Copper vs Aluminum - CenturyLife Boiling Speed Test

My rough and ready experience (i.e. not really experimentally tested) leads me to observe my indiction hob is faster than my microwave.

The hob heats the steel very quickly and the heat transfer from steel to water is amazingly fast with a full boil very quickly.

My microwave is quick but it doesn’t seem to heat the water as evenly and as Kaleo says the type of vessel is very important.

That said my one “burner” on the induction hob is 3,300 watts in boost mode, whilst my trusty microwave is only 950 watts…maybe this accounts for the difference…!

Kaleo - I think this is a key factor. Modern pans all heat up quickly, the key difference between technologies and build quality is the even distribution of heat and the stability of the base. A cheap pan will have hot spots and the base can distort with heat. A good pan will be rock solid with very even heat distribution and no hot spots.

The way the heat transfers throughout the pan is also important - you don’'t want the walls of the pan to heat differentially to the base or transmit a disproportionate amount of heat compared to the base.

In some respects a slightly “slower” pan maybe a better pan as it heats more evenly.

Hi Kaleo,

“One way of looking at it is that a thick pan has less heat moderating effect to gas or electric than does a thicker pan–more of the 3500F gas flame is closer to the pan/water interface. Water is not the greatest conductor, but it is so thin that convection currents are easy to start; these currents are a more effective means of heating the water as a whole than is pushing heat up the sides or across a base.”

What’s puzzling is that Franz compared an Atlantis pot (3.8 mm bottom thickness) with a Sitram Profiserie (6.35 mm bottom thickness). There was no difference.

The orthagonal difference is not that great–they’re both thick. Both pans’ areas directly over the heat will come up relatively fast. Convection takes it from there, I think.

Yes, I was speaking theoretically.

Microwave ovens themselves are not very energy efficient because energy gets wasted on things like turntables and lights.

From the studies I’ve seen, the most efficient home system for heating water is an electric kettle.

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If I have to make an educational guess, I would say so too.

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The main reason for my topic question was because I am looking for an 11" brazier, to use for braising of course, but also for boiling pasta, potatoes, etc. I would like to able to bring lots of water to a boil fast, and wasn’t sure what type of material or design would be best for that.

But from everything I’m reading, it sounds like, for boiling speed at least, a cooking vessel’s material and design account for only a tiny amount of any comparative advantage one type of cookware may have over another, and that other factors, such as the volume and starting temperature of water, or distance to heat source, amount of heat, etc., each have a far bigger impact on actual speed. Actual cookware material itself makes very little difference (i.e. maybe ~ 30-60 seconds)

Would this be correct?

For cookware speed alone, it is about transfer heat as much as possible. Much of heat is often lost – either before its enter the cookware or constantly escaping the cookware. Therefore, if cooking speed (especially harassing heat transfer) is the priority, then these following cookware would be better:

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If you say “small” instead of “tiny,” I’d agree. I have an 11" Staub ECI brazier and a tri ply SS 11" “essential pan.” Casual observation with about one inch of water using full power 1800 watt induction would lead me to expect a difference of time to boil of no more than 10-15 seconds.


Thanks Chem. Looks cool.
Unfortunately, I have electric coil elements.

Just looking at my notes again from last year: I had also tested 9.5" size stock pots.

My Cuisinart MultiClad Pro 9.5" stock pot vs. Cuisinart Professional Series (blue) disc bottom.

My trusty Cuisinart MultiClad Pro I’ve had since 2001

below: Professional Series (blue)

I had also tested a 9.5" stock pot from ‘Denmark: Tools for Cooks’ (disc base) stock pot that was lighter in weight, and thinner.

(MultiClad on left, Denmark pot on right)

MultiClad Pro - clad
9.5" W x 5" H
5.7 liter (6 quart)
1.6 kg (without lid)

Cuisinart Professional Series (blue) - disc base
9.5" W x 5" H
5.7 liter (6 quart)
1.5 kg (without lid)

Denmark: Tools for Cooks - disc base
9.5"W x 5-1/8"H
5.7 liter (6 quart) (without lid)

Volume of water tested: 3 liters
Volume height: 2-5/8"

Burner 8" set at max temp. (dial number 9). 2400 Watts

Boil target: 200° F

3 rounds each pot, 2 hours cool down period in between each round. Results of 3 time trials averaged and rounded up. I allowed 15 seconds as a margin of error, accounting for electric coil start lag, differences in humidity and barometric pressure, and any differences in ambient room or water temperature (water was left overnight at room temp).

Cuisinart Professional Series (blue) 9.5" disc base stock pot at 200°F

MultiClad Pro: 9 min. 35 sec.
Professional Series (blue): 11 min. 12 sec.
Denmark: Tools for Cooks: 9 min. 15 sec.

The MultiClad Pro held its own against its disc base competition. The MultiClad and the Professional Series were exactly identical pots in every conceivable way, apart from the disc base. They were the exact same geometry and even produced by the same company. The Professional Series weighed 100 grams less and was induction compatible, whereas the MultiClad Pro are the original version and non-magnetic. Still, I doubt a more direct and fair A/B comparison could be possible between a clad and disc base design. The clad beat the disc base by just over two minutes. The opposite of Franz’s results.

However, the other disc base design (Denmark) pot slightly edged the clad design by 20 seconds. It weighed 500 grams less than the Multiclad and was thinner (though I did not have a micrometer and could not measure thickness).

It’s difficult to draw general conclusions about design or materials, except that they do not appear to be a large differentiating factor between similar lines of cookware when it comes to boil speed. Cast iron would no doubt be slower, but by how much? In my tests, the clad design beat one brand of disc base, but not the other. So again, differentiation would need to be broken down into types of disc base, vs types of clad design. It seems all kinds of small variables are at work, including thickness of metal.

Franz’s results indicate that even solid clad copper vs disc base does not make any significant difference either in terms of boiling speed.

Hi Seitan,

I often steam vegetables in a 5.5 Qt. 11" ECI cocotte (with SS insert). I also bring water to a boil in my 7" Demeyere Resto Poacher (encapsulated disc), my 2 1/2 qt. Dansk Kobenstyle SS (encapsulated disc), and my All Clad 2 qt. and 3 1/2 qt tri ply. I always add about an inch of water. They all seem to take about the same amount of time to reach a running boil on my induction unit: no obvious difference in time.


Hi Ray.

Yeah, I think the way to maximize boiling speed is by using only just enough water for what you need, and to make sure it’s hot, and use highest burner setting. I am beginning to believe that the type of cookware is almost negligible. I used to hope maybe solid clad copper would be much faster, but I haven’t tested it, and I tend to believe Franz’s results (which show it’s not faster).

I figure I could also maybe swap out the 2400 watt burner for a 2600 watt element and that would give me an extra 10% higher heat source.

Totally correct. Although you would probably want a thick bottom for a brazier.

I thought I would test mine to see how it compared. 3 litres of water in my basic SS Scanpan saucepan - don’t really know how its made but it was their bargain range.

Mine got to 200° (93°C) in 5 min 13 seconds, I then took it to full boil at 100°C and it got here in a further 28 seconds so 5 minutes 42 seconds.

I do have an induction hob and its really interesting to see how much difference the heat source makes (obviously not certain of your starting tempter straight from the tap which is cold). I knew induction was fast but that seems quite a significant difference.

Maybe upgrade to an induction top…? It maybe cheaper than high spec pans.

Hi, Phil:

If you boil or blanch a lot, and in quantity, and are in a hurry to do so, this makes sense. As does having a dedicated boil/steam pot–thin and cheap.

However, if you’re like most cooks, the vast majority of the time your setting will be lower–and the preps will be in the realm where you will want the “high spec” pans for evenness and heat stability.


Hi Phil,

Is your induction hob built in, or portable? I presume a built-in would be faster (higher wattage)?

I think that is true to a point. But there is a lot of difference in price between a basic pan that heats evenly and one of these high tech, high price pans specialist cookery shops sell.

My basic(cheap) Scanpans don’t have hot spots and heat evenly. I cook a lot of sauces and custards where temperature control is essential with no problems. Prior to the induction top I had a set of cheap Tefal aluminium non-stick pans which worked just as well.

I am lucky to have a few good professional catering shops near me which are used by chefs and restaurant owners - they sell everything from teaspoons to heavy duty industrial fryers. The pots and pans they stock tend to be fairly basic, heavy gauge steel and are pretty rugged. I assume designed to take the rough and tumble in the kitchen, and affordable enough to stock a kitchen with the large number of pans they use in a service. It’s far cheaper to shop in these stores compared to the high street “kitchen boutiques” and stuff seems to just last.

We built it in (whilst building the kitchen). I think you can get high wattage single units that are portable, but obviously our four burner hob can suck a lot of power so needed to be wired in on a seperate circuit (like an oven).

Had wanted gas and distrusted this new fangled technology. but we are not on the gas mains where I live and I didn’t want to use LPG so decided to bite the bullet as I didn’t like the “lag” and thus lack of control on electric elements.

I tends to buy on utility rather than fancy names and so bought mine from IKEA (about $1,000.

After 14 months its working really well and its a revelation in terms of control and speed. The low settings are really gentle and of course it heats fast.

The biggest bonus is that its simple to keep clean - the glass doesn’t really get that hot (it does warm) and so doesn’t weld spilt food onto the top like glass ceramic does. A quick wipe with a moist dishcloth is all it usually takes.

I can confirm that my Turbo Pot (Chem’s lower picture) tea kettle heats water significantly faster than my thin-copper-bottomed Revere Ware tea kettle. I haven’t run any timed comparisons yet, so I guess I might do that soon …

seitan, the Flare cookware (Chem’s upper picture) says it’s "… designed for both gas and electric stoves."