Just like how microwave ovens haven’t entirely replaced the traditional toaster oven, induction cooktops haven’t wholly eliminated gas stoves either. However, it is emerging as a viable option for your daily cooking needs. Not all cookware is made equal. Hence, not every pot and pan you own is induction-ready.
This article will help you understand how induction cooktops work, how it differs from the traditional gas oven and how to choose cookware that is fit for use with induction stoves.
Types of Cooktops
Depending on the availability of gas in your area, how often you cook and your budget and convenience, you can choose any one of the stovetop options available on the market.
The gas stovetop, as the name suggests, relies on the supply of natural gas or LPG. They come with different sized burners that give you different power levels in BTUs (British Thermal Units), whether you want to bring your food to a simmer or generate more heat for larger dishes.
Many of these ranges come with auto ignition or pilotless ignition; you turn a knob and instantly get a fire started. Upswept cooktops are also great if you want to avoid the hassle of wiping and cleaning your cooking unit regularly.
There are three different types of electric cooktops – the coil, the smoothtop and the induction stovetop.
Electric Coil Cooktop
Using the same working principle as an electric heater, the electric coil stove is a tough, stress-free and affordable choice. It is recommended for smaller families on a budget. These cooktops are high endurance, being able to handle the toughest of spring-cleaning missions.
Usually, these come with four burners or more. The more recent models help you to cook evenly, making them ideal for roasting and baking your food. If you are looking for an economical option, choose an electric coil stovetop that comes with hotplate elements and coil.
The drip pans and the surface can take a harsh scrubbing. If your cooking utensils are massive, such as cast-iron pans which other cooktops can’t handle, this is your perfect choice. Home chefs usually steer clear of this option as it generates a lot of heat.
The coils are invisible on this one as this variety has a smooth surface, usually made of ceramic. The heating mechanism is placed directly underneath this surface. Cleaning is much easier in this variant of the stove because of this very smooth surface; merely take a cloth and wipe the spills away.
Another benefit is that it both cools down and heats up very quickly. The radiant heat mechanism ensures that your food is evenly cooked. Halogen cooktops are not uncommon these days, which use halogen bulbs similar to those used in halogen ovens as a heat source under the smooth ceramic top.
However, there is a catch. The top is made out of glass. Hence you have to be extra careful not to harm the delicate surface. Unlike some tougher cooktops, this cannot handle heavy utensils. Heavier cookware can leave scratches or cracks on its surface.
An advantage of this type of stovetop is that it keeps curious children, pets and careless adults at bay. This type of stove is more or less accident proof. There is no chance of children burning themselves, no chance of a gas leak and no injuries from accidentally touching a heated coil.
The heating technology that it uses is electromagnetic. It only creates heat in contact with magnetic metals or cookware designed explicitly for induction stovetops. The surface, therefore, is never ‘hot’ per se. Even if one forgets to turn the stove off, the surface remains safe to touch.
This technology helps your cookware to reach high temperatures in almost half the time taken by other kinds of cooktops. This stovetop is truly the cooktop of the future, but then again, there is the additional expense of buying induction-friendly pans and pots.
How does induction cooktop work?
The primary mechanism this stovetop uses consists of a ceramic plate, under which there is an electromagnetic coil. As the burner is turned on, a magnetic field is created as electricity runs through this coil. However, no heat is produced on the stove itself.
This magnetic field then influences the pan you place on the burner, which too has to be made of iron or stainless steel. Interestingly, iron does not conduct electricity well, hence the current running through it is transformed into heat. Therefore, the pan itself is generating heat in this case, not the burner.
Do I need special pots and pans for induction cooking?
To summarize, yes you do. As explained above, the induction stovetop only produces heat in contact with magnetic materials such as iron or stainless steel. Hence, all your ceramic, aluminum, copper and glass cookware need to be used for other purposes.
However, check if these come with a special layer on the bottom that has magnetic properties. Furthermore, to ensure steady cooking and even distribution of heat, the utensils should also have a flat base.
Many types of stainless steel utensils, though not all, are compatible with these cooktops as well as cast iron, enamel cast iron, etc. In case of stainless steel, the amount of nickel used is essential because nickel blocks magnetic field.
How can I tell if my pan is induction ready?
There are two sure shot ways of determining whether your kitchenware can be used on the induction stove.
One of them is to check if it has an coil-like symbol on the packaging, or the cooking pot itself. This is the best method when you are just starting out shopping for pots and pans. Just ask the seller specifically about stove type compatibility before you buy new utensils.
Another way to find out is to test the pot with a magnet. If the bottom surface responds positively to it, then your pan can be used on the induction stove. It is essential to ensure that the bottom surface is completely flat.