Samsung has released a free-standing oven and stove combination that uses induction technology to operate the cooktop. I have had some (mixed) experiences with a glass-ceramic radiant stove at the cottage so I was excited to attend a demonstration of this improved technology. I was also attracted by the fact that the demonstration was being led by Chef Massimo Capra, the owner-chef of, in my opinion, Toronto’s best Italian restaurant, Mistura.
The technology is pretty remarkable. Each unit on the stove generates a magnetic field that reacts with iron in a pan to produce heat. The beauty is that the stovetop doesn’t get nearly as hot as other stoves because heat is only being created in the pan and only a small amount of it leaks onto the cooktop. This means that spills can be wiped up immediately and there is a greatly reduced chance of burning yourself by accidentally touching a hot unit.
The unit’s power and therefore speed when performing such tasks as boiling water or heating oil for frying also impresses. In fact, the claim is that this cooktop compares to the Miele gas burners in professional kitchens. I can’t independently confirm this but I did take note that some top restaurant kitchens in Toronto (Auberge du Pommier is one that did it even though they don’t have the height that usually disqualifies gas) are converting to induction.
The stove has fully digital controls that I like if only because the digital beep will alert me when fellow kitchen users turn the heat down on a pan I’m using while I am distracted by other tasks.
Chef Capra is an excellent host and demonstrator. Not surprisingly, he spoke glowingly of Samsung’s induction range and managed to inject the humour that we are used to seeing when he appears on Restaurant Makeover into his demonstration. We were served a deep-fried artichoke dish to start, followed by cappellini in a fresh tomato sauce, a chicken breast paillard, and a (seasonally appropriate) apple dipped in caramel sauce dessert. I noted that while cooking the tomato sauce he used the pan-slide technique that I associate with professional chefs and is usually prohibited by the instruction manuals that come with other glass-ceramic cooktops. A copy of Chef Capra’s One Pot Italian Cooking was the highlight of the event’s goodie bag.
The technology is impressive but my consistent complaint about the new breed of cooktops has been compatibility with existing cookware. For all of the flush-surface, ceramic glass-top ranges pots and pans have to be absolutely flat on the bottom but with induction technology they also have to be made of a magnetic metal. Basically, this means that aluminum and glass (transparent corningware for instance) are definitely out, almost all cast iron is good, and stainless-steel and stainless-steel combined with aluminum are in a gray area.
To know if a piece is “induction-ready” the best suggestion is to take a household magnet and test the bottom of all your pots and pans that you would use on top of the stove. If the magnet sticks the cookware will work on an induction stove. Here are my results:
Magnetic and usable on an induction stove:
- various cast iron pieces some by Lodge, some older pieces by (now possibly defunct) Canadian manufacturers
- all enameled cast iron pieces I could find including a couple by Le Creuset and some by the (very serviceable) knockoffs
- All-Clad saute pan from the tri-ply stainless steel line
- Cuisinart stockpot that I received as a gift less than a year ago
- blue steel crepe pan
- canning kettle made from that white-flecked black enamel material
- two unbranded roasting pans, one in the shiny, reflective style and the other in the dull black style.
- a set of Cuisinart stainless steel (marked 18/10) purchased a couple years ago
- small T-fal non-stick saute pan, less than a year old
- anything with a copper bottom, including one of my favourites, a straight-sided 12-inch skillet by President’s Choice
- a set of Tramontina cookware (Cook’s Illustrated Best Buy and runner-up to the All Clad tri-ply in their cookware set test) that is a few years old
- an unbranded, though very good and heavy-bottomed medium stockpot that works excellently for mussels
Why complain about this? Won’t someone who is willing to spend close to three grand on a stove be willing to drop an extra five hundred on a new set of “induction ready” cookware? Maybe. And I should point out that Samsung is sweetening the deal by throwing in a set of Lagostina cookware with ranges purchased in October and November. What about those people who move into a house, apartment, or condo that is already equipped with an induction stove? It seems wasteful to throw away good pots and pans for compatibility reasons so do the magnetic test and factor the results into your decision about this range.
Going forward the biggest concern I can see is for people who think they might want to buy a really big stockpot. These are usually made from aluminum because they are only three- or four-trick ponies (make stock, boil corn on the cob or really large batches of pasta) valued for their size and it isn”t reasonable to pay for stainless-steel with such a limited range of uses. Induction ranges are popular in Europe and increasingly in professional kitchens (two places where stock is frequently made) so maybe there is a solution to this problem that I don’t know about. Some oddball uses for a cooktop will also be impossible or significantly more difficult with an induction stove. Two examples of this I can think of are Jamie Oliver’s stovetop smoker improvised from a cookie tin and the “restaurant trick” of blistering the skins of peppers over an open gas flame.
This was a very good demonstration of an interesting technology. For those who don’t have access to gas it is the most powerful option available. Those considering a new stove should balance this unit’s power and very easy cleaning against its compatibility with your current cookware.