Is there any reason not to buy induction cookware?
December 15, 2018 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Assuming you have a gas stove and both cookware are the same price.

At the store I noticed that some pans have an induction version that is the same price as the regular version. But the box says that the induction version can be used on gas too. So should I just get the induction one on the off chance that someday I have an induction stove? Or do the non-induction ones do better on gas stoves?
posted by fantasticness to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think you'd probably want to pay more attention to what the pan is actually made of. All that's required to work on an induction stove is that the pan has to be made of a magnetic material (like steel or cast iron - copper or aluminum won't work). Without knowing the material composition of the different pans, it's hard to know what the induction version offers that the regular one doesn't, or vice-versa. Some cookware has a thicker base where they've wrapped the steel of the body of the pan around a copper or aluminum core with the intention that the core will provide better heat distribution, but I don't know that that would have an detrimental effect if you were to use it on induction vs. electric or gas - the induction stove kind of makes the pan heat itself, so once the body of the pan heats up, I'd think the aluminum or copper core would still function as intended, but I don't know that for sure. My gut feeling is that it's a marketing gimmick, but I have no evidence to support that, and the pans actually being the same price would make that a pretty ineffectual gimmick anyway.
posted by LionIndex at 9:01 AM on December 15, 2018

I'd ignore the induction designation, personally and just get the best cookware for what you want to do. I don't think there's any real downside to the induction 'versions', but there's probably no real benefit either. Without knowing what the difference actually is, hard to answer.

Anyway if you cook with cast iron and carbon steel, they'll work on both!
posted by so fucking future at 9:06 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've been doing this for years (still don't have an induction range, though), so I think the general approach is a fine one.

In my case, though, all of the cookware I've been buying--All Clad, Scanpan, Lodge, and Le Creuset--is induction compatible, rather than having explicit induction versions. Given that, your description gives me pause, but not enough to tell you not to do it--I think you either need to get more information about those specific pans, or tell us here so we can help more.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 9:14 AM on December 15, 2018

I think the world will continue moving toward induction, and there is more than an "off-chance" that someday you will have it. So if you're investing in lifetime cookware, go with the induction version or induction compatible label. Here's a pretty comprehensive non-partisan comparison of cookware materials, listing the pros and cons of all. If you were purely looking for the best conductivity, you'd go for pure copper, but it costs a fortune and has its impracticalities. For my money, induction-compatible multilayered copper-core All-Clad is the way to go.
posted by beagle at 10:11 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Scanpan has both induction and non-induction cookware.

The core of their products are made of aluminum. I'm guessing that some of them encapsulate that aluminum with steel to make them induction ready... and maybe they don't for the others?

So if a pan has aluminum in the core covered by steel or another magnetic metal, is that going to have a different heating affect on a gas stove? Maybe it takes longer to heat up or less even?
posted by fantasticness at 10:15 AM on December 15, 2018

No, the aluminum is there to make it more even and maybe heat up quicker. Aluminum conducts heat better than steel.
posted by LionIndex at 10:26 AM on December 15, 2018

So if a pan has aluminum in the core covered by steel or another magnetic metal, is that going to have a different heating affect on a gas stove? Maybe it takes longer to heat up or less even?

Really, for almost everything that configuration is going to be fine. If you compared it side by side with a copper-core plan, the aluminum core would take slightly longer to boil water (or do whatever) than the copper core. The heat distribution is going to be very similar in both.
posted by beagle at 10:30 AM on December 15, 2018

No- I meant does the steel covering the aluminum make for uneven heating?

After all this would mean that the induction types should be more expensive because they'd need an extra material covering the aluminum for it to be magnetic. But they are not necessarily more expensive. Some induction scanpans are even cheaper. So I'm trying to figure out if there's a downside.
posted by fantasticness at 10:31 AM on December 15, 2018

My $10 Lodge cast iron pan actually heats better on an induction stove than the $200 seven-layer copper-core induction-optimized Demeyere Atlantis pan. I love them both.

Heck, the dog's stainless steel food bowl heats up on the induction stove. We use it for a quick warmup.

If you are shopping in person, bring a fridge magnet. If the magnet sticks to it, it will work fine. The "Induction-ready" stuff is just graphic design and marketing.

Induction cooking is fantastic -- super fast pre-heat, super even heat, doesn't heat up kitchen -- best thing ever.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:33 AM on December 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

If it helps your decision-making process at all, be aware that induction converter discs exist, so if an aluminum or copper pan is really what you want, you aren't stuck if you later want an induction range. I'd personally ignore induction compatibility as a feature if you don't currently have one or have plans to get one.
posted by Aleyn at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

You should only change to induction if you have to, so as long as you don't have any reason to think you'll be forced to change, stick to what works for the gas.

I like induction, really. But I miss having a gas-burner for wok food, and for searing steaks, and for the grill on Sundays for brunchy stuff. For instance, technically the grill pan works on induction, but when you've gone through the first 10-15 chicken sticks or egg-plant rounds, the fat from the grill will create a layer on the glass plate and the induction will stop working til you clean it. Not a very big deal, but a distraction if you are having a good time.
posted by mumimor at 11:11 AM on December 15, 2018

Aluminum conducts heat 6 times faster than stainless steel. If you take an aluminum pot and put stainless steel around it, it will conduct heat somewhat slower.

Usually the decision to choose aluminum or stainless comes down to corrosion resistance. Acidic sauces like tomatoes can etch aluminum. But on the other hand, aluminum conducts heat better.

If you have already made the choice to choose aluminum, it means that corrosion resistance is less important to you than rapid heat conduction. So it makes no sense to handicap heat conduction with a stainless steel induction layer if you don't have an induction stove.

On the other hand, if corrosion resistance is more important, then you use stainless steel and add an aluminum layer in between to help the heat conduction. But this doesn't seem to be the case for you since you are choosing aluminum to begin with.
posted by JackFlash at 11:35 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing that some of them encapsulate that aluminum with steel to make them induction ready... and maybe they don't for the others?

It's actually the other way around: disc of steel in the middle enclosed by aluminium. For heavy duty aluminium like that found in ScanPan and Anolon, the differences with regards to heating up food, and evenness of heat etc are undetectable, especially on gas stoves which can bring their own hotspots etc to the party.

Whilst it's true that steel heats unevenly, it also retains heat brilliantly, and that helps with searing and pan frying meat for example.

For me, induction capable gives you the best of both worlds.
posted by smoke at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2018

I've always thought that gas cooking wanted a lightweight pan because you just care about fire hitting metal and don't need any more.

So for gas cooking, a lightweight aluminium pan is good because less mass in the pan means less energy is expended making the metal of the pan hot (also heat conduction)

Induction cookware will be heavier because of the need for the steel base. Because of the extra mass, the pan will take more time/energy heat up when using a gas stove, when compared to lightweight aluminium.
posted by Urtylug at 3:26 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

If the pans are similarly priced, there has to be a difference.

To give a very short synopsis of cookware design, there are effectively two kinds of material you can use: One that is highly conductive but also reactive, or one that is nonreactive and has poor conductivity. The highly conductive material is good because it moves the thermal energy around and prevents hot spots, etc., but the reactivity means that it can make your food taste funny (or in certain cases even be somewhat poisonous). The nonreactive material is good because your food won't taste funny and the pan won't rust, but there will be hot spots and the pan won't be very responses to changes in the heat source. One common solution is to have a layer of nonreactive material (usually stainless steel) for the cooking surface and a layer of conductive material to move the thermal energy around. This provides the best of both world. It stands to reason, then, that you would like to have a very thin layer of nonreactive material and a nice thick layer of conductive material.

When designing a pan, there are always going to be performance tradeoffs. For example, you can have a pan with a thin internal lining of stainless steel and a thick external layer of aluminum. This pan will have excellent performance characteristics, but it can't be put in the dishwasher and the aluminum will darken with use. Okay, so you can slap another layer of stainless steel on the outside of the pan (aka full cladding). Now, all the external surfaces are stainless steel and you can put the pan in the dishwasher. But! That pan's going to be more complicated to make and have more stainless steel, so it's likely to be more expensive. In addition, because a greater proportion of the pan material is made up of material with poor conductivity, the thermal performance characteristics of the fully pan aren't likely to be quite as good as the one that only has internal cladding. It's also likely that the thickness of the aluminum layer on the fully clad pan won't be as thick as the aluminum layer on the pan with internal cladding. This is a tradeoff you make to get a pan that you can chuck in the dishwasher. Whether that is a worthwhile tradeoff is up to the individual. I have some interior clad pans and some fully clad pans.

If I'm looking at two similar pans that are priced the same, one with internal cladding and the other with full cladding, I don't see any way the thermal layer on the fully clad pan could be anywhere near as thick as on the other pan. Moreover, given the increased materials and production cost of producing fully clad cookware, it's likely that some other corners were cut in making the fully clad pan in order to preserve the manufacturer's profit margin.

Looking at induction compatibility, one of the most common ways of doing this in a fully clad pan is to make the external layer of ferromagnetic stainless steel. If there are two similar fully clad pans and one is induction compatible, it's likely that this is the only difference. However! I don't understand why a manufacturer would bother making two separate iterations of the same pan, one with ferromagnetic external cladding and one without. It's easier and cheaper to simply make all the pans with ferromagnetic external cladding. That brings up the other possibility for producing an induction-compatible fully clad pan, which is to make the internal thermal layer out of some ferromagnetic material such as carbon steel. The issue with this is that the thermal conductivity of these materials isn't nearly as good as it is for the usual non-ferromagnetic materials such as aluminum.

In the end, though, you should look at the thickness of the construction (generally speaking, thicker is better) and try to get as much information as you can about the materials design. Are there specific cookware lines you're comparing?
posted by slkinsey at 9:52 AM on December 16, 2018

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