Cookware has not evolved much in the last 20,000 years. Graduating from clay to metal was the last great leap forward for vessels that heat our food. Since then, innovation has inched along. Energy efficiency, however, is finally pushing metal pots and pans beyond their 16th-century counterparts.
The evolution is from an unlikely source. Physicist Lee Huang, who designs lasers for projection televisions, was remodeling his house in 2007 when he realized most of the heat from his gas range did not event go into cooking the food. Huang figured he could redesign something as fundamental as the pot by simply adding a heat sink, as IEEE Spectrum reports. Buying $25,000 in cookware for experimentation, his new company, Turbo Pot, is now manufacturing hyper-efficient pots that using a metal ridged plate to catch and distribute heat.
The physics of the pots are simple. More surface area translates to more heat transferred to the pot. By adding deep aluminum ridges beneath the pot, heat from the gas flames is absorbed by the metal and thus the food. After testing his technology at the California utility PG&E’s Foodservice Technology Center, Huang claims TurboPots double the effective heat of a burner and significantly reduce the amount of time for cooking.
His first customers are commercial kitchens. Since their ranges burn throughout dinner, major chains stand to see the most benefit. Carrabba’s Italian Grill chain has reportedly turned down its burners from about 30,000 BTU per hour to just 15,000 BTU per hour, and Huang says other chains may save as much as $1 million per year due to the efficiency gains. At home, faster cooking will outweigh any cost savings–a single pot may only yield about $100 a year in energy savings (if you use it three hours daily), but by effectively “doubling” the BTUs, says Huang, home cooks can heat their skillets and pots much faster with less energy.
Now utilities are seeing and promoting the benefits: The Energy Trust of Oregon, Nicor Gas of Illinois, and others are offer rebates for every pot purchased.
Now you can burn your next meal in record time.