How to Tell If Cookware is Induction Ready

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This articles discusses what makes a pan induction ready and how to find out if the cookware you have will work with an induction cooktop. We also explain how to test your pot or pan to find out if it is induction ready.

The Difference Between Conventional and Induction Stovetops

Gas and electric ovens heat cooking vessels with direct contact using either a flame or a heating element, respectively. The heat is then transferred from the burner into the pot or pan’s base.  

Pan fried salmon fillet and spaghetti on a gas stove in traditional home kitchen. Wood worktop.

Induction stoves have a different heating system. They have an electromagnetic coil below ceramic glass surface. When the unit is turned on, an alternating electric current flows through this coil creating a changing magnetic field.

coil inside induction cooktop

When an induction compatible (ferromagnetic) pan is placed on the cooktop, another current is produced. This current is converted to heat inside the pan which is used to cook the food. 

Related Content: Pros and Cons of Induction Cooking

What Does Induction Cookware Mean?

Induction cooktops require the use of a certain type of cooking vessel. The base of the pot or pan has to have enough iron to generate a magnetic field.  

Pots and pans that work with induction cookers are referred to as induction cookware. Other common terms are induction friendly, induction compatible, or induction ready. The base of the induction cookware contains an iron-rich material.  

The best magnetic materials for induction cookware are steel, magnetic stainless steel, cast iron and enameled cast iron.

Glass, all-copper and aluminum won’t work with induction stovetops unless the base contains a layer with magnetic properties. 

party eating sukiyaki in home using induction cooktop

Testing Pots and Pans for Induction Cooking

It is fairly simple to determine whether or not your cookware is induction ready. Just place a magnet on the base of your pot or pan and if it sticks securely to the base, it will work with your induction cooker. If it is attracted to the pot or pan, but doesn’t stick firmly, it may work, but not efficiently.

If the magnet has no pull toward the base of the pot or pan, then it doesn’t have the metals needed to create heat with an induction cooker.

Hint: A regular refrigerator magnet is perfect for testing induction readiness. Before you head out to buy your induction cookware, grab a magnet from the fridge to test different pans and pots.

You may wonder what the symbol is for induction cookware. Well, it looks like a sprial and sometimes stamped on the bottom of the pan or printed on the outside packaging.

induction (cooking) spiral, electrical sign

Sometimes the manufacturers stamp "induction suitable" on the bottom of the pan.

Circulon skillet stamp on back of pan

Another way to find out if your pan will work on your induction burner, is to pour a little bit of water into the cookware item and place it on the unit. If the display flashes an error message, the pot or pan is not induction ready.

The bottom of the pan should be smooth and flat so electric currents can flow through the base of the pan.

Induction compatible pots and pans also usually work on gas, electric, radiant, and smooth cooktops. It is handy to have pots and pans that can be used on various heat sources.

Organizing Your Induction Cookware

If you have an induction cooktop or plan to purchase one, there are a couple of options. The first is to purchase the best induction cookware set and/or individual pieces you can afford.

The second option is to make a list of the cooking vessels you need. This list could include a saucepan, cast-iron skillet, Dutch oven, and a non-stick frying pan/skillet. Some cooks like to have a sauté pan, a stockpot, and casserole pots as well.

After you’ve made your list, test (magnet) and examine the base (should be smooth and flat) of each cooking vessel. Now you’ll know what items you need to purchase. Depending upon your list, it might be more cost-effective to buy the pieces separately.

In the end, you might decide to buy all new cookware. In that case, the decision becomes one of whether to buy a cookware set or individual pieces.

Related Content: Best Induction Cookware Sets

set of stainless pots with lids and vegetables

Stainless Steel and Induction Cooking

What is stainless steel?

Steel is an alloy with the major element being iron. Other elements such as carbon, manganese and nickel are present in trace amounts. Stainless steel has a minimum of 10.5 % of chromium (of the alloy's mass) and is known for its corrosion resistance which improves as the amount of chromium increases.

Which type of stainless steel is induction ready?

The two main types of stainless steel: austenitic and ferritic.

The atomic arrangement in austenitic steels renders them not magnetic. Austenitic steels contain chromium, nickel and iron and other alloying elements.

On the other hand, ferritic steels are magnetic when subjected to a magnetic field. They consist of chromium and iron and are essentially nickel-free.

What are the grades of stainless steel? 

Stainless steel is sometimes described in terms of numbers such as 18/10, 18/8 and 18/0. The numbers refer to the percentage of chromium and nickel respectively. 

Stainless steel with no nickel (18/0) is magnetic because nickel changes the structure of the stainless steel making it non-magnetic. Sometimes the grade is stamped on the bottom. If not, check the product description.

Flank steak beef, peppers, onions and bok choy stir fried in an asian wok.

Is the thickness of stainless steel important?

A pot that only has one layer of stainless steel, won't conduct heat very well and is prone to warping and denting. Each additional layer increases the pan weight and thickness which in turn improves the thermal conductivity.

The thicker the base, the greater the distance between the heat source and the surface of the cookware. This is helpful because by the time the heat gets to the cooking surface it will be more evenly spread out.

Why is the weight of the pan important?

Foods cook more evenly if the pan has some weight to it. Additionally, the chances of dinging it are less.

If you are purchasing cookware online, check the reviews, people generally comment on the weight of pots and pans.

How is induction cookware constructed?

Materials

Cookware product descriptions often use terms such as aluminum or copper core. In terms of cookware, core refers to the disc on the base of a pan. This disc of aluminum or copper is sandwiched between other layers of steel.

Since stainless steel is a poor heat conductor, a metal that conducts heat well, such as aluminum is often placed between two layers of stainless steel.

Cookware is also available with a copper core. Since copper is a better thermal conductor than aluminum, pans with a copper core react more quickly to temperature changes.

Layers

The term "ply" is a reference to the layers of materials used in the manufacture of the bottom and sides of the cooking vessel. Each layer has a purpose. Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion and magnetized stainless steel makes the vessel induction compatible. Copper and aluminum are good thermal conductors (copper is better).

An example of 3-ply induction cookware is an exterior layer of magnetized stainless steel, aluminum core (center) and an interior layer of stainless steel.

Cladding

In terms of cooking, cladding is a manufacturing process where a thermally conductive material such as aluminum or copper is covered with a non-reactive material such as stainless steel. The aluminum or copper covers the base and sides of the vessel. This allows heat to be more evenly distributed.

Multi-Clad Induction Cookware

Multi-clad cookware contains layers of different metals. The number of layers can be 3, 5, or 7 and be referred to as "multi-clad". These layers are on the base and extend up the side of the vessel.  

Here is an example of an induction ready pan with 5 layers (from exterior to interior):

  • magnetized stainless steel
  • aluminum
  • copper
  • aluminum
  • stainless steel (18/10,18/8, 18/4)

The grade of stainless steel on the cooking vessel interior differs according to brand and product.

Other 5-ply pots and pans have alternating layers of stainless steel and aluminum. This ensures even heating and greatly reduces the chance of your vessel warping.

Disc-Bottom Induction Cookware

Disc-bottom induction cookware usually means that the base is made of thin magnetized stainless steel with a conductive material such as aluminum or copper bonded to it.

Not all disc-bottom pots and pans have layers that touch the edge of the vessel. This is problematic when using gas or electric stoves as the outer edge of the pan is going to be colder than the center. Sauté pans or skillets having disc-bottoms do not produce good results.

Some pots and pans are described as "bottom encapsulated with impact-bonded aluminum". This means that pressure and friction and not adhesive is used to form the bond between the bottom of the vessel (stainless steel) and the disc (aluminum).

The three layers of a pan could be stainless steel, aluminum and stainless steel.

Be sure to read the entire product description as sometimes the sides of pots and pans bonded with this method are only stainless steel. This is not necessarily bad, however, you want to know exactly what the construction of the vessel is that you are purchasing.

Conclusion

When you are shopping for cookware to use on your induction stove, keep an eye out for induction ready information on the base of the pot or pan. Remember to also bring a magnet so you can check.

If you are purchasing cookware online, be sure induction compatibility is specifically stated in the description. This ensures that you will only select cookware that works with induction stovetops