When I first started using an induction cooktop, I thought that pretty much all my pots and pans would work on this cooktop. Boy was I wrong! It turned out that less than half of the pots pans in my kitchen worked on this cooking surface. As you can probably already tell, I was quite frustrated at the time, but after learning a lot about metal alloys and the different types of cookware out there, I got clued in to the fact that more and more high-quality cookware is designed for both conduction and induction cooktops. This article should give you enough information to help you shop for cookware strategically. Using this information to guide you as far as your cookware selections go, you can stretch the value that you get from your hard-earned dollars when making your purchases. Regardless of what kind of cooktop technology you buy in the future (whether you are buying electric, flame-based or induction), you will still come out ahead.
The Essence of Induction Cooking
So, how does induction cooking work? How does the food get hot on your pots and pans when you place them on an induction cooktop? Well, unlike conduction or electrical stovetops, induction cooktops use magnetism. There is an electric current that flows on the cooking surface and it works with a magnetism of the iron metal found in your cookware. Since there is resistance in the metal cookware, this produces a tremendous amount of heat in the cookware itself. The heat is not radiated from the cooktop surface. The heat takes place in the center of the cooking action.
Accordingly, induction cooking is one of the most efficient forms of cooking as far as energy consumption and heat direction are concerned. You get a lot more bang for every buck you spend in terms of energy. The key to induction is magnetism and iron-based cookware is crucial. There has to be some iron in the cookware and it has to meet a certain percentage for the magnetic cooking process to take place at a sufficiently efficient level so that the food is heated quickly and intensively.
Avoid Purely Nonconductive Materials
There are many types of cookware on the market. These cookware are made of purely noninductive materials. In other words, there is absolutely no magnetic reaction with this cookware. If you buy glass, ceramic, copper or aluminum and other non-iron-based cookware there would be no induction possible. Seriously. Even if you buy stainless steel cookware that has a high nickel amount, the amount of iron or magnetic elements might not be enough to produce induction and heat.
You Need Iron but Iron is Problematic
It should be fairly clear to you that the best cookware for induction cooktops must have iron. The problem with going with a completely iron-based cookware is that iron like cast iron items are very bulky. Seriously, it is very bulky. They are heavy; they are hard to handle. It is like you are handling a very heavy axe or hammer. Also, since you are dealing with an all-iron cast produced item, the handles might be too hot. Also, depending on the brand or model you go with, some designs are prone to rust. Iron after all oxidizes, which is a fancy word for rusting.
Of course, there are always workarounds to the issues I raised above. For example, you can choose to buy a smaller size cast iron skillet so you can work with cookware of a more manageable weight. You can also regularly apply a thin coat of oil on your cookware to guard against rust.
The solution is to get the best of both worlds. I am of course talking about composite materials. Composite materials sandwich stainless steel made out of iron components with other metal alloys that have beneficial qualities. In other words, you get the smoothness of ceramic while getting the magnetic induction of an iron base.
Similarly, you can get the spectacular heat conduction capabilities of copper while ensuring that your food gets heated at high enough levels of temperature thanks to copper and stainless steel alloy compound. Finally, you can get all the benefits aluminum brings to the table by buying aluminum and stainless steel alloy pots and pans.
How do These Work?
When you look at cookware that is made out of composite material, you would notice that a lot of the aluminum, copper, ceramic or even glass are near the edges or concentrated at the top part. The bottom of the pan or pot is usually stainless steel or a stainless steel alloy. This is very important to keep in mind because this is not just done for cosmetic purposes. That bottom that you see is actually an iron cooking disc. Everything else from the sides, all the way to the lid and handles are made of mixed metal.
The iron composite disc or stainless steel composite disc is where the action takes place. That is where the magnetic induction produces high heat and depending on the material used for the sides of the pot or pan, the heat can be evenly distributed through the sides to make sure that the food you are cooking not only cooks quickly but evenly.
Great Benefits You Get from Composites
So, what kind of benefits do you get by using composite materials? Well, you can get a light, durable and rust resistant cookware. This is possible when you use stainless steel induction heating or cooking disc at the bottom and aluminum for the rest of the cookware. This type of combination produces overall greater heat conduction. Heat starts at the bottom but quickly spreads throughout the sides to ensure even as well as intense cooking for whatever it is you are preparing.
The greatest heat conduction composite usually involve copper and aluminum sandwiched with iron. Overall, composites bring a lot of value to the table. They really do. You get something that is light, easier to handle and does not rust. What is not to love?