Induction vs. Gas – Making the choice

 

It used to be that the only choice for serious cooks was gas.  Whether you were a professional chef, or just wanted to look like one, the choice was simple – gas.  Induction has been around for a long time, but just recently it seems to have not only gained credibility, but has also been converting some die hard gas users to induction.  The selection and features seem to improve every year, and even the local culinary school is using them to train chefs (last I heard). 

Gas was attractive for cooking because of its intuitive use, the ability to control the heat quickly, and the high heat burners available in some stoves.  Some people also just like looking at the flame while they cook (cooking over the campfire feeling), and like the security of being able to cook should the power go out.  There is also a better selection of cookware available that will work with gas.  Besides these reasons, the impression that a kitchen with gas is still a serious cooks kitchen.

Like gas, induction has the ability to quickly control the heat, and has higher heat output than most home gas cooktops – being able to boil water in 90 seconds.  (An excellent comparison between gas and induction burners can be found at: http://theinductionsite.com/how-induction-works.shtml). Unlike gas, only the pot is heated directly and the “burner” or hob only gets hot from the residual heat of the pot (yes, you can touch a cook top after cooking and not get burned).  I even saw a cooking demo with a hot pad between the hob and the pot!  Gas will not only heat up the kitchen more, it also has more risk of starting a fire – grease, clothing, pot holders, and other flammables that can come in contact with the flame, and a gas leak could lead to a potential explosion.

If you have respiratory problems or chemical sensitivities, gas may not be a good choice.   Per unm.edu, asthma patients who used a gas stove seven or more times a week, were found to have doubled their risk of emergency room treatment.  Infants who grow up in households with gas are almost twice as likely to develop childhood asthma as those who live with second hand smoke.  Studies have also shown that when a gas stove was removed from the home of a person with chemical sensitivities, not only did their health improve, but so did the health of their family. However, some studies (per Pub Med) do indicate no impact on pulmonary function or respiratory symptoms when using a gas stove.  When natural gas is burned, not only does it create carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, but also contains other additives such as benzene, toluene, xylene, methylmercury, ethylbenzene, and mercaptan.  In my opinion, if it’s not safe to vent a hot water heater in the house, why would I want to have a burner going in close proximity to my face?

What about EMF’s and indcuction?  From what I’ve read, induction hobs are designed to not readiate EMF’s.

The smooth cooktop is so much easier to clean than a gas cooktop.   However some complain that the shiny glass tops show every streak, spot, and spill, and if the cooktop has a stainless rim it can collect “gunk”.  The ceramic glass tops are tough, but like glass can break if you drop something heavy on them.

Gas cooktops may generally be cheaper (less complex), and because of the electronics in the induction cooktop, it probably will not last as long or go without repairs as long as a gas cooktop.

A common complaint with induction is that it buzzes or clicks, especially on high.  This is almost always a cookware issue.  Yes, if a magnet sticks to it, it will work…. but not necessarily the best.  Think of it this way, the more iron or steel content in the cookware, the better the magnet will stick and the better the induction should work.  Cast iron cookware such as Le Creuset, or carbon steel cookware such as Chantal should work better than cookware with more aluminum or copper content. 

If you’re not sure if induction is for you, buy a portable induction unit and give it a test run.  True, it doesn’t have the power of the bigger cooktops (water won’t boil in 90 seconds), but it will give you an idea of what it’s like to use it for a cheap price (around $100).  Then keep the portable unit for melting chocolate, an extra burner, or as part of your bake center.

I’ve had induction for 6 years now, and for those special occasions I have the gas grill outside. The biggest dislike is the touch pad (would prefer knobs), which is not real sensitive with dry skin, but overall I don’t ever intend to switch. 

 

Summary:

Gas Pros:

1.     May be cheaper

2.     Heats quickly

3.     Responsive

4.     Serious cook persona

5.     Wider variety of cookware

6.     Cook when power goes out

Gas Cons:

1.     Some models may not simmer well

2.     Heats up kitchen

3.     Health hazard – potential repiratory and chemical sensitivities

4.     Safety – fires, burns

5.     More difficult to clean

Induction Pros:

1.     Heats quickly – faster than many gas burners

2.     Responsive

3.     Very easy to clean

4.     Safer  

5.     Burner turns off when cookware not present

6.     More efficient than gas – less energy wasted

7.     Some models have a timer for the hob

8.     Simmer/melt chocolate without a double boiler

9.     Some models have full surface induction with cookware recognition – any size cookware

 

Induction Cons:

1.     Probably more expensive

2.     Glass top can break

3.     Can’t cook in power outage – use the grill

4.     Wok and charring not as easy

5.     May not last as long as a gas cooktop

To learn more on induction cooking, an excellent site is: http://theinductionsite.com

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