Are you in the market for a new range or cooktop for your kitchen? If that is the case, something you may not have considered is the fact that not all cookware is created equal when it comes to being “induction-ready”. Let me explain.
In an induction cooktop, a coil of copper wire is located beneath each element on the stovetop. When the element is switched on, an alternating electric current begins flowing through the coil which produces an oscillation magnetic field. This, in turn, induces an electric current into the pot on that element. The electric current in the pot produces what is called resistive heating, and that is what cooks the food.
Before I go any further, I would like to quickly point out some of the main reasons why you might want to go the induction route. For a serious home chef, the biggest reason is likely to be that, just like with gas, you can adjust the heat instantly and with great precision.
Another pro is that there is no wasted heat. With gas or traditional electric cookers, everything around the range receives the thermal energy from the element or burner that is turned on, which means it can get pretty hot in the kitchen when you’re preparing your meals.
How does induction cooking work?
In induction cooking, the heat only comes from the electric current flowing INSIDE the cookware, so the energy is contained. This means a much cooler kitchen. This also means a cool cooking surface. Even when the element is on, you can put your hand down on it and feel nothing, since the heat comes from the reaction between the copper coil beneath the surface of the range and the magnetic material of your cooking vessel.
This is a great safety feature, especially if you are accident prone, like me, or you have young children, as we do in our home.
Now, since what produces the electric current is a magnetic field, the cookware you use for the induction stove needs to be made of a magnetic material, meaning either iron or iron-based (i.e. steel). The most obvious options include stainless steel, cast iron, and carbon steel.
However, there are a few surprises when considering what pots and pans work well with induction cooktops – there are some nonstick aluminum and copper examples that will play nicely with induction.
We’ve include short reviews for induction compatible cookware sets in the following categories (click to skip down to that specific section):
- Stainless Steel
- Nonstick Aluminum
- Cast Iron
- Carbon Steel
- Enameled Porcelain Cast Iron
For professional chefs, the choice is almost always going to be stainless steel, with a couple of cast iron options for certain uses. Sadly, stainless steel for a home cook can be a little pricey, especially for the higher quality stuff. However, I have generally found that if I buy a quality product the first time, I won’t have to replace it two, three, or five years down the road. That is a significant savings in and of itself.
Stainless steel and the induction range
Not all stainless steel is created equal. The least expensive stainless steel products will have no core at all. The best stainless steel cookware has aluminum and copper cores sandwiched between the layers of steel on the inside and outside, which is a much better conductor of heat than the stainless steel itself. Many manufacturers make their cookware with just a layer of stainless steel and aluminum on the bottom of the pots and pans, but the higher quality brands extend these layers up the sides to provide the most even heat for cooking.
That being said, not all products feature stainless steel that can react magnetically (too much nickel content) and therefore these do not work well or at all with induction ranges. We’ve researched some of the top rated stainless cookware sets and individual pieces that do work well induction and have included some short reviews below.
Mid-range items will have a two disks attached to the bottom, one of which is layer of a magnetic steel and the other being a thicker slicer of aluminum. This aluminum conducts heat fairly well (but not as well as copper). This is known as spun disk (as the pieces are formed on automated lathes) or as aluminum-encapsulated base construction.
Since all of the aluminum is located on the bottom, the heat distribution from your cooktop doesn’t really travel up the sides of the pot leading to all of the thermal energy either entering through the bottom or dissipating into the air.
Some brands of aluminum-encapsulated disk cookware add a layer of copper to the “sandwich” claiming that copper will assist with spreading the heat . Although it is true that copper is better conductor of thermal energy from the magnetically heated steel layer, the layer that is usually included in cheaper products is not really thick enough to matter.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the set is of bad quality, but it is a piece of marketing propaganda to keep in mind when shopping for budget induction ready cookware sets.
Also note that a copper is found on higher end (normally clad) induction ready cookware sets where it can make a difference in performance.
Foodal recommends the Duxtop Professional Stainless-steel 17-piece Induction Ready Cookware Set for a decent quality, low cost option
Moreover, cooking vessels that are manufactured with spun disk bottoms will eventually face “separation issues.” In other words, after a period of time, the disk will start to detach itself. It may take 5 – 10 years before the vessel becomes unusable. Aluminum-encapsulated base cookware products shouldn’t be considered a “lifetime” purchase.
Then, there are the higher-end models with an aluminum core sandwiched between two think layers of stainless that form a homogenous structure along the bottom and up the sides. This is known as tri-ply or clad. This is really a sweet spot of performance, longevity, and price as long as you purchase a decent set or buy them individually.
I’d suggest All-Clad’s basic tri-ply line if your wanting a product that is crafted in the USA, made of top grade materials, and that has a lifetime warranty that is actually “backed up” by the manufacturer. All-clad is known for even replacing abuse restaurant equipment via it’s warranty program.
5-ply Copper Core
The next most expensive option consists of aluminum and copper core all throughout. This is basically a thin copper core that is bonded with a layer of aluminum on either side and then stainless is again bonded to the tops and bottoms of the aluminum.
This is also known as clad and is often referred to as 5-ply. The inclusion of the copper ensure maximum heat distribution from the induction heated stainless steel on the bottom of the vessels – ensuring an even flow of thermal energy to all parts of the pan.
Foodal recommends the All-Clad 600822 SS Copper Core 5-Ply Bonded Dishwasher Safe 10-Piece Cookware Set available at Amazon
My recommendation in the stainless steel category is to buy the best that you can afford – try to shoot for a really good set with American, German, French or other Western European manufacturing – usually the layer of copper is much thicker and the fit and finish are of a much higher caliber.
I’d suggest considering Demeyere or All-Clad – they are expensive but you normally get what you pay for. It is worth noting that All-Clad has different lines offering various levels of quality and thicknesses at different price points. Be on the look out for several follow up posts exploring these options.
If you don’t want to pay the admission price for All-Clad, Demeyere, or other highend cookware but really want performance of clad, then there is one option that we’d recommend.
The Duxtop 10 Pc set is bascillay a Chinese made knock off of All-Clad’s tri-ply line. Surprisingly enough it is very good quality and has been getting rave reviews on Amazon. If you’re on a budget and aren’t concerned about the country of origin, then this is one great cookware set to pair up with your new induction stove.
What about nonstick and induction? I want to have my cake and eat it too!
If you already purchased an induction range, you’ve probably already noticed that many of your old nonstick pans don’t work anymore. This is because they are made completely out of aluminum and this material is not magnetically reactive. Some newer aluminum based sets do have built in iron plates that allow the pan to react really well to the induction cooktop.
If shopping online, you definitely want the description to say “induction ready” and if shopping at the brick and mortar department store, the box should say the same. You may consider purchasing these one at time – many detectors that are built into induction cookstoves will not detect a magnetic base of under 4 or 5 inches – and many times the base is smaller than the diameter of the pan. Even if the nonstick cookware is induction ready, the smaller pans may not always work with your stove.
If you want the best that won’t break the bank, I’d check out the Matfer Bourgeat Elite Pro Special Aluminum line (try saying all of that really fast). Made in France, Matfer Bourget is best known for its serious line of carbon steel frying pans, but they do offer very high quality cookware made in other materials as well.
Matfer Bourgeat 668532 Elite Pro Special Aluminum Fry Pan with Induction Bottom available at Amazon.
If you are looking for a set, then the Circulon Premier Professional 13-piece Hard-anodized Cookware Set may be of interest. The reviews that this set has on Amazon are overwhelmingly positive.
Made with stainless steel basis, this pot and pan set will work well with any induction stovetop. Also, the chocolate colored anodized exterior is virtually bomb proof and the interior is coated in one of the most advance nonstick formulations ever developed – this nonstick coating is an especially strong and durable product by Dupont called “Autograph.”
This set ships with 1, 3, and 4 quart saucepans – all with lids, and 8 quart stockpot with lid, a 4 quart sauté with lid, a 5 quart sauté pan with lid, and 8.4, 10, and 12 inch French skillets.
Cast iron and Carbon Steel cookware – made for induction cooking
Would you like cookware that is both naturally nonstick and can be cooked on at higher temperatures and is perfect for your induction range? Cast iron or carbon steel is your ticket. The good news is that both of these materials are MUCH more budget friendly.
Bare cast iron – prefect for almost all cooking chores
Cast iron has been with us for hundreds of years and the many pots and skillets that have survived over the course of the last century is a testament to its durability. My personal favorite maker is Lodge. It’s still made in the US of a mixture of pure iron ore and recycled cast iron cookware.
Foodal recommends this 12 ” Lodge Cast-Iron Skillet with Silicone Handle Holder
If you buy the made in China versions (i.e. Emeril, Rachel Ray, and whatever flavor of the month is currently popular), you’ll be getting chunkier versions and who knows where they source their metal? I really don’t feel like cooking in what used to be an engine block for a 1973 Peterbuilt. Do you?
Most cast iron sold today is pre-seasoned (however, carbon steel is not) but if you purchase a pan that is not seasoned from the factory, it’s easy to do it yourself by rubbing a light layer of vegetable oil all over the interior and sitting it in a high-temperature oven for a bit.
Seasoning is kind of a big deal with cast iron and carbon steel. It’s what keeps the food from sticking. For some people (including my husband), a big turn-off is when it comes to using these items for cooking is that you can’t use soap to clean the pans, since it removes the seasoning. You just use really hot water and a non-abrasive sponge.
Carbon Steel – A lighter alternative to cast iron.
If you don’t feel like lugging a huge cast iron frying pan up to the induction cooktop, a lighter, but still somewhat weighty (all good cookware is) alternative is carbon steel. Primarily made into frying pans and skillets these offer many of the same searing and sautéing advantages of cast. However, you don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger to move them around. Check out my post where I dive deep into world of carbon steel cookware.
Foodal recommends the DE BUYER 5670.28 Mineral B Frypan, 11-Inch available at Amazon
Acidic foods? Try enameled cast iron
If you are wanting to prepare tomato-based cuisine or other acidic foods on your induction cooktop and you want cast iron, then the seasoned variety will not work well for this application. The acids eat off the seasoned oil leaving you with bare metal.
The best tool to cook acidic food with on induction stoves is enameled cast iron cookware that is coated with a porcelain finish. Lodge does offer these, however there are no porcelain coating factories left in the US that can handle this type of lining. Therefore, Lodge imports their enameled line from China.
Lodge Color EC3CC33 Enameled Covered Casserole, Caribbean Blue, 3-Quart available at Amazon
Although the imported Lodge “Color” line is pretty decent quality, I prefer to buy either the French made Le Creuset or Staub brands – they are great quality products that leave you with a satisfaction of using a premium tool. Dutch ovens – either in a round shape or in a oval – would serve you well in regards to serving up some prime chow without worrying about the acidity level.
Foodal recommends the Staub Basil Enameled Cast Iron Wide Round Oven with Lid, 6 Quart
The basic differences between the two manufactures are exterior color options, of which there are many from both makers, and the interiors are a light beige in the Le Creuset and black in the Staub. The Staub is usually slightly cheaper for comparable products but not so much so that you’d choose one over the other based on price alone.
Le Creuset Signature 7-1/4-Quart Round French (Dutch) Oven in Cherry available at Amazon.
Check out this guide to learn more about what you should look for when choosing cast iron cookware.
Copper – Is this time tested metal now outdated?
Although normally not compatible with induction cooking, there is one more premium choice that you may want to consider – copper. De Buyer has introduced the Prima Matera collection – a line of copper cookware that IS compatible with induction ranges. This line has a unique magnetic base that allows the magnetic waves to react with the pot and heat it up very quickly.
The Prima Matera line is the top end when it comes to cooking with induction and they are the absolute best at spreading the heat to all ends of the pan – no matter the size of the induction heating pad. Click here to check out Lynne’s review of the Prima Matera.
De Buyer’s Copper Prima Matera 6.3-Quart Saucepan available at Amazon.
Need help in deciding between copper and cast iron? Check out Chelsea’s post to find out more.
Graniteware – is it making a comeback?
Graniteware is another option for induction compatible cookware. Made with a really light gauge of steel, graniteware has a speckled, porcelain coating on the outside and is typically (somewhat) nonstick. And Graniteware is the most budget-friendly option, for sure.
Granite Ware 1- and 2-Quart Saucepan Set at Amazon.
The one major drawback with graniteware is the nonstick enamled coating. As the thin metal flexes with use, the coating starts to flake off, and you have to buy a whole new set. Also, the thin material does not conduct heat very well. Hot spots galore!
It’s still a good option if you’re not that huge into cooking or just blew your budget on your new stove, and you just need something that will work on your induction range or cooktop. Personally, I only use graniteware for home canning purposes or when I need a huge, but semi disposable stock pot or roaster.
Bet you never knew you might have to go out and purchase all new cookware when you bought a new stove, did you? Although you may have to replace your old pots and pans when you install an induction stove (it’s a good excuse to get new goodies anyhow), you have many options in stainless steel, cast iron, carbon steel, nonstick aluminum and even an option or two in copper. Good luck and give us your thoughts below!
Originally published on July 29th, 2014. Last updated and revise January 17th, 2017.
About Ashley Martell
Ashley has enjoyed creative writing since she was six years old, when she wrote her first short story. She majored in English literature at the University of Montevallo. After years of professional work, she is now a stay-at-home mom of three, who uses her craft to write about her life and adventures in and out of the kitchen.