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Viking Portable Induction Cooker

October 25, 2007 by  

Energy-Efficiency in a Box

Though pro kitchens (and TV shows) have used it for some time, induction cooking is just now entering the high-end consumer kitchen, and Viking is, not surprisingly, a brand leading the way.

I’m not ready to jump into a whole cooktop powered by induction (can’t afford it, and as a foodwriter, I need to test recipes on all types of fuel using all types of cookware). But from an energy-efficiency perspective, I can’t pass up Viking’s alternative: the portable induction cooker.

cooker

Basically, induction cooking works by sending a magnetic field (generated by the cooker) through ferrous metal (as in cookware made of cast iron, steel, or other combination that is magnetically reactive). The reaction creates heat, and it’s this heat that cooks the food. The heat is created from within the pan’s own material; think friction and fast-moving, excited molecules (like the heat generated between your hands when you rub your palms together).

The result: a near instant transfer of energy, with efficient absorption of over 90 percent of this energy (compared to around 50 percent efficiency with gas). Plus, the cooker’s surface stays cool, very little heat is released into the kitchen, and the food can actually cook quicker. Since the cooker surface stays cool, absorbing heat only from the cooking vessel, it’s easy to clean (no cooked on muck). Plus, with this nifty portable unit, I can cook anywhere there’s a plug. Like out on our wide Texas deck, in fresh air, with grazing deer and wild turkeys watching.

The first time I boiled pasta (using a Fissler Intensa pot) or fried steaks (in a Lodge cast-iron chef’s pan) on the induction element, I noticed the differences from conventional electric or gas cooking right off the bat. The water boiled sooner, and the fry pan reached perfect searing heat in a flash. Plus, I had instant control; when I turned the dial from high to low, the unit powered down to the lower setting immediately (essentially adjusting the strength of the magnetic field). No waiting for a hot gas or electric element to slug down in speed. And you can maintain constant simmering and very low temperatures (good for chocolate) better with induction.

When it comes to getting the cook up to speed, induction cooking doesn’t demand anything in the way of a learning curve. At least not like microwave ovens or the dual-fuel ovens that combine radiant heat with microwave cooking. If you can boil water on a gas or electric range, you can cook with induction. But be aware that not all cookware is induction-compatible.

Basic rule: If a magnet sticks to the cookware, it will work with induction. This eliminates glass, copper, and purely aluminum pans. (By the way, Viking describes their own line of cookware, which I have not yet tried, as a 7-ply construction of 18/10 stainless steel and aluminum that extends throughout the vessel, including the sides; suitable for all heat sources and especially efficient with induction.)

I’ll be exploring faster, better ways to cook using induction as I research my upcoming book, New Green Basics, and will post progress here as time goes on. Viking’s portable induction cooker runs around $500, but I expect all induction units will come down in price as they become more popular with the luxury set. But for those who can’t wait, and want to trade up in energy efficiency now, this handy unit brings both fun and fuel-savings to the home kitchen, in a compact package you can carry in one arm.

The Viking Portable Induction unit (1800 watts) runs on a standard 120 volt power outlet, and comes in a sleek stainless steel finish with glass-ceramic surface. Buy it at:

Viking Portable Electric Induction Cooker

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