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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Induction Cooking - Does This Really Work??

My Induction Cooker Sitting On The Stove Cover
    I like to cook. I really like to cook. When I first bought a serious off-road truck, the first thing I did was build a "chuck wagon" style kitchen that would slide out from the back and let me cook gourmet (ok...well SEMI-gourmet anyways) out of the back on extended stay trail runs. I had a couple of two burner Coleman stoves, a wash basin, 5 gallon water jug and a box with drawers and lid that held all my utensils, cookware, spices and cans of ingredients (commonly known as a "chuck box"). I thought THAT was awesome. Little did I know that an RV galley would make the whole exercise easier, more comfortable, and less packing intensive and indoors. Yup, I sure like RV's! Now I have the ability to use my 4 burner propane stove-top or the convection microwave oven at will. I like to have the ability to cook with different power sources. Propane is great, but electricity can be replenished "out in the wild" with Solar panels, generators and the like, so I wanted a way to cook with pots and pans using electricity. Enter the induction cooker.

My Induction Cooktop
Once upon a time, you'd have to use a heating element to create the temperatures needed to cook with. These are still in use... take a look at a typical "Hot Plate" it has a coil of metal that heats up when electricity is run through it. Works great. Uses A LOT of power and is a significant burn/fire risk. Also takes a long time to cool down or heat up. Not the greatest thing when trying to cook a meal. Now this new-fangled induction method works differently. As long as you have a steel base (stainless is OK but not as efficient check it with a magnet to be sure it will work!) this will work well. Aluminum pans do not work at all! You can buy Aluminum pans with a steel cladding, that's OK.



Typical Induction Guts
***WARNING: Science Content***
In induction cooking, a coil of copper wire is underneath the pot. An alternating electric current flows through the coil, which produces an oscillating magnetic field. This field induces an electric current in the pot. Current flowing through the pot produces resistive heating which heats the food. While the current is large, it is produced by a low voltage.
***END: Science Content***


All this really means is the cooktop doesn't actually heat up. The heat is created in the pan or pot. That way the cooking surface stays mostly cool and the temperatures are fully controllable. The same kind of "instant on, instant off" that you get from a gas stove works here. 



Every good cook knows the secret to great dishes is to control the temperature and time. (Yes, I Know the ingredients are important too!) Most of the induction cooktops I looked at allowed for very specific settings for time and temperature. Not only that, they sensed the size (diameter) of the pot and only used power to heat that size. Very efficient use of power. Still, it will gobble up a fair amount of power. Most are setup to use 15 AMP 120V AC circuit. I have an 1800 Watt version. That's, of course, only at full power. Most of the time I am drawing about 8.3 Amps or so. You COULD run this on an inverter, but be prepared to use almost 100 Amps of power when it's running. (YMMV)

What really sold me on the idea of induction cooking? I bought one, set it up in the RV and placed several drops of water in the pan. Turned it on. Within 2 seconds the water was bouncing around and the pan was ready to cook on. That says, "better living through technology" pretty well. Just another tool in the toolbox that doesn't take up a lot of space, but will allow you to be more versatile.

*NOTE: A Comment was left (see below) about the compatibility between Induction cooking units and cardiac pacemakers and/or defibrillators. There COULD be some interference created between the induction coil's magnetic field and an implanted unit. I am NOT a Doctor, but research has shown that high levels of RF (Radio Frequency) could have an effect on those type of medical devices. Be Careful before you use you. Ask your Doctor!*

Be Seeing You, Down The Road...
Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com

12 comments:

  1. Would that magnetic coil affect my pacemaker,defribulator?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      There IS a chance that the magnetic coil running may cause interference with a Pacemaker and/or Defib implant. I am not a doctor, so have no concrete evidence, but it is something to think about before using one.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  2. Like you, I also like to cook. Not just for economic reason but to know what is in the food. So for that reason I decided to buy one of these new induction cook stoves. I am using it now for the past three month instead of my regular electric stove, and would not do without it, what a difference. I believe that this is the way for the future in cooking. I believe that some are already in the Restaurant use, to cut down on cooking/waiting time for their customers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,
      Better living through technology! Gotta love that.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  3. Yes, Rich, induction cooking is da BOMB. Fast, ultimately controllable and less heat in the kitchen.
    We also have an 1800 watt portable unit, and we use it chiefly when our electric is included in the site rent. 1000x better than conventional electric hotplates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Allison,
      You obviously, "get it," they are great and so much better for cooking than the traditional hot plate.

      "Da BOMB," indeed!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  4. Any recommendations on the best pans to use with the induction cooktop. What is your favorite?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rick,
      I've found the best pans are the aluminum body, steel plate clad versions with a teflon coating. Most "liquidator" style stores have lots of them. Take a magnet with you to confirm the steel. It's the most important part when it comes to induction cooking.

      Thanks,

      Rich "the Wanderman"

      Delete
    2. We sold induction burners for years in our store. Not all stainless will work it has to be magnetic stainless, easiest way to determine if the pan will work is put a magnet on it, if it sticks it is ok. Most pans now indicate whether they are for induction, they will have a symbol that looks like a spiral on the bottom. Enamelware, cast iron like Le Cruset work as well. Some aluminum pots have a stainless capsule or are clad and will work.

      Delete
    3. Anon,
      Thanks for the tip!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  5. I bought a house that has an induction cooktop, and I really appreciate your instructive article about how it works and what kind of pots to use.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sunny,
      Thank you! I'm glad I could assist in some small way.

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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