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DO’s and DON’Ts
How Induction Works
Buy Induction Burner
I spent a good three months burning onions, scorching tomato sauces and under-cooking food in my pressure cookers before I figured out how to pressure cook on induction. Unlike pressure cooking on gas, or an electric coil, where the heat is generated by a flame or element and then transferred onto the base and sides of the cooker and eventually the food inside, induction cooking turns the pressure cooker’s base into the heat source – heating only the base of the cooker to cook the food!
So, is it even a good idea to pressure cook with induction? The answer is a resounding, yes!
The adjustments are small and, besides, induction cooking transfers 90% of it’s energy to the pot (compare that to an electric burner that only transfers 47%), so pairing your pressure cooker with an induction burner will turn your household into an energy-saving super-star!
How to Pressure Cook on Induction
DON’T pre-heat the cooker.
I got into the habit of preheating the base of the pressure cooker on a low flame to give me time to slice onions or peel garlic cloves while the cooker was pre-heating. But, on induction, I kept getting burned olive oil and charred onions. Don’t pre-heat your cooker on induction – the cooking surface is hot and ready to saute in 15 seconds!
DO slice the aromatics first, and then turn on the induction burner just before tossing oil or aromatics to saute’.
DON’T bring the cooker to pressure on high heat.
Following the old standby advice about bringing the cooker to pressure on high heat several obvious things will happen: the cooker reaches pressure at break-neck speed (about 4 minutes), tomato sauces carbonize and bond to the base of the cooker, and the food comes out disappointingly under-done. One more thing that is not obvious will happen, too: the pressure cooker does not have time to expel all of the air and actually cooks the food at a lower temperature (mechanics explained, below).
DO bring the pressure cooker to pressure on medium heat or tack on a few minutes to the cooking time to compensate for the lower pressure cooking temperature and shorter time to pressure.
DON’T walk away from a very full or wide cooker right after you’ve adjusted the heat.
This is where the instant heat of induction does a disservice to pressure cooking. Although the cooker may have reached pressure, the sides are still at a lower temperature than the piping hot aluminum-disk-clad base. Walking away from the cooker once the heat is lowered will cause internal pressure to quickly fall since the heat generated from the base is not enough to both keep the food inside boiling and maintaining pressure and heat up the rest of the cooker or food.
DO hang around to make heat adjustments for the first 5 minutes of pressure for very full or very wide cookers.
DO use the induction burner’s timer feature to set the pressure cooking time so the burner turns itself off automatically when time is up!
How Induction Cooking Works
Induction works with electricity – generating a small magnetic current that causes friction within the pot – and this friction generates heat.
- Electric current runs through a copper coil that is wound underneath the cooking surface.
- The coil generates an electromagnetic field a short distance from the cooking surface – enough to reach the base of the pot.
- The magnetic field induces (or forces) an electric current into the base of the cookware within this field. The metal in the cookware resists the flow of this current (with friction) and heats up.
- The hot metal from the pot heats the food or liquid inside.
Induction is a more efficient way to bring heat to the food because almost all of the energy used is conducted directly to the base of the pot, unlike cooking on a gas or electric coil where much heat escapes around the sides of the pot and in addition to heating up the food it heats up the room and the outside of the cooker.
Mechanics of pressure cookers on induction
Induction cooking has the unique ability to bring the base of a pan, or pressure cooker, to searing heat instantly while the edges and lid are still cool enough to touch. That’s a by-product induction’s efficiency that can work against the pressure cooker, too.
Pressure cookers brought to pressure on induction at its highest setting reach pressure so quickly that they trap more air inside (shorter time to pressure, less venting time) than a cooker being brought to pressure on gas or electric cook tops. In other words, the maximum temperature that can be achieved inside a pressure cooker containing water, steam and air is less than the temperature that can be achieved by a cooker that contains water and steam alone.
As induction becomes more common, pressure cooker manufacturers will be pressed to include instructions on how to operate their cooker on induction in their manuals or design a more sophisticated pressure regulating valve that can ensure the complete removal of air inside the cooker regardless of the time it takes to come to pressure.
Induction Burner Shopping
Buy the highest wattage induction burner you can afford and your kitchen outlets can handle – the low-wattage cheaper induction burners can bring a cup of water to a boil in a couple of minutes, too, but increase that to a 16 cup soup or stock and they begin to struggle and show their “you get what you pay for” cheapness.