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Gas or electrics - I'm trying hard not to hate my new induction hob.

Fri, 11 November, 2016

I’m about to make the greatest difference to my cooking (no worries, not going vegan): I’m changing over from gas to electricity.

For nearly twenty years (and before that, although that was the pre-serious cooking history) I’ve had a gas cooker: four gas rings, one oven, one grill. It was not too bad quality when new but after sixteen or so years of heavy use it became gradually crankier and crankier. The hob rings needed to be jabbed with a meat skewer every so often to de-gunk them - otherwise the flame would spring up jauntily on one side only. The oven was fickle to say the least, sulked when you tried to roast more than one dish and stubbornly insisted to heat up one side much more than the other.

What can I say? Like loving someone involves overlooking flaws and learning to adjust to idiosyncrasies, so I learned to patiently turn cake tins around to make them bake evenly; preheat the oven for half an hour and juggle trays and racks with Christmas dinner elements. I inhaled my share of methane when the hob wouldn’t ignite and The Weather Man spent a chunk of his lifetime scrubbing the burnt-on grease and stains.

And yet, and yet, I managed to produce a few things I’m quite proud of. Genoise, panettoneciabattas came out quite all right out of that cranky oven. I’ve baked sourdoughs. I fried epic steaks. I grilled tians. And I perfected making a frying pan pizza cooked on the hob then under the grill - no mean feat.

And now what? I still have two gas rings - my safety fall-back. But a high-tech induction hob gleams darkly from the worktop and two electric ovens beep melodiously with alerts I’ve not deciphered yet. I have only cooked a few things and dead simple as well so it’s my first impression and those do deceive.

The ovens are good. I swore I wouldn't go near the automatic programmes they feature lots of although you never know, they might be helpful. Thankfully the controls let me do the only things I need: i.e. set the temperature, and the duration if I want it. There are so many types of heating that mind boggles: conventional, fan, moisture injection, fan plus, grill with fan, microwave with grill, it makes you wonder why there’s no sun-drying. I have only the vague idea what type of dishes should be cooked with fan (NOT cakes) and which with moisture (BREAD) etc. but first off I baked salmon fillets with fan and they didn’t come out dried out at all - indeed delicious. I guess the fact that it was one of the first home cooked meals for two months might have added to the flavour.

Jacket potatoes baked impressively quickly with fan. Pork belly didn’t have to have any liquid added to the tray thanks to the moisture injection. Croissants toasted nicely and evenly under the grill. So far so good - but my original worries e.g. how to get oven quickly down to lower temperature if I need to are still valid as not tested, so watch this space.

Now induction - it’s not love at first sight. Yes, it does heat up quickly and the touch controls are very sensitive but I really don’t like all this tapping when my fingers are grubby and the steak is burning. It’s far too fragile for my taste - if I lean too low over the controls the hob switches off because it doesn’t like to be covered. I’m used to plonking lids, spoons and trays onto free gas hobs - this looks too pristine and forbidding. And when I put a wet pan on (durr - just been filled with water from the tap) and switched on boost, it had a serious hissy fit and is now slightly stained (hopefully to be erased with special super cleaner for induction hobs for mere 12 quid!). That's the main gripe so far: my kitchen is not a showroom and I don't want to handle it with kid gloves. Wipe the bottom of the pan before it lands on the hob? Life's too short for such faff.

I know - it’s going to be either cooking on two gas rings or learning to love it.


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