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Induction on Inductions!

Great British Bake Off star and fabulous cook Nadiya Jamir Hussain has admitted she grew up without an oven.

So I have no compunction in admitting that I haven’t a clue about an induction hob.   After all, many people our generation grew up with very basic cookers indeed and the main question used to be whether gas or electric hobs are better (out of interest, Gordon Ramsay says he is 50 50 on that debate, both are equally good).

But as with so many things today, things have become more complex.

Induction hobs are hugely popular now but what do they mean?

Most hobs work through conduction, ie the heat moves physically from one medium to the next. With induction hobs, the process is based instead on electromagnetism. An induction hob requires contact with a ferrous metal such as a steel or iron saucepan. When the pan is placed on the hob, an electromagnetic current passes through the pan and generates energy in the form of vibrations which in turn cause heat.  The idea is that the saucepan heats up while the hob remains completely cool. 

This means there is no waste of heat and there can be a safety advantage here of course. There is no risk of burns while the hob cools down after cooking; and induction hobs also automatically turn themselves off when you take off the pan, so there is no risk of leaving the hob on accidently.
Interestingly, induction hobs heat a pan almost twice as fast as a gas equivalent so they can be very useful in a busy lifestyle and because all the heat radiates back into the cooker, you will find you become less hot and bothered in a major cooking project.

Induction hobs are also easier to clean, certainly easier than gas hobs because they have a smooth surface. Any spillages won’t be burned onto the surface so can be wiped away instantly.

The downside is that to work successfully, you need pans with a base made from high grade steel or cast iron. However, as induction hobs become more and more popular, there is now an enormous range of these pans available everywhere.  Panasonic have been working on an all-metal induction cooker using a different coil design and higher operating frequency to allow operation with non-ferrous metal cookware and other advances are also being researched and developed.

Of course, as Nadiya Hussain has so clearly demonstrated, you don’t need the latest equipment to produce fabulous dishes. But it is nice to understand new developments…at least so that when we go to babysit at our daughter-in-laws for instance, we can turn on the cooker and know what it is about!

Nadiya Jamir Hussain was crowned winner of the The Great Bristish Bake Off 2015.

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