What’s better for cooking, gas or induction hobs? | food

“I’m having my kitchen redone and am torn about whether to gand a gas or induction hob. Help!”
Hayley, Lancaster

“I don’t know anyone who has converted to induction who wants to go back,” says food writer and broadcaster Tim Hayward. The benefits of not cooking on gas, he says, are myriad, but the first question to ask yourself, Hayley, is how much coverage you need: “For most of my life, I’ve had big stoves with five burners, and I ‘ve never used all of them at once,” Hayward explains. So he’s now gone for something smaller: a Sage Control Freak, which is a single induction burner that sits on top of the worktop and has two built-in probes to measure the temperature of both the pan and the food inside it. His wife also insisted on a built-in, single-pan induction hob, but it doesn’t get much use: “If she’d let me have two Control Freaks, we’d be absolutely fine.”

Guardian columnist Thomasina Miers also prefers induction – well, most of the time. “It’s quick, efficient and you don’t get too hot while cooking, because it’s not throwing heat at you,” she says. “It’s also lower on energy, which everyone will now be needing.” On that point, Which? conducted a hob speed test last year, comparing the time it takes to boil a large pan of water: gas came in at 9.69 minutes and induction 4.81. But that’s not the only reason to consider induction. “There’s no point of ignition, so you don’t have to worry about things like frying pans catching fire,” Hayward says. More, it’s very controllable: “You can turn the power on or off, and expect a response in the pan within seconds.”

The downside, of course, is that you might need to invest in a new set of pans (they need to have magnetic properties to conduct electricity). “Any pan you can stick a magnet to the bottom of [ie, cast-iron] will work on an induction cooker.” What didn’t work so well, however, were Hayward’s “beautiful and ancient” French copper crepe pans, so he also got himself a portable single gas burner: “I can now do crepe suzette on a trolley tableside.”

Miers, meanwhile, mixed things up with four induction burners and three gas. “I hedged my bets, which not everyone is able to do, but there’s just something I love about [cooking on] fire: chargrilling eggplant and peppers, warming flatbread and for my wok, which I use a lot.” Asimakis Chaniotis, head chef at Michelin-starred Pied a Terre in Fitzrovia, agrees: “Fire is real cooking,” he says. “It’s where the magic happens. At home I have a big gas stove, but if you want a more efficient solution, go for induction.”

That’s not to say you have to do away with fire altogether. If you’ve got some outdoor space, get a barbecue to char those summer veg and flatbreads. “There are loads of fun bread ovens you can use, or Big Green Egg-type things,” Miers says. “In terms of space, flexibility and cost of gas, having an outdoor cooking option is a very welcome alternative.”

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