Incredible Induction Cooking
While, as of 2014, the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) reports that only seven percent of American households have induction ranges (West European households already have induction cooking in a percentage well greater than double that), most people who enjoy cooking have heard that induction provides an amazing, albeit mysterious, alternative to traditional gas and electric ranges. And that market share is quickly growing in the latter half of this decade. People are recently discovering induction cooking’s benefits as they mull over replacing or upgrading their aging traditional ranges and cooktops.
How Induction Works and Helps Your Cooking
The nitty-gritty, scientific details belong in a chapter of your high school physics book. But this safe, efficient heating process can be simply explained as electromagnetic energy transferred to your cookware by an alternating current passing through a copper coil located below the range’s glass surface, resulting in a magnetizing movement of electron particles through the base of your pots and pans. This change in magnetic energy necessarily causes heating in the base of the cookware–and the cooking results are astonishing.
First, heat is nearly instant and much more efficient (almost no heat loss) compared to other methods since the energy only magnetically attracts to the base of your pots and pans. Adjustment of temperature is also immediately responsive. For this reason, induction ranges are very popular with professional kitchens. Cooking results are quicker, precise and generally less prone to burning or hotspots. A July, 2010, Popular Mechanics study concluded that induction boiled water in half of the time of a good conventional range. After the pot of boiling water was removed, the burner cooled back down in only one quarter of the time.
Second, because of the precisity of temperature settings and the lack of hot spots or burning, proponents of induction say that more nutrients are retained. While all types of cooking generally can reduce levels of many nutrients in food, avoiding overcooking helps to preserve vital nutrients and minerals better. With the precise heat transfer of induction heating, less nutrients are apt to be lost in the cooking process than frequently are lost from overheating or hot spots with traditional methods.
Another benefit is safety. According to AHAM, cooking is a leading cause of home fires. With induction, there is no flame or surface heat and on most products, the range element also only activates when the pan is detected. If there is no pan, there is no heat. For those who are constantly forgetting about a hot stove or who have children, the range itself cools off very quickly, as noted above, since the residual heat is conducted only to the pan and not to the surrounding area (of course, the stove surface below the pan will temporarily retain heat from the pan and, as with any type of heat or power, you should keep your hands several inches away).
Finally, although induction ranges are initially more expensive, their lower power usage can quickly gain back some of that difference. The Popular Mechanics study reported that induction range cooking uses only two thirds of the energy to heat an equivalent amount of liquid as a standard radiant heat electric range and, compared to gas, only about half as much energy as a gas range. As a favorable side effect of this efficiency, you will end up working in a much cooler kitchen! This can further save on energy otherwise sometimes used on air conditioning. Not to mention, a comfortable chef is a happy chef!
The Best Cookware for Induction Ranges
The other key to discovering induction’s cooking benefits is to find the best type and design of induction cookware. Some of your existing cookware may already be induction-friendly. Since induction cooking uses electromagnetic energy, obviously your cookware must first be magnetic—ferrous metals. The main ferrous metals in cookware commonly used today are stainless steel and iron. This is easily checked by taking a common magnet and passing over the bottom of the cookware to see if the magnet tends to stick. Recently, some cookware makers are making an induction symbol on the cookware itself to indicate that it is induction-friendly.
The Best Stainless Steel Cookware
Especially for professional chefs and gourmet entertainment kitchens, stainless steel cookware is the most widely used. It should be noted that, in rare cases, nickel content in the stainless steel alloy base can cause slower or even ineffective induction cooking. The most common good quality stainless steel cookware sets (that are also available for induction) contain an alloy of 18% chromium and 8% or 10% nickel (often stamped 18/10 or 18/8 on the bottom of the pans). Often, for faster heat conduction, the stainless steel sets will have an additional layer of spun-disk (formed on spinning lathes) aluminum and even copper (the most heat conductive) within the bottom of the steel base. These models may, over a long period of time, tend to have heat separation between the layers. Therefore, in a higher price range, chefs prefer what are often called “clad” cookware or “tri-clad” cookware where the center aluminum, and occasionally copper, is sealed within the two sides of the clad steel base to prevent separation over time.
Cuisinart is one of the most popular product brands on the Amazon best seller list for stainless steel cookware sets for a reason. Cuisinart’s unique heat distribution systems helps you to achieve cooking perfection and the easy use of these cookware sets it apart from other brands…READ MORE
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The Best Cast Iron Cookware
Cast iron remains a stalwart type of cookware in the kitchen because of its resilience under extreme heat and its long heat retention. Due to convenience factors, large iron sets may be less prevalent than it was in decades past—both due to the weight as well as the need for regular seasoning of the pan (a light coating of oil) especially after deep cleaning to prevent corrosion. That said, most pros with a larger kitchen will keep a few iron pots and skillets around for limited uses due to their very good heat retention throughout, often using them for sauces and for searing. They often require some skill and attentiveness to avoid hot spots and burning.
While there are numerous low cost iron pots and skillets available, a smaller set with a great reputation and enameled exterior is made by Le Creuset of America, the 5 Piece Signature Enameled Cast Iron Cookware Set. They are a premium set that should last decades in a home kitchen and list for about $525-$575 dollars.
While low cost all-aluminum, glass “Pyrex” or other non-magnetic composite materials are obviously out, there are now non-stick surfaces specially made with steel around the base to allow induction cooking with many at a lower price point than stainless steel. Don’ t expect the durability or consistency of the higher priced stainless steel or iron induction cookware above, and remember that most aluminum cookware is not safe for oven use.
Induction cooking and cookware is not just for professionals or folks with massive kitchens in their vacation homes in the Hamptons. Anyone who even occasionally cooks at home can enjoy the safety, ease, efficiency and speed of induction cooking. There are even stand-alone single burner induction units to get you started. And you can simply buy individual skillets and pots to try them out. Whatever your chef skills or home cooking frequency, there is now something that is in a price range and style that will be the best induction cookware for you!
Pros & Cons of Induction Cooking
- Instant Heat Adjustment – Because of the way the induction range and cookware work, heat adjustment is instantaneous and precise.
- No Wasted Heat or Energy – the magnetic field supplies energy directly to the cooking container so that no heat or energy are wasted. In fact, your kitchen will be cooler when using induction cooking since a flame is not producing heat.
- Safety – As stated above, there is no flame used for cooking. The cooktop of an induction range is cool so if you have children or animals around the kitchen, you need not worry about them (or you) getting burned.
- Compatability – As mentioned above, you need the best cookware to effectively use an induction range. Not all cookware is induction range ready, so make sure you find the best cookware available for high-quality results.
- Electric dependent – If the electricity fails, you will be unable to cook. Since induction is an electricity-based style of cooking, you will not be able to make dinner during a power outage.
- Noise – Induction cooking can potentially be noisy if you do not have the best cookware for an induction range.
- Lack of “char” flavor – many of us a love a nicely char-flavored steak or burger. Unfortunately, you will not get that with induction cooking since there is no flame to char the food.
Now that you know a few of the pros and cons about cooking on an induction range, read on to learn about the best cookware available for induction cooking.
Top 3 Choices for Best Cookware Sets
#1 – WINNER! BEST OVERALL
Looking for the best cookware set on the market? Try this 17-piece set, made with 18/8 commercial-grade stainless-steel. The bottom is encapsulated in impact-bonded aluminum which allows for great heat conduction and durability. In addition, you will enjoy ergonomically shaped riveted handles with an anti-slip satin finish. Amazingly, this cookware set is suitable for ALL cooking sources including: electric; gas; infrared; induction stoves; glass; and, ceramic cooktops. Not only is this cookware set dishwasher safe and oven-save to 550 degrees F but it is also freezer-safe for food storage!
#2 – BEST HEAT DISTRIBUTION
This cookware set is made of non-stick heavy-gauged, hard-anodized steel that heats quickly and evenly and keeps food from sticking to the pan (no hot spots). Not only can you use these pots on a standard stovetop and induction range, but they are oven safe to 400 degrees F. You will also love the super comfortable and safe silicone covered stainless steel double-riveted handles along with the shatter-resistant tempered glass lids with stainless steel rims. And to top it all off? This amazing cookware set is dishwasher safe.
#3 – BEST BUDGET
Need quality on a budget? Try this 10-piece set made of heavy and durable stainless steel with a Prometal Pro nonstick interior that is scratch resistant and safe for use with metal utensils. This set boasts riveted, silicone handles that not only allow you a comfortable grip, but also keep your hands from getting hot while cooking. The heavy glass lids are vented and, in addition, this set includes the exclusive T-fal Thermo-spot heat indicator that lets you know exactly when the pan is preheated and ready to go! This affordable set is dishwasher-safe, oven-safe to 400 degrees F and safe for all cooking methods including, but not limited to, induction.
Best Cookware Brands
Skillets, woks, frying pans, dutch ovens, baking dishes, the list seems to go on and on. It seems like there are few tasks in life with more variables to consider than which items and brands to stock a kitchen with. Since the only list longer than the types of cookware you can buy is the list of companies trying to get you to buy from them, let’s take a look at some of the best cookware brands.
First up is the ubiquitous All-Clad. Named for their unique roll bonding process, this American company made their department store debut in 1973 in Bloomingdale’s and has been producing products in Pennsylvania ever since. Made from stainless steel, these layered and compressed pieces really shine as sauté and saucier pans. Expect to pay top dollar for All-Clad products, and don’t miss the Emeril line!
Next up is the French Le Creuset. Well known for their enameled cast iron Dutch ovens, Creuset stoneware is second to none (and looks great to boot). Founded in 1925 this company hasn’t slowed production but has moved it’s non cast iron products to England, Portugal, Thailand and China. If you’re looking for the best cookware brands for an enameled dutch oven, look no further.
Competing with French Le Creuset in the field of cast iron is the American, Lodge. Founded in 1896, Lodge competes as one of the cookware companies with the longest time spent in continuous production. Already universally liked, Lodge changed the industry when they introduced pre-seasoned cast iron in 2002.
You can’t talk about glassware without mentioning Pyrex. They are beloved for their borosilicate cookware and laboratory glass, because they are more heat resistant than nearly all their counterparts. Unfortunately, due to production price, Pyrex changed their product to soda-lime glass in 1998. So, while it’s still a great company, if you find some pre-98 glass grab it up!