Induction hob buying guide
How an induction hob works
Induction hobs are quick and efficient way of heating food, and are an increasingly popular choice among shoppers.
The induction hob cooking method uses electromagnetism to create a magnetic field between the pan (which needs to have a high iron content) and a coil beneath the glass hob surface. Electricity is passed through a copper coil magnet within the induction hob, creating electromagnetic energy. The energy passes through the cook top directly to the iron-based pan, producing – or inducing – a current, which in turn releases heat.
Induction hobs are quicker and cheaper to run than other hobs because the heat is transferred directly to the pan rather than the glass cooking surface. The hob surface does warm up, but only because the pan transfers heat back on to it.
Induction hob pros and cons
- Energy efficient
- Quick to heat up and cook
- Safe to touch
- Lots of extra features, such as flexible cooking zones, timers and child safety locks
- You may need to invest in new pans
- Can make annoying noises
- Touch controls may not work well if damp
- Not suitable if you have a pacemaker
Read on for an in-depth look at everything you need to know about induction hobs.
Using an induction hob
There are some features all induction hobs have in common:
Pan size and induction cooking
The downside of a standard induction hob is that as well as being induction compatible (there's more on this further down the page) the base of the saucepan must be about the same size as the cooking zone it sits on in order to activate it. For example, a small or medium-sized pan won’t work on the largest zone.
To overcome this, some induction hobs have flexible or bridging zones, which detect the size and shape of each pan automatically. As well as using pans of any size, you can also use rectangular or oval-shaped cookware.
Induction hob zones
The most advanced flexible induction hobs have one big cooking zone with no delimited areas. Currently, this new technology comes at a price – from about £2,500. But it could be something we see more of in the future.
Induction hob power sharing
Induction hobs can quickly deliver impressive amounts of heat. If you're using a single zone to boil some pasta water, for example, an average induction hob will take about half the time of an average gas or electric ceramic hob.
But, as soon as you start using more than one zone on full power, induction hobs use a power-management system to share the available power around.
On a standard four-zone hob, the two right-hand heating zones are linked (they share power) and the two left-hand ones are linked.
This means that if you want to use two zones at full power, you'll get the best results by using one zone on the right and one on the left.
If you're using all zones simultaneously at full power, the total available power is shared as equally as possible. The heating zones will take turns to be on highest power, so you may find the contents of your pans cooking more slowly than you'd anticipated.
Induction hob noise
People sometimes notice various noises coming from their induction hob. These are the most common:
- Clicking A low buzzing or clicking noise can be a result of the different layers of metals in your pans vibrating at different rates.
- Humming This may be heard when the hob is used on a high setting.
- Whirring This is probably the fan. It's designed to cool the electronics within the hob, and may continue even after you have stopped using it.
Induction hob pans
You'll need to use pans that contain enough iron (ferromagnetic material) to allow the electromagnetic technology to work.
Pans compatible with induction hobs are widely available in kitchenware stores. If your current pans won't work on an induction hob, bear in mind the extra expense of buying a new set.
Pans or other cookware made of these materials are suitable:
- Cast iron
- Steel or enamelled steel
- Stainless steel with a magnetic base or core
- Aluminium and copper with a magnetic base
As a general rule of thumb, if a magnet sticks to the base of a saucepan, it will work on an induction hob. Performance will be even better if the sides of the pan are magnetic. If there are gaps on the base of the pan - such as an indented manufacturer's logo - then this will make it less efficient.
If one of your pans turns out to be magnetic only in the centre, it could still be useful for delicate tasks such as melting chocolate.
Pacemakers and induction hobs
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) recommends that people with a pacemaker should get no closer than 60cm (2ft) from an induction hob. The electromagnetic field that’s generated when an induction hob is being used may, according to the BHF, interfere with pacemaker settings.
It says that most people should be able to use an induction hob if they follow these precautions. That said, if you’re buying a new hob or cooker, it might be easier to pick one that’s not an induction model.
Academic evidence suggests a hob wouldn’t cause a catastrophic change to a pacemaker.
Medtronic, a major supplier of pacemakers, advises that if you think an item is affecting your heart device, simply release whatever you’re touching and move away from it. Any temporary effect is unlikely to cause reprogramming or damage to your pacemaker, which is designed to return to normal operation after interference.
There are many types of pacemakers and not all are affected in the same way, so before using an induction hob, those with a pacemaker should check the written information given to them when it was inserted. If you have any questions how any appliances you use in everyday life may interact with your pacemaker, check with your clinic.
Each of our induction hob reviews gives a warning about pacemakers.
Getting an induction hob installed
You’ll need to get an electrician to install your induction hob for you. Speak with someone at the store you're buying from to see if an installation service is available as part of its delivery package. If you're getting your induction hob as part of a new fitted kitchen, check if it will be installed as part of the fitting service.