Pros and Cons of Different Cooking Technologies for Your Next Kitchen Remodel

When remodeling a kitchen, homeowners must make what seems like an endless number of decisions.  Some of those decisions will often include choosing new appliances.  In the old days it was pretty simple to choose your cooking appliances – electric or gas.  Now there are so many types of cooking technologies, it can be daunting to know which one to choose.  In this blog post, I will discuss many of the options and some of the pros and cons of each so Summit homeowners will be able to confidently answer many of the appliance questions with ease and know exactly what the best choice is for them.

Electric CookingElectric ranges and cooktops have been around for a long time and may still be the choice for some homeowners.  Electric ranges work by sending an electric current to a heating element which eventually will glow red as the heat increases (we’ve probably all used one of these types of range at some point or another).  The main choice with electric is whether you want a sealed glass top over the element or not.  The advantage to the glass top type is ease of cleaning whereas the open elements have metal trays underneath that need to be removed for cleaning or replacement.

 

 

 

 

 

Some pros for electric cooking are:

  • The electric appliances are typically less expensive than other types
  • It doesn’t require a gas line (which may or may not be present in your home)
  • It’s a reliable, long standing technology
  • Some cooks may prefer it because they are used to it
  • The sealed glass top ranges are very easy to clean
  • No risk of gas leak or carbon monoxide

Some cons for electric cooking are:

  • The element heats up and cools down slowly compared to other technologies
  • The open element type can be a safety hazard
  • You won’t be able to cook when the power is out (due to storms, etc.) to your home
  • Electric is less efficient than other technologies because much of the heat generated goes into the room air versus toward your food – which makes for a hot kitchen.

Gas Cooking:  Like electric, gas cooking has been around for a long time and has many devotees (especially professional chefs who were schooled on the superiority of gas cooking).  Gas fuels come in either natural gas (NG) or propane (LP).  Make sure you buy the right one for your fuel source.  This is critical since the fittings are different based on the type of fuel used.  Gas ranges come in both open and sealed burner options.  The main benefit of the open type is somewhat higher temperature capacities and potentially more even heating since you can have two rings of flames versus one.  The big benefit of the sealed type is the easier clean up and maintenance when a spill happens.

 

 

 

 

Gas ranges usually still require small amounts of electricity to power the gas starters and the various LED lights on the range controls.

Some pros for gas include:

  • Instant on/off control of the heat source – there’s no waiting for an element to heat up to a certain temperature or waiting for a burner to cool down.  This is the control feature that is often very important to professional chefs.
  • Total heat adjustability – you can set the flame height to precisely what you want versus the dial stops like “high”, “medium high”, “medium”, etc.
  • You can still cook when the power is out to your home.  The starter will not work and you’ll have to use a match or lighter, but the gas should still flow when the power is out.
  • Can char cook your food when that is desired.  Sometimes there is no substitute for an open flame.

Some cons for gas include:

  • The open flame is an obvious safety and fire hazard – especially in homes with children and the very aged.
  • A gas line is required to have the gas appliance which can add to the expense
  • There is always  the potential for a gas leak and/or carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Natural gas and liquid propane are expensive fuels
  • Gas is less efficient than other technologies because much of the heat generated goes into the room air versus toward your food – which makes for a hot kitchen.
  • Gas combustion contributes to environmental pollution and increases our carbon footprint.

 

Induction Cooking:  Induction cooking is the “old” technology that is getting a lot of new attention these days.  One would think it just came on the market, when in fact, the first induction cooking appliance (according to wikispaces.com) was demonstrated in Chicago at the World’s Fair in 1933.  Induction cooking appliances require electricity as their power source and create heat by molecular friction of electrons when a magnetic field is created.  This friction provides heat directly to the magnetic pot or pan.  The great thing about induction is the high efficiency of 90% or greater because the heat is applied directly to the pot or pan and heats the food.  The induction element remains essentially cool to the touch and is one of the safest means of cooking available (see photo of boiling water in the pot next to ice cubes outside the pot).

Initial induction units had problems with low power, noise, and lack of reliability.  In the ‘70’s, European manufacturers improved the technology and, like with other products, the parts were miniaturized.  Today induction units are very powerful, reliable and quiet and Panasonic is working with the manufacturers to develop induction systems that work with any type of metal versus the magnetic metal that is required today.  If you haven’t seen one of these units in action, I strongly suggest you check them out at your local appliance showroom.

Some pros for induction cooking include:

  • Very efficient/green technology with up to 90% efficiency (versus 25-40% for gas and 60-65% for traditional electric – source: http://inductioncooking.wikispaces.com/AboutInduction.
  • Very safe – no flame, no burning fingers or hands, no products of combustion
  • It is instantly on/off and allows for precise temperature control comparable to gas
  • Doesn’t heat up the kitchen (except for the heat coming from the food itself)
  • Very easy to clean – it is a flat surface and since food doesn’t cook outside the pan, spills wipe up very easily.
  • Today’s induction units can heat up to an equivalent of 27,000 BTU’s.
  • Induction has very even cooking without hot and cool spots like traditional electric

Some cons for induction cooking include:

  • At this time, your pots and pans all have to be made of a magnetic metal (although Panasonic is working on an all-metal technology).  This may mean replacing your existing cookware and additional expense.
  • The induction appliances typically cost a little more than traditional appliances
  • It requires electricity to work so if the power is out, you can’t cook.
  • Many units require a 30amp or higher circuit (which may mean additional expense)

Convection, Trivection, Halogen & Microwave Cooking:  Convection, tri-vection, halogen and microwave cooking are all oven based technologies with electricity as the power source.  Convection is just like conventional ovens except a fan is added to move the heated air more evenly around the food.  The best convection ovens have three heating elements (top, bottom, and rear) and a fan at the rear.  Convection ovens can cut down cooking times by about 25% and cook at a temperature that’s about 25 degrees cooler.

Trivection™ is a General Electric trademarked technology that combines conventional cooking, convection cooking and microwave cooking all in one oven.  Conventional and convection cooking all provides heat at the surface of the food and microwave uses radio waves to move molecules in the food and heat it by friction on the inside.  The cook only needs to enter the standard cooking method and the desired temperature and normal cooking time and the oven determines the best combination of cooking technologies and converts the cooking settings.  The cooking time with the trivection oven is reported to be about five times faster than a conventional oven.  The main con with this oven is the price tag since the prices start at around $2000 and go up from there.  The other con is obviously the power source.  If the electricity goes out, you won’t be able to use your oven until the power is restored.

Halogen cooking started in the 1970’s and basically uses a halogen light to create radiant heat to cook the food.  The GE Advantium® oven operates on halogen and microwave cooking which allows for browning and a more conventional food consistency when paired with the speed of microwave cooking.  Halogen cooking cooks food about 50% faster and saves about 75% on energy costs.  The nice thing about halogen is, like a light bulb, it is quickly on and quickly off and doesn’t heat up the oven, just the food.  Halogen is typically more expensive and because it works on electricity, will not work if your power goes out.

Microwave cooking has been around for several decades and is very well known by most of our clients.  The one change that has happened with standard microwave ovens is the development of the under-counter microwave drawer.  The drawer option really helps with the dilemma of where to put the microwave in the kitchen design.  Most people don’t really care for it above the range as this spot limits the range hood strength and look.  Yet most don’t want valuable counter space taken either.  So the under-counter model seems to fill the bill quite nicely in many cases.  The one change that takes getting used to is that you no longer have a turntable and you reach in from the top of the drawer to put a plate of food in/out.

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, another range/oven decision that needs to be made is the choice of duel fuels.  This usually means a gas range top with an electric conventional or convection oven.  This gives the purist cook the gas they want for total cooking control on the range top, but the comfort of the electric oven that they are used to for baking.

Hopefully, this article will help you get acquainted with the latest choices on the appliance front and make you an informed remodeling consumer.  Of course, our clients will also have the benefit of a Summit interior designer going with you to select all of the products for your new remodeling project.

 Laurie Crum
Design Consultant, Summit Design Remodeling
 
Summit Design Remodeling is a full service design-build remodeling firm serving Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland.
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