AFTER CONFESSING HERE to a crush on my induction range, I was flooded with letters. That much-appreciated flood boiled down to a few repeat questions. On the assumption that if dozens of readers were this curious, there likely are more wondering the same thing, I’ve pulled together a Q&A covering those points.
Before we get to it, know that my crush has solidified into a permanent relationship. I started cooking in kindergarten (Gen X salute, if this doesn’t horrify you), but induction technology is now a daily delight, even after the slog of the last couple years and its great increase in dinners at home.
Will I have to replace my pans?
Not all materials work with induction burners, so the answer is, “It depends.” If the bottom of a pan isn’t magnetic, it won’t work. Expect to replace your Pyrex, ceramic, aluminum or copper pans.
What materials work with induction?
Cast iron, enameled cast iron and carbon steel all work. Stainless steel leads to confusion, because some stainless pans have nonmagnetic alloys on the bottom, which means the pan won’t work with induction. I needed to replace two stainless pans, both with aluminum bases. (One was from the Revere Pro line, and the other Belgique, a private label currently owned by Macy’s.)
How can I be sure my pans will work before buying a new stove?
There’s a simple test: Find a sturdy magnet that’s got enough connectivity to hold a photo to metal with no additional support. If that magnet snaps firmly to the exterior base of a pan, that pan will work with induction. The magnetic abilities of pan lids and handles don’t matter.
What are the best pan brands for induction cooking?
Pan choices are subjective for many reasons aside from their magnetic capabilities. My cast iron skillet is a Fred Meyer house brand, its bottom proudly emblazoned with its 1990s slogan. Additional brands I use and love: Le Creuset, All-Clad, Demeyere, de Buyer and Henckels.
What about my wok?
If your wok has a flat, magnetic bottom, it will work (carbon steel woks are terrific). However, induction burners quickly shut off when they lose contact with the pan, so if your stir-frying technique involves lots of pan lifting and shaking, you’ll need to adjust. Keep the pan in place, and use tongs to lift and toss the food.
Does the cooking tool matter?
These don’t need to be magnetic; I still use all my favorite wooden tools.
I need a downdraft range. Do those exist with induction?
A few models do. Because most induction ranges have vents at the back to keep the electronics cool, some models look like downdrafts but aren’t.
Which range did you get, and where should I look for reviews?
Mine is a GE Café; I preferred its cooktop knobs rather than touch-screen, its burner arrangement and its style. Wirecutter and Consumer Reports (both accessible free online with King County or Seattle library cards) have reviewed induction ranges — in fact, Consumer Reports reinforces my love with this bit from March 2022: “Induction cooktops and ranges generally outperform every other kind of range Consumer Reports tests.” Choosing again, I’d drop my insistence on having the largest burner in front. Why? With induction, you don’t want the pan’s diameter to be larger than the burner’s diameter — any part of the base not directly in contact with the burner will heat very slowly. Best-case scenario: Match the front burners precisely to the diameter of the pans you use most often.
I have a pacemaker; can I cook with induction?
Please ask your doctor. The UK’s National Health Services recommends keeping 2 feet between an induction burner that’s in use and a pacemaker, which is the only nationwide advice I could find. With improved air quality and reduced fire hazards, induction ranges generally are a safer choice in many ways, and I’ve seen them in several retirement community apartment kitchens. But, with about 1 million Americans relying on pacemakers, it is something to investigate before switching.