Buying an induction cooktop is a big decision. Considering the high price tag, you want to know you're making the right choice. The same is true for the cookware that goes with it.

The thing is, it's not just as simple as "apply fire, cook food". Rather than generating heat, induction cooktops produce a magnetic field just above their glass surface. The right induction cookware conducts heat evenly and efficiently, but some base materials achieve this better than others.

This guide is here to help you make the right decision for your cookware, to save you time, money and a future of nothing but salads.

Can't I use the pans I've already got?

To see if your existing cookware is compatible for induction, check it has a ferrous base by placing a magnet on it. If it sticks well, you're good to go; otherwise you'll have to invest in some new pots and pans.

How do I pick my induction cookware?

Consider your style of cooking (see our tips below), and keep in mind that each pan will respond differently to your cooktop. It's impossible to do a test run in the shop, for obvious reasons, so choose a single pot or pan first – something basic like a good all-purpose saucepan – to see how it performs on your cooktop before investing in a whole set from the same brand.

Good-quality cookware may cost a bit more, but it's likely to outlast cheaper varieties, saving you money in the long run.

Which material is best?

Cast iron, steel, some enamelled steel, and stainless steel pans with an iron base or core are suitable, but glass, aluminium and copper generally are not. If in doubt, look for the induction-compatible symbol or try the magnet test.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is a popular choice for cookware because it's strong, hard and non-corrosive. It's not the best conductor of heat, so it's often combined with aluminium in multi-layered bases.

Cast iron

Cast iron cookware can be pricey, but is very durable if looked after properly. It gives very even heat transfer at low settings, but because of its thick and heavy base takes longer to heat up and cool down than other types of cookware. Some cast iron pans have an enamelled cast iron base that helps prevent rust, but if handled roughly this type of cookware can chip and become brittle.

Aluminium

Aluminium conducts and retains heat very well, is lightweight, affordable and doesn't rust – but aluminium alone is incompatible with induction. Manufacturers overcome this by using a stainless steel plate on the base of an aluminium pan to make it compatible for induction. The plate generates the heat from the induction cooktop and passes it through to the rest of the pan.

Fast foodie or slow cooker? Your cooking style makes a difference

For slow and steady cooking, use heavy-based pans. These will react more slowly to the cooking zone and generally take longer to heat up, but they'll give you even and consistent heating. They're versatile and ideal for cooking delicate foods and meals that require a long cooking time. These bases tend to be thicker and made of aluminium (with a steel cap in the base) or cast iron.

For fast cooking, stainless steel-layered bases are best – they heat up quickly and react quickly to changes in the temperature setting. These pans tend to have a thinner base, and if you don't keep an eye on things they could be more prone to burning, overcooking and sticking (unless it's a non-stick pan). These pans are ideal for boiling water and steaming.

Cost

Induction cookware ranges from $50 to $300.