In our lead up to next Wednesday’s webinar on Induction cooking, I interviewed a professional chef on the joys, advantages, and importance of cooking with induction. Rachelle Boucher is a professional chef and “appliance whisperer” who has been cooking on all types of stoves for years. She has been a celebrated corporate chef with brands like Monark Home, Sub-Zero & Wolf, and Miele U.S.A., and has worked to showcase cooking technology such as convection, induction, speed cooking, steam cooking, and more. Recently, she co-founded the organization Kitchens to Life to “Elevate the electric kitchens conversation, educate stakeholders about today’s remarkable cooking options and facilitate the adoption and enjoyment of electric kitchens for performance, people and planet.”
We sat down to ask her a few questions on her experience with induction stoves from a professional chef’s point of view.
Tell us how you began cooking with induction.
Rachelle Boucher: I am fortunate to have had decades of induction cooking experience! As a local and then national corporate chef for a topflight appliance company, I began using induction long ago. I loved it from the start, but the features and interfaces were still developing and the appliance industry was not as focused on it, so I did not cook on it as much as I would have liked. Appliance showrooms have only a limited number of fully functional demonstration units to cook on, if they have any at all.
My metamorphosis into an “electric kitchen super-fan” started when I was the Corporate Chef for Sub-Zero & Wolf and then for Miele in the San Francisco Bay Area. In both positions, my job was to cook, recipe test, and create live learning experiences on gas, induction, and more. As I began to work side by side on gas and induction in these “test kitchens,” I began to think, “Why aren’t we talking about this? Induction rocks. Why aren’t we selling these as much as we are selling gas?” In my years at Miele, I began to show it as an equal (or better) option to the gas options and I began in earnest to test out recipes, cookware, and traditional cooking methods on induction to the delight, surprise, and amazement of thousands of clients, designers, architects, and developers. That is when I began to become an advocate. It was only later that I realized the environmental benefits of electric kitchens.
Why is cooking with an induction stove better than other cooking methods, and why do you enjoy it more?
Rachelle Boucher: Ah, how much time do you have? Let me count the ways. … For me, as a chef, the number one reason is cooking power, control, and flexibility. I love cooking on grills, in smokers, and on a campfire, but not inside my house! The speed and power are so exciting to use, but even more fun is the ability to achieve precise temperatures and hold temperatures perfectly. It is a quick transition from having to look at the flame and try and guess what that temperature is and to keep adjusting the flame up and down for many recipes to simply being able to select a number (much like a temperature setting for your oven) and know that you can maintain precise temperatures. Secondly, safety, comfort, and air quality. (I know that is really three things!)
The phenomenon of people getting burned, having items catch on fire (including homes), and simply getting overheated in their own kitchen should be left in the past. Indoor air quality from unhealthy gas and increased particulate matter are also something we somehow accept but are being shown to be of urgent concern. The amount of air conditioning, cooling, and venting that is needed to help mitigate these effects are quite staggering and very expensive.
I could list a dozen more reasons, but let’s just finish with cleanup, shall we? Cleaning the induction surface and cleaning the surrounding areas and hoods compared to cleaning any type of gas cooking setup takes a fraction of the time and effort. Whether you are frying chicken (so remarkable on induction), or making tomato sauces, cleaning your electric kitchen is a game-changer.
Do you see many chefs using induction in the restaurant industry?
Rachelle Boucher: My experience is completely in the residential market, but the transition is happening in commercial facilities as well. My friend and colleague, chef Devinder Kumar of Induur www.induur.com, is a commercial kitchen and global cuisine consultant and one of my favorite panelists for this topic. He told a recent group that many commercial facilities use almost all electric technology (steam ovens, convection ovens, tilt skillets, and various forms of induction) and only go to the gas cooktop when they have to do a “one off” special order for a guest.
I am working with commercial equipment purveyors such as Chefs Toys www.chefstoys.com to try and get ahead of this movement. They, like the residential side, were quite blindsided by the new all-electric building codes coming out of California and spreading to many states across the US. We at Kitchens to Life are working to explain these codes simply, help inspire sales and marketing strategies, and show the exciting business opportunities that this revolution presents!
What are some challenges associated with transitioning to induction cooking?
Rachelle Boucher: Induction is conflated with old electric technology and it is mired in myths and half-truths. It is entangled with images and experiences of wimpy coil burners or “burn-it-all” flat top old electric models. And the myths: No, you almost never need to “buy all new cookware.” YES, you can cook Asian and Indian foods, and YES, it can actually be much more affordable when you look at the “whole picture,” including your hood choice and more. Also, the rebate programs are beginning!
A big challenge, and one that I very much understand, is that it can be hard to switch to this new way of cooking. First, the interfaces are all quite different, with buttons, slide screens, or knobs. The sheer choice of options and features can be very confusing, and as I mentioned above, it is often not installed “live” in showrooms to try it out in real life.
Finally, it is hard for architects, designers, builders, contractors, and appliance dealers to stay up on codes, electrical needs, installation updates, and more to facilitate home and kitchen electrification.
How do induction stoves factor into the larger conversation around climate change?
Rachelle Boucher: Personally speaking, as a private chef, when I am cooking on a gas-emitting, particulate-producing, fire-breathing gas rangetop while my forearms are singeing, my face is flushing, the overhead hood is roaring, the air conditioning is blasting, with the doors and windows shut to keep out the unprecedented wildfire smoke, and I look outside and see a blood orange surreal sunset through the lens of the world’s worst air quality in my beloved, verdant Bay Area, it frankly brings me to tears. I bring my portable induction hob as often as I can since it is a joy to cook on, over 85% efficient, cool, comfortable, clean, and part of the solution. By cooking clean, with control and without gas, we can make a big difference for both indoor and outdoor quality of life.
What do the appliance manufacturers think about induction technology?
Rachelle Boucher: You know, I call it the “clean little secret” of the appliance industry. We love induction. We do. Every brand that I work with and talk to, from the economy brands to the luxury brands, are so proud of their electric kitchen solutions! The content leader of the industry, Steve Sheinkopf, CEO of Yale Appliance, and his team www.yaleappliance.com have dozens of videos, blog posts, and even an exceptional Induction Buying Guide, all extolling the virtues of induction and clarifying the challenges as well.
Where we are stuck, in my opinion, is the marketing of a big, huge, commercial looking range and huge hood (only around since the mid-80s) as the epitome of the “gourmet kitchen.” Most of these ranges are hardly used or underused, and most homeowners do not adequately use their ventilation. Also, as I said before, these all-electrification building codes and ordinances came fast and furious in California, before the industry (and the design and build industries) had time to strategize for them. Finally, I am working to expand the vision of the opportunity to encompass what I call “the Whole Electric Kitchen.” It is often not only about switching from gas to electric cooktops but rather looking at the whole kitchen. Today’s kitchens are already mostly electric! When I help a client with a new kitchen, we look at how the cooktops, wall ovens, ventilation, secondary ovens (speed ovens, combi-steam ovens, and more) work together with today’s incredible updates and technology to do so much more with often fewer appliances than they thought possible. It becomes a win-win for performance, people, and planet.
Join us for a webinar on Induction Cooking, where Chef Rachelle will do a live cooking demonstration on Wednesday, September 23, at 12:00pm PST. She’ll also be appearing at the Go Clean Energy Conference on October 1.
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