Gas stove ranges have been the norm in commercial kitchens for decades. Despite electric ranges being more and more popular in home kitchens, they just can’t compete with the precision and control that a gas range offers. Now, thanks to a new type of cooking technology, gas ranges may be on their way out because of something extraordinary: induction burners. Induction burners are taking commercial and home kitchens by storm and use a truly different approach to heating pots and pans than either electric or gas ranges. Instead of using fire or heating coils, induction burners use magnetic induction to rapidly heat the cooking surface, which offers all the precision and control of a gas range while providing the convenience of electric ranges. But where did this technology come from, and is it really better than gas ranges?
Induction cooking first made its debut at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair as part of a display that showed the kitchens of the future. However, the technology sat as nothing more than a novelty from the world’s fair for decades. Appliance producers simply couldn’t use the technology to create affordable appliances. As the decades wore on and the price of the technology went lower and lower, it has reemerged recently as a viable alternative to traditional ranges. In 1970, the Research and Development Center of Westinghouse Electric Corporation created the first home use induction burner, which was then displayed in 1971 and available to purchase to the general public shortly after. However, these early models were riddled with problems. They were very unreliable, offered little heat output, were notoriously noisy, and very expensive. By the 1980s, more and more models were available for purchase by a handful of different companies, but they were still unreliable and noisy. It wasn’t until the last few years that things would change.
Current models of induction burners look indistinguishable from electric ranges. They’re slick, clean, and silent. All the problems of the past have been ironed out, and current induction burners offer superior performance to either gas or electric ranges. For example, a 12,000 BTU gas burner takes about 36 minutes to boil five gallons of water, while an 1,800 Watt induction burner, equivalent to 3.4 BTUs, only takes 22 minutes to boil the same amount. One pitfall of electric burners is their inability to rise and drop temperature quickly, something at which gas burners excel. Induction, thanks to its ability to directly heat the cooking vessel, is able to achieve the same accuracy in performance as a gas range. The induction top also remains completely cold during the heating process; only the pot or pan gets hot, making it much safer and easier to clean than traditional stove tops.
In commercial kitchens, induction tops can save chefs and managers thousands of dollars for two main reasons: induction tops are for more efficient in their energy use than either gas or electric, and they don’t need traditional hood vents. It’s mandatory in commercial kitchens to have large venting systems above a gas or electric range. Hood vents are costly to install and very expensive to maintain. Most commercial induction burners come with a sleek, built-in hood vent that is easy to clean and cheap to maintain. It might have taken awhile, but induction burners have finally arrived in a workable form.