Are you wondering if those old pots and pans that you got from your grandmother are cast iron? If such is the case, you may also be wondering whether or not the material is magnetic. So is cast iron magnetic or non-magnetic?
Metals and alloys that contain iron, also called ferrous metals, have magnetic properties. This means a regular magnet will stick to them. These metals include stainless steel, mild steel, carbon steel, wrought iron, and cast iron. Therefore, it is safe to say that a cast iron pan should be magnetic.
Note, though, that not every cast iron is as magnetic as the next. Some factors affect how magnetic it is, namely:
- Purity of the Iron
- Type of Magnet Used
- Magnet’s Size
Read on to learn more about how cast iron is magnetic or non-magnetic and what it means to you.
Is Cast Iron Magnetic or Non- magnetic?
Cast iron pots and pans are some of the best cooking utensils that money can buy. This may be why you are planning to get one or two pieces of them. The problem is that the only stove you have in your home is an induction cooktop. Will cast iron work on it?
Yes. Note that the only requirement for induction cooktops is that the pots and pans must be magnetic. In that case, the cast iron adheres to that requirement.
This means that a magnet will stick to the metal. However, a magnet that sticks to the pan you are thinking of getting does not instantly correspond to excellent quality.
Some factors can affect the perceived magnetic property of cast iron. We will talk about that in the next section of this article.
3 Factors That Determine How Magnetic a Cast Iron Is
1. Purity of the Iron
The purity of the iron used for making the cast iron pans will greatly affect their magnetic properties. Most people think that all cast iron materials are the same. Some even think that it is just either pure or impure.
The truth is that the purity of a piece of cast iron is within a spectrum. The purer the cast iron, the higher it would place on the scale. On the other hand, the lower the purity of the cast iron, the lower it will be on the scale.
A magnet will still stick to it, but its hold will be quite weak. You might be able to shake it off using a bit of force.
You may think using pure iron for cookware is better, but it isn’t. Using pure iron for any product is not recommended as it will be too brittle. Mixing it with other materials and metals to form an alloy is crucial.
However, in cast iron cookware, it is generally better to have more iron in the product than other metals.
2. Type of Magnet
Two types of permanent magnets are readily available – natural and artificial. Natural magnets consist of iron and cobalt and are usually black. However, they are not nearly as strong as artificial magnets.
Artificial magnets are the ones that you can usually buy in many school supplies stores. Among their usual components are ferrite and alnico. These are also quite strong like neodymium magnets are the most powerful permanent magnets you can buy.
If a magnet does not stick strongly to your cast iron pan, it does not immediately mean it only has a bit of iron. You might not just be using the right magnet.
3. Magnet’s Size
The strength of a magnet’s magnetic field will also depend on its size. For instance, a small neodymium magnet is not as strong as another three times the size. Let’s say, for example, you have a palm-sized neodymium magnet.
Even if stuck on a cast iron pan without as much iron, it will still hold on with such force. This makes it quite difficult to pry apart using just your hands.
How Does an Induction Cooker Work
You are probably wondering, “is cast iron cookware magnetic?” It could be because you plan to use them on an induction cooker. The main requirement for induction cooking is to use magnetic cookware. But how do induction cookers work?
What Is the Difference Between a Ceramic Cooktop and Induction Cooker?
An induction cooker might look like your ordinary ceramic cooktop, but there are many differences. Despite using the same surface materials, they are very much different underneath.
A heating element in ceramic cooktops underneath the surface allows them to work similarly to conventional stoves. The heat from the heating elements radiates through the cooktop and transfers to the pots and pans.
Current Passes Through the Metal Coil
Induction cookers work differently. Although there is also a coil underneath the surface of the induction cooker, it works in an entirely different way.
When you turn on the power, the current passes through the metal coil, which turns it into an electromagnet. However, the coil produces an alternating magnetic field that fluctuates at an incredibly high frequency.
Coil Turns the Pan Into Its Heating Element
Despite having a magnetic field, it does not mean that the iron pans will stick to the cooktop. Also, the coil itself is not the one that heats up. Still, it turns the pan into its heating element. This is why cookware heats up faster when used on an induction cooker compared to a conventional oven.
Magnetic Waves Penetrate the Iron
The magnetic waves penetrate the iron, causing whirling eddies of electrical current inside the pan. The electric current turns the cast iron pan into its heating element; this is why the stove itself does not heat up when you turn it on.
However, the surface will be hot due to the residual heat from the pan when you finish cooking.
Advantages of Cast Iron Cookware
Ask any experienced cooks, professional or not, about the quality of cast iron cookware. Almost all of them will surely tell you that cast iron pots and pans are superior to other materials.
Here are some of the many reasons why many people prefer cast irons:
1. Lasts Long
I don’t know how cast iron cookware manufacturers stay in business because they make long-lasting products. Many still use the same cast iron pans, skillets, and pots in their families for generations.
Go on YouTube and search for cast iron pans/pot restoration videos. You will find decades-old cookware covered in an ungodly amount of rust. However, after a thorough cleaning, and a bit of wire-brushing, they still looked new. Cast iron cookware is indestructible.
Of course, brand new, unseasoned cast iron pans are not non-stick. However, it is possible to put a bit of work into seasoning it properly. You will have a non-stick surface that can rival commercially-available non-stick cookware.
Because they are non-stick, you will be using little oil when cooking. This makes them healthier to use compared to other kinds of pans.
3. Do Not Contain Harmful Chemicals
Speaking of non-stick, the non-stick coatings on cast iron pans are non-toxic and usually result from regular use. This coating is the “seasoning.” The oil and fat from the food cooked on the pan make the cast iron surface.
Don’t worry about fats going rancid because the fats and oils have polymerized and adhered to the surface.
4. Easy to Maintain
Although you should not place cast iron pots and pans in the dishwasher, it is still relatively easy to clean.
Because of the non-stick surface, dirt and grime would easily wash off using plain water. Too much soap will strip away the seasoning.
5. Ideal for Use Anywhere
Another nice thing about cast iron cookware is that you can use them on any cooking surface. You can use them on propane, electric, and induction cooktops.
Also, you can place the pans or pots in the oven for heatproof handles. This will guarantee slow and even cooking. In addition, you can use them for cooking at the campfire.
6. Retain Heat Longer
Although cast iron takes a while to heat up, its denseness can retain heat much longer. This means your food will keep warm or continue cooking even when you remove the pan from the heat.
This also makes cast iron pans more energy-efficient. There is no need to turn up the heat for quite as long.
Again, is cast iron magnetic or non-magnetic? A cast iron is magnetic since it contains iron. Note that most metals with magnetic properties have iron. These metals include the following:
- Mild steel,
- Carbon steel,
- Stainless steel, and
- Wrought iron.
How to Care for Cast Iron Pans
If this is the first time you own cast iron cookware, don’t worry too much about maintenance. Cast iron pans are tough. They might even outlast you. However, you should still take good care of them so that they can serve you well.
Here are the basics when it comes to taking care of your cast iron pans:
1. Don’t Use Too Much Soap
It’s not true that you should not use soap when cleaning your cast iron pans and pots. The only thing to remember is not to use too much soap. Use only mild dishwashing detergent, too. Also, avoid using the dishwasher when cleaning cast iron.
2. Dry the Cast Iron Completely
Cast iron is very susceptible to rust, so after washing your pans and pots, you should dry them thoroughly. Use a clean kitchen towel to soak up all of the moisture. Apply a thin layer of oil afterward to retain the seasoning.
3. Re-season If Needed
The seasoning of your cast iron pan can wear away after some time. Sometimes, you might even remove it by accident. Fortunately, it is easy to re-season your cast iron pan and pots:
- Clean the pan as thoroughly as you can. Don’t worry about the seasoning at this point. Use any dishwashing soap that you have and use a scouring pad if needed.
- Dry the pan or pot thoroughly. Use a kitchen towel to get as much moisture as possible.
- Use any edible oil that you have on hand. Brush the entire surface of the pot or pan with a thin layer of oil. Any cooking oil will do, but coconut oil works great. Brush both the inside and outside of the pan.
- Afterward, place the pan inside the oven upside-down at the top rack. Set the temperature to high. Then, place a baking dish underneath to catch the oil drips.
- Bake the cast iron for an hour, and let it cool inside the oven. If needed, brush with more oil and bake again.
Cast Iron Pipes: Should You Get Them?
Creating cookware is not the only use for cast iron. A couple of decades ago, cast iron pipes were popular for household plumbing.
Easy to Manufacture
Cast iron pipes were widely used because they were easy to manufacture. They were also as tough as nails, literally. However, they fell out of fashion when PVC pipes came into being.
Is cast iron pipe magnetic? Yes, like cookware made from the same material, cast iron pipes are magnetic. This is why old-school plumbers sometimes use magnets to locate them inside walls.
What Is Wrong with Cast Iron Pipes?
With the introduction of modern plumbing, the downsides of using cast iron pipes have gotten more obvious. Here are some reasons why you should avoid using cast iron pipes nowadays:
1. Prone to Corrosion
This is why people don’t use these pipes anymore. In most cases, the corrosion starts inside the pipe. This is a huge problem as it will affect drinking water quality.
These pipes are so heavy that they easily sink into the ground, hastening the corrosion process. Also, when elevated, the weight of the pipe causes it to bend.
Sometimes, the bending is so great that it snaps the pipe in half. If installing cast iron pipes in your home, use several brackets to secure them.
3. Brittle and Weak Against the Cold
Are you living in a part of the country where the winters can get pretty harsh? Then I suggest that you replace your pipes as soon as you can. When exposed to extreme cold, cast iron tends to become quite brittle. Couple that with the quickly expanding frozen water, which will cause your pipe to burst.
4. Clogs Up Easily
The inside of cast iron pipes is as pitted as the outside. This means they can accumulate dirt and debris, which leads to clogging. Sometimes, the clog is so severe that you must replace the clogged length by cutting off the old.
5. Quite Difficult to Install
Unlike PVC pipes, cutting and bending cast iron pipes is hard work. PVC pipes can easily be cut to size using a utility knife. A cast-iron pipe needs a hacksaw and lots of elbow grease. As difficult as they are to install, repairs are even more difficult.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is It Okay to Use Soap on Cast Iron Pans?
You might have been told by a lot of people only to use plain water when washing cast iron. However, that is not always the case.
The seasoning has already been baked into the metal, so some soap will not harm it. However, you should still use mild dish soap, and a plastic bristled brush or scouring pad.
Are Rusted Cast Iron Pans Ruined?
Not necessarily. If the pan has not rusted through, you can still use the cast iron pan after cleaning it thoroughly. Soak the pan in a basin full of white vinegar to make removing the rust easier.
Afterward, using a drill with a wire wheel attachment, remove all the rust. After cleaning the pans, proceed to re-season them, and you are ready to cook.
Can You Use Cast Iron Pots and Pans on an Induction Cooktop?
Because cast iron is magnetic, you can use it for cooking on an induction cooktop. However, be careful, as cast iron tends to heat up faster than others. Another metal you can use on induction cookers is stainless steel.
In Closing – Is Cast Iron Magnetic or Non-magnetic?
Metals that contain iron, called ferrous metals, are magnetic. This means it will remain in place when you stick a magnet on them. A magnet will, therefore, stick to cast iron. However, it will also do so on other metals. These include stainless steel, high carbon steel, wrought iron, and mild tool steel.
However, not all cast iron materials have the same magnetic properties. The magnetic strength of a cast iron product will rely on:
- Purity of the Iron
- Type of Magnet
- Magnet’s Size
Are you wondering if those pans and pots you got from your grandmother are okay to use on your induction cooktop? Then test if a magnet will stick to the bottom. If the magnet sticks firmly, you can use them on an induction cooker.