I HAVE A new stove, and I am positively besotted with it. If you’ve ever experienced a similarly ridiculous crush, you might understand why, like a love-stricken college student, I riffed on “To His Coy Mistress” with, “Had we but pans enough and time / this brilliance, cooktop, were no crime.” My poetry was met with silence, as one might expect from an inanimate object, but it didn’t deter my affection in the least. My feelings have stabilized slightly after a few months, but if my range had eyes, I still would gaze soulfully into them every time I walked into the kitchen.
I went in search of this new love not because there was anything particularly wrong with my previous range, a minimally charming, highly reliable dual fuel with a gas cooktop. The first hitch in that relationship was thanks to 2018’s late-summer wildfire smoke. It’s a bad idea to use a gas cooktop without running the range hood (that pretty blue flame is loaded with nitrogen dioxide, bad news for lungs everywhere), but it’s also bad to bring outside air into your home while air quality is some of the world’s worst. An electric cooktop is fine with no fan, which gave it an immediate appeal.
The smoke faded, and with it urgency, but headlines provide reminders: Cities are banning natural gas in new construction; studies show that breathing around gas is a bad idea, even with a range hood; and fossil fuel energy sources create broad concerns. The counterpoint to these arguments from cooks is generally an opinion stated as fact: Gas is better for cooking. Reader, stop believing this universally acknowledged truth, as it is a lie. At least when it comes to induction cooking.
Until 2009, I cooked only with electric coil or ceramic burners; they are the inexpensive default for landlords and budget-minded homeowners. Over those years, I encountered approximately infinite people — chefs, food writers, passionate hobby cooks — who insisted that gas was the only fuel for good food because of its precision and responsiveness. Compared to undersized, underpowered electric coils, I agree: Gas is more functional. Compared to annoyingly slow-to-respond ceramic, I also agree: Those are fine for low-‘n’-extremely-slow cooking, but little else.
Which brings us to the Glorious Revolution of induction cooking. My cooktop is so much more precise and responsive than the gas burners I’ve had for the past decade that my only regret is not skipping the gas years entirely. Induction burners heat only the bottom of pans, wasting nothing on the sides. This is less than ideal if you want to stir-fry in a wok; it is great for everything else. Not coincidentally, I haven’t burned myself since the new stove arrived — the stovetop stays completely cool less than 1 inch away from the edge of burners set on high.
Responsive? Three quarts of water boils in barely two minutes. The first time I witnessed this — yes, I watched water boil — I hollered, “Fulllll boilllllll” like I was announcing a goal in a World Cup match. There’s no drop in water temperature when adding pasta; it maintains its rolling boil. Precise? Because the pan sides stay so cool, finicky procedures like browning butter, making caramel, reducing jam or finishing any pan sauce are a breeze. The lack of a visible flame is irrelevant.
Pans preheat in a blink, which saves a minute or two from every high-heat cooking time. Hot spots, even in pans that used to have them, are now a thing of the past. Grilled cheese, pancakes and seared meat now have remarkably even color, like I have airbrushed everything to a delicious toasty brown.
Every single time I cook, I’m freshly delighted by what a pleasure the cooktop is. A final benefit: Burners cool down within seconds of removing pans, so I can clean as I go — no heavy grates to cool, lug out of the way and scrub below. If the only reason you’ve not switched to induction is a belief in the popular wisdom that gas stoves offer the best cooking performance, toss that outdated idea straight out the window.
The opinions expressed in reader comments are those of the author only and do not reflect the opinions of The Seattle Times.