Some time ago we reviewed the Thermo Chef from NewWave. That appliance caused a mini revolution in our kitchen in the way we prepare food. Now, NewWave sent us a cooktop that promises a change in a way we cook food: the Induction Plate Portable Cook Top.
What are the main benefits of induction cooking?
How different is it from electric cooking?
First up, it is very energy efficient, converting about 95% of electricity into heat, much more than gas or electric cooking.
Safety is another big factor: there are no flames and the plate only operates when a pan is in place.
It's fast. It can boil water in minutes. But if you want to go slower, that can be accommodated as well. With 10 heat setting levels and the lowest setting at 60°C, slow cooking, coupled with a timer, can give you peace of mind whilst you do something else away from the kitchen.
This particular unit from NewWave is small and portable, ideal for caravans, camping, or in our case, using it when the LPG gas bottles are empty. That was the plan, but we find it so handy that we are using it most every day.
Are there any downsides?
Yes, not every type of pan or pot can be used. It must have iron in the bottom. That would include cast-iron, stainless steel and enamel pans. Most frying pans would work fine too. However, any glass or a ceramic or aluminium pot would be unsuitable. Copper is out too. Fortunately, this induction cooktop comes with its own free cooking pot so you can start straight away.
Induction heat is developed directly and instantly inside the pan within one second. This is much faster than any other method. Induction heat comes from magnetic energy. When the power is engaged a magnetic field is established between your cooking vessel and the cook top surface. There is no radiant heat, so it is very safe. The moment you lift the pan off the heat stops and the cook plate cools off very quickly.
When you first plug in the NewWave cooktop the display lights up and then goes into standby mode with a quiet fan running when you make a selection. You can now set the temperature or the heat output. The default is 1400W which is equivalent to 140°C. A couple of buttons let you set the correct heat for any situation. Heat transfer will only take place when the pan is in place, another safety measure. The unit will beep until a suitable pan is placed onto it.
Whilst it is very energy efficient, induction stovetops with four or five burners are still relatively expensive. This portable cooktop from NewWave is less than $130 Australian. I've even seen it at less than $100 so it presents an excellent way to experiment with the technology to see if it is for you. Most chefs swear they would only cook on gas but induction cooking can also be regulated quite precisely and instantly.
In our testing we found the NewWave cooktop a pleasant and precise addition to our kitchen. With its good looks it has found a prominent place next to the gas stove. There was one modification I had to make after the fairly long power cord inadvertently got draped onto the still hot plate. It melted the insulation right in the middle of the cord, so I had to cut it in two and fix another plug onto it....
There's one other point of caution with the free pan: the knob on the lid can become very hot so use a glove to remove the lid.
Personally, I would also have wanted another lower heat level for simmering, like 50°C.
All in all, we would rate the NewWave Induction Plate Portable Cooktop an 8 out of 10.