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Jan 30, 2011 03:22 PM

Question from a Radiant Cooktop Newbie

A sudden failure on my kitchen range gave me the recent opportunity to update my kitchen. Good riddance! My existing range used those frustrating coils that I continually cursed for their slowness and failure to stay flat. Since I don't have gas going to my kitchen, I opted for a radiant Halogen setup.

My question:

On my old range I often used various dry heat cooking techniques. For instance I would often use a Japanese "Ami", which is a very lightweight slotted grill used to elevate items off of the cooking surface in order to cook various items via a dry heat - essentially cooking with a combination of convection and radiative heating, while minimizing conduction.

Other times I would toast items such as a couple of cloves of garlic or dried herbs in an otherwise empty flat skillet.

I would even use my cooktop to start until it was red hot Japanese Binchotan Charcoal simply by placing them either directly on the coals or by using a traditiounal purpose-made pot - essentially a stamped metal pot with a grate for the bottom, of which only the rim contacts the burner. (i.e.: for the most part the bottom surface of the pot does not contact the burner except for its perimeter - it's meant to rely predominately again on convection and radiative heating...)

All of these techniques minimizes either any directly contact with the cooktop itself, or uses the cooktop to heat an essentially empty skillet to the point where small items can be toasted.

Would I have to give up any of these techniques when using a radiant cooktop? There are numerous warnings regarding cooking with an empty pot - which is practically the case when toasting a small dash of herbs or a couple of garlic cloves. Would I have to give up on doing any dry-heat cooking, such as with my Japanese "Ami"?

Can one do any sort of roasting/toasting on a radiant cooktop, such as roasting/toasting peppers, garlic, fish, "Mochi" (Japanese rice cakes), etc.?

I welcome any and all advice.

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  1. I would avoid heating an empty pot to this high a temperature on any glass cooktop. While I love mine versus the old coils I hated, they ARE a bit more delicate than metal coils, and you can get your cooking vessel so hot that it could crack the glass covering. Now, I do use a cast iron grill, a griddle and two enamel coated LeCreuset types grills as well as a cast iron skillet on my cooktop with no problems, but in no case am I heating up something that can get red hot to the point of getting red hot on the cooktop. I don't really think it will be safe.

    You can toast bread or other others in vessels like this, but you need to go low and slow on the heat, and then do what you have to do relatively quickly. I do this when I make panini, for example, in a grill pan with a press. However, I don't let anything get so hot while empty that it would be hot enough to burn bread, for example, rather than toast it, and nothing gets close to red hot. That is way too hot for these types of cooktops. It still gets hot enough to sear things, but you need something in the pan.

    1 Reply
    1. re: RGC1982

      Thank you so much for your input. It sounds like one is never very far from considering the thermal limits of the halogen cooktops when they're being used.

      I may have poorly stated some of my cooking situations - at no time would any of my cooking vessels get red hot. (However I have many times heated up Japanese charcoal on my range to the point where the charcoal itself was red hot...)

      If I can follow up with a hypothetical - essentially this would be an extreme example of how I wish to use my cooktop...

      Imagine a wire cooking grid raised above the halogen burner, perhaps around 1/2" above the cooktop, supported in such a way that no part of it contacts the hot areas of the cooktop. Would this be a no-no? (In other words there is nothing making contact with the surface to absorb the heat, therefore the only way the heat is dissipated is primarily by convection and radiation through the intervening airspace.)

      Might using it in this way cause the burners to cycle on and off due to a build-up of heat on the cooking surface?

      I'm so used to using the old coils that could easily be used in a regime where much of the heat is radiated that I want to explore to what extent I can use the halogen burners in a similar way.

      Would I need to think about obtaining solid disks to act as an intermediate cooking surface? (Not sure if these even exist, but imagine one can use similar items that are used to "convert" an induction top into a more conventional cooktop.

      On a more technical note, if such uses are not OK, why? Isn't the primary method by which these cooktops work is by radiation, and secondarily by conduction? Afterall since glass is such a poor conductor one wouldn't use such a surface if most of the energy was via conduction, would they?