Home Air Quality A Very Helpful Resource for Going Full on Electric in the Kitchen

A Very Helpful Resource for Going Full on Electric in the Kitchen

Glenn Hasek

One of the hottest topics in foodservice is the electrification of the kitchen and there are numerous organized and even legislative efforts to push businesses to go all-electric and eliminate natural gas. The aim is to decarbonize food and beverage operations.

To help guide hoteliers, restaurateurs and others toward all-electric kitchens, the William J. Worthen Foundation included a very helpful volume (volume 5) in its “The Building Decarbonization Practice Guide.” The volume title: All-Electric Kitchens: Residential and Commercial, 2nd edition. I highly recommend reading through this section. It builds a very strong case for eliminating natural gas.

“Kitchens present superb opportunities for decarbonization since electric cooking technology has advanced considerably in the past ten years and costs are becoming more competitive due to increased market penetration,” the guide says.

Electric kitchens provide gas infrastructure savings, energy and utility savings, labor savings and cookware life is extended. Induction cooking especially offers numerous benefits including energy savings, a safe and cooler cooking environment, and improved air quality. A cooler cooking environment means less cooling costs. Interestingly, induction cooktops transfer heat to the food with an 80 percent efficiency rate versus 30 to 35 percent heat transfer efficiency for gas. Induction cooktops boil water in half the time as gas burners. In addition, there is less need for harsh cleaning chemicals, you will need less space overall for cooking, and your ventilation system size can be reduced.

As an alternative to gas-fueled ovens, the guide recommends electric convection ovens, combi steam ovens, and deck ovens.

An Indoor Air Quality Issue

Cooking with gas emits nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, carbon dioxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds, each of which can cause or exacerbate various respiratory and other ailments. A recent study determined that gas cooktops and stoves leak natural gas and other harmful pollutants, even when not in use. In fact, the study indicated that more than three quarters of gas appliances’ emissions occur when in “steady-state off.”

While skeptical initially, chefs are quickly transitioning to induction cooking. “Induction equipment provides unparalleled precise temperature control,” the guide says. “Pan temperatures react to user adjustments much quicker than other types of electric or gas equipment. When the [cooktop] is turned down or off, the heat stops immediately so there is no need to remove the pan from the cooking surface. Contrast this with grates and gas burners that can stay hot for a significant amount of time after cooking, which can lead to overcooking and make it harder to clean the pans.”

What about the cost of induction? The guide states that induction equipment may have a higher cost than equivalent gas equipment but will more than pay for itself over the life of the unit through energy efficiency and increased throughput. Furthermore, it is not always true that an all-electric kitchen will cost more to build than a conventional kitchen.

Start Your Planning Early On

The design phase is an ideal time to reshape the perception of owners and potential residents—the ideal time to choose electric. In addition to sharing a detailed overview of operational considerations and benefits, it may prove helpful to have potential users experience the benefits of induction cooking firsthand. This could assuage concerns over food quality and safety and counter a preconceived bias for gas. It can also help dispel other myths about induction cooking.

Training is key to making the transition. The guide suggests: “Depending on staffing size, training on induction equipment should take a minimum of two days although three days is ideal. This should always be done by a trained chef who has experience using the equipment and experience teaching others about this technology. This is important to be able to troubleshoot and prevent mistakes.”

Be sure to ask your local utility about incentives and there may be tax credits also available if you transition to electric.

The story behind your all-electric kitchen can be a key element in your marketing to meeting planners and other potential customers.

Have you made a 100 percent transition away from natural gas in the kitchen? I would love to learn about your experiences. I can be reached at greenlodgingnews@gmail.com.

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