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Faster. Cleaner. Safer. Why induction cooking is poised for a big 2018

There are certain aspects to cooking a great meal at home that are, unfortunately, not so great.

Chef Ming Tsai is a big fan of induction cooking.

Does anyone really enjoy the 7 to 10 minutes standing around waiting for the pot of water to boil just so you can finally dump in the pasta? If you have children, the constant reminder that the stove is hot and to keep their fingers away from the burners can be stressful. There’s the annoying gas burner that won’t light and forces you to use a match. And then, when you’re done cooking, there’s the cleaning — taking the grills off the gas stove, getting into the nooks and crannies, returning the stovetop to a reasonable state of cleanliness.

Additionally, if you’re interested in reducing your energy footprint, know this: When you cook with gas, as much as 50 percent of the energy used goes into the atmosphere, heating your kitchen, but not your food.

For all these reasons, and more, one of Boston’s most renowned celebrity chefs, Ming Tsai, says he relies heavily on a cooking trend that’s expected to heat up in 2018: induction heat. “I’ve been using it for 20 years,” says Tsai, the owner of Blue Dragon in the Seaport District. “Any place where space is an issue, you want induction.”

All of those luxury condominium buildings going up downtown, he said, are prime candidates for it.

Induction heats up

Frigidaire’s smudge-proof Black Stainless Steel Induction Range

Induction cooking is fast becoming more popular — mainly because it makes all of those routine cooking challenges disappear. Water boils in 1-2 minutes. Burners don’t get hot, only the pan does. Cleaning the smooth surface is a snap. And all the energy used goes only into the cooking, nothing else.

“As a working mom, I’m looking for convenience and time savers when I cook during the week,” says Eloise Hale, a spokeswoman for Electrolux North America. “Because induction stovetops stay cool, spills just wipe away and it cleans much easier. I want anything that can save me an extra step on a weeknight.”

Electrolux is finding that as induction stoves come down in price to the range of traditional gas and electric stoves, more home chefs are embracing the technology.

To understand why induction is gaining traction, you have to understand how induction heat works. When you turn it on, an electric current runs through a coil that sits beneath the cooking surface. That coil generates a magnetic field, but it does not heat the burner. It’s only when you place a pan, either iron or stainless steel, on to the burner, that the magnetic field creates small electric currents in the metal of the pan. And, voila, heat! 

And something else about that heat? It’s easier to control than gas, making it less likely you will overcook that fish you’re grilling or undercook the seared steak. When you look at a gas flame, it’s a challenge to determine if it’s too high, or not high enough, so you’re left to your best guess. With induction, being precise is easier.

“For ganache, you have to melt the chocolate at 110 degrees,” said Tsai, who has his own line of small, portable induction burners. “And for frying, you always want the temperature at 375 or 400.” He said induction heat allows him to get the heat just right.

And one myth that induction cooking advocates want to dispel is that it requires buying a new set of pots and pans. In fact, standard iron and stainless steel work fine, only all copper-bottom or aluminum pans don’t work. (For a simple test, if a magnet sticks to the pot, it’s usable.)

Safe. Fast. Efficient.

Chef Will Gilson

Will Gilson, the chef and co-owner of Puritan & Company in Cambridge, is a big fan of induction cooking. He says he uses it in the small basement pastry kitchen of his Inman Square restaurant. “It is incredibly clean, incredibly fast, incredibly efficient,” he says. “If you can look past the tactile feeling of seeing heat — the food warming in the pan — it’s the best possible way to cook, cooking at home especially.”

He said one of the bigger challenges for home chefs with induction cooking is simply overcoming the idea of not seeing the heat, and not believing that the burner really can be touched as soon as the pan is removed. “With induction, you can put your hand straight on it and not be burned or hurt,” he said.

Also, because induction cooktops don’t have individual raised burners like traditional stovetops, there is another advantage that comes in handy — especially when cooking for a crowd.

On the Frigidaire Gallery Black Stainless Steel Induction Range, for example, a feature called Auto Sizing Pan Detection helps ensure that the heat is concentrated where you want it, allowing you to cook two dishes evenly, like a large pot and a griddle, at the same time. The cooktop adapts to the size of the pan whether it’s a small pot, a large frying pan, or a wide pancake griddle. That means no more breakfasts where some pancakes cook fast, and others slow, some are browned to perfection, some are too doughy.

And for small spaces, one of Gilson’s favorite perks of induction is that it doesn’t require a big exhaust fan, so you can be more flexible where you put an induction stove. And then, when you’re done cooking, one quick swipe with a sponge or cloth and it’s clear and clean. Quick to cook, quick to clean.

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's Studio/B in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.