Cooktops: Gas, electric, induction hobs, or a combination?
|Miele 36" Induction Hob (Cooktop)|
As stated in an earlier article Lisa and I gravitated towards high-end kitchen appliances from Miele. We had considered Viking, Wolf/Sub-zero, Gaggenau, Küppersbusch, Thermador, GE Monogram, Dacor, Bluestar, and DCS cooking appliances among others.
Frankly, we found both Viking and Wolf to be a bit ostentatious and "get over-yourself" in appearance and bulk, the "Hummers" of cooking appliances. Miele appliances, on the other hand, are understated yet elegant and, we found, quite utilitarian. We were fortunate that Miele's USA corporate headquarters were located relatively close to us in Princeton, NJ.
At their headquarters Miele has their entire line of appliances, as well as kitchens that would make any professional chef proud. In fact, they have professional chef on staff. Miele offers cooking classes for prospective and current owners of Miele's cooking appliances by appointment only. In these classes, one not only gets instructed on how to cook with their appliances, but how to cook certain recipes including some very nice desserts.
|Miele 36" Gas Cooktop|
|Miele 36" Radiant Cooktop|
Induction appealed to us. It is our understanding that many chefs' kitchens abroad have converted over to induction cooking as induction hobs offer many of the same benefits of gas cooking and in some cases provide distinct advantages as well.
Induction cooktops direct essentially all of the heat generated to the food that they are cooking. Induction works with a magnetic field that "excites" the ferrous material in cookware (those that have it, of course). Where as a flame-based burner loses much of its heat to the sides of the pots, inductions direct the vast majority of their heat directly.
Pots of cold water can be brought to a full boil in less than a minute (it is fun to watch). This means one can boil pasta all that much quicker. And yet, induction hobs can operate at especially low temperatures. In the case of Miele, chocolate can be left on for extended periods of time without concern for burning it.
For those that are accustomed to cooking with double boilers (for making lemon meringue pie, for instance), one can dispense with them as they are not required with induction cooking.
Perhaps the most remarkable attribute of induction cooking is the fact that the cooktop itself does not get hot directly as does a radiant cooktop. The surfaces get "hot" as a result of picking up heat from the pans themselves.
It always makes for a good conversation piece to show dinner guests that one can place an ice-cube right up against a pan that is being heated and see that the ice does not melt. The area that is heated is within the foot print of the pan itself. This is also a wonderful thing if in the even a pot boils over, making for painless clean-up of the cooktop. Temperature changes happen nearly instantaneously. One thing to keep in mind, induction hobs tend to make slight buzzing/humming sounds when turned on high. This is entirely normal.
Some very expensive induction cooktops are zoneless. That is they can heat any number of pans of any number of shapes and sizes where ever they are placed on the cooktop.
In the case of Miele, they offer two sizes of induction hobs, a four burner 30" and a five burner 36". Europeans tend to use smaller cooking appliances than here in the US. Miele also offers individual cooking appliances that can be installed on counter tops in a modular fashion. We selected the five burner 36" induction cooktop. Unfortunately, we had to discard much of our cookware as they were not magnetic.
|Miele Modular Cookware|
Miele offers a combination cooktop/cookware starter kit that includes a small collection of Demeyere cookware. Le Creuset is another fine manufacture of induction compatible cookware. Nether of these brands are particularly inexpensive, but fortunately we are in close proximity to a Le Creuset factory outlet. Factory seconds (with very minor and sometime imperceptible blemishes) are frequently available at significant discount.
Since cookware has to be in direct contact with the cooktop to work, wok cooking is more challenging. There are flat bottomed wok pans that can work pretty well, though. And while some induction cooktops can generate a high amount of effective BTUs, they are not going to generate heat on the order of 100k BTU that can be found in commercial applications.
For those who absolutely have their hearts on using wok induction cooking, check out the stunning Küppersbusch induction wok, which maintains contact are the edges of a properly shaped wok.
|Küppersbusch Induction Wok Hob|
One take away, that I can think of, if the cooktop surface itself is damaged, the entire cooktop has to be replaced as the surface is not replaceable. So be careful when cooking with larger heavy pots or grills. Be sure that the base of the pots or the cooktop itself is free of cooking materials or other debris.
Induction hobs, especially the higher-end models, are quite expensive, often north of $3000. That's certainly not cheap, but there are less expensive models available. At any rate, Lisa and I are quite happy with Miele's induction hob. It is a beautiful and very functional appliance.