Commercial Induction Cooking Guide: Save time and money
Induction cooking is not new technology. The first induction stoves entered the market in the 1970s, although it’s only now that they’re gaining popularity in North America with professionals and the general public.
Early models were quite expensive, which may explain why induction cooking took so long to gain traction.
Since then, prices have dropped to affordable levels, so now is a good time to have a closer look at this fascinating alternative to gas and electric ranges.
What is induction cooking?
With a conventional gas or electric stove the pan is heated from below by a heat source – gas flames or an electric element. With induction cooking there isn’t a heat source – or rather, the pan is the heat source! Other than this one radical difference, cooking with induction is exactly the same as cooking with any other heating method.
How does induction cooking work?
Under the stove’s smooth surface there sits a coil of copper wire. An alternating current passing through the coil creates a magnetic field of energy. When this field passes though a compatible cooking vessel it creates magnetic resistance, heating the vessel. Remove the vessel and the heat source is cut off.
Why is induction cooking a smart choice for professional kitchens?
Induction cooking holds so many advantages for commercial kitchens that it’s a bit of a mystery why it hasn’t caught on faster than it has. Considering the innate conservatism of the culinary community? It seems like the logical choice.
There are no flames or hot cooking surfaces to cause serious burns and when the pan is removed no heat is produced at all. The surface will stay warm for a while from the residual heat transferred from the pan but it quickly cools down. The only thing that’s really hot is the pan and the food cooking in it.
Time is money and commercial kitchens need both. Compared to gas and electricity, induction ranges beat both by a wide margin when it comes to speed. Water that would take eight minutes to bring to a boil on gas, or seven minutes with electricity, takes a mere four minutes on an induction cooktop. Yes, induction is twice as fast as gas!
Temperature levels can be controlled very accurately, from barely warm to maximum heat and everything in between. Some commercial induction ranges have power settings ranging from 1-100. This sensitivity to heat adjustments allows for extreme precision and accuracy, just what you need for tempering chocolate, for example.
Induction ranges are 90 percent efficient, which means that 90 percent of the energy you’re paying for is turned into usable heat. Compare this to around 75 percent energy efficiency for electricity and lowly 40 percent energy efficiency for gas.
A welcome side effect is that as more energy goes into cooking the food, less heat escapes into the kitchen, reducing the need for ventilation and increasing the comfort level for those working at the stoves. Or to put it another way, if you can’t stand the heat, an induction stove could be your answer!
Easy to clean
Cleaning down cooktops is a chore that no one enjoys. As an induction cooking surface doesn’t get hot you won’t get baked-on spills and spatters to clear up. Most induction cooktops are made from a glass-ceramic material which is easy to wipe down.
Easy to install
Except for heavy-duty models, all that’s needed is a convenient countertop and an electrical outlet and you’re ready to go.
Because induction units can be moved around so easily, they are perfect for creating a cooking station for food demonstrations, at culinary schools or for trade and consumer shows, or just to add kitchen production capacity wherever and whenever needed. With no naked flames or venting requirements induction units are not going to fall afoul of fire regulations either.
What types of commercial equipment is available in induction?
In a commercial kitchen you have a lot of flexibility when it comes to choosing induction units. You can augment your conventional equipment with a single burner hot plate that can sit on any countertop.
Moving up, you can go for a double burner, in a side-by-side or front-to-back configuration.
Drop-in units are built-in cooktops that sit almost flush over the countertop.
There are also free-standing units that look much like a conventional oven range. These can have four, six, or more burners with individual controls over a conventional oven.
More heavy-duty models may require a three-phase plug, so be sure to check before buying.
Rethermalizers and warmers are also available with induction heat.
Types of cookware suitable for induction cooking?
Perhaps one of the reasons why induction cooking has been slow to take off here is the misconception that you have to buy a whole new set of induction-ready cookware. It depends on what material your cookware is made of; any ferrous metal – stainless-steel, carbon steel and cast iron – will work.
To find out if your cookware is induction compatible see if a magnet sticks to the base. If it does, there’s no need to buy a new one.
In practice, it’s only solid aluminum and copper that won’t work with induction. Even then there’s a workaround. You can buy what’s called an induction-ready disk, a ferrous material disk placed on the cooktop and beneath the non-conducting copper or aluminum pan. The disk heats up and so heats the pan. Not a perfect, solution but another option.
Adjustments to recipes when switching to induction
Once you’ve got used to the controls – not hard - the biggest adjustment to recipes or techniques when switching to induction will be time.
While you get accustomed to cooking with induction, we also recommend that if you see the cooking instruction “over full heat” in a recipe it would be prudent to start at perhaps 75% power with induction – 100 percent heat can be quite ferocious.
Induction Cooking FAQs
Is using an induction stove any different to cooking with gas or electricity?
No. Unlike cooking with a microwave oven, no new techniques or skills are needed. You can sauté, boil, grill and even pressure-cook on an induction stovetop exactly as you would with gas or electricity.
Are induction cooktops safe?
Yes, because the cooking surface never gets very hot, only the pan. The surface will retain a bit of heat conducted from the pan, but this soon cools.
Do my pans have to be the same size as the cook surface on induction cooktops?
No, they don’t, but very small and very large pans won’t heat quite as efficiently as pans in the normal 8 to 12-inch range.
Is the induction field bad for my health?
The low radio frequency signals which induce currents in the pan diminish to nothing at distances of a few inches to about a foot from the source. You will not be close enough to the induction unit to absorb any radiation.
Will my pots and pans work on an induction cooktop?
Yes, if your cookware has some iron content. Find out by seeing if a magnet sticks to the bottom of your pots and pans. Stainless steel, carbon steel and cast iron are all induction-friendly. Aluminum and copper is not.
Induction-compatible cookware is often marked with a symbol on the bottom. The symbol resembles four loops of wire.
Can I use my wok on an induction cooktop?
Woks can be a problem. Normal woks have a rounded bottom so only a very small area ever comes into contact with the cooktop, meaning they don’t heat efficiently. Luckily there are plenty of woks on the market with a partial flat bottom specifically designed for induction use.
Do I need a special power outlet?
Not necessarily. Most portable cooktops are compatible with standard 120 V outlets. However, large units, may require hard wiring.
Are induction cooktops easy to clean?
Yes. Induction stoves don’t have all the nooks and crannies of a gas or electric coil stovetop, just wipe down with damp soft cloth. You can even prevent scratching from rough cast iron cookware by placing parchment paper between the cooktop surface and the pan.
Are induction cooktops energy efficient?
Induction cooking uses about 90 percent of the electric energy available to do actual cooking, compared to 75 percent for conventional electric stoves, and a surprising feeble 40 percent for gas efficient. So yes, they are very energy-efficient saving money and the environment.
Is eating food cooked with induction bad for my health?
Food cooked over induction heat is the same in every respect to food cooked over gas or electricity. It’s what you put into the pan that makes it healthy (or not), not the heat source.
Written by Charles Bruce-Thompson