The carbon monoxide detector screeched again. The monitor screen read above 400 parts per million so she opened the back door. As she ran upstairs to grab an industrial fan, she shouted to her mother-in-law, “Don’t worry, I’m going to circulate air. I will figure out why this keeps happening.”
She had 10 dozen cookies to bake for the monthly dinner she served at an Indianapolis outreach, so she couldn’t just shut off the oven and give up today.
She’d heard a recent Sporkful podcast about the dangers of gas ovens and cooktops, but she’d always loved hers. She’d long preferred it to an electric range, which seemed to take forever to heat up and cool down. Gas, she reasoned, made it easier to sear and broil. What if she wanted to roast a marshmallow for an indoor ‘smore? Gas was more precise, she’d believed. That is until she heard the report on the air pollutants released into her home and the wasted energy as heat transferred to the pan and the food within. Once, she nearly started a fire when drippings from a roasting squash plopped into the vent slats at the bottom of the oven.
Time to switch, she thought, to the safer, faster, more precise and money saving induction technology. At present, most Americans haven’t heard about magnetic induction cooking. That’s about to change — in 2019, only about 5% of cooktops in the U.S. used induction technology, but this year it’s up to 15%. Across Europe, 36% of cooktops are induction.
Why induction cooking over gas? Because induction cooktops save home owners energy costs while reducing indoor and outdoor pollution. As far back as 2012, an Environmental Defense Fund study showed that two and half percent, or 12 million tons, of natural gas leaked from the pipelines that deliver gas across the nation. At that time, scientists thought only about .4 % leaked in urban areas and homes, but recent, more accurate studies indicate that anywhere from 1% to 2 1/2% leak between homes and buildings in our cities and towns.
That loss doesn’t count the energy burned between the pan and the burner on the gas stove. According to Reviewed, “Induction is able to deliver roughly 80% to 90% of its electromagnetic energy to the food in the pan. Compare that to gas, which converts a mere 38% of its energy, and electric, which can only manage roughly 70%.”
Gas range and oven also leak nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde into the house every time the burner turns on. Iowa State University reported as far back as 1998 that 51% of kitchen ranges tested raised CO concentrations in the room above the EPA standard of nine parts per million. Five percent had carbon monoxide levels above 200 PPM.
When the carbon monoxide climbed above 400 PPM, the culprit was the new silicone oven liners. They were cut just a bit too long, trapping the gas, which released into the house. After yanking the liners out of the oven, the detectors stopped shrilling, but the lesson was clear. The gas range was constantly polluting the indoor air.
Induction cooktops heat fast, precisely and improve safety using electromagnetic energy. It creates heat in the pan (not the cooktop). The cooktop can boil six cups of water in just under four minutes, while electric cooktops take just under six and gas takes longer than eight minutes. Most cooktops can get significantly hotter and cooler than a gas range. They can reach about 665 degrees Fahrenheit and get as cool as 100 degrees Fahrenheit, though some newer ones go lower. That’s handy for tempering chocolate and searing steaks. Simmering can be temperature specific, unlike a gas range. While electric ranges can get hotter, the burners hold that heat. Induction cooktops are cool almost immediately since electromagnetism is what creates the heat and does so only in the pan and ingredients. Little fingers could reach up to the cooktop, and unless the pot is nearby, they are far less likely to be burned.
While induction is safer, it does require a few considerations: Cookware must be magnetic, usually stainless steel, iron or ceramic lined metal. The pan size should match the burner, since some cooktops have a safety feature to shut off if the cookware is too small, too large, or not magnetic. The range top is glass and can crack if pans are set down too heavily or scratch if pans are dragged over it. Non-waffled silicone mats can sit between a pan and burner to protect the cooktop from scratches and cracks. Canning is possible, but cooks should avoid long boiling on high. There are modified instructions from trusted sources to seal jars in water baths or by pressure cooking. When sautéing, most experts suggest pouring oil into a cold pan, rather than preheating, as the pan heats up much faster. Finally, cleaning is usually easier since the cooktop is not hot. Most foods do not “bake” or burn on, so a simple water and detergent or vinegar and water spray will easily clean the cooktop.
It took a few weeks for the new range to come in due to supply chain delays. It cost a little more than an electric only oven, and required a heavy duty outlet, but within hours to saute peppers, onions and garlic, to boil water and air fry in the new oven, all with the satisfaction that the old house had one less polluter endangering the occupants.
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