Induction cooktops use magnetic fields to induce electric currents in iron or stainless steel pans. Since these metals are poor conductors of electricity, much of the energy is dispersed, causing the pan to heat up. Induction cooktops heat much faster than gas or electric, since the heat comes from the pan itself rather than a burner heating the pan and then transferring that heat to the food.
Induction cooktops only work with specific types of cookware. Iron or stainless steel pans are required due to their resistive qualities. Copper or aluminum pans cannot resist the electric current enough to generate heat. One way to tell whether or not a pan is suitable for an induction cooktop is to try attaching a magnet to its surface. If the magnet sticks, it probably is a good piece of induction cookware.
One advantage of induction cooktops is that they are much safer than electric or gas burners. If you turn on an induction burner and place your hand on its surface, no heat can be felt. These cooktops cannot ignite flammable materials and start fires in the way an unattended conventional burner might. A hot pan can still cause burns, however, so cooks should use these burners with care.