The Future

No matter what the future holds, one thing is certain: Tomorrow's food will taste better and reach the table faster than it does today. According to industry experts, surface cooking is currently getting the most attention from R&D departments at home and abroad. Here are two technologies to watch.

    Induction cooking uses a powerful electromagnet to generate heat energy in a metal pot or pan. When the pan is placed on the smooth-surface "burner," the magnetic field induces it to heat up. No pan, no heat, so the surface itself never gets hot to the touch. Magnetic induction heats with an 85 to 90 percent efficiency rating, versus less than 70 percent for electric and about 50 percent for gas, so food cooks fast. The only catch: Ferrous metal cookware is needed to complete the electromagnetic circuit, so your aluminum, copper, and Pyrex pots are all out. The first time this technology was tried, in the 1980s, high costs and performance shortcomings led to its early demise; this time, manufacturers say, it will stick, because it's fast, safe, and competitively priced.

    Smooth gas cooktops are another innovation in the works. By covering gas burners with ceramic surfacing, manufacturers hope to offer the best of both worlds: the pinpoint control of gas with the easy cleanup of a smooth cooktop. A handful of prototypes have been developed, but none is ready for market. The challenge, industry insiders say, is designing a covered burner that matches the performance of an open gas flame.

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