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Convection and induction cooking have nothing to do with one another, but they sound similar enough to cause confusion. The word convection refers to convection ovens, and induction refers to induction cooktops.
What is a Convection Oven?
A convection oven is an oven that contains a fan, usually in the back of the heating space, that circulates air around the oven interior in order to distribute the heat more rapidly and evenly.
The convection oven doesn’t actually rely on a different principle than a regular gas or electric oven. In fact, all ovens that use heat rely on convection. Convection ovens make the convection more effective by circulating the air.
Advantages of Convection Ovens
The hot air being circulated around the cooking food in a convection oven allows for more efficient cooking so that most foods will cook more rapidly. As well, a lower temperature can be used. A cake that usually takes 30 to 35 minutes at 35O F in a regular gas or electric oven may take only around 2O minutes at 325 F in a convection oven.
A convection oven will come with instructions on how to adjust cooking times and temperatures. In general, however, you should set the temperature to 25 degrees lower than you would set a conventional oven.
Another advantage to convection cooking is that the circulating air allows more items to be cooked effectively in the oven, even if the items are crowded.
Disadvantages of Convection Ovens
Despite the advantages to convection ovens, the differences in cooking times and temperatures can make familiar baking or roasting jobs more tricky. It is also possible for the air currents to cause problems in delicate baked goods, such as by forming ripples on the top of a cake.
Another problem with convection cooking is that cooking pans or dishes with high sides, covered dishes, or aluminum foil, do not work very well.
Modern convection ovens can solve all these problems by allowing you to switch between regular and “convection” settings, basically turning the fan off and on. Avoid an oven that does not allow you to operate it with the fan blower turned off.
One problem that must be considered, however, is the space you have for your oven and the actual cooking space inside a convection oven. The fan itself takes up space, so make sure whatever oven you choose has enough actual cooking space for your needs, regardless of the exterior dimensions.
If you don’t want to spend the extra money for a full-size convection oven, a popular and viable choice is a countertop convection toaster oven such as the bestselling Breville Smart Oven. Don’t let the “toaster” part fool you, these can be large enough to cook a small(ish) pizza or a whole chicken. If you have enough space and want a convection oven, or simply need some extra oven capacity for those big family meals, these are a great choice.
Induction Stove Tops
Normal stove-top cooking relies on conduction. In conduction heating, the transfer of heat occurs by direct transfer of heat from a warmer area to a colder area, involving the direct contact of different materials. When you cook on an electric stove, the “heated” molecules of the burner have a very high kinetic energy and this energy can be transferred to the molecules of the pan sitting on top of the burner. Since different materials can be better or worse conductors, different types of pans can perform differently when cooking.
While normal conduction stovetops use heated electric coils or gas flame as a source of heat, induction stovetops do not actually put out any heat at all. There are no heated coils and no fire. Instead, they use an electric field to generate heat.
This electric field does not affect just any material. For example, it will not affect your hand. You will feel nothing if you touch an induction cooktop, even if it is turned up to high. It will also not affect cloth, paper, plastic, and many other household materials. If you place a potholder or kitchen towel on a turned on induction cooktop, nothing will happen.
The cooking surface of an induction stove is just a flat, smooth, glass or ceramic surface. Instead of coils or gas burners, there are coils of copper wire underneath the cooking areas. The stove works by sending an alternating electric current through this coil of cables. The current changes direction up to 30 times a second, which creates a magnetic field just above the coil which also changes direction many times a second.
This magnetic field causes an electric current in a pan which comes into contact with it. Since the metal of a ferrous cooking pan is resistant, heat is created in the pan and this heat is transferred to the food through conduction.
The video below demonstrates just how amazing induction stoves can be, using a pan cut in half to demonstrate. You can even place an entire magazine between a pan and the induction unit and it will still work, without damaging the paper.
Advantages of Induction Cooking
One of the chief advantages of induction cooking is efficiency. Induction cooktops are 85 to 90% efficient compared to gas and electric stoves, which are about 50% efficient. The heat created is only in the cooking pan itself, so much less is lost to the environment. As well, when a pan is set on an induction coil or “hob,” heat is generated almost immediately. When the power is turned off, heat production ceases immediately. This can allow for very quick temperature responses. When there is no pan on the hob, there is no heat generated at all. And, although some heat may be transferred from the pan to the cooktop surface, it is not enough heat to bake on spills, so that cleaning up is much easier.
An induction cooktop can boil water about twice as fast as a 15,000 BTU gas burner. And, in addition to their quick temperature response, they can hold very low temperatures more accurately. This can allow, for instance, the cooking of sauces that would normally require a double boiler without a double boiler, such as Hollandaise sauce or tempering of chocolate.
You do not have to invest in a full-sized stove to get the advantages of induction. Single or double-burner counter-top portable induction units, like the Secura 1800W Portable Induction Countertop Burner, are available. These small units can conveniently and safely expand your present cooking space or work as a convenient portable cooking unit. They may be perfect for college dorms where open heating elements are not allowed, depending on the specific university regulations.
Disadvantages of Induction Cooking
The chief disadvantages of induction cooking are the initial cost and the need for induction-ready cookware made of ferrous materials.
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