A question I always enjoy asking my clients is what type of hob would you like? It’s amazing how this simple choice completely divides people into two teams: team gas or team induction. This often leads to a question back to me, namely, what are the pros and cons of induction hobs?
Most clients are familiar with gas hobs. Gas hobs have been around for a long time and are often coined the chef’s hob of choice. Where confusion creeps in with induction hobs is the thinking that they are the same as ceramic hobs.
Ceramic hobs are those old-style electric hobs that take forever to heat up and cool down, with a big heating element under each zone.
Induction hobs are very different from ceramic hobs and, in my opinion, far superior. I honestly don’t know why someone would pick a ceramic hob these days.
What Is An Induction Hob?
An induction hob is a type of cooktop (also known as a stovetop or range top) that uses electromagnetism rather than gas or an electric heating element to heat up and cook food.
Induction hobs are smooth and flat and can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The shape, size and variety of cooking features available will depend on the make and model of the induction hob.
The surface of the hob is made from heat resistant toughened ceramic glass. This is most commonly black glass, although there are some induction hobs on the market that have silver or white coloured glass.
The hob is most commonly controlled using a touch-button interface to change the cooking zone and required power level. Some more advanced models may have a larger touch screen or use twist pads to help control changing settings.
How Do Induction Hobs Work?
Induction hobs work by using a special blend of witchcraft and magic. Not really, it’s electromagnetism. Although it does feel like magic sometimes.
Underneath each zone of the induction hob is a tightly wound copper coil. When the hob is switched on the electricity will flow through this coil, creating a high frequency alternating magnetic field.
This electromagnetic field will create a reaction between the induction zone on the hob and the bottom of the pan.
When a pan is placed on the hob, the electromagnetic field flows through into the pan and generates a current inside of it. It is this current inside the pan that generates heat. The heat generated in the pan then transfers to the food or liquid so you can cook your meal.
Depending on the power setting chosen, this will allow a higher or lower current of electricity to pass through which will control the amount of heat generated inside the pan. This process is extremely fast and very controllable.
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Speed And Control
Induction hobs will heat up the food or liquid you are cooking much quicker than gas or ceramic hobs. This means less time at the hob, and more time eating.
Some induction hobs even have a boost function, which allows you to speed up the cooking process even more. While this does use more electricity, it is great for getting things up to the boil more quickly. Pair this with a boiling water tap, and you’ve cut down your pasta time significantly.
Induction hobs are also much quicker to change temperature than other types of hobs, as you have more precise control with the electromagnetic field. With ceramic, for example, it can take a long time to cool down. With gas, the problem is a lack of specificity in cooking temperature or level. You’re really eyeballing the cooking process.
If there is no pan on the induction hob, or if the pan does not have a magnetic base, then the magnetic field created will not be able to transfer to anything and no heat will be generated.
This is a fantastic safety feature of induction hobs. If someone accidentally turns it on, nothing will happen unless a pan is in contact with the switched-on zone.
Most induction hobs these days will also have a feature that automatically switches off the hob if nothing is detected after a short amount of time.
As well as this, induction hobs don’t get hot the same way that a ceramic hob would. The glass on an induction hob is only heated by the residual heat given off from a pan and is not heated directly.
You can place your hand on the hob nearby and it won’t be hot. There will only be residual heat in the glass where the pan was, but this will cool down very quickly.
Check out this video for a fun look at how induction hobs work and why it makes them safe.
Pros And Cons Of Induction Hobs
Advantages Of Induction Hobs
- Energy efficient
- Easy to clean
- Modern and stylish
- Quick to heat up and change the cooking temperature
- Boost function great for boiling
- Safe to touch (only heats what is in contact with the pan)
- Lots of extra features like flexible cooking zones, timers and child safety locks
- Ideal if the house isn’t on mains gas supply
Disadvantages Of Induction Hobs
- Usually more expensive than gas or ceramic
- No open flame for charring
- You may need to invest in new pans that have a magnetic base
- Can be louder than other hobs – creates a humming noise
- Won’t be able to cook if the power goes out
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Do Induction Hobs Need Special Saucepans?
Yes – the base of the pan needs to be magnetic. You need to use a magnetic pan in order to generate the electromagnetic reaction that will cook the food. Pans that are made from or have elements of ferrous metals such as cast iron will work, as will magnetic stainless steel.
If you have a set of pans and are unsure if they will work on an induction hob, you can check by using a fridge magnet. Does the magnet stick to the pan? If so, then the pan will work. If not, it probably won’t be suitable.
Top tip: As induction hobs work through the magnetic contact of the bottom of the pan, the flatter the bottom surface is, the more effective the induction technology will be.
Look out for pans that have a flat magnetic bottom, as these will work much better than pans with metal strips or circles with gaps on the bottom of the pan.
You normally come across the latter when manufacturers don’t want to create new pans but want to make them induction friendly, so they just add some magnetic material on the bottom.
Do Induction Hobs Get Hot?
A little bit –although it won’t be anywhere as near as hot as a ceramic hob and will cool down much, much quicker.
An induction hob will be hot because of the residual heat trapped in the glass left over from where the pan was in contact with the hob.
This won’t be heat coming from the hob itself, rather heat left over trapped in the glass. This is the same as if you placed a hot pan on a work surface; the work surface would hold onto some of that heat and be warm to the touch after the pan has been removed.
Most induction hobs will display an H symbol to indicate that the particular zone is still a little hot to the touch. This will cool very quickly, making it much safer than ceramic.
Can You Simmer On An Induction Hob?
Yes – you can simmer on an induction hob. Just like gas hobs, induction hobs can be easily controlled and set to different cooking levels. In fact, they can be controlled with far more precision than gas or ceramic.
Putting an induction hob on a lower power level will allow your cooking to simmer.
It may take a little bit of getting used to as you figure out how powerful each setting is, but you’ll soon be a pro.
There may also be a learning curve using the touch buttons to move the power up and down for each zone, especially if you’ve been used to having knobs on a gas hob in the past.
Can You Get A 13 Amp Induction Hob?
Yes – you can get 13 amp induction hob. Typically new induction hobs require much more power. Some can draw 8kw of power, which means you will need to have a dedicated cable from the fuse box to the hob to power it.
Factor this in when considering buying one. You may need to pay out for additional electrical work.
If you would rather not have to pay out, or can’t have a dedicated cable for whatever reason, then getting a 13 amp induction hob could be the answer. Check out my post Can You Get a 13 amp Induction Hob? for more info.
As a fan of induction hobs myself, I can understand why they are becoming more and more popular and will continue to do so.
As the world moves away from unsustainable fossil fuels, such as gas, towards more renewable sources like wind/solar electricity, having an induction hob that can be powered by these renewable sources and still be an efficient way of cooking is only going to get more popular in the future.
There will always be a place for the gas hob. Most restaurants prefer cooking with gas and it’s dubbed the chef’s choice, after all. However, for the average home cook, induction may be the way to go.