Induction is the latest and best cooking technology available in the market. It has many advantages over cooking with gas flames or with electric cooktops.
But this superior technology comes with a requirement, which is to use induction-ready cookware. An Induction ready cookware is magnetically conductive and ferromagnetic (which means that if you put a magnet on the base of it, it will stick).
Induction Cooktops Need Induction Ready Cookware
The reason you need only induction ready cookware is that induction works on the principle of generating heat via electromagnetism. An alternating current is passed through the wire into the coil beneath the cooktop surface.
This creates a magnetic field around it and above the surface. When we place induction compatible cookware which is magnetically conductive and ferromagnetic, it allows penetration of this magnetic field.
This induces a strongly resistive electric current to flow in the cookware. This resistive electric current produces friction causing heat and thereby cooks food.
Now for any cookware to work on Induction cooktop, it should be flat, smooth and magnetic.
A good way to check if your cookware is induction compatible with the cooktop is to put a magnet in the base of the cookware. If it sticks to the bottom, it is good for Induction cooking.
Stainless steel, cast iron, and enameled cast iron are great options for induction cooking.
Induction compatible cookware will have a sign indicating it is induction friendly. A piece of good news is that all cookware which is induction friendly can be used on electric and gas stove.
Copper, aluminum, and glass will not work on induction as the magnetic field will not be able to pass and there will be no generation of electric current in the cookware.
The whole electromagnetic mechanism will fail and no heat will be produced. It’s very important to know that cookware itself becomes the heat source. So it’s vital to have a material which will complete the process of cooking.
To replace an entire range of cookware to suit the working criteria of induction is quite heavy on the pocket. And sometimes your favorite cookware may have a bottom which does not fit the cooktop’s diameter.
For cookware to work on induction, it must have the same size as that of the induction cooktops cooking zone. For all such cases, there is an option with the help of which one can use non-induction cookware or odd sized induction cookware on an induction cooktop.
Using Converter Disk With Non-Induction Cookware
A converter disk is something that will allow you to use non-induction cookware with an induction cooktop.
It is flat and made of stainless steel or Iron. It has a safe heatproof handle to hold easily. It evenly distributes heat throughout the cookware.
To use it, you need to place it over the cooktop and then use any non-induction cookware of your choice.
These Iron or steel plates fit between the induction stovetop and cookware base. It is extremely thin and heavy and there is no chance of tipping or slipping.
A word of caution here. Not all the disks available in the market are of good quality. Choose a sturdy disk with a strong magnet and easy to use handle preferably heatproof handles.
The downside of Using a Converter Disk
If one looks theoretically, the magnetic waves are absorbed by the disc and transferred to the non-induction cookware. So it’s not much different than placing an induction compatible cookware directly. But practically this is not what happens.
For one, cookware metal is never polished smoothly. There are jagged peaks and valleys. So when one places non-induction cookware on the converter disc, these imperfect metal surfaces trap countless microscopic pockets of air between them.
Air, as we know, is a bad conductor. So as magnetic waves penetrate and start inducing a current, the converter disc tries to transfer the heat to the cookware. But the pockets of air slow down the transfer.
What happens consequently is that the converter disc becomes hotter than the cookware bottom due to heat build-up. Some of the built-up heat is conducted downward into the ceramic and some get transferred to kitchen air.
A study was done with a converter disc made of stainless steel. Water was boiled on an induction cooktop with no converter disc and simultaneously water was kept to boil on induction with converter disc.
The result showed it took 8 minutes 40 seconds to boil 8 cups of water in induction cookware and it took 19 minutes using a converter disc on non-induction cookware.
Also, after 10 minutes and 30 seconds passed, the induction on which the converter plate was kept started throttling from 1500 watts to 1200 watts. This could be perhaps because converter disc was heated up for so long and that affected the ceramic and insulation layer underneath and also affected the coil beneath heating it up.
Using Netted Steel
One trick I found amusing while researching was on an uploaded video on youtube. In the video, they used a sheet of netted steel which is usually used on windows and doors and is available in the all-purpose hardware tool shop.
They double folded the netted steel sheet and placed it in on the cooktop. The non-induction cookware was placed over the sheet and the power was switched on. For big vessels, it supposedly takes quite a long time.
I am a bit skeptical about this method as its just a trick and not tested method to check if one will be safe by touching it unexpectedly. As we know electromagnetic induction works by the phenomenon in which electric current is generated in a closed circuit by the fluctuation of current in another circuit placed next to it.
So try and test this trick very carefully after taking all possible precautions. It is a good idea to fold the netted mesh and place it all over the cooktop and then the cookware and then switch it on.
Also, don’t touch the net while cooking. Remove the cookware and netted mesh only after you have switched off the induction. Check how hot the steel mesh is and use oven gloves if possible.
Using Computer Thermal Paste
If you’re looking for a one-time solution, there is another trick you can use.
Apply a layer of computer thermal paste onto the bottom of the cookware and then slowly place the cookware on the converter disc. This action will spread the paste as a paper-thin layer which fills the nooks between the metal surfaces.
It’s not an ideal method but its a better conductor of heat when compared to air.
Apply the paste again each time you separate the cookware from the disc. The reason being that thermal paste breaks down at high temperature so each time it has to be scraped off and applied before cooking.
Overall the performance of the stove does drop to levels comparable to old-style resistive stoves which did not have glass tops when we try to use non-induction cookware on an induction cooktop.
Induction compatible cookware does not heat up the induction cooktop as much as using-compatible cookware with a converter disc.
The best long term solution is to use an induction compatible cookware on the induction cooktop for superior performance. This is because efficiency takes a big hit.
However, despite the lack of efficiency, converter disks are actually a cheaper method to use our favorite pots and pans on an induction cooktop and to avoid replacing all the cookware for induction.
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