Induction technology is not a new concept. It’s been popular in domestic kitchen for decades but until fairly recently was never embraced by the commercial catering industry, who put their faith in traditional gas and electric models. The last few years have seen the popularity of induction models grow significantly due to a number of factors, including the growing awareness and desire to save energy, both from an environmental and cost perspective, manufacturers improve the quality of the products and prices become more competitive.
A quick online search shows that the cost of induction models differ greatly, from £50-£1,500 for a single zone tabletop unit to £3,000-£20,000 for a four zone oven range. Why is there such a disparity in the prices? When buying induction it is vital that you compare like for like – there are huge differences in the components used, robustness, suitability for a professional kitchen and ease of use. This article tries to explain what to look for when buying induction.
How long will the product last? The lifetime hours of a product is an indication of how long you can expect it to operate without a decrease in performance. Models containing components designed for domestic use will typically last up to 2500 hours, or 10 hours per day for about a year. However, as they are not designed for constant use, the likelihood is that you will see significant decrease in performance much earlier. Commercial kitchens looking to use induction technology on a regular basis need something much longer lasting than this however, and there are many models on the market to choose from. Some manufacturers claim their products will operate for 10,000 hours, whilst others have utilised heavy duty components that will work perfectly for 30,000 hours. All Falcon induction models have a lifespan of 30,000 hours, equivalent to 10 hours a day for over 8 years.
When comparing induction models, make sure you ask for the lifetime hours of each one, as this will give an idea of its suitability for your business.
A common concern for those new to induction is that the glass won’t be strong enough to withstand the tough treatment meted out in a commercial kitchen environment. The glass on a domestic grade induction unit would generally be 4mm thick, while most commercial induction hobs will be 6mm. The thicker glass is a must for a busy kitchen as it is built to withstand tough treatment. For an indication of the strength of Falcon’s induction glass, please watch the drop test video on the right hand side.
Induction heat zones range from 2kW to 5kW in power, with the higher the rating meaning faster heat up times. For example, when comparing our own induction, the 5kW heat zone is significantly faster than the 3.5kW or 3kW equivalents at bringing water to the boil (see Falcon - Leading the Way in Induction for full results).
Heat zone size
A factor which can significantly impact upon performance of any induction zone is the size of the pot being used. For example, if a 5kW zone is 270mm in diameter, using a 180mm diameter pot will mean that there will be section of the heating coil not in contact with the pot, therefore not providing any heat. This means that it will be impossible to achieve the full 5kW power output and therefore heat up times will be lengthened. If the pot is larger than the heat zone, the whole coil will be on but the edges of the pot outwith the heatzone will not be receiving any heat so the contents in these areas will cook more slowly than those in the middle of the pot. With liquid this would not affect heat up times too dramatically but, for example, trying to cook eggs in an oversized frying pan would see significant differences in the cooking times between the eggs in the middle and around the edges of the pan.
There are 4 main types of induction unit – single zone, twin zone and four zone boiling tops and four zone oven ranges. What model is right for you is dependent on a number of factors, such as the role induction is going to play in your kitchen, current kitchen environment (space, location, existing equipment), budget and menu offering. A tabletop single zone unit offers a cost effective and highly portable induction experience but won’t have the power or flexibility of larger models. A range is the most expensive option but also provides the greatest amount of versatility and capacity.
Induction's not always the best choice
There is no doubt that induction provides many benefits to any chef, including energy savings, faster heat up times, easy cleaning and instantly controllable heat but that doesn't mean it’s for everyone. There are a some downsides to induction also, the main one being cost. An induction unit is generally more expensive than its gas or electric equivalent (for example, Falcon’s induction range is 3 times the price of a six burner gas range, while an electric four zone boiling table is half the price of the induction model). New cookware may have to be purchased if not made of ferrous material. In many places electric costs are much higher than gas, potentially negating the energy savings resulting from the more efficient induction unit.
Making the right choice
Buying any major piece of commercial catering equipment is a significant expense so it is important to choose the correct one. The surest way to get it right is to talk to our development chef. He is on hand to offer impartial advice as to what would be the most suitable option for your business. You may even want to consider a visit to our development kitchen for some hands-on testing.