Until relatively recently, there were only two kinds of stovetops available. There were ceramic hobs, and there were gas ones. The former use heating elements affixed to the underside of a ceramic disc; the latter use a ring of emitters through which ignited gas can be directed up at the bottom of your pots and pans.
While both kinds of hob are still in use, they’ve been joined by a new variety: the induction hob.
How does an induction hob work?
Rather than heating up the surface beneath the pan, an induction hob will create a magnetic field that induces heat directly in the metal itself. You can think of it rapidly pushing the metal back and forth at a molecular level.
Why are induction hobs better?
Induction tends to be more energy-efficient than traditional gas or ceramic. This is because none of that heat energy is being lost between the hob and the pan. You’ll also be able to heat your food more quickly, which is great when you just want to whip up a quick stir-fry.
Induction hobs also tend to be safer, since there are no open flames or heated surfaces. If there isn’t a pan on the hob, then there will be no heat – meaning that you can safely put your hand there.
With that said, it’s easy to become complacent in this situation. The pans themselves will still become very hot – and some of that heat will radiate down into the hob. Meaning that, if you’ve just finished cooking and moved a pan off the hob, you’re still vulnerable to burning yourself.
What pans do you need to use for induction cookware?
Because of the way that induction hobs work, you’ll be restricted in your choice of cookware. Only magnetic metals are going to work. This means that copper and aluminium pans are out, and stainless steel and iron pans are in. In practice, it’s easiest to simply look at the packaging for the symbol that indicates induction cookware.
If you’re unwilling to part with a particular pan, then you can get adaptors which sit beneath it and basically turn your induction hob into a conventional one – though this does eliminate many of the advantages of going with induction.
If you’ve already invested heavily in an expensive set of copper-bottomed pans, then you might hesitate before investing in an induction hob. Copper pans are a useful option to have, as they will lose heat rapidly – giving you greater control, and helping you to avoid overcooking delicate dishes like seafood. With that said, an induction hob helps you to replicate a lot of this flexibility with steel pans – so, for many, it’s the way of the future!