A quick Guide to the basics of Induction Cooktop Cookware
If you are looking to buy an induction cooktop you will know that it is somewhat of an investment that you will have to make. You will need to buy the appliance as well as potentially having to fork out for the right type induction cooktop cookware.
Because of the method that induction uses to cook with there are a few things that will need to change in the kitchen for you to get the best out of your new purchase.
There are two areas that you are going to have to look at:
- The actual cooktop (this has been covered in more detail here)
- Your pots and pans that you use to cook with(induction ready cookware). Depending on what you already have in the kitchen this could be one of your biggest expenses for the change over.
Before you get yourself into a panic though read the rest of this as often you have pots and pans that are actually usable for induction already.
What cookware should you be using with your induction cooktop?
There really are two things that you will need to cover to be able to use cookware on an induction stove.
- Magnetic cookware – the base of your cookware must contain iron in some form such as steel, stainless steel or cast iron. The best way to test that this is the case if you are not too sure is to do the magnet test on the base of the pot or pan. If your magnet sticks to the base then the base contains iron and so should be usable for induction.
- The second thing that should be taken into consideration is the fact the induction is not as forgiving as other types of heat source such as gas when it comes to the quality of the cookware. In short, the better quality the cookware the better results you will get.
There are some materials that simply will not work on their own, these include, copper, glass and aluminum.
It is however important to know that there are some brands of cookware that while are made with aluminum or copper have a layer of steel sandwiched into the base this is a process that is call cladding where you are adding a layer of one type of metal into another to get the properties of both. We have an article that covers this and suggests non stick frying pans that are induction ready
While the scope of this article does not cover all of the details of this you can have a look at the wiki page to learn a little more about this and all of the metals that are used in cookware
Why do you need certain types of pots and pans for induction?
Because the process of magnetic induction is so different to conventional cooking it is a good idea to understand how the process works so that you can then have a better understanding of why you are choosing a particular pot or pan.
A little understanding will put the power of choice firmly in your hands.
How do induction cooktops work?
One of the fundamental differences with using induction is that the cooktop does not heat up pot or pan. The heat actually comes from within the cookware and is a result of magnetic inductionas opposed to thermal conduction used in traditional methods such as gas and electricity.
This video shows this effect quite dramatically with a pan cut in half. The pan gets hot enough to cook while the other half of the cooktop plate is still cold to the touch!
This video gives you an idea of what it looks like inside an induction cooktop. The one thing that you can see is there is no heating element there, just the coil that creates the magnetic induction.
The balance between being induction ready and being efficient at transferring heat
Copper and Aluminum are very good at transferring heat evenly and quickly through the base of the cookware while materials such as stainless steel and cast iron are not so good. As it turns out these are the metals that are needed for induction to work, while the other two are pretty useless when it comes to induction.
One of the ways that manufacturers have got around this one is by “cladding” (as we mentioned earlier), this will give your cookware the properties of both and will allow you to have aluminum or copper cookware that is induction ready and induction ready cookware that is more efficient at spreading the heat evenly around the cooking vessel.
Make sure you understand what process the manufacturer has used to create the cladding you are about to buy as there are some that will be better options than others. You will be able to judge the quality by looking at the manual for the cookware and things like what will void the warranty and the temperature range that you can use it with.
There are also health aspects to be considering, paying for a high quality stainless steel set will ensure that you are keeping the best interests of your family (health wise) at heart. I have written an extensive guide to healthy cookware here.
What to look for if you are going to buy induction ready cookware
While this is not an extensive guide into what you should be looking out for, there are a number of pointers that will help you quickly assess what you you are looking at.
- You will need to make sure that the base is induction ready. Many modern pots and pans will have a little logo on it in the shape of a coil.This will tell you that the cookware can safely be used on an induction cooktop.
- If you in the shop, having something magnetic on you will help you make sure that you are getting what you need. Some of the older stainless steel cookware might not have the logo on it so be sure to do the magnetic test on it or ask the shop assistant.
- This I think is one of the most important things to consider before you buy. A pan that warps and buckles will greatly reduce your heating efficiency when cooking with induction as the unlike gas or electricity where the heat rising up and compensate for some of this. You need to make sure you are getting something that is sturdy on the bottom
- A good thick base is less likely to buckle. Make sure you are buying the absolute best cookware that you can afford. Cheap cookware will come back to bite you in the butt and usually sooner rather than later.
- Something else to consider is that not all magnetic bases are equal, the amount of iron in the base will also affect the efficiency of heating up the pot or pan. Thicker bases will have more iron in them and so will heat faster and more efficiently.
- A a safety feature some of the better cooktops, both inset and portable, will have a cutoff switch on the plate if a certain areas is not covered by a pot or a pan so it is a good idea to make sure you know what you are buying in terms of the sizes of the cooktop plates.
- Plates will only affect the same size area so if you have a pot that is a lot larger then the plate you are going to have uneven heating and if the pot is too small for the plate, there is a chance that the plate will not switch on. In short if you are buying a fancy multi plate sized cooktop make sure you have the different sized pots and pans to match.
Are there any workarounds for your cookware that is not induction ready ?
As with most things in life, there are some workarounds for this, while these will work they are not efficient and should only be used as the exception rather than the rule.
You can buy steel disks with a handle on that will sit on the plate and heat up. You can then put a traditional pot or pan there and it will work. As I said this is not a great solution but one that will work in a squeeze .
Cookware for induction cooktops – some final thoughts
Here is the deal, the simple answer to most of the question out there regarding the cookware that you need. If you can afford to get the best induction ready cookware that you can afford. If you are organised this is something that you would factor into the budget you set aside for the cooktop.
Induction cooking will open you up to a whole new experience of fast, efficient and accurate cooking. Not making sure you have the best possible cookware for this will lessen your experience of this, after all you would buy a Ferarri and then put the cheapest tyres in it now would you?
We would also recommend that you have a look at this article that covers some of the better and healthier oils that you should be cooking with, people often forget that a good oil can make all the difference when you are cooking