grandchildren in our homes, it’s wonderful to have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that there won’t be any hot surfaces in the kitchen to burn little fingers.

Bosch Induction Cooking Demo

We entertain A LOT!  It isn’t unusual for us to have 12 or 14 people around our dinner table on the weekends.  Since I generally cook everything myself, I’m often in the kitchen when my guests are socializing.  Which is why we’ve designed our home with an open floor plan – perfect for casual entertaining.  One of the nicest features of an induction cooktop is that it doesn’t heat up the kitchen.  I won’t be “wilting” while standing at my stove after my guests have arrived.  And, since the ambient air in my kitchen will stay cooler if I'm using induction cooking, I'll also save on my air conditioning and ventilation usage and costs. 

Speaking of entertaining…when I cook for a large group, I often need a large cooking surface.  Many induction cooktops have “bridging” features or cooking areas that adapt to a pot’s size and shape.  Thermador’s Freedom™ Induction Cooktop (pictured at the top of this post) is the most flexible induction cooktop I’ve seen, and it provides for up to four pieces of cookware – from as small as 3” to as large as 13” x 21” – to be placed anywhere on its surface.  This is the unit we're planning to install in the Sunset Green Home kitchen.

Lastly, cleanup is easy with an induction cooktop.  The smooth glass surface is easily wiped clean.  And because the surface doesn’t heat up like the grates of a gas cooktop do, there’s less likelihood that spills and spatters become baked on messes.

Induction cooking is only “nearly perfect” – so it wouldn’t be fair to extol its virtues without discussing its flaws.  First, unless you purchase a special induction wok burner, wok cooking is less satisfying than with gas.  If you like to flip and toss, you may be frustrated when the wok cools down as you lift it off the cooking surface.  Although I love to stir fry, I think I can live with this.  And an induction cooktop won’t function during a power outage.  But – I have a gas grill and we will have a generator, so this is another risk I’m willing to live with.  Lastly, induction cooking requires special cookware with magnetic conductivity.  But since my mother-in-law had the foresight to buy me a set of induction ready pans as a housewarming gift those several years ago, I’m good to go.

Happy cooking!

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