Published on Sunday, 30 June 2013
Written by The Editors
Induction cooktops come in countertop and drop-in versions in single and double hob models, which offer a front-to-back or side by side configuration. These come with the more familiar flat top cooking hotplates or in round-bowl-wok units. The range of cooktops available is quite large, going from 450 watt warming units to 10 kW stockpot units.
Single hob induction ranges typically measure 13 to 15 inches wide, 15 to 17 inches deep, and 3.5 to 5 inches tall. Double units may be roughly 27 to 30 inches deep. The hobs generally will hold a 14-inch-wide vessel, but these can be wider than the actual range. Typical stockpot capacities would be 24 to 40 quarts but they can go higher. Applications such as 60-quart stockpots use higher wattage ranges. Larger powered induction ranges that must accommodate stockpots and braising pans will tend to grow in size with power level.
These units run electricity through an induction coil that produces a high-frequency magnetic field just above the cooktop. When an operator places cookware made of ferrous material on the cooktop, the magnetic field causes the molecules in the cookware to vibrate, thereby heating the pan. Most induction ranges come in countertop and built-in models.
The variety of functions goes from low-power warming, wok ranges to single-, double- and four-coil units. There are also griddle-topped models and hidden warmers that heat through the countertop. Induction ranges can also serve as hold-only warmers, utilizing convertible buffet servers as the serving vessel.
Case tops typically feature type 304 stainless steel construction, while cooking surfaces are made of high-temp ceramic. Manufacturers use stainless steel, aluminum or molded plastic to make case bottoms.
Standard features include empty pan protection and overheating limiters. Some manufacturers include self-analysis by the induction range to adjust to varying cookware, voltages and electrical cycles. Manufacturers may offer either control knobs or touchpad operation. Control panels that rely on cooking levels to select temperatures generally offer between 20 and 100 settings.
- Operators can use induction cooktops in place of traditional gas and electric ranges.
- Induction cooktops easily plug into almost any electrical outlet and are suitable for display cooking in catering and buffet applications. Operators commonly use two types of induction units in buffet lines. One offers an effective controlled heat source for keeping food items at proper temperatures, while the other acts as a cooking unit for display action stations. Induction ranges can provide both heating and cooking modes.
- Induction cooktops are ideal for myriad applications, such as sauté stations, stockpot ranges, high-temp cooking, auxiliary heating stations for soup and sauce work, stir fry, warm salad condiments and pastry kitchens. These units also are popular with single-plate demonstration cooking and plating.
- Some operators will use higher wattage induction during cooking demonstrations.
- In the United States, induction ranges are FCC listed and compliant, which helps ensure that the unit will not interfere with radio waves or electronics.
- In terms of power, 1800 watts is ideal for light sauté and omelets; between 2200 and 3000 watts is appropriate for stir-fry, saucepots and higher volume cook stations; and 3000 watts or more is suitable for high-volume applications, such as stockpot stations.
- Induction cooktops can serve as simple additions to kitchen cook lines, assisting with menu expansion.
- Because they take up little space, operators can install induction ranges in back-of-the-house areas where additional prep work or finishing takes place.
- Use only induction-ready pans with these cooktops, which will provide even heat and efficient cooking.
- In terms of features, operators should look for easy-to-use controls, such as dials or one-touch control pads that can adjust temperatures rapidly.
- Know the induction range capacity. Some induction ranges operate in dual modes, with the ability to hold food at serving temperature, such as for a buffet, or as a cooking range for made-to-order applications.
- For under counter installation, ensure that the countertop material can handle the heat as well as the wear and tear of the cooking process.
Specifying Mistakes to Avoid
- Verify the location has the power necessary to operate the specific induction range.
- Although high wattage induction cookers can be used
- to sauté, manufacturers recommend that these units not be used to cook raw food in a buffet setting because doing so not only creates grease but also reduces the room's air quality.
- One common misperception is that induction cooking never needs ventilation. Even induction cooking needs ventilation if the cooking process generates excessive grease. Many operators opt to par cook food before using these units to finish the task. This also creates a shorter wait time for guests at a buffet line.
- Understand the local code requirements to determine what type of exhaust hood and fire suppression is required over induction cooktops.
New & Notable Features
- When induction ranges were first introduced, they had limited controls and were costly. Units now have advanced power-level and temperature controls, are durable for true commercial environments and cost a fraction of the original models.
- Today's induction cooktops offer higher efficiency, approaching 95 percent. Operators can install newer "hidden" induction warming units beneath countertops. Reconfigurable units are now available that can function as either a countertop cooktop or be built in. These reconfigurable ranges allow more versatility, because the ranges can be positioned as needed in the space available.
- The latest models have leveling feet to adjust to uneven tabletops.
- An overheat protection option shuts the unit off before it would become damaged by hot temperatures. A small article detection safety feature prevents heating of other metal objects, like jewelry.
When to Replace
There are a number of signs that signify it is time to replace the induction range.
- Temperature issues: If the range fails to maintain temperature or can no longer read an induction-ready pan, it is time to replace the unit.
- Excessive damage: If the surface of the induction range gets damaged or cracked, operators should immediately disconnect the range from its power source and replace the unit.
- Inoperable fan: If the induction range fan stops working, it is probably time to replace the unit.
- Larger pots: If culinary staff need to use a larger size stockpot or pan it may be time to purchase another cooktop that will specifically address that need.
- Keep induction ranges clean and free from food debris, dust and grease.
- Inspect and clean the underside air intake filter in
- accordance with manufacturer guidelines. Regularly clean the air intake and exhaust to ensure proper cooling of the unit's internal components.
- Allow the tempered glass cooking surface to cool prior to wiping it clean with a mild dishwashing detergent.
- Induction continues to be the most energy-efficient heat source available, offering 85 percent to 95 percent efficiency. Units that provide more than 90 percent efficiency have more than 90 percent of the cooktop's power going to the pan.
- Due to the lack of radiant heat, induction units do not affect atmospheric temperatures or raise air conditioning costs.
- Because these units produce no heat if no pans are on their surface, induction cooktops and ranges save energy by sitting idle when not in use.
Editor's Note: FE&S thanks Eric Norman, FCSI, of MVP Services for assisting with this article.