Why Do Induction Hobs Need Special Pans?

Last Updated On October 17th, 2019

Ever wondered why induction hobs need special pans to work? It’s one of those little everyday things we take for granted, isn’t it? Microwaves need special bowls, you shouldn’t put glass utensils in the freezer, and you have to use those iron/stainless steel type of pans for an induction hob. Well, let’s answer the question on top once and for all.

How Does The Hob Work?

The type of pan you need is directly linked to how an induction hob works.

If you look at conventional stoves (with a visible fire at the bottom) or electric stoves (with heating coils beneath the surface), you’ll see that they’re not very picky about the kind of pots and pans you use. There’s fire or heat at the bottom and your food gets cooked. Pretty simple right? That’s where the induction hob shakes things up. The Hob uses electromagnetic induction.

It sounds very scientific but the process is pretty simple. Here’s how it works.

  • When you turn on the induction hob, electricity starts flowing through the magnetic coils under your hob’s cooking surface.
  • The coils (usually copper-based) create a magnetic field between themselves and your pan (hint: which is iron-based).
  • Your pan, which is now sitting in a magnetic field, will get ‘induced’ with an electric current (Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction).
  • Part of this energy (from the current) turns into heat and warms up your food. Ta-da!

THE ANSWER! (skipped to this part, didn’t you?)

So, with the above steps (or rather, clues), I’m sure you’ve connected the dots and solved the mystery of the induction pan. The Hob creates a magnetic field, so you’ll need pans made from ferromagnetic materials which are susceptible to magnetic fields and can induce an electric current. And ferromagnetic materials are mostly iron-based.

This is why you have to use cast iron, enamel cast iron or stainless steel pans on your induction hob. The material your pan is made of needs to have iron or a layer of some material with magnetic properties.

And that leaves us with a follow-up question. Which of your pans can you use on your induction hob and will you need to buy new pans? Here’s your answer.

The Pans You Can Use

All types of cast iron pans will work on an induction hob. So, if you have enough of those lying around, then you won’t have to go buy new Hob-compatible pans. But, if you have stainless steel pans, things can get a little tricky.

Stainless steel is an iron alloy that’s made from a mix of metals and other elements. So the amount of iron it has can vary according to its type and brand. Some of them may work well, some may work sort-of-well, and some may even leave your food as a mushy uncooked lump. Thankfully, there’s a very easy way of finding out which ones will work—use a magnet!

Here’s what you have to do. Hold a magnet to the underside of your pan and if-

  • it sticks—the pan will work on your induction hob.
  • it sticks loosely and can be easily shaken off—the pan will work, but not very well. It’s better not to use this pan.
  • it does not stick—nope. This pan won’t work, don’t bother.

Pans You Can’t Use

Aluminum, copper, and glass pans won’t work. But, some new pans in the market come with a magnetic coating at the bottom, and these will work fine. So, it might be a good idea to use the magnet-test on all your pans, just in case.

And that’s it. Happy cooking!

Additional Resources

5 Responses

  1. Concise understandable and informative, thank you very much for the explanation, it makes so much sense when some who takes the time to put these things in terms even I can understand. All but one of my pans the magnet stuck to, so will have to think of another excuse for rotten food.

  2. Just to say, thank you for the detail and easy explanation. I’ll definitely be back when I need an answer 😊

  3. What a really helpful article. Explains why I have a new hob and none of my pans work! Thank you for explaining

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