The natural gas industry has pumped a lot of money into promoting cooking with gas. But as we continue to learn about the health and environmental impacts of gas stoves, their reputation is starting to go up in smoke. Gas stoves not only create greenhouse gas emissions but they pollute the air inside your home, emitting nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and twice the amount of particulate matter as electric or induction stoves. A growing body of research shows a link between cooking with gas and negative effects on respiratory and cardiovascular health. According to a recent study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12.7 percent of current childhood asthma can be attributed to gas stove use.
The good news is, there’s a better way to cook your food: induction. Instead of producing heat, which passes through pots and pans to their contents, induction uses electromagnetic energy to heat the cookware directly. An electromagnetic coil under the cooktop creates a magnetic field when it’s turned on, warming compatible cookware internally. (And, yes, stainless steel and cast-iron pots work with induction.) Since only the cookware gets hot, more of the heat is transferred to the food—making induction the most energy-efficient choice. It’s way safer, too: since the surface doesn’t heat up, there’s less risk of burns or fires. And if you spill something, it doesn’t bake on, making cleanup a breeze. But what is induction like to cook with?
Even if you’re sold on the health, environmental, and safety benefits of induction, you may be skeptical about cooking with magnets. Well, if anyone knows cooking, it’s a chef. So we talked to four professional chefs about why they love cooking with induction.
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“[Induction] is absolutely fantastic,” says Massimo Capra, Toronto-based restaurateur and celebrity chef. “And you can control it very, very well. If you put it at a certain temperature, it stays at that temperature.”
Two years ago, Capra and his wife installed an induction cooktop in their home kitchen. With Capra’s four restaurants closed time and time again throughout the pandemic, he was doing a lot of cooking at home.
“So I’ve had the chance to really operate with it,” says Capra. “And I love it. I’m sold on it.”
Not only does Capra enjoy cooking with his induction—he loves how it looks. He has four burners set into porcelain, built into the countertop.
“The beauty of that is that nobody knows what the stove is when they come into my house,” he says. “They don’t see it—it is not visible. So the design and look is absolutely fantastic.”
Even though Capra had switched from a gas stove, he hasn’t noticed an increase in his electricity use.
“The efficiency is amazing,” says Capra. “We’ve been using it for two years constantly, and we don’t see a big electrical bill coming through.”
After many years of trial and error, Hoh—who teaches Chinese wok cooking in Key West, Fla.—developed the Wok Star method, a visual approach to Chinese cooking without using recipes or measurements.
Hoh cooked with gas for many years before switching to induction. She relied mainly on her portable gas stove, which takes expensive cartridges. She tried using a gas range, but even with the heat cranked up, it didn’t get hot enough. Finding the right burner size for her wok was also a challenge.
“The wider the burner is, the flame tends to go around the outside of your wok instead of being at the base, which is where you want the heat to be.”
Over the last decade or more, Hoh looked into induction woks, but until recently the wok units available were all commercial. They were big, noisy, expensive,and required 220 voltage—not practical for most home cooks. Then she tried the NuWave Mosaic Precision Induction Wok Stove, a bowl-shaped induction unit made for the home chef. She has been using it for about four years now, and she loves it. It’s lightweight, attractive, and retains high heat—up to 575F. (High heat is essential to cooking with a wok.)
Related: Why I’m Firing My Gas Stove
Like many people, Hoh was initially skeptical about using a wok with induction—she was used to the instant and intuitive experience of cooking over flame. But she has found that induction heat is instant. Hoh still has her portable gas stove on hand for using outdoors, or in case of power outages during hurricanes. But she cooks primarily with her induction unit now.
“The trick is not to use tossing techniques because [with induction] when there’s no contact, there’s no heat,” says Hoh. She says the so-called flip and toss technique is just for show. “I don’t teach my students to toss,” she says. “That’s what the spatula is there for.”
One of the reasons Hoh loves the wok unit is that she can use her favourite wok. After decades of cooking, Hoh has tried just about every wok out there, and she prefers the lightweight cast iron one like the one her mother introduced her to. (For a wok to be induction-compatible, it has to be made of stainless steel, carbon steel or cast iron.) For her, a flat-bottomed “wok” is a no-go. A real, traditional wok is round.
“A flat-bottomed wok is not a wok,” says Hoh. “It’s a pan with high sides.”
That said, for a wok to heat up properly, it needs to be the right fit for the bowl-shaped induction unit. (The NuWave unit comes with its own wok.) Hoh says that if you already have a flat induction stove, you don’t need to go out and buy a bowl-shaped wok unit. Lodge makes a cast-iron “wok” with a flat base. Although it’s heavier and takes longer to heat up than Hoh’s cast iron wok, it has excellent heat retention and comes pre-seasoned with vegetable oil.
If you are thinking about induction cooking but haven’t made the switch, Hoh recommends a standalone wok unit. She uses a wok for everything from eggs to steaming to stews and soups, and likes to say induction is “the greatest invention since fire.”
When Liz Pietrzak, head chef and owner of Soups From Me To You, moved to a rural area, all her stoves ran on propane. The heat was so intense that she had to put plates between the burner and her pots to reduce the temperature.
Pietrzak, used to cooking with gas, looked into having a gas line put in. When she was quoted $65,000, she decided to stick with propane—but not for long.
“I learned very quickly this was not the way I wanted to continue going,” says Pietrzak. “Especially with soups, because they can burn quickly.”
Pietrzak bought an induction range and had a portable unit built, with four large burners for her soup pots. She no longer worries about her soup burning or boiling over—which would result in lost product (and profits).
“When we moved to induction it was great,” she says, “because when you say simmer, it’s a true simmer.”
Pietrzak also noticed how evenly her pots were heated. “I thought, ‘Oh wow, [the heat] is going right through the entire pot. I don’t have any hot spots or cold spots.’”
Pietrzak was so impressed that she converted her home kitchen to induction as well. She says that induction has been cheaper to operate than propane was—especially now that the cost of propane has skyrocketed. So even though she is using more electricity, induction costs her less to operate her kitchen.
“It’s really pennies,” she says. “It’s not a big draw like a regular element stove.”
Although Peitrzak initially switched to induction because it was way cheaper than having a gas line installed, it also fits with her shift to a more sustainable business model. She sources her produce from local farmers, uses only grass-fed meat and heats her home with a heat pump.
“In terms of moving to a greener view for my company and my home life, it’s a better way.”
Caterina Vitale, owner of Charme & Chique Baking Company, has been using induction since 2009. When she first switched from gas to induction, she noticed how much easier it was to control the temperature.
“With induction it was nice even, steady heat,” says Vitale. “I didn’t have to change anything.”
A master cake designer and pastry chef, Vitale makes a lot of Italian buttercream, which is made with simple syrup. She says it’s much faster with induction.
“With simple syrup it will take one minute to reach boiling,” she says. “And then you have to let it boil for about two minutes before you put it into the egg whites, whereas with gas it’s like double the time.”
Vitale grew up in Italy with a chef for a dad, so she’s been cooking since she was a kid, and she spends a lot of time in the kitchen. She uses her induction cooktop for everything: making crepes, pasta, grilling meat on cast iron, and even cooking with a wok. She especially loves it for slow cooking.
“You can start really, really low, and you can put it down to one1 and it keeps it warm,” she says. “I’ve found [the temperature] is harder to adjust with gas.”
Vitale started using induction when her kids were small, and safety was a big selling point.
“If anything spills over, it will automatically shut down,” she says. “And if your kid is near the stove and they put their hand right beside it, it won’t get hot. It’s only hot right under the pot.”
Vitale also loves the timer—an important safety feature. If you forget to turn off the knobs, the cooktop will turn itself off when the timer is done.
“In all respects, induction is hands down my number one choice,” she says.