If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen, one of your options might be to install an induction cooktop.
What is induction ready cookware though, and will your existing collection of pots and pans work on it?
The simple answer is that induction ready cookware needs to be magnetic first and foremost.
There are other considerations to think about, but without a magnetic base your cookware simply will not heat up on an induction cooking surface.
You’ll likely be more familiar with the kind of gas and electric hobs that have dominated kitchens for much of the last 40 years.
Rather than using a direct source of heat, however, an induction cooktop generates a magnetic field which then causes the magnetic pots to heat up.
That answers the basic question, then!
In the rest of this guide I’m going to cover how the whole process works in more details, and talk about some of the benefits – and drawbacks – of working with induction cookware.
(Want to learn more about cookware? Take a look through my archive for more guides and reviews.)
How Induction Cooking Works
If you could take apart your induction cooktop you’d find a copper wire coil underneath each of the hobs.
An electric current is passed through this coil, creating a magnetic field.
When that magnetic field connects with the magnetic properties of the pan above it, the pan will begin to heat up – and surprisingly quickly too.
The surface of the hob, however, doesn’t get hot at all. There is no direct heat generation involved in the induction process.
The Benefits Of Induction Cooking
What are the benefits of making the move to induction cooking?
Here’s why you might want to think about making the switch.
Unless your children have superhero-like magnetic qualities, they will not be able to trigger a hot stovetop through accidental contact. If you have young, inquisitive children like I do, you may find this a significant plus.
Induction cooktops heat pots and pans much more quickly than gas stoves, for example. This means less time spent in the kitchen, and a reduction in your power bills too.
Precise Temperature Control
If you’re a seasoned chef who likes to make minor heating adjustments as you go, you’ll love induction cooking. Even small changes to the temperature controls result in a rapid change of heat.
Easy To Clean
Although you should be careful not to scratch your induction cooktop, their design makes them very easy to wipe clean. It’s certainly easier than cleaning up all the gunk that surrounds a gas cooker…
How Do I Know If My Cookware Is Induction Ready?
Given the need for magnetism, all you really need to test out your existing pots and pans is a magnet!
Grab any one that you have lying around the house (or buy a cheap one from the store), and then touch it against the base of your pots and pans.
If the magnet sticks to the base of the pan, it can be used on an induction cooktop.
Obviously that’s a very basic, rough and ready test.
If your pots and pans are not specifically designed for induction cooking, the performance quality is less certain.
They need to have a flat bottom, and they need to at least roughly match the size of the hob for optimal results.
Induction cooktops are not cheap to buy and install either, and so I would strongly recommend testing your cookware out in a live environment before making the investment.
If you’re determined to move into induction cooking though, you may have to accept a new set of pots and pans as an extra price of entry.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before wrapping up I wanted to answer some of the most common questions readers have relating to induction cooktop surfaces.
Can You Use Induction Cookware On A Regular Stove?
Yes, you can use induction ready cookware on a standard electric stove.
The heat will simply be transferred directly from the heating surface to the pots and pans. These will then heat up as you’d expect any kind of cookware to.
There are one or two things to be aware of here though:
- Cookware designed for induction surfaces typically has a thinner stainless steel construction. It may not prove as durable if it’s used regularly on a non-induction stove.
- If that stainless steel warps from direct contact with the heat, it will not perform as well when it’s then used on an induction surface. You need full, clean contact between the base of a pan and the induction element to get optimal results. Warping affects this, of course.
Can Non Stick Pans Be Used On An Induction Stove?
There’s no reason why you can’t use a non-stick pan on an induction stove.
The vital non-stick area – located on the interior of the pan – won’t come into contact with the induction cooktop, after all.
The most important thing to remember is the magnetic requirement.
Your non-stick pots and pans will have to pass the “magnet test” if they’re to work on an induction surface – regardless of whether they have any kind of non-stick coating or not!
What Are The Disadvantages Of An Induction Cooker?
I’ve talked already about the benefits of using an induction cooker over electric or gas alternatives.
There are always trade-offs in the kitchen, however. Here are some of the drawbacks of working with an induction cooker:
- Expense – Although it’s not a new technology overall, it is a more modern addition to the average kitchen. For that reason, you can expect to pay considerably more money for an induction-ready cooktop.
- Compatibility – I’ve covered this extensively in this article, but you may face an extra cost if your existing collection of pots and pans lack that vital magnetic surface.
- Extra Noise – It won’t exactly interrupt your kitchen conversations, but some people find the humming of an induction cooktop annoying. Check it out for yourself before laying out a lot of money for something that’s going to drive you to distraction.
- Power Cuts – They happen! For most of us this isn’t going to be a problem, but you are putting yourself at the mercy of the power grid when you’re working with induction cookers.
Do Induction Cookers Use A Lot Of Electricity?
Without electricity, your induction cooker cannot generate the magnetic field that’s needed to heat up your pots and pans.
So, in one sense it’s fair to say that it uses more electricity than your gas stove when it’s connected to the mains.
Crucially though, there are efficiency gains to be had from using an induction cooker.
- Induction cooktops heat pans up extremely quickly, and adapt just as quickly to temperature adjustments.
- Because the process is faster overall, you don’t have to keep the cooking surface powered for as long.
There are far too many variables at play when it comes to comparing the cost of gas stoves with electric rings and induction hobs.
To give a very broad answer to this question though, there is no reason to believe that using an induction cooktop will dramatically increase your kitchen power consumption.
Can I Use Cast Iron On Induction Cooktops?
Yes, it’s perfectly fine to use cast iron cookware on an induction cooking surface.
Cast iron possesses the ferrous magnetic qualities that are necessary for an induction surface to work.
I will give one word of caution, however!
Cast iron cookware is designed to take a great deal of punishment in the kitchen. That means the exteriors can often become quite rough if they’re not regularly maintained.
Be careful not to slide any toughened cast iron around on your induction hobs. That increases the risk of creating scratches.
Do Induction Cooktops Scratch Easily?
Most induction cooktops are built to last and are frequently coated with glass.
As we all know though, glass is by no means immune to picking up scratches over time.
Here are the common causes of induction cooktop scratches:
- Sliding, rather than lifting, cookware items across the surface.
- Being too heavy-handed when it comes to placing your cookware on the induction hob.
- Using pots and pans with a particularly rough exterior.
Before you panic, your induction cooktop may just be marked, rather than scratched.
To see if you have a genuine problem on your hands, grab a damp microfiber cloth and gently wipe away at the mark.
If that doesn’t work, run your finger gently over the area to see if you can detect any depth to the mark.
If it turns out you have a scratch on your induction cooktop, there’s not an awful lot you can do without calling in the specialists for a professional repair.
This really is one of those situations where prevention is much better than cure.
If you’re not concerned about the look of our induction cooktop, you should not experience scratches to cause any noticeable problems with the cooking performance.
Hopefully you now have a much better understanding of what induction ready cookware is exactly, as well as the pros and cons of using it.