Alright, agreed. The article title is the cheapest knock-off in the history of advertising, but the intention is as genuine as ever.
Be it Jalal Agha on television 25 years back; urging us to purchase Prestige Pressure Cookers with gasket release system or my plea on this side of the millennium; you have got to check out this piece of technology meant for use by your better half (or her legal representative – the maid).
Induction stove technology is not new and does not draw any exclamations in developed countries. However in developing countries like India, it is only now being introduced in the market in a ‘testing the waters’ way and meeting with lukewarm response. We have to thank Government’s heavy subsidy on cooking gas and acute shortage of cylinders for this.
When out of cooking gas, my wife (Manjari) and I are faced with the following options:
- Start eating out – Always a bad idea. Trust me.
- Go on a raw diet – Not a good idea unless you are trying to loose weight. Some foods are absorbed better only if cooked well.
- Coal/Wood Stove – The housing-society has forbidden me from storing cow-dung & burning coal in my flat.
- Kerosene Stove – Requires me to go prostrate at the feet of my maid so that she will source some kerosene from the ration shop. Smoky, fire-risk & expensive. Definitely not a good idea.
- Electric Coil Stove – Cheap but suffers from frequent breakdowns, slow cooking and high risk of electric shock.
- Microwave Cooker – Fine for heating pizza & cooking some Indian dishes but plain impossible to cook fried eggs (which I love very much).
In an experiment I conducted, it took about 5 days before my Wife and the Maid stormed out of the kitchen uttering cuss words and barking ultimatums to restore cooking gas supply. The TTF (time-to-frustration) factor grows exponentially shorter with each Gas-out incident.
What we were looking for was a solution that:
- Cost less to buy
- Cost less to run
- Had low accident risk
- Reliable & maintenance free
- Would fit in my cluttered kitchen
- And most importantly, could cook a wide variety of Indian delicacies.
The solution presented itself in the form of “Induction Cooking” technology. A quick read of Wikipedia confirmed that I was on the right path but extensive search in google for reviews left me worried. There were hardly any reviews of this technology by Indians. Apart from junk-sellers on eBay (India), who were touting china-made devices under the tag ‘magic cookers’, there seemed no big brand names on this bandwagon.
On the positive side, the investment required was quite less (Rs. 2,500/-) and even if the device proved to be a complete dud, it would only leave me with a heart-burn that could be cured with three Digene tablets and solitary brooding for thirty minutes.
Since I have all but stopped buying from dealers of crapware on the Internet, I started scourging the market at Hyderabad for an “Induction Cooker”; even going to the extent of asking my brother in U.S.A. to purchase at my signal and ship to India. I would worry about 220V to 110V conversion later.
As luck would have it, none of the usual suspects stocked it. The Future Group stores (Big Bazaar, Food Bazaar, Home Town, eZone) did not have it. Neither Reliance Digital nor Tata Croma had it. The usual small & medium retailers on R.P. Road (Secunderabad) didn’t seem to have it.
Serendipity stuck at the last store I entered before giving up. Mahaveer’s House of Electronics not only stocked it, but the cooker was of a reputed brand too. So after much haggling, I bought the Kanchan Appliances Induction Stove (Model KIC-01-M1) for a discounted price of Rs. 2,700/- (asking price Rs. 2,900/-) and featuring 1 year warranty.
Men should not negotiate, since they will pay Rs. 2/- for a Rs. 1/- item they need and Women will pay Re 1/- for a Re 2/- item they do not need. If it had not been for my wife, I would have probably paid the sticker price (Rs. 3,400/-)
Simplified, an Induction Stove contains a powerful electro-magnet that heats up the cooking vessel by physics principle called Hysteresis Losses. There are no moving parts, no dangerous radio-waves, no exposed electrical parts and no exposed fire. Only the cooking vessel heats up, not the stove.
Induction stoves are almost entirely made up of plastic. They contain a copper-coil electro-magnet, a feather touch control panel (to regulate power), a ceramic plate as a separator between the magnet & the cooking vessel and a fan to draw heat away from the inside of the stove.
Since Induction cookers work by inducing a strong magnetic field in the vessel, the cooking vessel must either be made of iron or contain a base plate made of iron. In India, most cooking vessels today are made of aluminium (non-stickware, pressure cookers) or stainless steel (vessels). Specialised cookware is now available under the label “Magic Cookware” which is essentially an aluminium vessel with a steel plate stuck to the bottom. Magic Cookware is generally sold at exorbitant prices and is quite simply a scam. All you have to do is trying sticking a magnet to your existing cooking vessels. The vessels that stick to the magnet will work fine. I have a lot of hard-coat cookware at home that I bought cheaply and seem to work quite well. Note that flat bottomed vessels will work better than curved vessels.
Upon switching on the Induction Stove, normally it will start right-away heating the vessel at 75% power setting. If you have not placed a cooking vessel on the ceramic plate, the stove will typically detect it and indicate an error state. Very low-end cookers may not have this safety feature, so buyer beware. It is also recommended that you do not wear iron rings, bangles (and safety pins stuck to bangles) as they can be magnetized in seconds and give you a 3rd degree burn. It is also recommended that you do not use iron/steel tongs and stirrers. Quality stainless steel & wooden tools are fine. During cooking, eventually the hot vessel will transfer some heat to the ceramic plate, as a result the part of the ceramic plate that was in contact with the vessel will become very hot and cool rapidly upon removal of the vessel. Avoid touching the ceramic surface immediately after a cooking session.
The heat in the cooking vessel is regulated by the power setting on the control panel, which in turn simply controls the duration for which the magnet is switched on; just like a microwave (magnetron). In low-power settings, the magnet is switched on for shorter durations.
Since you can use standard metal cooking vessels and conventional cooking posture, the Indian cooking style becomes a reality. Deep-fried, shallow-fried, slow-cooked, rapidly-cooked – things that a microwave cannot do. Cooking medium is not a problem either – boil items in water without worrying about the water vapour short-circuiting the electronics, fry in oil without worrying about the oil bubbling & splattering all inside the device.
The performance of the stove is outstanding in terms of speed and energy efficiency. 85% of the energy consumed is directly transferred to the cooking vessel when compared to the microwave (88%) and gas-stove (55%). A litre of water boils in 2-3 minutes, a litre of milk in about 5 minutes and 500 gms. cooked dal stored in refrigerator back to boil in about 3 minutes. A spoonful of oil in the kadai will start smoking about 8 seconds and ready to accept the spices. Regular use in a yuppie household will probably add about Rs. 350/- to the electrical bill, thus positioning it very competitively with LPG.
The stove I have, has a preset setting for boiling milk and boils a litre of milk in about 20 minutes without a spill-over. The heating cycle is designed that well. Just place it, start it and forget it.
Do we use the stove daily? No we don’t. The temptation of cooking on discounted LPG across 4 burners simultaneously is too great for us to attempt an overhaul of our cooking methods to cook efficiently on the new-age Induction stove.
However, gas-out situations no longer cause the domestic squabbling it used to and friends of mine have already extracted promises from me to loan them the stove in their gas-out emergencies.
Watch a video of Induction Stove bringing a litre of water to boil in 6 -8 minutes.