If you’ve ever shopped for a new cooktop, you may have seen high-end induction cooktops and like many people, wondered exactly how they work.

Induction cooktops work by, well, induction, which is the process by which a changing electrical field produces a changing magnetic field, and vice versa. Beneath the cooking surface is a coiled wire through which an alternating current is passed. This causes a changing magnetic field in the vicinity of the wire coil. When a pot or pan made of a ferromagnetic material is placed on the cooking surface, the changing magnetic field below it causes an electrical current in the bottom of the pot. The pot’s material resists the current, which generates the heat used in cooking.Induction cooktops are very efficient, as the heat is generated inside the pot, instead of being lost and wasted in the transfer between the cooktop and the pot. The stovetop itself remains relatively cool, resulting in a safer cooking environment. In addition, clean-up is simpler, as any spilled food does not end up baked on the surface. Cooks who enjoy the instant temperature control of gas cooktops will find that induction cooktops can provide a similar level of control.

Bear in mind that the right kind of cookware must be used on an induction cooktop, or it will not work. Cookware made of glass or with a copper or aluminum bottom will not have the necessary properties to cook effectively on an induction cooktop. However, many manufacturers make excellent stainless steel or cast iron cookware suitable for this use. Try a magnet test to see if your cookware is composed of the right material: if the magnet sticks to the bottom of your pot, chances are good it will be suitable.

Cooking with changing magnetic fields may seem foreign, but the electrical efficiency, safety, easy clean-up, and instant temperature control of an induction cooktop are definitely attractive.