Induction cooktops are becoming more popular thanks to their high safety ratings and energy savings. But without the proper cookware to use with them, they can be rendered useless. Well, almost.
Below, we’ll show you the trick for using non-induction cookware on induction cooktops. We’ll also look at how these hobs work and why only some pots and pans are induction compatible.
How Do Induction Cooktops Work?
Traditional ranges, like gas stoves and electric stoves, use thermal conduction to cook food. That is, they supply heat to the surface of the burner which, in turn, heats the pan and the food inside.
Induction cooktops, on the other hand, use electrical induction which creates heat using magnetic fields.
Instead of supplying heat to the surface of the burner, these ranges supply electric current. The metal in the pan reacts to the electromagnetic field created by this electric current by creating an equal but opposite current of its own. As this current flows through the pan, it creates friction, which in turn, produces heat.
You can learn more about how induction cooking works, here.
Because there is no heat generated on the surface of induction burners, there is far less risk of injury when using one. If a burner is left on without a pan on it, it remains cool to the touch. Because of this, induction stoves are a better choice for households with children and pets.
But induction hobs also have a downside. And that is, of course, that they only work with certain types of pans.
In order for an eddy current to form in the cookware, the metal contacting the induction cooker surface must be ferrous. Without this magnetic characteristic, the cookware will not heat up on an induction burner.
What Pans are Induction Compatible?
For optimal performance, induction cookers must be used with induction-compatible cookware. Pots and pans rated for induction stoves contain magnetic metal that is reactive with the cooking surface.
But even within the category of induction cooktop-compatible cookware, some options work better than others.
The most reactive pots and pans are made of:
- Low nickel/high magnetic stainless steel
- Carbon steel
- Cast iron
All of these are magnetic materials that will readily react with the induction units. Cast iron and carbon steel have high thermal conductivity and heat quickly and evenly. To maximize thermal conductivity and heat distribution in stainless steel pots, opt for aluminum or copper core pans.
Both carbon steel and magnetic stainless steel pots are good choices for induction cooking. They are fairly lightweight and usually have smooth finishes that won’t scratch glass surfaces.
While cast iron is compatible with induction cookers, we recommend only using enameled cast iron to avoid scratching the glass cooktop. But even these pans are heavy, so care must be taken to avoid cracking the glass.
Some cookware is advertised as induction friendly but doesn’t actually work well on these types of ranges. This is usually the case with high nickel/austenitic stainless steel, which is only weakly magnetic. These pots will heat up but the process will be much slower and they may not get hot enough to be effective.
Cookware that absolutely doesn’t work on induction cookers includes:
- Bare copper pans
- Bare aluminum pans
Cookware for induction ranges typically features markings on the packaging or a stamp on the bottom indicating its compatibility. Look for a symbol with four joined loops or the word “induction.”
But not all compatible pans will say so. This is especially true of older sets.
The Magnet Test
Not sure what your cookware is made of and unsure if it will work on an induction surface? There is a quick and easy way to test it.
Simply take a refrigerator magnet and try to stick it to the bottom of the pan. If it sticks well, the cookware will react with the electromagnetic field created by the induction hob. If the magnet only weakly sticks, the pan will work but will likely take a long time to heat up.
If the magnet doesn’t stick, then the cookware is not induction compatible. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t use it. Below, we’ll go over your options for using non-induction cookware on an induction hob.
Using Non-Induction Cookware on Induction Cooktops
If you have an induction stove but not the pots and pans to match, then you have a problem.
There are some very creative ways to solve this problem, including using computer thermal paste and netted steel. But neither of these options offers great results and both are likely to damage your range and cookware over time.
But there are two options for dealing with non-induction cookware that do offer good results.
Best Option: Replace Your Cookware
Okay, we know this isn’t what you want to hear, but replacing your cookware is the best option.
Induction cookers are super energy efficient and highly reactive to temperature changes, which means better results when cooking. But you only get these benefits if you’re using the right cookware.
If you’re going to be using the induction surface for a while, you may even save enough on energy costs to make up for the price of a new cookware set. Even if it’s just a short-term thing, know that cookware for induction cooktops can be used on gas and electric cooktops, too.
So why not treat yourself while you have a good excuse? If you do choose to go this route, make sure to check out our favorite induction cookware sets.
Next Best Option: Use an Induction Converter Disc
If you don’t have the budget for new cookware or just really want to use your favorite non-induction pan, there is one more option.
Induction converter discs are specialty stainless steel or cast iron plates that turn induction burners into thermal conductive burners. These flat, magnetic discs create the current eddy that the nonmagnetic cookware can’t. This eddy creates thermal heat that can then be used to heat any pot or pan.
Pros of Using an Induction Converter Disc
Converter discs are an inexpensive way to convert an induction cooker to be compatible with non-induction cookware. They cost around $20 each and can be used over and over.
These discs can be used with any kind of cookware including stainless steel pans, cast iron pots, glass, ceramic, and more.
Most options come with a handle that may or may not detach to allow for easy placement on the hob. This allows you to remove and replace the disc as needed, a necessity if you have both induction-compatible and non-induction cookware.
These non-permanent solutions are a great option for those who anticipate getting new cookware in the future. They also work very well if you just have that one favorite non-induction compatible pot you want to keep using.
Cons of Using an Induction Converter Disc
While these genius products are affordable and fairly effective, they do have some downsides.
For one, there is a good degree of energy loss when you convert electric induction to thermal conduction and then pass that heat along to a pot or pan. During normal induction, small amounts of energy are lost during induction and some heat is lost between the hot pan and the food.
By adding convection, you open the window for a lot more energy loss. Heat dissipates from the hot disc to the air as well as to the pan. All this is to say, by using a converter disc, you lose some of your induction stovetop’s energy efficiency.
Using a converter disc also increases the odds of scratching or damaging the glass cooktop. Sliding the disc across the surface increases these odds, as does using a disc with protruding feet.
We’ve also found that using converter discs increases the odds of the cooktop erroring out. This usually happens if the disc gets too hot or if it is not the right size for the burner. The latter is a tough problem to solve since these are only available in a few select sizes.
But our biggest concern is with thermal feedback to the cooktop surface. When converter discs are made of cheap materials or used improperly, they can become too hot. This excess heat is absorbed back into the cooktop, causing wear and damage to the electrical elements inside.
The Best Converter Disc Options
To maximize the benefits of converter discs and minimize problems, it’s important to invest in a quality product. Here are three of our favorites that work exceptionally well to make induction cookers compatible with non-induction cookware.
This stainless steel plate has a beautifully smooth finish to reduce scratches.
The handle is easily removable and replaceable so you can get it out of the way and keep it cool while you cook.
And you can choose the 7.87 inches or 9.45 inches product to get the right fit for your burner.
This is another well-finished stainless steel disc that is safer for induction glass tops.
The handle is not removable but does have a low profile to keep it out of the way.
It is available in one size, 9.45 inches to fit medium-large burners.
For small burners, this well-crafted 5.5-inch induction adaptor works incredibly well. Like the Runzi, it has an easy-to-remove-and-replace handle.
It also features smooth, flat cook and base surfaces for optimal performance and minimal heat loss.
None of these products will work as well as true, induction-compatible cookware. But they are certainly a less expensive solution than replacing your induction range or your entire cookware collection.