By Fiona Sims
It was during a cookery class at Lime Wood hotel in the New Forest this summer that I saw the light - induction hobs. This was a cookery class with a difference – not a gas burner in sight. We were trying out the hotel’s new cookery school kitchen (once the swanky hotel’s snooker room), which is decked out with six shiny new Panasonic induction hobs.
My fellow pupils were all induction virgins, but once we had got the hang of the controls we were off – the more tech savvy amongst us discovering the Genius Sensor, which controls the boil, amongst other things.
The restaurant kitchen at Lime Wood was one of the first in the hospitality industry to ditch gas and go electric when it opened in 2009. The Athanor induction hobs are still going strong, reports head chef Luke Holder, who runs the school with chef Iain Longhorn, in partnership with the other ‘H’ in the collaboration, London-based Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett.
“I’ll never go back,” declares Holder, on a tour of his restaurant kitchen earlier. “In the old days, before induction, we would arrive early in the morning and turn everything on. The kitchen got so hot. Then we would use the expensive-to-run extraction system to suck up all that heat - such a waste of energy. Now it’s all about heat on demand. It’s just much nicer working conditions,” he shrugs, patting his electric plancha, and his favourite, the induction grill.
Holder and his team are part of a growing number of chefs who have made the switch to induction. John Williams’s kitchen at The Ritz London is now unrecognizable from the hot, sweaty, assault course it was before, with its sleek bank of induction hobs from Exclusive Ranges.
“We now have temperatures in the kitchen cooler than it has been outside on some days,” enthuses Williams. “The speed of work is absolutely amazing; sometimes you’re looking at three to four times quicker. Plus, the open plan layout gives us such good communication. The chefs are calmer and more relaxed, which is just brilliant. And on top of all of that, the cleanliness is fantastic.”
Holder agrees. “I can see everything in my kitchen now – no more peering down, which just adds to the subliminal stress,” he says. “I think in the next five years gas will be relatively obsolete,” he predicts.
In fact, if John Lewis is the national trend indicator then Holder might be right – as sales are on the rise there, too. Says Will Cummings, assistant buyer for large electricals at John Lewis: "Induction hob sales are currently up 12 per cent year on year. There's a real shift towards using this technology as customers recognise the benefits these appliances offer.”
I’m certainly feeling the benefits. As of last month, I am the proud owner of a Miele KM6115 induction hob and it’s made me a better cook. There, I’ve said it. The control is impressive, even intuitive, almost looking after your ingredients for you.
Take deep-frying, which is something I avoid unless absolutely necessary. You can bring oil up to a certain temperature and then keep it there for as long as you need it - it won’t burn.
And I made a stock the other day - the instant power is something else. It took so much less time to bring the huge pot to the boil. Induction hobs are so much easier to keep clean, too, unlike my old gas burner, which took ages to scrub.
Ok, so it takes a bit of getting used to it. The other day I managed to lock the controls by brushing over them accidently, delaying dinner for a few minutes. But I just turned the power off and on again and I was back in business. As Longhorn put it: “It’s a bit like getting a new smart phone, it’s jut a matter of getting used to it.” And if it’s good enough for The Ritz, then, well, you know.
It’s difficult. We sympathise. Despite being an entirely different shape and size we have an uncanny ability to turn up in the same outfit (usually black) and order the same dishes. We both wear glasses, swathe ourselves in scarves and fancy Daniel Craig.
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© 2015 Fiona Beckett & Fiona Sims (the2fionas.com), photography © Gary Latham, website by Scend