The Best Portable Induction Cooktop for Stove-Free Cooking

·9 min read

There’s a lot to love about induction cooking—particularly when you can tackle it anywhere with outlet access. Armed with the best portable induction cooktop, you can turn any counter or table into a stove and boil, brown, sauté, and fry just like you would on a full-sized appliance. Portable induction cooktops are sleekly designed, easy to clean, and safe to use, without the added risk of an open flame. They achieve proper temperature alarmingly fast, and facilitate much more precision and temperature control than standard electric or gas ranges. Plus, they're efficient: by making the cooking vessel the heat source, induction cooktops use about 10 percent less energy than electric burners and up to half the energy of gas.

A portable induction burner might be right for you if you are looking to add extra cooking surfaces to a small kitchen or frequently host large gatherings and find yourself running out of stove space. They're perfect for outfitting a college dorm room or toting along on your next wilderness retreat (much better than the standard hot plate). And if your rental features a bad electric stove, they make an easy-to-store alternative. But knowing you need an induction cooktop is just the beginning—knowing which model to purchase is the major hurdle. We tested four highly-rated portable induction burners and found two winners: the best overall and a budget pick, if $60 is your limit. Find the winners below, and for more information on how induction cooking works and the details of our testing method, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Table of contents

The best portable induction cooktop: Duxtop Induction Cooktop Model 9600LS
The best budget portable induction cooktop: Isiler Induction Cooktop
How does induction cooking work?
How we tested each portable induction cooktop
Other portable induction cooktops we tested
The takeaway

The best portable induction cooktop: Duxtop Induction Cooktop Model 9600LS

Duxtop Induction Cooktop Model 9600LS

$98.00, Amazon


With 20 different power settings and temperature settings (ranging from 200 to 1800 watts, and 100° F to 460° F), the Duxtop offers more heat control than any other model we tested. It also did the best job of regulating its temperature. All the induction cooktops we tested spiked temperature when you first heated them, but the Duxtop adjusted quickly—both after that initial spike, as well as in instances where the temperature had lowered, such as after adding the ingredients to hot oil.

The Duxtop also has a very simple interface, with an easy-to-read LED display, a timer that can be set for as long as 10 hours (if the timer isn’t set, the machine's automatic shut-off kicks on after 2 hours), and safety features like a child safety lock button—useful if there are kids nearby who are tempted by buttons. As with all induction cooktops, there’s a low whir from fans inside the machine, but the Duxtop was the quietest of any of the models tested. It was also one of the easiest to clean, not only because there are no crevices for oil and debris to get stuck in, but also because its glass surface was the simplest to wipe down without leaving any streaks.

The Duxtop is among the most expensive cooktops we tested, though it does offer a two-year warranty, where as all other models have a one-year. It's also one of the bulkiest models—both the heaviest, at 5 pounds 12 ounces, and the biggest in size, at about 11- by 14-inches wide and 2.5 inches deep.

The best budget portable induction cooktop: Isiler Induction Cooktop

iSiLER Portable Induction Cooktop

$60.00, Amazon


At a little more than half the price of the winning Duxtop, this model has a sleek minimalist design and is easy to use and accurate temperature settings. The control panel is a little harder to read from a distance because it’s not set at an angle as the Duxtop is and has a standard digital display rather than an LED-lit one. There are only nine temperature settings, as compared to the Duxtop’s 20, and it’s noticeably slower to self-regulate its temperature during the deep-fry tests, taking twice, sometimes three-times as long to come back to the proper heat once the oil cooled after adding potatoes. Its surface, while flat and smooth and made of glass like the others, is strangely streak-prone, and requires more effort than seems necessary to thoroughly clean. Still, this is a great budget induction cooker.

How does induction cooking work?

With thermal induction a flame or an electric implement generates heat and, in turn, heats up the cookware when it's placed on top. In contrast, an induction cooktop uses electromagnetic induction to turn the pan itself into the heat source. (The cooktop itself hardly warms up at all—after you remove a pot of boiling water, it's warm to the touch but not scalding hot like a gas stove or electric range is by comparison.) It works like this: The copper coils in an induction cooktop pass an electric current to the iron in the cookware (note that not all cookware works on induction stovetops), and because iron, unlike copper, is a poor conductor of electricity, that electricity is released in the pan as heat.

Most induction burner models offer both a power level (numbered and corresponding to a specific wattage that can be as low as 100 watts and usually as high as 1800 watts) as well as a specific temperature setting, starting as low as 100° F and going as high as 500° F. Any induction cooktop designed for home use is suitable for a 120-volt outlet, which is standard in the U.S. (but most advise against plugging in more than one induction cooktop at a time to the same outlet).

The drawbacks mostly relate to the limitations of the types of cookware you can use; induction stoves require compatible cookware. You need pots and skillets made from “ferromagnetic material.” Ferrous means that it contains iron, so induction compatible cookware is cast-iron, iron, steel, or a stainless steel pot or skillet that has a magnetic base (not all 18/10 stainless steel will work, and neither will glass, ceramic nonstick, copper, or aluminum). The cookware needs to be flat—which rules out woks—and pans smaller than 4 inches or so in diameter, like little butter melters, may not connect. Additionally, without an open flame like that of a gas burner, you can’t blacken a bell pepper on the stovetop or crisp a sheet of nori by waving it over the heat (but you can use your broiler for these things). And you need to be cautious to keep items that are sensitive to magnetism (such as credit cards—and pacemakers!) a distance from the cooktops, lest they get damaged.

How we tested the portable induction cooktops

We evaluated the induction burners based on their temperature accuracy and regulation. We looked at their size and weight (after all, these cooktops are theoretically designed with portability in mind). We also evaluated the ease of cleaning them. One of the great advantages of induction cooktops (both portable and those permanently installed in a kitchen) is that they don’t have all the tedious-to-clean nooks of a standard range top. Cleaning should be just a quick, smooth wipe-down. Induction burners also contain a fan to prevent overheating, which can get loud. We looked for the quietest option.

We put each model through a series of tests:

First, we boiled four quarts of water. If you’ve ever cooked with induction, you know that bringing a pot of water to boil is a thrill. Here a watched pot will boil—and fast! In this first round of testing, the differences were negligible—all models boiled water in pretty much the same (quick!) amount of time.

Then, we measured evenness of heat distribution by browning slabs of tofu. Manufacturers like to boast that induction offers the most even heat distribution there is—with the cookware itself becoming the heat source. So we seared two slabs of tofu, cut for maximum surface. For each model, we seared tofu for 3 minutes at a temperature setting of 340 degrees, without disturbing at all, then checked their cooked sides to see how even the browning was. While the induction cooktops all boast even heat distribution, our searing tests revealed that there’s a clear concentration of heat at the center of the cooktop. On all models, the tofu slabs we seared showed darker browning the closer they were to the center of the cooktop. The variance among the models came down to the exact level of browning differences—an issue of temperature accuracy—but all showed the same pattern.

Then, we made potato chips in the name of science. Induction cooktops should be ideal for deep frying. If you’ve ever deep fried food over a gas burner, you know that while the heat level stays the same, the temperature of the oil continues to rise, so you need to continually adjust the heat to try to maintain a steady temperature. An induction cooktop, however, allows for precise temperature control; you set that specific temperature of 340°, and by making the cooking vessel the heat source, it's able to self regulate, upping the temperature levels when, for example, you add cold foods that drop the temperature of the oil, and lowering it if the oil temp starts to spike.

Other portable induction cooktops we tested

  • NuWave PIC Flex: This was the smallest, most portable of the induction cooktops. But its control panel had a lot of unnecessary settings and buttons. It has the highest temperate range, going to 500 F, but was also the slowest to stabilize its temperature during the deep fry test.

  • The Duxtop 9100 MC: This is sometimes marketed at The Secura induction burner online, but is actually a less expensive Duxtop model, leading to some confusion while ordering it. Its design is very similar to the winning Duxtop (though less sleek). The interface is also identical. But there are fewer heat settings (15 rather than 20), more nooks and crannies for food to get caught in, and it was the loudest of the models we tested. Plus, it didn’t do quite as well regulating its temperature during the deep-fry test.

The takeaway

Consider buying a portable induction burner if you are short on burner space, have a sub-par rental kitchen electric cooktop, or just want a more energy efficient way to cook a weeknight meal for one or two. While the Duxtop 9600 is the priciest of the portable induction cookers we tested, it’s a worthwhile investment, thanks to an intuitive interface, the best range of temperature settings, heat control, and temperature regulation. For a budget pick that offers slightly less temperature range and stability, opt for the Isiler induction cooktop.

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Originally Appeared on Epicurious