Induction technology is used to power many cooktops and ranges, and for a very good reason: induction cooking is safer, faster, and more efficient than electric or gas cooking. This is because induction cookers use a magnetic field to create heat in the base of the pot or pan.
There is one problem though: not all cookware can be used with induction cooktops. This is one reason why induction technology has taken so long to catch on – most people don’t want to buy a new set of cookware for their new cooker.
However, what many people don’t know is that many of the cookware needed for induction cooking is already in your kitchen. Let’s take a look at the special cookware needed for your induction cooktop.
Guaranteed to Work
There are four materials that are guaranteed to work with induction cooktops: cast iron, carbon steel, enameled cast iron, and graniteware.
Cast iron cookware always works with induction, 100% of the time. Although Dutch ovens and skillets may be large and heavy, their all-iron make up enables them to be compatible with magnetic cooking. The only downside is that cast iron can scratch your induction cooker’s glass top quite easily. If you choose to use your cast iron cookware, place a paper towel or newspaper sheet between the plate and the pan. The paper won’t burn thanks to the magnetic fields and your cooktop will be kept scratch free.
Carbon steel cookware can be seen as a lighter type of cast iron and also works perfectly for induction stoves. Enameled cast iron cookware also works much like normal cast iron, and graniteware, which is made of steel, is also a top choice for induction cookware.
If you own these types of cookware, check them using a magnet. If they are magnetic, they will work perfectly with your induction cooker.
Most aluminum pots and pans won’t work with induction cookers as it doesn’t have any iron compounds. Some aluminum cookware items have an iron core in the base, which means they should work with induction cooktops, but it is not guaranteed. This is because the iron core may not be big enough.
Copper cookware also doesn’t normally work. If it has an iron core, then it may work, but like aluminum, this is not guaranteed.
Then there is stainless steel, which most people would assume works with induction cooktops, right? Well, no. There are many different types of stainless steel, but it all boils down to what the alloy has been made from. If it is iron, it is fine for induction cooking; if it is nickel, then it will not work.
But, how do you tell the difference?
Tips for Confusing Cookware
Before running out and replacing all of your cookware, check the bases of the pots and pans in your kitchen. Some manufacturers print an induction symbol onto the base of their pans. This symbol appears like a zig zag or a coil. If there isn’t a logo on the base of your cookware, simply put a magnet on it to see if it strongly sticks. If it does, it should be induction ready.
The other problem you may come across is cookware that has a rounded bottom like some woks. The wok should be flat-bottomed so it makes contact with the cooktop surface. A flat bottomed pot or pan offers the best electromagnetic energy transfer.
If you have gone through these tips and still don’t want to part with your current cookware to match your new induction cooktop, you can buy an induction disk. This is a magnetic plate that sits on the cooktop and acts as a DIY burner which will heat up and transfer the heat into the base of your non-magnetic cookware. Although this mostly defeats the point of induction, it is one way to help ease the transition.
Buying Induction Cookware
If you choose to purchase induction cookware, there are many brands from which to choose. There is a wide range of products to suit different budgets. Some manufacturers offer more guidance for their induction cookware than others do, but if you check the packaging of the product, it should state whether it is induction compatible or not.
Cast iron is an iron-carbon alloy that is known for retaining heat. One drawback is because of its thickness and the weight in the base, it takes longer than hard anodized or stainless steel pans to heat up and cool down. However, once it is heated, it will stay hot for a long time.
Seasoning cast iron is important as it protects it from rusting and it creates a non-stick surface. A good cast iron pot or pan, if cared for properly, can be handed down to the next generation in your family. Some of the most popular cast iron cookware are: frying pans, grills, griddles, waffle makers and dutch ovens.
Before using your cast iron pan on an induction cooktop (or glass top stove), inspect the bottom to make sure it is flat. Also, check for burrs and if there some they can easily be removed with a steel rasp (coarse file). Whether using on a conventional glass cooktop or induction burner be sure to pick the pan up to move it rather than sliding it. Also, gently place the cookware gently on the cooktop surface.
Cast iron cookware is an affordable option when starting or adding to your culinary collection. It has many benefits and can be used to prepare all types of meals except those that have acidic or sticky ingredients. Some people use other cooking vessels to cook delicate textured fish.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast-iron cooking vessels are cast iron with a porcelain enamel glaze applied to the surface. This combination of glaze and cast iron prevents rust and eliminates the need to season your pan.
It is important to be careful about the utensils used with this type of cookware. Silicone or wooden utensils are recommended; while metal tools should not be used. Care should be taken to handled these vessels carefully to avoid chipping.
Carbon steel cookware is made of iron (99%) and carbon (1%). While it is widely used in Europe, it is not near as popular in the United States as cast iron or stainless steel. However, it is used in restaurants, especially in Chinese restaurants (carbon steel woks). These durable and versatile cooking vessels can be used for frying eggs, making omelets, and searing meat.
Carbon steel pans must be seasoned to avoid rust and to retain non-stick properties. The thicker skillets are better as the thin ones tend to warp and the food can easily burn. However, the thick pans are a bit on the heavy side.
Graniteware is composed of carbon steel covered with porcelain enamel. These vessels are affordable, heat up quickly, easily cleaned, and the heat is evenly distributed. Special care should be taken when using graniteware because if the enamel chips on the interior of the pan, it is no longer safe to use for food preparation. If using on glass cooktops, including induction, make sure the bottom is flat.
Armed with the above information, you should be able to determine what will and won’t work for your induction cooker. So go on and give it a try. Once you adapt to using an induction cooktop, you will probably never go back to using a gas or electric stove. Although you have to use special cookware for induction cooktops, this is a small price to pay for the saving in time, cost, efficiency, and safety.