Save Energy, Save Time, Save Money!
Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to England for several industry-related meetings, events and education programs. What I have found to be most interesting is how the use and acceptance of induction range technology is growing by leaps and bounds in the English and broader European foodservice markets. Induction is having a very positive impact on operators’ bottom line, as they see the operational savings associated with installing this type of cooking technology. So, in this particular blog we’ll examine a piece of equipment that makes significant and positive impacts on sustainability and energy efficiency.
How does it work? An induction coil or “element” is basically a powerful, high frequency electromagnet. When switched on, it creates a magnetic field spreading over a few inches. Place anything made of magnetic material (such as a cast iron pan) inside this field and it will heat up. That's because the field induces (or transfers) energy to the metal, causing the molecules in the metal cooking vessel to vibrate quickly, creating friction, a form of energy, which turns into heat. This means the heat is created INSIDE the pan, as opposed to under it (as with gas or standard cook tops), which is why the system is so efficient.
Changing the power of the electromagnetic field changes the temperature in a pan. Just like a gas knob, this change is instantaneous and, again like gas, it's very precise. Which gives chefs complete control of the cooking process – even with very low cooking temperatures (unlike some gas ranges), so accurate “seeping” of sauces can be accomplished.
Because heating energy goes straight into a cooking vessel, induction cooking is very fast. A commercial induction heating element can boil a pan of water more quickly than an electric kettle and can heat an empty (induction-compatible) pan up to 425⁰F in less than a minute. The range barely becomes warm, except directly under the pan (where the latent heat from the pan heats the surface), so it is much safer to operatethan standard electric or gas cook tops.
Intuitively, there are several key advantages that induction ranges provide to foodservice operators, especially regarding sustainability. First, even if leave the element is left switched on, if there is no pan on the burner it will only consume approximately .38 watts of power per hour – virtually nothing. In fact, studies in England have shown that an amazing 98.6% of the energy consumed by an induction cooker actually goes into foods. Traditoinal gas and electric cooking equipment can’t even come close to this efficiency level. Because induction only heats the pan, there's less waste heat released, which means the kitchen is cooler and the ventilation and air conditioning systems will not need to work as hard. This educed heat makes induction cooking ideal for front of house and at-table cooking.
If operators are looking to replace a gas or electric range or cook top, then chances are you can purchase an induction unit that will replicate the old unit's capacity – four or six elements, and so on. However, bear in mind that induction ranges are very fast and need no preheating, so cooking should be significantly quicker. In fact, operators may find that they only need a four “burner” induction unit if you are used to working on a six burner electric or gas one.