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What is Induction Cooking and How Does It Work?

by Waverly Wilde

Induction cooktops save you time, energy, and money as this technology instantly heats your cookware. Here’s how it works and how to use it.

What is Induction Cooking

While induction technology has existed since the early 1900s, it only gained mainstream traction here in America over the last few decades. It requires many circumstances to take a fresh idea from conception to market saturation. For example, the first electric car made its debut in the 1800s, and yet very few options exist today.

But I digress. Induction cooktops heat cookware directly instead of using an electric- or gas-based element. As a result, they boil water 50-percent faster! They also sustain a consistent and precise temperature throughout cooking. And almost like magic, the surface area stays relatively cool, such that spills, splatters, and boil-overs won't bake on. A great safety feature not only for you but also if you happen to have kids. 

 

How Induction Cooking Works

As I mentioned, induction is like magic. Well, like science, because magic isn’t real. These cooktops use electric currents to heat cookware directly through magnetic induction. In contrast, gas and electric stoves use thermal induction to transfer heat from those heating elements to your pot or pan. That is why induction can boil water 50-percent faster. It heats the cooking vessel directly, almost instantly. 

The word induction is short for electromagnetic induction. Underneath that cooking surface exists a coiled copper wire. When powered, an electromagnetic current flows through it. By placing induction-compatible cookware onto the surface, the pan’s electrons get pulled into formation. Like Beyonce’s Formation, this causes quite the stir. These electrons resist, but the constant tug-of-war with the current creates friction within the pan, and therefore heat!  



Why Choose an Induction Cooktop

Induction cooktops offer a wide variety of benefits, from time-savings to energy-savings to being downright safer. For these cooktops heat the cookware and not the surface itself, so they stay relatively cool to the touch. Since there's no flame, your kitchen remains cooler. Plus,  no pollution from burning gas. And these ranges are significantly more energy-efficient than gas or electric as they cook food faster and waste less heat while doing so. 

However, induction cooktops have a few cons. Lately,  price has been less of an obstacle to enjoying these ranges, but they can still skew high. The issue most people face with induction appliances is the actual cooking. Everything heats up fast, which takes some getting used to when it comes to preparing some of your favorite foods. 

Selecting Induction-Compatible Cookware

Because induction cooking uses electromagnetism, it only works with cookware that’s affected by magnets. If you are looking to upgrade to a range with this new technology, that means you may (or may not) have to update your favorite pots and pans also. 

Test Your Cookware for Induction

Ferrous metals such as cast-iron and some stainless steels are ferromagnetic, which means magnets stick to these surfaces. These materials are ideal for induction-based cooking. Aluminum, copper, and glass cookware are less so. But modern cookware is often a mixture of metals, making it challenging to determine if your current cookware will cut it. 

Don't worry! There is a simple test. Take a refrigerator magnet and slap it on the pan's outside bottom. If it clings to the pan, you are good to go. If it's soft or falls off, you should purchase compatible pots and pans. 

Buying Induction-Compatible Cookware 

If you are in the market for induction-friendly cookware, simply look at the product packing. There are usually a variety of symbols to indicate everything from gas or electric compatibility, but also such things as dishwasher safe. If it is induction compatible, you’ll see a symbol representing a metal coil. 

If you need a stop gap upgrade, simply take a refrigerator magnet to your favorite thrift store to find qualifying pots and pans. 

How to Modify a Recipe for Induction

When it comes to executing a meal flawlessly, timing is everything, whether you're cooking it on gas, electric, or induction range. But with induction, it gets particularly tricky. 

Begin with mise-en-place, by chopping and measuring out all of your ingredients before you even start cooking. While induction doesn't cook the food any faster, the cookware heats up almost instantly, so timing is paramount. There won't be any time to prepare while, say, the oil is heating up. It'll most likely burn. 

 

As you cook with this new cooktop, considerations, and adjustments like this will have to be made.