11 July 2009

Induction cooking rules the universe

OK, so I spent the beginning of the week this week In Louisville, KY as a guest of GE Monogram appliances. While I was at GE I was not only treated like a prince, I was assigned a cooking station in GE's Monogram test kitchen. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the other designers who attended this appliance summit and I prepared most of our own meals under the expert tutelage of GE's chefs.

The bottom line was that I had a kitchen with $20,000 in appliances at my disposal and I was in heaven. I spent most of my time falling in love with the GE Monogram Pro 48" range I wrote about the other day. But the bulk of the actual cooking I did was on a GE Monogram 36" induction cooktop.

I have been on the induction bandwagon since my first hands-on experience with induction cooking at a Wolf seminar about four years ago.

I wrote a description of how induction cooktops work back in January, give it a look if you need a primer.

Induction cookers are highly efficient and they work with unusual speed. For example, an induction cooktop can boil six quarts of water 400 percent faster than natural gas can. I'm a bit of an efficiency nerd and despite my former preference for cooking with gas, I conceded that preference to induction years ago. Get this, from the energy expended from a gas burner, 62% of that energy gets lost and does nothing more than heat up a room. Only 38% of that energy gets delivered to the food being cooked. That lousy efficiency is why gas cooktops have to be vented. Old school radiant electric cookery is more efficient from an energy perspective. In this case, 72% of the energy expended goes toward heating the food and 27% is lost. In induction, 84% off the energy expended goes to the food being cooked and only 16% is lost.

This is the actual electromagnet and circuitry inside an induction cooktop

Anyhow, I've played around with induction at a variety of training seminars I've attended over the years, but I've never actually cooked with it. Until this week that is.

On Tuesday afternoon I browned chicken and made a red curry on an induction cooktop and I was really impressed. The process of browning chicken was faster, but it wasn't due to my using higher cooking temperatures. It was faster because the skillet got to the correct temperature in seconds. It was amazing, actually.

On Wednesday, I made pasta with a sauce of bacon, pine nuts, feta and mascarpone. I made the sauce in a sautee pan. I was always concerned about how well induction would fare with sauces, but my concerns were unfounded. My pasta sauce turned out perfectly. Ditto a caramel sauce I whipped up later. The butter, brown sugar and cream blended flawlessly at a medium heat and then stayed warm on simmer until it was time to eat. Best of all, when I cleaned out the pot later, there was nothing scorched on the bottom.

So, even though I've been responsible for getting induction cooktops into a bunch of peoples' houses in the last few years, I'd never cooked on one until recently. After having done so, all I can say is that induction cookery exceeded even my lofty expectations. So I guess the next step is to get one for me. Hmmm.


  1. This is truly fascinating Paul. I never realized this is how they worked but am I understanding correctly, that the burner itself does not get hot? Also, is special cookware a necessity? -Brenda-

  2. That is correct Brenda. The heat is generated int he pot itself. There is a residual warming of the surface under the boiling pot, but it will be cool to the touch within moments of removing the pot. In practical terms, this means that boil overs can't scorch onto the cooking surface. Now because induction uses an electromagnet, the cookware used on an induction cooker has to be magnetic too. If a magnet will stick to a pot, you can use it on an induction cooktop. Steel, stainless steel and iron cookware work with no problem. Glass or earthen ware won't complete the circuit and will be unusable.

  3. Thank you Paul! You are so enlightening.

  4. It's my pleasure Brenda. The best part of knowing something is giving it away.

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  6. Paul,
    I understand that there must be 12inches of clearance under the cooktop. How would you suggest designing a cabinet with that much "dead space"?

  7. They have the same space requirements as a conventional electric cooktop. Here's the installation instructions from Monogram: http://products.geappliances.com/MarketingObjectRetrieval/Dispatcher?RequestType=PDF&Name=31-10668.pdf


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