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What is Induction Cookware?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 16, 2024
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Induction cookware refers to cooking vessels that are specially designed to be used on induction range tops. The pots and pans have to be especially reactive to the magnetic field created by these types of burners, which are located underneath the flat top of the range. These burner elements generate electromagnetic frequencies that are transferred to the cooking vessel. This makes the vessel hot enough to cook the food, and the temperature is easily controlled through the knobs on the cooking stove top.

The term "ferrous" is frequently used to describe the proper cookware for induction cooking. Ferrous simply means that the cookware material has to be iron or iron-based to work on an induction range. Aluminum and glass cookware do not react with the magnetic fields created by the burners.

Many people believe that all stainless steel cookware can be used on induction ranges, but many pots and pans made from this metal are not appropriate for use on this type of equipment. Unless the manufacturer clearly states on the packaging that the cookware is suitable for induction, it most likely is not.

The only type of cookware that does not need an induction cooking safety note clearly stated are pots and pans made of iron. This includes the classic cast-iron cookware, most commonly skillets. The modernized cast iron that is traditionally covered with brightly colored enamel also falls into this classification.

If a cook is unsure if a pot or pan can be used on this type of stovetop, a simple test can be performed to assess its iron content. If a magnet placed on the bottom of the container strongly clings to the surface, the piece is okay to use on an induction range. If the attraction is weak or absent, it is not. A magnet as simple as the ones commonly found on refrigerator doors can be used for this test.

A significant number of induction cookware manufacturers have altered their production methods to ensure maximum magnetization. One metal layer on the bottoms of the pots and pans is made of highly-magnetized metal. It is commonly thick enough to adequately absorb the electromagnetic energy and change it into heat.

Upon its initial introduction, cookware specifically designed for use on induction range tops was high priced. In recent years, the popularity of these range types has risen with professional chefs and among European home cooks. This has resulted in cookware being offered in a variety of price ranges and styles.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By TreeMan — On Sep 24, 2011

What exactly is it about stainless steel cookware that makes it not work on an induction stove top?

If you are thinking about switching from conduction to induction cooking, how much do typical pans cost? Are they about the same price as regular pans, or is there a premium for the special coatings? Can you buy special induction cookware sets like you can with regular cookware?

The last thing I was thinking of was, do they make nonstick induction cookware, or does the nonstick material not work well with induction?

By Emilski — On Sep 23, 2011

@matthewc23 - I have had an induction stove for a few years now. I love it. Also, you're right about the heat. When you turn it on, it barely gets hot, so it's pretty difficult to burn yourself.

The one biggest downfall to induction cooktops is that you can't use your normal cookware. I had a great set of copper pots, and I had to give them away because they wouldn't work on my stove. Plus like the article mentions, you always have to search for the label that says the pans can be used on an induction stove.

By matthewc23 — On Sep 22, 2011

@kentuckycat - Flat top stoves can either be induction like the type talked about in the article or conduction which uses a coil that you're probably more familiar with. On a stove like yours, there are still coils that heat up, but they are just hidden under the glass stove top.

Induction works by using magnets to excite molecules in the cookware to heat it up. That is the reason the pans have to have iron, otherwise the electromagnet will have no effect.

I've never used an induction stove, but they are supposed to be much more energy efficient. I'm wondering though, because it needs metal to heat itself up, could you put your hand on top of an induction stove and not get burnt?

By kentuckycat — On Sep 21, 2011

I'm confused by this. I was curious whether my cookware was ferrous, so I did the magnet test like the article talks about. None of my skillets were magnetic, so obviously they aren't iron. I have a flat top stove, and all of my pots and pans work just fine. I would have to assume that it has something to do with the induction part. What does this mean?

The article talks about using electromagnetic fields. Does that mean there is no coil on the stove or something?

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