No longer cooking with gas: how a shift to induction cooking could affect Victorian homes and restaurants

A new report has highlighted that children who live in houses with gas cooktops were 32 per cent more likely to develop ...
A new report has highlighted that children who live in houses with gas cooktops were 32 per cent more likely to develop asthma than those who didn't. Photo: Getty

Australia's gas-led hospitality industry may find itself grappling with a switch to induction cooking, after last week's report from the Climate Council indicated serious health and environmental consequences from our reliance on gas. 

Many restaurants are reluctant to embrace the switch due to the costs associated with installing induction appliances and the need to adjust cooking styles to accommodate the change in stove top.

Gas stovetops are powered by a combustible gas that uses a flame to heat a pan or pot. The burners have a lot of variety in shape and size and give chefs tight control of temperature and flame size. While powerful, gas cooking is not energy efficient and releases traces of carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and other pollutants into the air. 

Josie Aberle cooks a meal on an induction cooker in Melbourne. Her parents chose not to connect their house to gas.
Josie Aberle cooks a meal on an induction cooker in Melbourne. Her parents chose not to connect their house to gas. Photo: Paul Jeffers

While more energy efficient than gas, electric cooktops are not an option for most industrial or professional kitchens because of the time required to adjust the temperature of the metal coils that heat the stove top. 

Induction cooktops are a more suitable alternative to gas. Similar to electric cooktops, induction cooktops use copper coils and heat through electromagnetic radiation. 

This method of cooking gives chefs advanced control over temperature and speed while cooking and is the most energy efficient way to cook as the copper coils heat the pan itself, not the cooktop. 

The Victorian government is facing pressure to ban the installation of gas appliances in new residences by 2030.
The Victorian government is facing pressure to ban the installation of gas appliances in new residences by 2030. Photo: Getty

Although superior in terms of energy efficiency, induction cooktops are expensive to install, and require induction specific pots and pans. They also need to be housed in a building with access to a significant amount of power. As a result, they're not suitable for some industrial kitchens, particularly those located in older buildings. 

A representative from retailer Prestige Appliances said that while induction cooking is cleaner and faster to cook with than the gas alternative, it's inaccessible to those with cost-barriers or medical conditions that require pacemakers.

"Not only is there the right to personal choice, but induction interferes with your pacemaker so anyone with one of those shouldn't have them," the representative said.

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The findings are also problematic for renters who cannot change the stove top without permission from their landlord. Still, even with permission it's not always simple. 

"Depending on what kind of induction stove top you buy, you have to ensure your house is set up with the correct amperage," said the Prestige Appliances spokesperson. "It's not as simple as just buying one. It's a big ask for older homes with limited power."

Founder of Mulberry hospitality group, Nathan Toleman, has long championed induction cooking. 

Nathan Toleman of the Mulberry Group at Hazel restaurant, which runs on gas and open flame due to the Flinders Street ...
Nathan Toleman of the Mulberry Group at Hazel restaurant, which runs on gas and open flame due to the Flinders Street building in which it sits. Photo: Sharyn Cairns

"If I had the choice, all of our restaurants would be induction only, there's no difference in the quality of food you can produce" he says. "Unfortunately, many of the buildings our restaurants sit in did not have the foundations for induction cooking because they're so old."

Although he opened all-induction cafe Kettle Black more than seven years ago, one of Toleman's most well-known restaurants, Hazel, runs on gas and open flame due to the iconic Flinders Street building in which it sits.

"We would welcome the change if the government required it," says Toleman. "My sous-chef Oli would have no problems working with induction, it was our preference but the building has a limited power supply."

Chef Matteo Toffano from King and Godfree in Carlton says advancements in induction cooking make it more precise than gas but, "there's nothing like turning a fresh pan of pasta over a gas flame".

Stokehouse chef Jason Staudt welcomes the shift saying "the combination of cooking over wood, with the cleanliness and sustainability of induction is absolutely the future". 

"As much as I love gas, induction has advanced in so many ways. It's more powerful, the cleaning is easier, and the cooking is more accurate."

Head chef at Melbourne's Indu and Mejico restaurants, Ankit Padmani, also understands the appeal of induction cooking but is wary of the price. 

"It's not only easy to clean, but it also has an edge over gas due to the fact you can control the heat so much better while cooking," says. "However, it does have its own downsides, as only specific pots and pans will work on induction."