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Sep 22, 2011 08:08 PM

BIG PAN, small heating element

Hi there. I'll keep this short and to the point:

I wanna use this 12" jumbo pan:

on an induction heating element 6 inches in diameter.

1. Will the bottom warp?
2. Will the heat be evenly distributed on the bottom? It is TriPly

I wanna do everything in the pan, sear, boil, stir fry, etc. I know not to run cold water in hot pan.

Now what would the answers be if this was an All-Clad pan?

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  1. 1. No, it will unlikely to warp due to this setup. It could warp due to other mistreatment.
    2. No, the heat will not be evenly distributed across the bottom. No.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      In regard to "even heat distribution" i would be satisfied if I could turn the burner to say, 400 and the center of the pan maintains 400 while the sides are 380. With a small heater and a big pan, would a tri-ply pans would be capable of doing this?

      1. re: werewaschw

        Not really. 20 degrees is actually quite tight, in terms of heat distribution for a pan. Using a good amount of oil can help to some extent.

        1. re: werewaschw

          "would a tri-ply pans would be capable of doing this?"

          Short answer to your question:

          Medium answer:
          No, no and no. Not even close.

          Long answer:
          Cowboy is correct. 20°F difference for a 400 °F pan is extremely tight. This is rarely achieved even for a 6 inch pan on a 6 inch stove. One would be thrilled with this level of evenness. In your hypothetical case, the edge of the pan would be much cooler than the center of the pan. I would say more than 100 °F difference. Here are two great illustrations.

          For a burner which is smaller than a triply pan, see the following photos:

          Athanasuis, a fellow poster, had personally measured the temperature difference across different cookware

      2. I don't see anything claiming that it will work with your induction burner.
        being cast aluminum will probably heat more evenly. That's my experience with a Berndes skillet of similar construction.

        12 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          Hi, paulj:

          This is actually helpful, considering the OP's parameters. Nonstick, cast aluminum with integral induction disk. Am I the only one to find the irony here of starting down the tortured induction path?

          Thanks to Chem, s/he's been warned about a big clad pan on a small induction hob. Oh, well.


          1. re: kaleokahu

            Out of curiosity I tried boiling a half inch or so of water in a 12" paella (simple enameled steel), on several different burners, 8" electric coil, Maxburton induction hot plate, butane hotplate. Obviously a pan like this should be on a multiring gas burner, or an even fire of vine clippings. Anyways, I was happiest with the heat distribution of the butane hotplate. The induction burner was better than the electric coil - contact between coil and pan was more uneven.

            I think 10" in a good conductor is the largest practical size on an induction hotplate like this.

            1. re: paulj

              Hi, paul:

              Good for you for running tests and sharing. This is a big generality, but both gas and good conductivity pans tend to "grow" the hob a bit relative to an oversized pan. The two together do even better.

              I saw an extreme example last night, when I had a power outage. I used my pimped-out propane burner set under a 14Q curved-wall stocker to blanch potatoes. The pan base is maybe 8" diameter, but the walls curve out to about 12" diameter before curving back in at the rim. It was getting dark, so I got to see how far up the flames were licking the outside walls. The blue flames could be seen 4-5 inches off the deck, which means the *very* hot combustion gases were flowing well above that.

              Re: electric coils, I've always wondered at the design stupidity involved in mounting a thin (i.e., springy) coil onto a light, flimsy 3-leg spider, and then putting the jiggly thing into a coil pan that NEVER fits the coil/spider right, and ALMOST always moves around in the hole. The coup de gras can also be the way the element ends (don't) fit into the socket under the cooktop. The state of this particular art appears to have entered a Dark Age around 1950.


              1. re: kaleokahu

                I improved the heat distribution by putting a heavy cast iron trivet/heat diffuser on the butane burner. It effectively covered the flame, diverting gases toward the rim of the pan. It was more effective at high flame than low. At low the fire warmed the diffuser, but did not do much further away.

                In theory I could use the diffuser on the induction burner, but it wouldn't widen the heat zone. And I much prefer to use the induction burner at boiling water termperatures, not 400F.

                The electric coil design might be old, but it is cheap and easily replaceable. In fact compatibility with 30 yr old stoves may be part of why the design is still around. If I need brute force heat, say under a cast iron or carbon steel pan, that is still my burner of choice.

                1. re: kaleokahu

                  With gas, the way the heat spreads (both outward and inward from the ring(s)) depends on the burners a bit -- whether it's open or sealed burner design, and how the burner ring(s) are configured.

                  With regards to the original question, I don't think there's any way around that problem with induction - I think it will be less forgiving than either gas or more conventional types of electric range.

                  1. re: will47

                    Right, induction has less spill over heat. That's one of its big attractions. It heats the pan, not the air around it. Any heat beyond the reach of the induction coil travels through the pan, and thus depends on the thickness and conductivity of the pan material.

                    1. re: will47

                      "I don't think there's any way around that problem with induction "

                      With a 12" pan on a 6" stove, I don't think it matters if it is induction or gas or electric coil. It is just way too big of a jump, especially the original poster asked for a 20°F difference for a 400 °F. That is the hottest part of the pan is 400 °F and the coldest being 380 °F.

                      That is extemely tight even for a pan sitting on a perfectly fitted stove.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        How do you determine the size of a gas stove? The size of the heat rings, or the size of the grate? The rings on my Capital Culinarian (open burners) are probably about 5-6" in diameter at the widest part, though the grates are 10". However, I get pretty even heat across small or large pans (up to 12", though perhaps not within 20°F (nor do I plan to take measurements). And, at medium or high heat settings, the flames spread out to the edge of even a 12" diameter pan.

                        My point is not that the heat is perfectly even, but with a pan with good heat distribution, and / or a diffuser, it's still a lot more even than what you'd see with a 6" induction burner, and based just on the patterns from boiling a shallow layer of water on the bottom of the pan, it's surprisingly even.

                        1. re: will47

                          In my definition, the size of the effect stove should be the size of its heating elements. If we are talking about gas, then it should be the diamater of the flame ring.

                          Without getting into details, the boundary conditions have a significant role.


                          In fact, theraml conductivity is often expressed in a boundary conditions format.

                          delta Q = k A delta (T) / x , where delta T is the difference in temperature of the two ends.

                          (see the equations section



                          When a 12" pan is put on a 6" stove, the edge of the pan simply cannot possibly be the same temperature as the center of the pan. It has to have a heat gradient which means the temperature of the two ends have to be different.

                          "but with a pan with good heat distribution, and / or a diffuser, it's still a lot more even ..."

                          Sure, the heat pattern will be more even with a diffuser, but isn't that comparing apples to oranges since they are no longer the same problems anymore. Putting a heat diffuser can be viewed as making the pan thicker, so now you are really comparing a thick pan on a gas stove vs a thin pan on an induction burner.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Very offhand, I would think that a diffuser that is a smaller diameter than the pan would work differently on a gas burner than an induction or regular electric one. Since gas heats mainly by air convection rather than conduction, using such a diffuser would push hot gasses toward the outsides of the pan and heat the outer parts directly, while heating at the center of the pan would be slowed by necessity for heat to conduct through the diffuser.

                            I think that is what Paul was talking about a few posts above (also maybe why he's using a cast iron diffuser rather than something that conducts better), though to be honest Im not sure if the conversation has shifted focus entirely between you and will.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              This is the difuser I used:
                              I had bought it at TJMaxx. In theory it could be used on induction burner, but I was more interested in whether it would let me use earthenware on my coil burns. But since I wasn't impressed with that use, it got buried until I was thinking about how to get more even heat under my paella.

                              As you say, under modest gas flame (butane isn't that hot), the difuser heats the pan by conduction (actually with a small air gap) while hot gases directly heat the pan beyond the difuser. The net effect is more even heat. The butane flame is about 4" in diameter. A low flame just warmed the difuser, so heat wasn't quite as even.

                              Speaking of a paella, the classic ways of getting even heat for a very large diameter pan are:
                              - multi ring gas burners, sized to match the pan
                              - a wood fire using vine trimmings and other small stuff.

                              For Americans a backyard grill is suggested.

                              Another make-do solution is to shift the pan around while working on the stove top, and finishing in the more even heat of an oven.

                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                Interesting. If one is to use a diffuser smaller than the pan, then there will be two effects. One is what you described. If we are to think of the diffuser as part of the cookware, then this essentially making the center of the pan thicker. So now, we have a pan that has a thick center and thin edge. However, this is not what most people use a diffuser for. I think most people try to have a diffuser same or larger than the pan to provide an even heating surface.

                                I think that just makes the examples more the odd to compare.

                                It is good that we talked about a cast iron diffuser. Had we talked about an aluminum or copper diffuser, then it calls into another level of complexity or confusion. An aluminum diffuser will help diffuse the heat from a gas stove, but an induction magnetic field will mostly ignore aluminum diffuser and directly heat whatever ferromagnetic component there is.

                                I think this is why it really become somewhat an "apple vs orange" argument.

                                I think I am mostly trying to address the overall situation of a "12" pan on a 6" stove".

              2. thanks for the replies i will keep looking