A guide to cooking with induction hobs, including their benefits and drawbacks.
Induction cookers feature an electromagnetic field that interacts and warms metal cookware, and in turn, the contents held in pans and pots.
However, this means that you won’t be able to make use of every pot, as only certain types of metal cookware work with induction cookers.
One of the pros to induction hob cooking is that they heat quickly, yet use less energy compared to other electric cookers. The cooking surface remains cool, even after cooking, which massively reduces the risk of burns. This, combined with precision temperature control, and stylish looks, sets them apart from ceramic and plate cooking hobs.
You’ll find built-in and freestanding induction hobs featured in many of today’s high-end kitchens, because of their superb performance and stunning looks, compared to gas, plate, and ceramic rings.
How Induction Cooking Works
The contents of a saucepan heat up on an induction field thanks to an electromagnetic field.
At first glance, induction hobs often look like normal ceramic hobs. Unlike ceramic, the induction cooker does not have an electrical heating coil under the glass-ceramic, but a flat coil made of a thick copper conductor.
An alternating electrical current flows through this coil. This creates an alternating magnetic field, which causes meral to heat up.
If you put a pot or pan on the plate, the bottom of which contains enough ferromagnetic metal with a sufficiently high electrical resistance, the bottom is excited by the alternating field and a field generated – this process is called induction.
The field in the bottom of the pot is called an eddy current because of the shape of its field electromagnetic lines. This eddy current heats up the bottom of the pot because, on the one hand, there are electrical losses due to the resistance of the material and, on the other hand, losses due to the rapidly changing magnetization of the metal. These losses are given off as heat to the bottom and from there to the contents of the pot.
It’s all quite scientific, or as my daughter says, like magic.
Cookware for Induction Cooking
Cookware with at least the bottom made of ferromagnetic alloys with a high specific electrical resistance is suitable for induction cookers and induction hobs. These are usually iron or steel alloys.
If you buy new pots and pans for an induction cooker, you can usually recognize their suitability by a symbol on the packaging and embossed on the bottom. It looks like a coil in a box, which lets you know that the cookware is induction-ready.
Older cookware that is not labelled accordingly can also be easily checked for suitability by testing if it’s magnetic. If the magnet sticks, then the pot or pan is suitable for induction technology.
This excludes cookware made of aluminium or non-magnetic stainless steel, as well as glass or ceramic. The magnetic field does not have sufficient electrical resistance here.
This can be remedied in individual cases with adapter plates made of ferromagnetic steel, which are placed on the hob and on which the cookware is then placed. So you can continue to use expensive, seldom used pots such as an oversized soup pot.
However, the advantages of an induction cooker are lost: As with the classic hotplate, the adapter plate is first heated and then passes its heat onto the cookware through physical contact, it heats up more slowly and there is heat loss. So this is really just a makeshift solution, but it can save you expensive new purchases from case to case.
Induction Cooking Advantages
Induction cookers are very energy efficient. An induction field heats up particularly quickly. This saves you energy and money over slow heating coils.
This is due to the fact that the induction cooker heats pots and pans directly. So there are no losses due to the fact that the heat first has to be transferred from a previously heated coil or plate to the pot. Also, this smart technology means induction hobs are very fast at cooking, as there are no waiting times for the plate to heat up.
As with a gas hob, the heat can be controlled very precisely, and the stove reacts immediately to changes. That is why professionals and ambitious amateur cooks, in particular, appreciate this technology.
The cooking surface itself remains cool. It is only warmed up by the fact that heat radiates back from the cookware. The resulting temperatures are not sufficient to burn in leftover food. This is why induction hobs are much easier to keep clean. Incidentally, this can look quite different if you use one of the adapter plates.
A hob that you forgot to switch on? No problem with induction, because the induction field switches off automatically when there is no pot on it. Even if children play around on the hob unobserved, the risk is far less than with a classic stove.
Disadvantages of Induction Cookers
Not all cookware will work, If you have an old aluminium set of pots and pans that you love, unfortunately, they won’t work with your new induction cooker. This means that you will need specific, and sometimes more expensive cookware.
As already mentioned, the most important is that you can only use suitable cookware. Aluminium, stainless steel, glass, or ceramic vessels can no longer be used for cooking.
You may hear scare stories, or have concerns about the electromagnetic fields that radiate from the hob. However, concerns about this are largely unfounded. The alternating field of an induction hob oscillates between 20 and 100 kHz. This is nowhere near enough to heat water and thus human tissue.
For comparison: microwave ovens work with waves of almost 2.5 GHz, i.e. about a hundred thousand times the frequency. The theoretically actually affected pacemakers are usually too far away from the hob to be influenced, but as a precaution, one should heed the manufacturer’s warnings and in any case keep a sufficient distance.