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So you’ve decided to invest in an induction cooktop. You’ve learned how induction works, what cookware you can use on them, and how to answer the many questions your mystified guests might ask. You know that they’re safe, efficient, and downright cool (thanks, magnets) and all that’s left is to get cooking.
That is, once you figure out how to modify recipes to suit your new appliance.
Don’t fear—induction is no more difficult to use than gas or electric. Once you acquaint yourself with the new dials and timing of induction, cooking all your favorites (and new discoveries) should be faster and easier than ever before. You won’t even have to change much—but we’re here to help make the transition as smooth as possible with our recipe modification tips for induction cooking.
Prepare all your ingredients at the start
If you’re a serious home chef, odds are you already understand the importance of good mise-en-place, or preparing and setting out all your ingredients before you actually start cooking. But if you like to cook on the fly—or you’re working from a recipe that guides you to prep during the down-time while pots boil or things cook—you’ll need to adjust for induction cooking.
While induction won’t actually make your food cook faster, it will evenly heat cookware placed on its burners or “cooking zones” almost instantly. This means little to no down time in between actual cooking, which can result in you running around like a maniac or overcooking your food if you’re trying to chop, prep, and dig for spices while the cooktop is doing its work.
For example, let’s say I want to make a gorgeous skillet of shakshuka this Saturday morning on a new induction cooktop. I know the recipe by heart for a gas stove, and always start by heating oil in my cast iron while I chop the peppers and onions. But if I start heating the oil on an induction cooktop before chopping things and laying out my spices, I would risk burning the oil or forgetting an ingredient later on while trying to time my eggs just right.
Because induction cooktops work by exciting the iron atoms in your cookware, they heat up cast iron much more rapidly than gas stoves can, so I would also risk burning myself from splashback by pouring oil into a rapidly heating pan. Instead, I should prep all my ingredients, pour oil into my cold pan, and then turn the cooking zone on.
Timing things correctly so that your finished product comes together is already half the battle of getting a recipe right, and it’s no different with induction. If you prepare all your ingredients before touching a single dial, you’ll maximize your odds of nailing the meal—and you’ll save more time in the end.
Get to know the controls before you cook
No two cooktops are exactly alike, and there’s always a learning curve when adjusting to a new appliance—the same goes for induction. You probably know the exact settings needed to achieve a low simmer, rolling boil, or even sear with your gas stove, but those numbers will be different on an induction cooktop.
Don’t let the sleek glass top and digitization scare you into thinking everything is complicated, however. If your induction cooking zones each have temperature settings ranging from 1 to 12, for example, you’ll quickly pick up that 8 is medium-high heat, 1 will keep your food warm while you work on other burners, and so on.
Before tackling a new recipe with induction, try walking through it mentally while standing over your cooktop (and get your pans in place when you’re done). If needed, jot down the numbers you’ll want to set your burners to next to each relevant step. If the recipe says the prep certain ingredients while pans heat or water boils, consider my first tip and try prepping them from the start.
There’s no better teacher than experience. So get out there and cook something right away. Practice on something cheap, like eggs, before you try finishing off a steak or something equally expensive.
You can even mess around with the settings and turn the cooktop on while you plan—you can’t burn yourself directly on the cooktop, only the pans, and there’s no gas to waste. If you make a mistake or select the wrong setting while you actually cook, it’s very easy to course correct thanks to induction’s hyper-responsive nature.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
While all this talk of precision and exact numbers might sound restrictive, induction’s capabilities actually allow you to experiment and have fun with your recipes in a way that gas cooking can’t. For example, induction’s wide heat range and precision allow you make certain sauces and fancy confections—like duck fat reductions and demi glace—that you probably thought were reserved for professional kitchens.
Some induction cooktops also allow you to combine “cooking zones,” meaning you can evenly heat a massive or odd-shaped piece of cookware (granted it’s flat-bottomed) like a paella pan. If you’re feeding a crowd, try doubling or tripling a recipe and investing in a vessel big enough to make it all together without crowding—it’s a lot easier than making the same thing on two separate burners, and faster than finishing one batch and starting again.
Worried about burning something, or want to see just how scorched you can get a piece of meat? Turn the heat way up or way down and expect rapid result times that reduce your risk for error. You can follow your favorite recipes as-is and expect good results, but you can also embrace the freedom allowed by your new appliance to just mess around—and become a better chef in the process.
Still have questions? See our entire Induction 101 series and get answers.