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Dec 21, 2010 09:07 PM

Another Thought On Induction--Nickel

While thrashing around on The Internets tonight, I found a site on copper makers' marks and hallmaks. Nothing too surprising, EXCEPT I found reference to a NICKEL construction that is "copper cased". Most interesting, insofar as the site's owner, a world-renowned metallurgist, said of it:

"The nickel vessel is copper cased for use during times when all good quality cookware was expected to be copper. Being mainly nickel, it is magnetic."

That got me thinking... Will nickel cookware work on induction? IF it will, it seems like an improvement in thermal conduction (52 Btu/(hr - ft -�F) over cast iron (46 Btu/(hr - ft -�F) or SS (8 Btu/(hr - ft -�F)

I have a collector friend who recently bought a thick, vintage American, solid nickel saucepan, and he likes it a lot (on gas).

Anyone ever try nickel on induction?

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  1. kaleokahu: "Anyone ever try nickel on induction?"

    Not I, but I strongly suspect that it would work just fine. In dynamic loudspeaker motors, the permanent magnets commonly are fashioned of an aluminum-nickel-cobalt (Alnico) alloy because that alloy can make a very powerful permanent magnet. Those loudspeaker motors supply a much lower frequency alternating current to the electromagnetic coil than an induction cooktop's inverter does, because the intent is to cause the Alnico permanent magnet to move within the electromagnet's field as a unit. Ideally, the moving Alnico magnet stays cool.

    What I have not sorted out within my own mind is whether a substance that itself can become strongly magnetized (like Alnico) is the ideal substance for cookware used on an induction cooktop, where the goal is to keep the pot or plan in place while causing it to heat up by internal friction within the metal. The analogy would be to resistive electric heating: while electrical current flow is necessary for the resistor to heat up at all, the heating arises from the difficulty -- which is why it is called a resistance -- of passage of the electrical current. Superconductors, in which the electric current passes almost losslessly, hardly heat up at all when the electricity passes through them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Politeness

      My friend who has one says these solid nickel pans are not all that rare, but the problem is that the sellers typically do not recognize, and therefore advertise, the material as nickel. They easily confuse it with aluminum or SS despite the big difference in weight.

      If you'd like, I'll ask him the makers' names he knows.

      So, lead me through why a SS-lined copper pan (assuming the liner was ferromagnetic) would not work on induction and an enameled carbon steel pan would. I understand if it's a matter of the effective height of the field, but your cauldron test (thick cast iron already elevated off the cooktop) and fork heating would indicate it's something else. Mauviel's (tableservice) M150 line is only 1.5mm of copper, so the liner would probably be LOWER to your cooktop than was the cooking surface of your cauldron.

      Or are we talking about a big differential in friction between the underside of your cauldron and the cooking surface. i.e., the friction is going on far more in the bottommost portions of the CI?

      1. re: kaleokahu

        kaleokahu: " ... lead me through why a SS-lined copper pan (assuming the liner was ferromagnetic) would not work on induction and an enameled carbon steel pan would."

        The devil lies in the internal assumption. Some stainless alloys are magnetic, and some stainless alloys are not. (I have seen some posters allege that 18/8 stainless is nonmagnetic and 18/10 stainless is magnetic; I have seen some other posters allege exactly the opposite; my own thoughts, completely innocent of systematic empirical investigation, are that magnetic vs. nonmagnetic probably does not break along the lines of 18/8 vs. 18/10.) With a properly magnetic alloy used in the lining, I see no reason why a stainless-lined copper pot would not work on induction. After all, that, in essence, is not much different from the construction of the Chantal Copper Fusion line, which is a three-layer sandwich comprising copper between two layers of (nonstainless) steel, all covered with enamel.

        1. re: Politeness

          Politeness: So you're saying, if the SS liner is magnetic, the bimetal copper should work?. [Someone with a ss-lined copper pan, please try at least a magnet test. Better yet, someone who has an induction hob AND a larger piece of tinned copperware, try putting a smaller known-induction-compatible pan inside and see if it heats].

          I suspect it will NOT work, otherwise we'd hear from Mauviel, Ruffoni, Falk, Bourgeat, et al. that it is compatible. Falk owns the rights to the bimetal bonding process, and it is nonsensical to me that they would use a SS alloy that is INcompatible if they could use one that is compatible,because they'd instantly sell more $$$ pans. (Of course then you'd just be cooking in the equivalent of a .5mm SS pan)!

          If this stuff passes the magnet test and still doesn't work, what are we left to conclude? That it's a detection problem? (Aside: I'm wondering if the feet on your cauldron are what's coupling with your cooktop to allow the cooking even though the pan bottom is not in physical contact.) That the copper somehow impedes or diminishes the field? That the induction is really only working at the lowest reaches of the material and the heat moves on up by conduction?

          Re: Copper Fusion... No one has been able (not here, not the dealers or distributor) or willing (Chantal) to tell me how thick the layers are in the CCF sandwich. I can't even find data on the overall thickness in order to arithmetically approximate.

          1. re: kaleokahu

            As you say, Falk owns the "rights," which comprise a combination of patents and trade secrets. That the process was patentable means that it was (a) innovative, and (2) nonobvious. Because bimetal couples have been around a long time (they form the basis of most historical thermostats), something other than making a bimetal couple is involved. Perhaps there is something in the Falk process that requires a specific alloy of steel, and that alloy could happen to be nonmagnetic. Just speculating.

            Magnetic shields are made of a material called mu (that is the Greek letter) metal. I think that cookware grade copper is unlikely to be mu-metal.

            I have held Chantal Copper Fusion pots in my hand. Copper Fusion is the first line of cookware at a local (to the Portland, Oregon, area) small chain called Kitchen Kaboodle, and it is on prominent display in the retail stores. I have not at the time I have been in Kitchen Kaboodle had a caliper with me to gauge thickness, and in fact I do not even own such a caliper, but the bottom and sides of the Copper Fusion pots are fairly thick, similar to enameled cast iron in thickness.

            1. re: Politeness

              Politeness: "Perhaps there is something in the Falk process that requires a specific alloy of steel, and that alloy could happen to be nonmagnetic."

              I think you (and Occam) are probably right. There would be too much money to make if it were otherwise. I recall reading somewhere that the basis of Falk's patent was a unique combination of chemical and pressure bonding. I'm also recalling that there is some kismet concerning the 2-2.5mm copper substrate thickness, completely aside from its excellent conduction. Since we're speculating, mine is that Falk's process may require a non-compatible SS alloy that is close enough to Cu's expansion coefficient so that the 'wich will not debond (easily) under normal cooking conditions and cycles.

              Re: CCF... Some well-off, enterprising CHer needs to buy one of these, and bandsaw out a 90-degree section so we can look inside. They can always use it afterward to show how an egg will only half-fry when it straddles the cut on induction.

              Oregon must be more advanced than Washington--we're down to three retailers in the state who stock CCF, and only 1 within 100 miles of Seattle.

              This afternoon I was pondering my absurd idea of putting a cheap, thin SS pan inside a $$$ thick tinned copper one to test the depth of the induction field; I say "absurd" because--if it "works"--cooking in it it would be little different from omitting the copper pan entirely. THEN I flashed on what seems like an equally absurd idea: If, in fact, induction rubs BOTH exterior and interior layers in sandwichware alike, then the conductive discs put in the 'wich are basically for naught. In other words, Dave Arnold's cheap induction hob is going to hot-spot anyway, because it cares not what lies beneath the top layer of steel/iron.

              1. re: kaleokahu

                kaleokahu: "Oregon must be more advanced than Washington... "

                Well DU-UH.

                "If, in fact, induction rubs BOTH exterior and interior layers in sandwichware alike ... "

                Alike, but not the same. While, as I have tried to explain, the propagation of a magnetic field is more complex than the simple square of distance function of light or heat, there is a fall-off of the strength of the magnetic field with distance from the induction inverter under a cooktop's Ceran surface. The distance from the inverter -- through a space under the Ceran, then through the Ceran then to the pot -- to the cladding layer on the outside of a clad pot or pan will be shorter than the distance from the inverter to the cladding layer on inner side of the pot or pan. That said, the distance to the outside of the pot usually will be a very high percentage of the distance to the inside of the pot. (With a gas burner, the distance from the tip of the flame to the outside of the pot often is zero, so the distance from the tip of the flame to the inside of the pot is "infinitely" -- technically, not infinity, but a fraction in which the denominator is zero, which cannot be computed -- farther from the heat source than the outside of the pot.)

                " ...then the conductive discs put in the 'wich are basically for naught."

                Au contraire. The filling of the clad "sandwich" can enable a smoothing effect as the colder and warmer areas of the food inside the pot touch different parts of the layer on the inside of the pot. The conductive inner layer of a clad construction can "borrow" some of the excess heat from both adjacent areas of its same layer and from the layer on the outside of the pot, averaging the heat among parts of the sandwich construction.

                1. re: Politeness

                  Politeness: "The conductive inner layer of a clad construction can "borrow" some of the excess heat from both adjacent areas of its same layer and from the layer on the outside of the pot, averaging the heat among parts of the sandwich construction."

                  Yes, this is an approximation of what a straight-gauge pan constructed of decently conductive material does. So long as there is a NECESSITY for ferromagnetic materials, i.e., one bites on induction, then one has to accept these trade-offs.

                  Ah, the good old days, the Chalcolithic Age. Perhaps when hydrogen fuel cells power uniform, flat surfaces we can claim some progress. Just another Luddite thought.

    2. In looking at an older thread that had nothing to do with nickel per se, , I see that two posters, including my friend ThreeGigs, each have a piece of pure nickel cookware made by Joseph Heinrich & Co.

      Perhaps they know if these pans will work on an induction appliance?

      1 Reply
      1. re: kaleokahu

        I located a Joseph Heinrich "pure nickel" saucepan, and determined that it will not stick a magnet. Oh well, until someone with an induction hob actually tries one, I guess we won't have 100% certainty, but nickel may not work.

      2. Interesting!!!

        Edit: Nevermind, seems like you already know about this line.

        1 Reply
        1. re: cutipie721

          cutiepie: Thanks. Yes, I was aware of this new line, but I've yet to handle it or even read a review. It appears to be a step forward in hybrids,if quite expensive.