In Conversation with: Des Harris on the Benefits of Induction
While induction cooking technology isn’t new, it still isn’t commonly used in New Zealand. However, it’s a precise and convenient way to cook, and with appliance brands such as Gaggenau, NEFF and Bosch all offering fantastic induction options, we think it’s only a matter of time before these cooktops are popping up in kitchens around the country.
We had a chat with Des Harris, Executive Chef at The Hunting Lodge, about how induction cooktops help him achieve his precise style of cooking and presentation.
Can you tell us why you switched to induction, and what the benefits are?
Induction’s a much cleaner and more efficient way to cook. Your heat’s a lot more accurate and even, and I think that’s the best thing about it. Especially induction at this level. Years ago you couldn’t move pots and pans around the plate, it would beep at you and shut off. Modern induction technology allows you to have four, even five little saucepans on at the same time, all at different temperatures, and you can move them all around. It’s edge to edge, which enables you to have at least two good sized saucepans on a rapid boil with another little frying pan on the go, so there’s heaps of opportunity to do different things. My daughter loves pancakes and pikelets, we make them quite often. On our induction at home we have a teppanyaki flat top plate which we warm up to 7.5, which is a 3/4 heat, and it’ll hold that heat really nicely. The heat’s all over the plate, there are no hotspots, so we can go ahead and make a huge batch of pancakes all in one hit.
Do you have induction at The Hunting Lodge?
We’ve always had induction professionally with little portable plates. I had induction at Clooney in the private dining space where it was a little bit more focused, but in most professional kitchens in New Zealand this wouldn’t be applicable. Overseas, in Michelin-starred restaurants where everything’s a little bit different, they use this product commercially. Domestically, we can use this at home now and it offers all of the technology that’s only been available to chefs.
I imagine that induction would be incredibly ideal when preparing sauces and the like?
Today I’ve been making a Beurre Blanc to go with steamed salmon. Traditionally, a Beurre Blanc is simply a butter sauce, which is an emulsion sauce. You need to be very careful with the heat and make sure the butter’s not going to melt. When you use gas or electric the heat’s quite hard to judge, but with the induction you can leave it on a nice low temperature, whisk in the butter, and nothing’s going to go wrong. You don’t have to take it off the heat because there’s a bit too much gas, so it does take away a bit of the guesswork. Some people prefer gas because they feel like they’re cooking, like there’s more skill to it, but modern food is all about accuracy. We’re able to serve minimal items on the plate, but everything’s prepared so accurately, and for me it just gives the plate a wow factor.
I can see that’s reflected in your style of food and plating, it’s very accurate and precise.
I think everything needs to have a little edge and I’m quite a traditional chef in my flavour profiles and combinations. I just like to add a little twist. If you can add two items or three items and have that kind of finish, then you’re there.