Induction Cooking for One With the Bonbowl

The next best thing for a minimalist kitchen

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Lloyd Alter

The Bonbowl is a small induction cooktop that works with only one matched bowl which holds about two cups. At first glance, this might seem a bit silly, a "unitasker" that can only do one thing. But in fact, it's really the next step in a line of thinking we have been following on Treehugger in our discussions of the future of kitchens. Oh, and it is also a great tool when cooking for one.

Back in 2012 when Treehugger founder Graham Hill designed his LifeEdited apartment, he didn't put a stove in the kitchen; instead, he had portable induction cooktops in a drawer that he would take out when needed. Many people thought it was nuts, but he was living alone in a small space and found that most of the time, he didn't need more than one induction hotplate.

Bonbowl founder Mike Kobida had a similar epiphany about cooking while living in a small New York apartment, and tells Treehugger:

"Bonbowl started as an idea to help others tackle a problem I'd encountered while living on my own: quickly, easily cooking single servings of food. I had a small 400 square foot apartment in New York City at the time and found that cooking a meal for one was not always worth the effort; I ended up eating out more often because of it, which sounded great at first, but turned out to be an expensive, somewhat unhealthy habit. Eventually, all I wanted was a home cooked meal, but those often required a good amount of time cooking (followed by an equal amount of time cleaning). This ultimately led to the development of Bonbowl, which I launched in August of 2020. The goal was to simplify cooking for one so that anyone, regardless of space or time constraints, could learn to enjoy cooking. I think I've accomplished that mission."

When Graham Hill would cook on his portable cooktop, he would probably use a pot and then move the contents to a bowl, as people have done forever. The genius of the Bonbowl is the integration; you cook in the bowl, which is housed in plastic that stays cool to the touch and actually insulates it, so you can just pick it up and take it to the table, one less thing to clean.

Ready for ramen
Ready for Ramen. Lloyd Alter

The bowl is very easy to clean with its non-slip surface. This is usually not something we love at Treehugger because they can contain dangerous chemicals. They also can scratch easily, which is why we used a wooden spoon while cooking and I thought about looking for my plastic camping utensils. Andrew Gretchko of Bonbowl tells Treehugger not to worry:

"As far as durability, Bonbowl's decision to offer a non-stick coating was based on trying to create a product that made the cleanup process as simple as possible. We put a lot of effort into sourcing the coating from a U.S. supplier; It's as durable of a PFOA-free coating as we could get, a component of the product that was incredibly important to us -- and our customers. We also understood that not everyone would be willing to solely utilize plastic utensils, another reason why we went with the strongest PFOA-free coating around."
Ramen noodles in bowl
Lloyd Alter

I am not much of a cook, so I put it through some of the dorm room standards, starting with ramen. Since that is such a basic foodstuff for people who eat alone a lot, I was surprised that the bowl felt a bit small for a standard serving. You couldn't get the noodles in without breaking them up first, and there wasn't a lot of room if you wanted to add other stuff.

Picking up noodles
Lloyd Alter

But it did turn out a perfectly good bowl of ramen that I could just lift up and carry to the table.

The next challenge was making scrambled eggs. The short video shows how fast it heats up, so fast that it was almost a problem; the melted butter around the edges was turning brown and burning before it all was even melted. I should have pushed it around instead of just letting it sit there. The instructions note that you should always put stuff in the pot before you turn it on; it will get so hot so fast that it might burn out.

Lloyd Alter

Oatmeal was also a breeze. Bonbowl supplies an instruction card with all of the basics. I cooked a few of these simple dishes but my wife Kelly Rossiter, who used to write about food for Treehugger and knows her way around the kitchen, said "it's not enough just to warm stuff up, you have to really be able to cook with it."

Frying onions
Lloyd Alter

Since it was a dinner for two, she cooked for one on her beloved gas range that she won't let me replace, and simultaneously cooked the same dish in the Bonbowl. Since this is Treehugger, we apologize for using chicken instead of tofu, we thought about it too late. Kelly continued:

adding pasta
Lloyd Alter
"I sauteed onions, cooked chicken, added pasta and stock, then the vegetables. It all cooked nicely, just like on the stove. You can make a healthy, nutritious dinner in one bowl. You don't have to eat mac and cheese every night (but you can if you want!). How many students have crappy little apartments and are cooking on plug-in hotplates that aren't safe? This is a great alternative."
final dinner
Lloyd Alter

We talked about the Bonbowl over dinner, for so long that Kelly's food got cool. But another real benefit of the insulated bowl is that it stayed hot for a very long time.

So Why Is This Important?

Elizabeth Johnson's Stove
Elizabeth Johnson's Stove. Lloyd Alter

When kitchen ranges were developed, they were big metal things designed to safely enclose the heat source, store heat, and distribute it evenly. When they moved from wood to gas and electricity, they still had very hot and dangerous fuels that had to be enclosed and insulated, and had to be permanently installed.

Graham Hill's Kitchen
Graham Hill's Kitchen. Graham Hill

Graham Hill realized that if you don't have a heat source (the pot or pan makes the heat when cooking with induction) you don't need a stove. He got rid of the big box, which was great for living in a small space with a small kitchen, but he still needed a pot and a bowl.

Adriano Kitchen on the wall
©. Adriano Studio

The next step in the evolution was to hang it on the wall, as demonstrated by Davide and Gabriele Adriano with their Ordine. I called it "a revolution – a deconstruction of the induction hob, as we know it today."

Bonbowl with chicken
Bonbowl and chicken soup. Lloyd Alter

The Bonbowl deconstructs the kitchen even further, down to two pieces: the base and the bowl. What used to require a big steel box, pots, and plates is reduced to this. It draws just 500 watts and cooks in a jiffy, and cleans up with a minimal amount of water. For people who live in really small spaces, or just want to make really small meals with a minimum of mess, it is pretty revolutionary.

More at Bonbowl.