A Beginner's Guide to Induction Cooking
What the cell phone did to the telecommunication industry, induction cooking is getting ready to do for the catering and food service industry…
Introducing the Concept of Induction Cooking
From the early days of caves and flintstones to the beginning of a new millennium, progress, as we perceive it, can be easily measured by the way in which we cook our food. After the era of the wood burning stove came coal followed by kerosene, gas and electricity. The use of electrical energy to cook food has witnessed its own independent progress path. First came the traditional heating element, which was followed by halogen and microwave cooking. Induction cooking is the latest and the most recent manifestation of this technology. This white paper tells you what induction cooking technology is, how it works and its various benefits. We also tell you how to care for your induction cookers once you acquire them for your catering company, commercial kitchen or a food service operation. We also present a few insights into the acquisition process so that your investment generates long-term returns that are both rewarding and profitable.
Induction Cooking Technology
Induction cookers use an electro magnetic field in order to generate the heat used for cooking. Traditional electric ranges, cookers and hot plates use the principle of heat resistance to generate the heat. This approach involves first heating the element through resistance and then transferring the heat to the cooking vessel. This process is known as conduction. An induction cooking range or stove, on the other hand, does not heat the element. Instead, it transfers the heat directly to the cooking vessel. This heat is produced by an electro magnetic coil or set of coils, which create an alternating magnetic field much like alternating current. the magnetic field thus created tends to generate heat inside the vessel through a scientific process called magnetic hysteresis loss. This hysteresis loss takes place only in vessels and containers made of ferrous metals. They include iron and some types of steel. In other words, your induction cooker will function successfully only if you use:
The Acid Test for Induction Cooking Vessels
If you have guessed that aluminum, copper, copper bottom and Pyrex cookware won't work with your new induction cooker, you are right on the mark. The same holds true for glass and ceramic cookware. However, as you will learn in this white paper, this is a small price to pay for the huge amount of energy savings, safety issues and other considerations which induction cookers have brought to the forefront of modern cooking technology. Cooking vessels, especially the ones used in commercial kitchens and food service operations, tend to be expensive. Therefore, if you are planning to acquire an induction cooker or an induction stove as they are also called, we have a test for you, which will ensure that your cooking vessels will work when you use them to cook on your new induction cooking range. Procure a strong and good quality magnet from your local hardware store and use it to test the vessels you are planning to purchase. If the magnet sticks to the vessel, you have a winner and the container will work with your induction cooker. Many cookware manufacturers in Europe and Japan have already begun to indicate this type of compliance on the packaging. Hence the magnetic acid test may become a thing of the past in a few years like litmus paper.
Types of Induction Cookers
Although induction cookers, or induction cook tops as some like to call them, have gained immense acceptance in Asia and Europe, this technology is on the fringes of popularity in the US and Canada. Awareness, however, is on the rise as is evident from an increase in the number of inquiries being received by catering supplies companies, commercial kitchen equipment manufacturers and distributors. There are two interchangeable product lines currently available—induction cookers for home use and commercial induction cookers. There is even a portable line for small kitchenettes and studio apartments. Induction cookers designed for commercial use by caterers, catering companies, restaurants and other commercial food service establishments are made of heavy duty fabricated materials and are made to last for long. The fact that the unit itself does not generate any independent heat adds tremendously to its durability. Moreover, for this reason, they are relatively easy to maintain as we will demonstrate later in this white paper.
Benefits of Induction Cooking
Every new technology tends to remain on the horizon for a little while. Induction cookers are no exception. Nevertheless, the technology is fast gaining acceptance owing to its many versatile benefits a few of which we have mentioned below:
A Blessing for Caterers
Induction cookers are ideally suited for caterers and catering companies because they hold food extremely well under warm temperatures and are perfect for keeping food warm for extended durations without compromising food quality and taste. They can also be used as food warmers through correct temperature control.
Significant Energy Savings
Traditional electric cookers with either halogen or heating coils are known to waste up to 50% of the energy in the transfer process. Since there is no element-to-vessel heat transfer involved in induction cooking, the energy source—the electro magnetic coil or coils—are optimized to the maximum extent possible. About 90% of the heat generated is transferred to the food being cooked compared to electric and gas cooking which are 47% and 40% energy efficient respectively. This increased level of energy efficiency is perhaps the single most important reason for its popularity.
Increased Cost Reduction
Whenever energy efficiency goes up, energy costs go down. Although the initial investment you will make in an induction cooking system is going to be high, the unit is sure to pay for itself in no time due to the significant reduction in utility bills you will notice soon after the unit is installed in your catering company or commercial kitchen. These savings are cumulative in nature and can be measured without any difficulty through any one of a number of tracking methods. Your utility company can also help you calculate your savings.
Induction cookers tend to last longer than other types of domestic and commercial cooking equipment because they do not emanate heat. Hence the wear and tear is significantly less. The ease with which you can clean induction stoves also makes them an attractive buying proposition.
Like Plug-N-Play devices on Windows computers, induction cookers are a breeze to install. There is never any retrofitting involved. All you need is an electrical outlet and you are good to go from day one. Ensure however that the electrical outlet is properly grounded, has no loose connections and is of the right amperage. Ask your resident electrician to check the outlet if you are unsure.
The Safety Factor
Induction cookers do not generate any open flames, fumes or direct heat, which makes them extremely safe. In fact, if you place a sheet of paper on the induction cook top and place a cooking vessel on the sheet, you can continue to cook without igniting the sheet of paper. It is the vessel that will be hot to the touch, not the induction cook top. The safety benefits and the possibility of reductions in fire and liability insurance premiums when using induction cookers in a commercial food service establishment are quite obvious.
Worker-friendly Kitchen Temperatures
Commercial kitchens can get very hot especially during the summer months. Induction cookers offer some relief in this regard because the heat source is internalized and most of the heat stays inside the cooking vessel. Although no scientific studies have been conducted so far on this ergonomic aspect of induction cooking technology, assuming that there should be a difference of anywhere 2-5 degrees C, depending on how many induction cookers are being used in the kitchen, is a safe bet.
Minimal Cooked-on Spills and Splatters
Since the cooking surface of an induction cooking system always remains cool to the touch and is flat and even, the possibility of food debris is minimized. Kitchens tend to look and remain clean most of the time thus improving the quality of service operations.
Factors to Consider before making the Investment
There are a few potential minor downsides to induction cooking technology, which you should consider before writing the check:
Pacemakers and High end Medical Equipment
If you will be operating an induction cooker and if you happen to be using an electronic medical device, consult your physician first before you purchase an induction cook top. There is a possibility of the electro magnetic field interfering with your medical device.
We want to prepare you for sticker shock while we have your attention. Induction cookers can be expensive. However, as they become increasingly popular, their prices will head south like CD players in the eighties. Currently, the ROI on induction cookers is reasonably impressive owing to the reduction in utility bills.
Safe Electrical Connections in your Commercial Kitchen
If you are planning to use an induction cooking range with multiple burners, you may require a 220 volt/40 amp circuit in your kitchen. Please factor in this expense when budgeting a unit for your commercial kitchen.
Care and Maintenance for your Induction Cooker
Induction cookers are almost maintenance free. They require minimal cleaning and servicing especially since they have no moving parts. There are a few things you can do to increase the life span of your induction cooker. For starters, you should ensure that your electrical connection provides your cooker with a clean and reliable source of electricity. Consider investing in a surge+spike protection device to be absolutely sure. Turn off the mains when the cooker is not in use for more than two or three hours. Check to make sure that the unit is turned off before you leave for the day. Since there is no open flame, there isn't a visual indicator on which you can rely. Clean your cooker at least once a week in accordance with the procedures outlined in the user's manual. Finally, it is a good idea to test your assortment of vessels with a magnet to verify compatibility before using them.
Induction cookers are harbingers of good things to come. Once they become popular, we will notice a significant reduction in kitchen fires, problems with smoke inhalation, cost reductions and energy savings. How long it will take before induction cookers become a staple in every commercial kitchen or household, only time will tell.
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