As my disability increases my attempts to remain independent are looking increasingly expensive.
My cooker – out of warranty – sucks. The solid electric hotplates are more random hotspots than anything else, although they still suck up as much juice as ever. That’s what sent me back to my induction hob a few days ago, because if I can’t cook – even at my current minimal level of once a week or so – then life is going to get difficult. I’ve been in the position where I’m utterly dependent on ready meals and, for someone who enjoys their food as much as I do, that’s purgatorial.
Like many chronically sick and disabled people, my life is basically crap, and one of the few high spots is good food. Deprive me of that, and there’s sod all left to look forward to…
So, the past few days I’ve been scouring the web looking for an affordable cooker with an induction hob – not a prayer on my budget, it seems (I need new glasses this month too – they’re a few hundred quid). The next choice would be a Rapidlite ceramic hob – no more economical than a normal electric cooker but very easy to clean (which is important, hence the solid-plate cooker I have now), but faster than budget ceramic hobs. Affordable, but then I got to thinking – do I need a new cooker costing £400 or more?
Mostly I use one hotplate at a time, and the oven occasionally for bread or cake. I eat casseroles and heavy-duty soups in the main – high-protein stuff with an excellent food to effort ratio** – and the oven on my present stove is fine, so all I need is the induction hob which, now I have the hang of it, cooks and reheats brilliantly.
**The effort needed to produce a 4 or 5 portion casserole is little greater than that needed to cook one meal from scratch, which I can’t do most days anyway.
I also have a microwave which needs to be used a lot more than it is as, with the right microwave-safe containers, it reheats even faster than the induction hob.
I was toying with the idea of getting a second induction hob – £72 – for the odd occasion I need two pans on at once (I need more boiled spuds and fewer chips in my life!). However, if I get another, I’ll have no room for my coffee machine. Which, I discovered as I moved it, has sprung a leak somewhere deep inside – not good so consigned it to a dark cupboard and got my espresso machine, a Dualit Espressivo (a Which? Best Buy, and deservedly so, but noisy, which is why I pensioned it off), reinstated. I’ve also ordered 2 bags of Old Brown Java beans from the Bean Shop. If you’ve not tried OBJ I urge you to – it’s wonderful coffee.
But back to cooking and, allowing for the fact that I need a couple more induction-friendly pans** (a 16cm saucepan and a 28cm frying pan, plus the micro stuff and a few odds and sods, it all came to £82.74. A huge saving – about £800 on the cost of a decent stove with an induction hob (and I’d still need the pans), or £400 for the ceramic option.
**Luckily, all three – 2, 3, and 4.5litre – of my stainless steel casseroles are induction as well as Spoonie friendly, but a tip – for induction, buy the very best, with the heaviest base, that you can afford, as they’ll reheat better without sticking or burning as my two smaller, El Cheapo, ones tend to (only a little, but still…). Cooking is no problem, but I often thicken soups a little at the end, and they can catch when reheated. They won’t in the microwave though.
So sod it, I’ll make do with the induction hob I’ve got and, if I need to boil spuds, peas, or whatever, I’ll do them on the hob and keep them hot on the cooker.
What I can’t find, though, is an induction-friendly omelette pan, and I do like omelettes. Still, there’s a solution – I can buy an induction plate that sits between the hob and an aluminium non-stick pan for about a fiver.
I tend to buy most of my kitchenware from Nisbets these days, and this is what I wound up buying:-
The pans are commercial-grade, which is which is why they don’t have plastic handles (they’d be destroyed in minutes – they now have tubular handles, not flat strips as shown), hence the silicone covers. Vogue black iron frying pans are also induction-friendly, should you be interested, though their iron omelette pans are not. Odd, seeing that neither is actually iron, but mild steel.
The Vogue range of stainless steel pans is affordable (lids, mysteriously, are sold separately, as with other brands – who buys pans without lids? – which is a good way of replacing glass lids with metal if you can match the size), and the induction hob I have now (also a Nisbets item), will have to do for the time being, at least. By default, being primarily a trade site, Nisbets displays prices without VAT – those above include VAT (set VAT mode in top right-hand corner of the Home page).
NB: Nisbets have manuals for many, if not most, appliances that they sell available for download, so you can see before you buy what you’re getting into.
Space, or the lack of it, is a massive problem for me – the kitchens in this building were designed by some bugger who has never made more than a sandwich in their life – I might, ultimately, move the coffee machine, grinder and other bits and bobs into the living room, running an electrical feed through the wall from the kitchen. I have just enough room to do that.
As for microwave reheating, I don’t need so much kit, just two items, the mug for heating and eating soup (I’ve ordered two of those), and the porridge bowl for casseroles (and possibly porridge, although microwave porridge takes just as long as it does on the stove, which is to say just a few minutes):-
The Sistema Klip It range is very good – unlike too many plastic containers they don’t taint the contents. From Lakeland. The microwave items are currently on offer. Amazon, too, have a range of their storage containers – well worth checking out
In closing, I know some of you won’t agree that £28-ish, including the lid, for the Vogue pan is particularly affordable (which is why I didn’t say cheap!), but bear in mind you’re getting pro-kitchen quality and that the list price of my most recent stainless steel pot was a whisker under £70 (I paid £17.06 from Amazon; that was, I’m pretty sure, a mistake and they’ll now charge you £45). The price of the frying pan is pretty average.** Bottom line – you get what you pay for and good stainless steel pots aren’t cheap.
Update: Just been delivered – the quality is excellent. The small pan has a massively thick steel and aluminium sandwich base (steel for induction, aluminium for heat retention), and the frying pan is simply massive, the aluminium is 4mm thick with a steel disc cast into the base, and very heavy
**Always buy a bigger frying pan than you think you’ll need – it keeps the cooker cleaner by reducing splash-out when you turn food.
And if you’re shopping for induction-friendly pots and pans, beware of Amazon – they have a tendency to flag any old crap as suitable for induction when it’s actually not, as I found out to my cost (lots of complaints about that in reviews). Conversely, the Lacor brand of stainless steel casseroles ARE suitable – but Amazon won’t tell you! Where induction is concerned they appear to have a blind spot. In general, in fact, their descriptions of goods are increasingly unreliable and I’d strongly suggest that you buy nothing without reading the reviews first. Do bear in mind, though, that a lot of complaints are down to user error, and a widespread failure, with more technical items, to RTFM.** And if there are no reviews, don’t buy. Seriously. When it comes to new tech I’m happy to be an early adopter, but when it comes to shopping I like at least a little info to base my decisions on.
**Take my Breville Hot Cup boiling water dispenser (cracking piece of Spoonie kit). Most people complain of a horrible chemical taint to the water but, knowing I could send it back, I bought one anyway. I followed the preparation instructions to the letter, then repeated them just to be sure. It’s perfect. No taint at all. I know others who have done the same thing with the same result. The instructions are simple – run a tank of water through it twice. Ignore it at your peril. I saw a negative review for an egg poacher on Lakeland. Guy admitted he’d ignored the instructions to grease it – but still felt obliged to complain when his egg stuck. Pillock!
Not saying everyone who complains of a taint is to blame, but I’m pretty sure some are because I used to be the sort of person who only ever read manuals as a last resort. Now, when even a device for boiling water is increasingly high-tech, following the instructions is absolutely essential.