If you know you want to buy, we've picked out some good options at the end of the article. However, switching to an induction cooker requires a bit of preparation, so read on first.
While you can move from electric to gas hobs – and back – with only minor adjustments, an induction hob will change what you cook with and how you cook. Here’s why.
How do induction hobs work?
An induction hob heats a cooking vessel by electrical induction, rather than radiant heat (like an electric hob) or a gas flame. Radiant cooking involves the transfer of heat, in waves, from the heating elements under the cooker’s smooth ceramic surface to your pot or pan. The heat is generated by electricity.
Gas hobs are self-explanatory – they heat thermally, using a gas flame.
Induction cooking is a more complicated process, involving the creation of a magnetic field. Underneath the glass of an induction hob is a coil of copper wire. When a pot that can conduct electricity (we’ll come back to this) is placed on the hob, an alternating electric current passes through it.
The resulting magnetic field creates an electrical current in the pot’s base, which creates heat. What this means is that the pan itself becomes the heat source, which is why induction cooking is so efficient.
What pans can you use on an induction hob?
As the paragraph above suggests, not all pans will work on an induction hob. If you’ve never used a hob of this kind before, you’ll be surprised to find that it does not heat up. You can place a hand on it at any point and it’ll be cool, except when you have just removed a hot pan. (The pan itself will also still be extremely hot, so bear that in mind.)
That’s because it works using magnetic conduction. It follows, therefore, that you can only use pans with magnetic properties, so they can conduct electricity. This means that your pans must be made of ferrous metals. Ferrous metals are those that contain iron – steel and cast iron.
Pans made of aluminium, brass and copper will not work (unless they are specially designed for induction and have a ferrous base). Stainless steel will only work if its base is made of magnetic grade steel. This brings us on to the magnet test.
You can find out if your existing pans will work on an induction hob by seeing if a fridge magnet (or any other kind) will stick to the base. If there is only a weak pull – or none at all – the pan won’t work.
Perhaps surprisingly, a number of ceramic-clad and enamelled pots and pans – including those from Le Creuset and Staub – will work on an induction hob. This is because the ceramic or enamel is covering a cast-iron pot.
If you decide to go for an induction hob, you’ll be able to replace your favourite cookware in whatever material you choose: non-stick, copper core, stainless steel, ceramic, cast iron or enamel.
The difference is that the items will be designed for this form of cooker and will have an induction-friendly base. Compatible cookware should feature an induction symbol on its packaging. The symbol looks like a coil.
Amazon has some great induction-friendly cookware options. If you're feeling spendy, we’d recommend this cast iron frying pan from Le Creuset. It’s currently retailing at £106.
For a more budget-friendly, although still extremely high-quality piece of cookware, you can get this versatile Staub oven dish, which also works on an induction hob. It’s currently priced at a very reasonable £33.68.
If you need to replace your entire set of pots and pans, you can get this five-piece set of Tefal non-stick cookware (three pots and two pans) for £99.99.
The advantages of an induction hob
Induction hobs cook quickly, because all of the energy generated goes straight into your pan, which will heat up fast. Tests show that an induction hob can bring a pot of water to the boil about twice as quickly as a gas hob. Induction takes only 4 minutes, while an electric hob takes 7 minutes and a gas hob will take 8 minutes.
When you compare this to the time it takes a full kettle to boil (approximately 2-3 minutes), you can see why an induction hob is considered to be so efficient.
You will find that the heat output can be adjusted much more precisely than on a gas burner. As they are generally pricier than traditional hobs – and newer – induction hobs are likely to have other high-end functions, including an increased number of power levels, memory and timer functions.
A pan on an induction hob will maintain its heat, rather than getting hotter and hotter the longer it’s left, meaning you can judge more easily the cooking time of the food within – that is, once you’ve become used to it.
Saving energy means saving money and making the most environmentally-friendly choice. With a gas burner or an electric hob, you are paying to heat up the air around the pan as well. An induction hob only heats the pan itself. (However, you should note that the savings you’ll make on electricity will be in the region of £10 per annum and will in no way compensate for the cost of a new induction hob!)
An induction hob will not diffuse heat into the air around your pan, which makes it your best hob-cooking option for keeping your kitchen cool. Induction hobs come into their own when you're going to be in the kitchen for hours, cooking a complicated meal, or during sweaty summer days.
An induction hob minimises the risk of burns and fire. The only time there’s a danger of a burn from an induction hob is when you have just removed the pan. This is because the hot surface of the pan base has been in contact with the glass hob – not because the hob itself is producing any heat.
Not only will an induction hob protect your fingers but you will never again set fire to your oven gloves when you casually fling them atop the cooker after serving food (or am I the only one with that bad habit?). You can test this out by placing an ice cube on the induction ring, next to a pan of boiling water. It will only melt – eventually – from proximity to the pan.
Food is much less likely to be baked onto the hob’s surface, so it’s easier to wipe away. As a bonus, you don’t have to wait long for the surface to cool.
While gas is cleaner than coal, it’s still bad for the environment. In 2018, the Dutch Government introduced regulations to prevent new homes from connecting to the gas grid. This is part of an attempt to wean society from its reliance on fossil fuels. As the UK is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions for 80% by 2050, this country is likely to follow suit. The Committee on Climate Change in the UK has recommended that no new homes are connected to the gas grid by 2025.
While this does not mean that someone from the government is going to come along and take your gas cooker away, it’s likely that, that in the years to come, companies will be focusing less on gas technology and that gas hobs will gradually be phased out.
Gas cooking appliances can contribute to low-quality indoor air. This is particularly true if you regularly forget to turn on your cooker hood or if your extractor fan is ineffective or gummed up with cooking oil. Gas burners emit carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter – which can not only irritate your nose and throat but have more serious, long-term consequences.
A 2018 study conducted by Stanford Medicine into indoor air quality found air quality issues from cooking in half of the homes the team visited. Some of these were bad enough to have violated health standards for outdoor air.
While using a good quality extractor fan will negate most of these issues, and although you can still burn your dinner on an induction hob – which will affect the air quality in your home – the association of induction hobs with clean air is likely to be a selling point to health-conscious buyers.
The disadvantages of an induction hob
However, it’s not all gravy (lovingly prepared in an induction hob-friendly pan). There are some disadvantages to consider. The most important of these – which we don’t think is discussed often enough – is their risk to wearers of pacemakers and insulin pumps.
Interactions with medical hardware
People with a pacemaker or insulin pump should take note. Induction hobs are not recommended for people who wear these devices as an induction hob generates an electromagnetic field that can interfere with them.
While the British Heart Foundation suggests that wearers of pacemakers and similar devices should be able to use an induction hob if they remain 60cm (2ft) away from it at all times, it’s not likely that induction cooking will be a relaxing activity for anyone involved.
Its fragile glass surface
Induction hobs have a glass surface, with all of the disadvantages that entails. You are advised not to drag cookware across its surface, in case you scratch it.
Induction hobs have also been known to crack if something heavy – like a cast-iron pan – is dropped on them. Additionally, if a hot lid is placed on the surface while the heating area is still warm, air can become trapped between the two and when you remove the lid, the glass surface will crack.
Melted plastic or sugar can damage the surface permanently and hot pans can temporarily discolour the glass. This kind of stain will fade over time, especially when treated with hob cleaner, but while it's there, it'll mar the look of the appliance.
Your kitchen may need rewiring
An induction hob may need more power than a regular 13 amp socket can provide. This means a separate wire from your fuse box to your cooker to provide (up to) the 4KW of power it needs. If you currently have an electric cooker, you may already be set up to do this but if you're moving from gas, you will probably need an electrician to rewire your kitchen.
You’ll have to learn to cook all over again
An induction hob has limitations. For example, you can’t char food the way you can over a gas flame. Pans must also be perfectly flat, so wok cooking on the hob is out as well.
But it will also affect your cooking techniques. In the world of induction cooking, your experience means nothing. Boiling times will drop and pans will bubble over. The oil you heat while you’re chopping onions will start smoking before you’re finished. Your favourite recipe, which you’ve cooked hundreds of times, will end up a charred wasteland in the bottom of a pan.
You may need to invest in new pans
As well as the expense of the new hob itself, you may well need to invest in a new range of cookware (see above for the reasons why).
What is that humming sound?
If you’ve never had an induction hob, you may find that it is noisier than you expected. Pans on the hob can increase the buzzing or humming sound, which some people find irritating. A top tip is to use heavier pans, which can dampen the buzz.
Don't get too comfortable
You will also get an unpleasant surprise and a burnt hand if you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security by leaving your oven gloves or a dishcloth on the hob while it’s switched on and instead leave a conductive piece of cookware or a utensil in its place.
Cleaning your induction hob
The key to keeping an induction hob clean and stain-free is to sort out spills immediately. Anything containing sugar can cause permanent damage, so this is especially the case with sugary or syrupy ingredients.
Right after cooking, use warm, soapy water to clean up any spills. If there's any residual grease, use a kitchen spray to remove it. You can finish up by wiping the surface with a vinegar-soaked cloth.
For more serious stains, you can use a glass scraper or razor, although we would advise you only to use manufacturer-approved items. If you scratch the glass, the problems will only worsen.
Don't use caustic or abrasive cleaning agents or scouring products on your hob. If you damage its surface, food can become embedded in the scratches and when covered with a hot pan, can mar the surface further.
The biggest danger to a hob of this kind is scratching, so you may want to invest in hob protector liners, which sit between the surface and your cooking vessel. They stay in place even during cooking (although you should remove them in between use to clean beneath them). You can buy a set of three sheets – which are essentially squares of non-stick, silicon-coated black mesh that allow conductivity – from Amazon for £24.99.
What does an induction hob cost?
Induction hobs are the most expensive choice of the big three types, although they have come down in price and can now be bought without shelling out a huge amount of money.
Before you buy – especially if you are interested in a high-spec hob – you should consult an electrician to ensure that your kitchen is set up to receive an induction hob. This won't be a problem if you are getting a new kitchen installed but if you are simply switching from gas to induction, you may well need rewiring done.
There are good options at a number of price points.
Amazon is selling the Russell Hobbs RH601H401B four-zone induction hob with touch control for £189. There's also free delivery on this item.
You can buy the integrated Bosch PUE611BF1B, which has four 'burners' and is a standard 13A, from John Lewis for £329.
AO.com has £50 off the £629 SMEG SI964XM integrated four-spot stainless steel hob. Use the code SAVE50 when you buy. This model has automatic pan detection, quick start and a power boost option.