…Or induction? As an architect, I help my clients make lots of decisions throughout the design process. One of the trickiest ones is in the kitchen – do we choose a gas or induction cooktop? It can be quite a dilemma and there are a lot of things to consider when making the choice including appearance, performance and cost. I also love to cook, so I’ve put together some of my thoughts on the pros and cons of each option to help you decide.
Efficiency – induction is an extremely efficient and economical cooking method. Cookware is heated directly and quickly, unlike an open gas flame that allows heat to escape. This results in faster heat up times and almost instant temperature changes.
Precision – quick temperature change also gives greater precision and control over cooking. No more pots boiling over while the saucepan cools down. Induction also provides a very even distribution of heat without hot/cold spots.
Cookware – as induction cooking relies on magnetic induction to produce heat, the base of induction cookware must be made of, or contain a magnetic material. You can test the suitability of your existing cookware by holding a magnet to the bottom of each pan. If it sticks, you are good to go! If not, you’ll be in the market for a new set of saucepans.
Flexibility – many induction cooktops now come with flexible shaped heat zones or zones that shape themselves to suit the pot placed on them. This allows you to use all sorts of pans, trays and other cookware that would be a poor fit on a gas burner.
Maintenance – induction cooktops would have to be the easiest to clean. They have a flat glass surface that simply needs a wipe over after cooking and occasional polish to keep it looking spick and span. No need to pull it to pieces like a gas top with trivets and burners.
Safety – the surface of the induction cooktop does not heat up – only the cookware. So once the heat is turned off (or at least within a very short time), the surface becomes safe to the touch. Not only is this a good safety feature, it also prevents spilled food burning onto the cooktop surface.
Any Cookware – gas cooktops do not require any specialty cookware, you can cook with any old pot or pan. So there will be no extra expense buying new cookware.
Tough – gas hobs are made to be tough and durable, typically with metal components (although some have a glass surface now). This construction leaves them less prone to scratching or cracking.
Intuitive – Cooking over a flame has been around since Gronk was a kid (assuming Gronk’s dad invented fire)! So it is a pretty intuitive way to cook that we are all used to and there is no need to learn new techniques. For example, if you like to toss the pan, the open flame will continue to heat the cookware, whereas as soon as you take the pan off an induction hob, the heat stops.
Maintenance – with the additional components that make up a gas cooktop (trivets, burners etc), comes additional maintenance. They are certainly more difficult to clean. Also, as the surface of the cooktop around the burners also heats up, there is more chance of burning on spilled food, which can be difficult to remove.
Price – gas cooktops are typically cheaper to purchase. If you have natural gas available on your property, there should be a minimal expense to have them connected. Whereas induction hobs will require a new, separate electrical circuit to be added to your switchboard.
So which is the best option? Well that is really a very individual decision that depends largely on the way you cook and clean. My thoughts are that induction cooking gives you the control of gas with the low maintenance, easy-clean aspect of electric hobs.
The only thing that would hold me back from induction is the difficulty of traditional wok cooking. The shape of a traditional steel wok is such that it guides an open flame up the sides of the wok, and the foods we cook in woks rely on that spread of heat.
There are some induction hobs on the market that have a recessed surface for a wok to sit into, but I haven’t used any of them yet, so can’t really comment with any authority. For most induction hobs, a flat-bottomed wok is the only choice, so then you have to ask yourself – when does a flat-bottom wok become a frypan??
Perhaps the best idea for the undecided is the combination hobs that include both induction cooking and a gas wok burner. There are a few companies (like Asko and Miele etc) that offer these options – either as all in one or separate “combo” units. Whichever way you go – happy cooking!