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One reason why induction technology has taken so long to catch on in the United States is that people think they have to buy new pots and pans to use with the induction cooktop. For some folks, this may be the case, but not for everyone.
If you have cast iron or carbon steel cookware, you are in good shape as you can use it on induction hobs. However, you might have other compatible cookware in your culinary collection.
Let’s take a look at the types of pots that work on an induction cooktop and how to tell them apart from those not induction compatible.
Cookware Specific to Induction
You might be wondering why certain materials work with induction stoves and others don’t. It has to do with how induction cooktops generate heat.
The exterior of the induction cooktop has a glass/ceramic plate and housing. The coil under the glass/ceramic plate carries an alternating current which creates a magnetic field that keeps changing. When the ferromagnetic cookware is placed in that field (on the cooktop plate), a current is induced. This current is then converted to heat inside the pot or pan, and the food is cooked.
Materials That Will Work with Induction Cooktops
There are five materials guaranteed to work with induction cooktops: carbon steel, cast iron, enameled cast iron, magnetized stainless steel, and graniteware.
Carbon Steel and Cast Iron
If you want a suitable pan for high temperatures and naturally nonstick, one made of cast iron is perfect. Cast iron skillets are heavy but great for wholesome meals.
Cast iron cookware works with induction as long as the base is smooth. Although Dutch ovens and skillets may be large and heavy, their all-iron make-up enables them to be compatible with induction cooking. The only downside is that cast iron can scratch your induction cooker’s glass top quite easily if you are not careful. We have an article that discusses ways to prevent cast iron from scratching your induction cooktop.
Carbon steel cookware is lighter than cast iron and also works well with induction stoves. It has roughly 99% iron and 1% carbon.
Although mainly used to make pans, carbon steel pots are also available. If you are interested, one of our other articles outlines the pros and cons of carbon steel pans and compares them to both cast iron and stainless steel cookware.
In terms of the purchase price, carbon steel frying pans tend to be more expensive than cast iron skillets.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast iron cookware works much like cast iron and is a popular choice. It, too, has even heat distribution and retention.
The enamel coating is non-reactive, so you can use it for cooking all types of foods, including acidic or tomato-based dishes. Enameled cast iron provides a nonstick surface, is easy to clean, and does not require seasoning.
Although high-quality enameled cast iron cookware can be expensive, it will last a lifetime if properly cared for. Wooden and silicone utensils should be used as opposed to metal. It’s best to buy enamel products from reputable brands.
Magnetized Stainless Steel
There are different types of stainless steel, but it all boils down to the base’s composition when it comes to induction cooking. If the alloy contains iron, it is acceptable for induction cooking; however, it will not work if it contains nickel.
Higher-end pots have copper or aluminum cores between stainless steel layers, making them a better conductor than just one layer of stainless steel. Manufacturers add different elements to their bases, which means you have to check whether a pot really is magnetic or if it will only work on gas and electric stoves.
There is a simple way to test if your pan works on an induction cooktop. Place a kitchen magnet on the base of your pans and pots. If the magnet holds firmly, then the cookware is induction-ready.
Some manufacturers print an induction symbol (zig zag or a coil) onto their pan’s base.
Graniteware is composed of carbon steel covered with porcelain enamel. This type of cookware is affordable and easily cleaned, heat up quickly, and distributes heat evenly.
Special care should be taken when using graniteware because if the enamel chips on the pan’s interior, it is no longer safe to use for food preparation. If using on glass cooktops, including induction, make sure the bottom is flat.
These Materials Won't Work with Induction Cooktops
Cookware made from only aluminum won’t work with induction cookers as it doesn’t have iron compounds in the base. Even if an aluminum pan has some iron core in the base, it is not guaranteed to work.
The same principle applies to copper cookware. It may work, but like aluminum, this is not guaranteed. Pots and pans made only from glass will not work either.
Shape and Size
In addition to having a magnetic base, the bottom of the cooking vessel must be flat. Inspect your cast iron cookware to ensure there are no burrs on the bottom of the cooking vessel. If there are burrs, remove them with a steel rasp. It is also essential to match the size of the burner and the pot or pan.
A way to make pans that are not induction ready work on your induction cooktop is to use an induction converter disc (sometimes known as an induction interface disc. This disc is a magnetic plate that sits on the cooking surface and acts as a DIY burner. It heats up and then transfers this heat into the base of your non-magnetic cookware.
Keep in mind that when using an induction disc, the cooktop’s efficiency is reduced as more energy is needed to transfer the heat to the disc and then to the pot. Centurylife.org has a detailed article about the inefficiency of induction converter discs.
The other problem with these discs is they can get too hot and damaging the cooktop.
Unless you have no other option, we advise against using an induction disc. Instead, consider purchasing a cast iron skillet as it is affordable, versatile, and can be used on all types of stovetops. They can be used to prepare eggs, bacon, pancakes, tortillas, pizza, fried chicken, cornbread, apple pie, and much more. Then, as your budget allows, you can add other pieces of cookware.
Tips for Buying and Using Induction Cookware
If you decide to purchase induction cookware, there are many brands from which to choose. There is a wide range of products to suit different budgets.
Some manufacturers offer more guidance for their induction cookware than others, but if you check the packaging of the product, it should state whether it is induction compatible or not. The manufacturer’s website is also a way to determine if the pot or pan is induction compatible.
Cast iron is an iron-carbon alloy that is known for retaining heat. Due to its thickness and weight, is that it takes longer than hard-anodized or stainless steel pans to heat up and cool down. However, once it is heated, it will stay hot for a long time.
Seasoning cast iron is important as it protects it from rusting and it creates a nonstick surface. If cared for properly, cast iron cookware can be handed down to the next generation in your family. Some of the most popular types of cast iron cookware are frying pans, grills, griddles, waffle makers, and Dutch ovens.
Before using your cast iron pan on an induction cooktop (or glass top stove), inspect the bottom to make sure it is flat. Also, check for burrs, and if there are some, they can easily be removed with a steel rasp (coarse file) or sandpaper.
Whether used on a conventional glass cooktop or induction burner, pick the pan up to move it rather than sliding it. Also, place the cookware gently on the cooktop surface.
Cast iron cooking is an affordable option when starting or adding to your culinary collection. It has many benefits and can be used to prepare all types of meals except those with acidic or sticky ingredients. Some cooks prefer to use stainless steel or carbon steel pans when preparing fish.
Enameled Cast Iron
Enameled cast-iron cooking vessels are cast iron with a porcelain enamel glaze applied to the surface. This combination of glaze and cast iron prevents rust and eliminates the need to season your pan.
It is important to be careful about the utensils used with this type of cookware. Silicone or wooden utensils are recommended, while metal tools should not be used.
Carbon steel cookware is made of iron (99%) and carbon (1%). While it is widely used in Europe, it is not near as popular in the United States as cast iron or stainless steel.
Carbon steel pans are durable and versatile. They can be used for frying eggs, making omelets, and searing meat. Woks are a popular choice for preparing stir-fried food and are used in Chinese restaurant kitchens.
Carbon steel cookware must be seasoned to avoid rust and retain its nonstick properties. The thicker skillets are better as the thin ones tend to warp, and the food can quickly burn. However, the thick pans are a bit on the heavy side.
Hopefully, you have found a few pieces of cookware in your existing collection that can be used with your new induction stove. If you need new pots and pans, there are many options available to you – carbon steel, cast iron, enameled cast iron, and magnetized stainless steel. Always verify a pot is induction ready before buying it to save yourself the time and aggravation of returning it.