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How to Tell If Cookware is Induction Ready

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When people think about buying an induction cooktop or stove, they want to know if they can use their existing cookware. Unlike gas or electric stoves, where virtually any pot or pan can be used, induction-compatible cookware must be used on induction cooktops.  How to tell if my cookware is induction ready is easy to determine.

This article discusses what makes a pan induction ready and how to check if your cookware is induction friendly.

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 transferred from the burner into the cookware base.

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

When induction-ready cookware is placed on the burner, the magnetic field creates electric currents in the pan’s metal, and the heat is transferred to the pan.

What makes cookware induction ready?

An induction cooktop uses electromagnetism rather than direct heat to heat the cooking vessel. A magnetic field is generated above the induction cooktop. Therefore, the base has to contain a magnetic material such as cast iron, carbon steel, or magnetized stainless steel for it to work. If the pan does not contain a magnetic material, it will not work on an induction cooktop.

If the base is not made entirely of a magnetic metal, such as cast iron, it must contain a magnetic metal for the cookware to be induction compatible. It is for this reason that some stainless steel pans are induction ready, and some are not.

If your cookware is not induction compatible, that may be one of the reasons why your induction cooktop may not be working.

How do magnetized and non-magnetized stainless steels differ?

The two main types of stainless steel are ferritic and austenitic. The atoms in these steels are arranged differently. Due to the different atomic arrangements, ferritic steels are typically magnetic, while austenitic steels usually are not.

The magnetism exhibited by ferritic steel is due to the high iron concentration and the microstructure of the steel. If stainless steel is alloyed with a sufficient amount of a magnetic metal such as nickel, the microstructure changes from ferrite to austenite. This changes the stainless steel to non-magnetic.

Non-magnetic stainless steel has nickel and has varying amounts of nickel. For example, it can be 18/10, 18/8, or 18/4, referring to chromium and nickel percentages, respectively.  

Another factor that identifies if your cookware is induction compatible is the pan bottom. This can be checked by using a ruler. As mentioned above, the magnetic field on an induction stove is generated above the cooktop surface. A pan with a flat bottom is most effective in the cooktop making contact with this magnetic field.

Using a stainless steel pan with a dent, ding, or is more than slightly warped is problematic as the heat distribution will be uneven.

Testing Pots and Pans for Induction Cooking

Magnet Test

It is simple to test the induction compatibility of your pots and pans. Place a magnet on the base of your pan, and if it sticks firmly, it will work with your induction cooker. If it doesn’t stick firmly, it may work, but not efficiently.

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

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

Since not all stainless steel cookware will work on induction cooktops, you'll want to check if your cookware is induction ready before buying it.

Magnet sticks to stainless steel pan

Water Test

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

Look for the "Induction Compatible" Symbol

The symbol for induction cookware looks like a spiral or a coil spring and is sometimes stamped on the bottom of the pan or printed on the outside packaging.

Induction (cooking) spiral, electrical symbol

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

Circulon skillet stamp on back of pan

Organizing Your Induction Cookware

If you have an induction cooktop or plan to buy 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 an induction compatible cookware set or individual pieces.  

Final Thoughts

The magnet test is the easiest way to tell if your cookware is induction ready. When shopping for cookware for induction cooking, keep an eye out for information on the pan’s base stating it is induction-suitable. If you put a magnet in your purse or messenger bag, you’ll be able to check the pan yourself.

If you are purchasing cookware online, be sure it is explicitly stated in the description that it is compatible with induction cooktops. Additionally, check the information on the manufacturer’s website to make sure your cookware is induction-ready.  This verification ensures that you will only purchase cookware that works with induction stovetops.

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

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