When I moved from my parents’ place to my first apartment, I was really excited. All of a sudden I had freedom! Freedom to do and, more importantly, cook whatever I wanted.
After unpacking, I pulled out my trusty old pots and pans to whip up a quick meal and settle in. Unfortunately there was a bit of a snag – they wouldn’t work with my new stovetop! Being tired after the big move it took me a while to work out where I was going wrong before I realised that this was an induction stove and my cookware wasn’t induction compatible.
In the end I settled for a takeaway pizza and resolved to go shopping the next day for some pots and pans that would actually work in my new place.
Today, I’ll explain how you can make sure your cookware is induction ready, as well as a solution that I’ve since discovered which allowed me to keep using my favorite pans even though they aren’t induction compatible.
How Does Induction Cooking Work?
Induction cooking works via a process called ‘electromagnetic induction’. Heat is created by electrons inside the cookware being agitated, creating a magnetic current which produces heat. If that sounds a bit too fancy, just think of it as being similar to rubbing cold hands together and them quickly becoming warm!
Electromagnetic induction starts the moment you turn the power on and the pan instantly starts to warm once placed on the induction hob. Cookware on an induction stove heats up much quicker than one that uses gas or electricity.
What is the Difference Between Conventional and Induction Stove tops?
Induction stove tops are very precise. Switch on the power and heat is instantly produced, switch off the power and the heat stops instantly. The strength of the electromagnetic field can be adjusted precisely which allows cooking temperature to be easily controlled – reducing the element of chance from your cooking!
An induction stove top certainly looks different from either gas or electricity and it does take a while to get used to there being no red electric rings or naked flames.
Both of these conventional methods are time consuming, as you have to wait for things to heat up. Additionally, trying to get precise temperatures can be challenging!
Induction stove tops are also easier to clean. All they need is a quick wipe and there are no fiddly parts such as gas rings to try and keep clean.
Speed of Induction vs Conventional Cooking
Just as you can cook quick meals using gas or electricity or a soup gently simmering on a low temperature for hours, you have exactly the same flexibility with an induction cooker – but the guesswork has been removed because the temperature is maintained precisely so cooking times are accurate.
On an induction stove, 300 ml of water can be boiled in about 90 seconds.
The other big difference is that induction cooktops produce no heat and steam as all the energy goes into cooking the food rather than heating the kitchen – like you get with gas and electricity.
Importantly, 90% of the heat generated by induction goes into cooking. This compares well with gas and electricity, where only 65-70% of the heat generated actually cooks your food – the rest is simply lost into the immediate environment.
Consequently, your kitchen stays much cooler. This helps to make the cooking experience more pleasant, especially in the summer and in countries with hot climates.
Safety of Induction Cooking
Induction cookers are safer too. Because there’s no chance of catching yourself on a flame and burning your fingers or arms. Another benefit is that there’s CO2 or smoke emissions that can affect your breathing. Another huge bonus is that there is no need to worry about gas leaks.
Many induction cookers have built-in sensors that will sound an alert and/or switch themselves off in the event that they have been accidentally left on.
However, induction cooking isn’t without some safety concerns. After use, the cooking surface is still hot to the touch and is capable of burning your hand if you directly touch it whilst still hot. Additionally, induction stoves may not be a good option if you are fitted with a pacemaker due to the electromagnetic current they create. Please consult your doctor before using an induction hob if you have one.
What Makes Cookware Induction Ready?
You need to use induction compatible cookware for the electromagnetic heating process to work.
In essence, the most important question you need to answer is whether or not the cooking surface of your pan is magnetic. A magnetic surface means that the electromagnetic current generated by the induction cooktop will heat up the cookware.
A magnetic surface isn’t the only factor you need to consider though. It’s also important that your cookware has a flat base. The reason for this is that the full surface of the pan needs to be in contact with the induction stove to properly conduct the electromagnetic field.
It’s for this reason that cookware without a flat surface, such as a wok, won’t work for induction cooking.
What Happens if You Use a Normal Pan on an Induction Hob?
It depends what you mean by ‘normal’.
If your ‘normal’ pan is magnetic, it’s full steam ahead for a great meal. However if your pan is not magnetic, nothing will happen when you place it on the induction hob as no electromagnetic current will be created.
How Can you Tell if Cookware is Induction Ready?
Provided your cookware has a flat base, the key to whether cookware is Induction Ready is whether or not it’s magnetic.
The ideal way to test this is using a magnet. Simply turn your pan over and place the magnet on the base of your pan. If the magnet sticks like a limpet to a rock, you have a great induction ready pan. If the magnet doesn’t stick, it isn’t induction compatible.
There’s another really quick and easy test that can be performed even if you don’t have a magnet to hand. Simply fill your pan up to a quarter full with water. Stand the pan carefully on the stove top within the induction markings and turn the induction on. If the water starts to heat, your pan is induction compatible! If nothing happens, your cookware isn’t magnetic and can’t be used on an induction surface.
The ‘Induction Ready’ Symbol
What about when you’re buying new cookware?
The good news is that because induction is becoming an increasingly popular cooking method, most compatible cookware now displays the ‘induction ready’ symbol . This symbol is easy to recognise as it is a white square, edged in black with a series of four vertical rounded loops and the word ‘induction’ printed underneath.
If you see this symbol you can buy with confidence, safe in the knowledge that your new cookware is induction compatible.
Induction Ready Cookware Materials
One way to check whether your cookware is induction ready is to take note of the material that it’s made from.
Cookware with a bottom made from magnetic metals is ideal for induction cooking. This includes pots and pans made from iron, cast iron (including enamelled cast iron), stainless steel and carbon steel.
Alternatively, pots made from aluminium, glassware and copper will not work with induction cooktops.
What if your Cookware is Not Induction Ready?
If your pans are not in a good way, it is probably worth tossing them out and investing in some new ‘Induction Ready’ pans.
On the other hand, if your pans are in really good condition and you’d prefer not to throw them out, you can buy dedicated induction converters. These are special plates that you place between your cooking pan and the stove top, allowing you to use your favorite cookware with an induction stove, even if it isn’t induction compatible.