How to choose ... a cooker

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 August, 2006, 12:00am

How to choose ... a cooker

Hong Kong rental flats tend to be sparsely furnished - in fact, the landlord will usually (but not always) agree to supply only one essential item for the kitchen - a cooker.

What is it? Sometimes called a hob, range or stove, a cooker can be powered by gas (hooked up to a pipe or portable canister) or electricity and can be a countertop unit or freestanding with a built-in oven. There are also portable cookers heated by small butane canisters (these are the type you'll see at hotpot restaurants). Cookers heated by wood or coal are illegal in Hong Kong flats.

What are the differences? Gas is preferred by many cooks because it's more responsive. Gas cookers that use a portable canister, however, always seems to run out of fuel at the most crucial point while cooking an important dinner. Old-fashioned electric cookers take a long time to heat and cool, which makes them more difficult to cook on. Induction cookers - a newer type of electric cooker - use electromagnetic energy to heat the molecules in certain types of metal.

Because it heats only metal, this type of cooker won't burn your hand, even if you put your palm directly on top of the energy source (unless you're wearing a metal ring). Induction cookers are good for cooking on a hot day because the only source of heat is from the items being cooked, not the stove itself. The heat can be adjusted quickly and they're easy to clean because they have a completely flat surface. The drawback is that you can only use certain types of pans on them.

What else? Induction cookers haven't really caught on in Hong Kong because local cooks like to see the level of the heat source (gas, in other words). They're extremely popular in France and parts of Europe. Some of the more hi-tech Michelin-starred chefs use only induction cookers because they keep the kitchen cool.

Where to buy: Wing On (tel: 2852 1888), Sogo (tel: 2833 8338), TownGas (tel: 2880 6988), Miele (tel: 2610 1331) and Gaggenau (tel: 2890 1522).