In recent years, using induction technology for cooking has become extremely popular. Not only is it incredibly energy efficient but it’s much safer as it eliminates residual heat. It also reduces cooking time significantly as the heat produced is instant.
What is induction technology and how does it work?
Traditional gas hobs and electric hobs heat up independently when operated, whereas an induction hob relies on magnetic energy created by an electrical current. The magnetic energy connects with your pan and effectively turns the pan into the heat source, making it a very efficient and safe way to cook. The magnetic energy is only achieved when a circuit is created by placing a pan onto the hob, which often begs the question… do you need special pans for induction hobs? The short answer to this is, yes.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go out and buy new pans. With the increased popularity of induction hobs, many manufacturers of cookware now also make them suitable for use with induction.
What pans work on an induction hob?
The best cookware for induction hobs are made from ferrous metals such as stainless steel (specifically 18/10 grade) and cast iron. Other types of cookware such as aluminium, copper, glass, anodised or ceramic won’t work unless they have an induction plate built into the base.
Many pans that are manufactured today have an elemental base which encapsulates both an aluminium core for increased efficiency and a ferrous plate for use with induction hobs.
How do you check that your pans are suitable for use with an induction hob?
Checking to see if your pans are suitable to use is very simple. Often if they are suitable the word “induction” and the coiled spring symbol will be stamped on the base of the pan.
If you can’t see this symbol, the easiest way to tell if a pan is suitable for induction cooking is with a kitchen magnet. Place the magnet on the base and if it sticks, it should be okay to use.
If your pans are stainless steel but the magnet doesn’t quite stick to the base like you’d expect, it could be that it’s not 18/10 grade or it doesn’t have the required magnetic element in the base. Unfortunately in this case, you’ll need to invest in a set of new pans.
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What to look for when buying new pans for an induction hob
There are a few key things to keep a look out for when you’re shopping around for new pans for your induction hob. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the best for your needs, so don’t think that spending lots of money will get you all that you want.
The first thing to check is the dimensions of the induction area on your hob. Though some have flexible induction capabilities which means a pan can be placed anywhere on the hob, some do have set induction areas that are designed to operate only when used with the same sized pan. This will usually be indicated on the hob itself with markers. If your hob doesn’t have flexible induction , always compare the sizes with the pans you’re planning to buy. Pans that don’t meet the minimum size will be redundant.
But not all is lost and the best solution to overcome this is the use of an induction disc. These are readily available and are designed to be placed over an induction ring and then transfer the heat to a pan (don’t worry, they don’t reduce the efficiency of the hob). An induction disc can also be used to convert a non-ferrous pan for use on an induction hob, but you do have to be aware of any residual heat when using a disc that you wouldn’t usually get with direct contact.
Another thing to look for when buying cookware is a flat base. The flatter the base, the better the heat distribution as the magnetic reaction will only create heat on parts of the pan the hob is in direct contact with. Some pans have patterning on the base and while these can be beneficial for other hob types, they aren’t the best for induction.
Induction hobs are capable of much higher temperatures and speedier cooking times when compared to conventional hobs, so it’s important to maximise their potential where possible.