Thursday, March 6, 2008

Is a puzzlement

I happen to run a web site called The Induction Site, which is about the principles of induction-powered cooking, and also about the equipment now available. The thing that endlessly fascinates me about this subject is that induction is so clearly superior to all other methods, and has been in common (and even so still growing) use throughout most of the world for years if not decades, but is still almost unknown in the western hemisphere.

That is changing now. In making a new page for the site, I realized for the first time that the count of residential--as opposed to those for commercial use--cooktops available here has now reached, as best I recall (I am not at my main computer just now) about 40, counting 4 announced but not on the market till the big trade home-and-bath appliance trade show in April.

The roster includes both familiar domestic brands, from Sears to General Electric, as well as the European makers such as Miele and Siemens and Bosch. Mind, it is remarkable how the units available in the U.S. typically cost close to double what the same units, or ones very like them, retail for in the U.K. and on the Continent. But that in good part is because, despite the plethora of brands involved, this is still a technology being marketed to "early adaptors", who are typically upscale and both willing and able to pay prices above the norm.

That will doubtless change in time; as the American public gets used to the idea, the goods will become more nearly commodities, just as the basic "slide-in" 30-inch electric-coil range is today. Prices will drop, though probably so will quality a bit. The Chinese are already well geared-up, and numerous factories there (all claiming ISO 9001 certification) are ready to supply the world with lower-cost units as soon as the demand materializes.

But back at the crux, which is why I raised the topic at all: why has it taken so long for this to happen here? Americans are supposed to be gadget-happy, always ready to jump at any "hi-tech" anything. Is that so, or is it just an affection for toys and gadgets? Are we really pretty conservative when it comes to the bread-and-butter components of our world, from cars to stoves? I suspect so. There was a sort of "Phase I" stage here some, oh, ten or twenty years ago, when makers like Sears and GE first tried to introduce induction units. They weren't as fancy and high-powered as today's "Phase II" lines are, but they were [plenty good enough--we're still today using one of the early Sears Kenmore units.

Looking at all the advantages (which I won't recite here--you can visit the site), one wonders why this stuff didn't, even back then, just wipe everything else off the map. Cooking with anything but induction will, I suspect, in a fairly short time, come to look like cooking with a coal stove today looks.

Well, it's an interesting question.

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