Induction cooktops look like your typical electric ceramic cooktop, but there’s a great difference between regular electric cooktops and induction cooktops. You can also get portable induction cooktops that are great for small kitchens, and safer than gas burners.
The biggest difference is how it heats your pots and pans: Regular ceramic cooktops have coil heating elements beneath the glass surface, whereas induction cooktops generate an electromagnetic field below the glass surface that transfers the current directly into the bottom of magnetic cookware to heat it up.
This is actually great for multiple reasons, one being that you can quickly adjust the temperature, and food won’t burn onto the glass surface as easily as a regular glass-top range. It’s also extremely quick at heating up your pots and pans, making it great for busy households.
What materials are induction compatible?
Most metal cookware is compatible with induction, because it contains a ferrous metal in the base.
While new cookware usually has an induction symbol at the bottom, which tells you that it’s compatible with induction, old cookware doesn’t necessarily have that.
Compatible materials include:
- Cast iron
- Enameled cast iron
- Carbon steel
- Stainless steel (unless it’s full stainless steel)
Incompatible materials include:
Be aware that most cookware have a base consisting of more than one type of metal, for example an aluminum core surrounded by steel, which reduces weight and improves the heat conductivity. This is actually quite normal, and usually works great with induction.
How to check for compatibility
Testing your pots and pans for induction compatibility is easy, and can be done in a few different ways.
Look for the induction symbol
Today, new cookware has a little induction symbol printed at the bottom base. Look for this little symbol first, to determine whether it’s compatible or not.
Using a magnet
If your cookware is induction compatible but doesn’t have a visible induction-ready symbol, try using a magnet. Simple as that. If you have a small magnet, try holding it against the bottom of the pot or pan you want to test.
If the magnet sticks to the bottom, it works with induction.
The water method includes the pot or pan you want to test, and some water. Place the cookware on your induction cooktop, add water, and turn it on. If the water heats up, it works.
The science behind induction cooking
Consumer Reports has a great explanation of what induction is – and what it isn’t.
While they do indeed look like any regular glass-top cookers, they are hugely different in many ways.
It doesn’t glow, it doesn’t get hot as it doesn’t have a traditional heating coil or burner, instead it has something completely different: An electromagnetic field.
The electromagnetic field is generated when the cooktop is turned on, and once you add a compatible pot or pan it starts heating the base of it.
By doing so, there’s no actual heat transfer taking place between the cooktop and your cookware. Instead, the base of your cookware becomes the heating element.
Induction cooktops have the following advantages:
- Food heats up rapidly.
- Saves more energy than gas or regular electric cooktops.
- Cooktop stays cool if no pan or pot is detected.
- Responds quickly to temperature adjustments.
Make your cookware induction compatible
If your cookware isn’t induction compatible, don’t worry. There are plenty of solutions that handle this problem, so you can use any cookware you like with induction.
With a heat diffuser plate you can easily heat up any pot or pan by placing it on top of the plate, and turn your cooktop on like normally.
The heat diffuser plate acts as a binder between your cookware and the induction cooktop. It does get hot though, so make sure you’re careful when using this equipment.