It’s about time for some new content on the website. I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on induction pots and pans. I know that’s a diversion from my usual content, but I think it’s important to a lot of people thinking about going induction.
When we remodeled the kitchen about 5 or 6 years ago, our kitchen got moved out to the shop. I was considering an induction stove since we don’t have gas available, and frankly conventional electric stoves kinda suck. We started with a one eye counter top induction eye. We now have a pretty high end Samsung induction stove with convection / split oven. We’ve thrown away a LOT of pans that were “induction ready”.
A simple Google search will give you pictures of a pan cut in half with an egg frying on the pan and raw laying on the induction cooktop. Basically, each eye generates a very strong focused magnetic field. The energy from the magnetic field excites ferrous metal (containing iron) and this generates heat. This is why the cooktop stays cooler than the pan because induction is not radiant heat. The actual pan gets hot.
For this to work, there has to be enough ferrous material (iron) in the pan’s metal. Here’s the simple breakdown.
Remember that high performing induction pans can heat so fast that they warp and end up with a hump in the middle, either causing your food to run to the edges, or it won’t sit flat on the smooth induction top. Don’t heat a good pan on high when it’s empty. Heat it slowly.
BEST PAN TYPES:
Cast iron pans work very well on induction because they’re high in iron content, so well that if you place one on the induction stove, it could heat so fast in the middle your cast iron pan can crack or more likely warp from the stress.
Hybrid pans are good. The best hybrid pans are stainless on the outside with a sandwich of ferrous steel “smashed” between the stainless when the pan is formed. Some have copper or aluminum to spread the heat evenly.
A good induction pan has a “mass” of iron in the construction of the pan, ie the pan is heavy, and a magnet is strongly attracted to it. Yep, good induction pans are pretty heavy compared to their aluminum cousins.
Some stainless pans work on induction. I don’t know whether it’s because there’s a sandwich of plain steel in the makeup, or if the actual stainless alloy is ferrous enough to create inductive heat. If a pan is very lightweight, it may not be a good induction pan.
WORST PAN TYPES:
Aluminum or pure alloy stainless pans have no reactive iron in their alloys. This is why everyone recommends sticking a magnet to them. If a magnet doesn’t stick at all, you need to find a friend or a charity to give them to.
Be VERY careful with non-stick pans. An induction stove gets hot so fast it can cause the non-stick coating to peel off. If it doesn’t do it immediately, it can happen over time. Remember the advice not to heat your pans quickly? It’s still good advice. It’s also a pain to re-discover how to cook with a pan and keep the food from sticking.
ABSOLUTE WORST PAN TYPES:
I know, why don’t I put this in the worst category? It has to be said because this category is incredibly frustrating. The absolute worst pans are the ones marked “induction ready” but don’t have the iron mass to heat up properly. Yes, a magnet will stick to them, but not strong like a cast iron pan. Usually their low grade non-stick coatings peel off easily as well. We have some of these and use them, but we’re at least three notches higher on the stove heat setting than we use with the better pans. Did I say this is frustrating?
How do you avoid buying a pan that’s the worst? Start with the magnet test and look for the induction ready markings but that only gets you so far. You can buy good pans from a knowledgeable reputable cookware store in person. You can also carefully read online reviews like actual owners on Amazon. Be skeptical online because many review sites are paid by manufacturers and there is a LOT of junk out there. Even some Amazon reviews are paid purchase/review/return scams. Again, be skeptical, make sure the review says something that really shows they have real experience with the pan.
I’m going to list some of my favorite pans. I’m going to tell you too that they’re on the very expensive side. So if you’re serious about induction, make sure you budget for good pans.
Cast Iron – I’m going to mention cast iron again, even though ALL cast iron will work on induction. Plain seasoned cast iron is great, but again heat it slowly. Enameled cast iron needs to be mentioned because you can flake the coating off or worse by heating the pan too fast.
Pressure Cookers – the common Presto pressure cookers and others that you find at the thrift stores and garage sales are usually aluminum. The two we have that we really LOVE are stainless.
Thermal Cookers – these are basically big thermos pots. Once the inner pot is heated up, you put it inside the insulator. Cooking is much like a slow cooker. I think they tend to work on induction stoves because thermal cookers are popular in Asian countries, and Induction is popular in Asian countries.