Straight to the Point

We loved the Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop 9100MC for its controlled heating and intuitive user interface. It boiled water fast and had analog buttons that were easy to clean. We also liked the Hamilton Beach Portable Single Induction Cooktop, which had a responsive touchscreen panel, quickly heated oil for frying, and maintained temperatures well during long simmers. Our other favorite was the IKEA TILLREDA Portable Induction Cooktop, a no-frills model with powerful cooking capabilities. It had the smallest footprint of all of the models we tested and a hook for hanging storage, making it a good pick for small spaces.

Gas stoves have long been the kings of the kitchen. The “tik-tik-tik” before a gas burner flares to life is instantly recognizable. These stoves have a reputation for being powerful, controlled, and, well, downright chef-y. They’ve been the top choice for more than a century, spurred on by industry-fueled slogans like, “Now we’re cooking with gas!” Recently, though, research about how gas stoves can affect our health and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions has led many (including me!) to question this loyalty.

Before doing this review, I had cooked with induction a handful of times. I knew that higher-end induction burners could be ultra-precise and cook at a wide range of temperatures, but I wasn’t sure how more affordable household countertop models (which are great for small spaces and anywhere you might want an extra cooking zone) could perform. To find out, I tested seven portable induction burners priced between $70 and $230. Six of them were single-burners, and one had a double-burner cooktop. All of the models topped out at 1800 watts of power, although I found that each one varied in actual efficiency. The winning induction cooktops were intuitive to cook with, had easy-to-use interfaces, and could heat quickly and accurately.

After using these cooktops to boil, fry, sear, and simmer, I found that induction is not only safer and more sustainable, but it can go head-to-head with gas (and electric) burners in terms of performance—and win hands-down.

Editor’s Note

While we didn’t test it in this review, we wanted to note our love of the Breville Control Freak induction burner. This powerful burner is often considered the gold standard in countertop induction. It includes knobs for quick heat and timer adjustments, programmable recipe memory, and a probe for monitoring and perfectly maintaining the temperature of food inside of a pot (as well as a through-glass sensor for the pot’s surface temperature). Unfortunately, at $1500 it’s likely too expensive for most home cooks. However, we’ve used it in the Serious Eats test kitchen for years, though, so we still recommend it if you’re looking for a top-of-the-line burner with incredible accuracy.

The Winners, at a Glance

Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop 9100MC

Amazon


The Duxtop 9100MC had the best scores in both performance and ease of use throughout each test. It was the fastest to boil water, maintained long simmers well, and was intuitive to adjust while cooking. 

Hamilton Beach Portable Single Induction Cooktop

Amazon


This burner was a close runner-up to the Duxtop 9100MC and excelled in many of the same areas during testing. It was great at keeping the cooking heat steady throughout every task and had 12 different temperature levels that could be set in Fahrenheit or Celsius. 

IKEA TILLREDA Portable induction cooktop

IKEA


This sleek induction burner may not come with as many features as some other models that were tested, but its efficiency and straightforward user interface made it a capable companion for most cooking tasks.

How Does Induction Work?

Induction heating is caused by passing an electric current through a (usually copper) wire coil, which creates an electromagnetic field. On an induction stove, the coil is mounted beneath a glass surface, which becomes the cooktop. When an induction-compatible pan is set on the cooktop, the electromagnetic energy in the coil induces a current in the pan. This causes vibration on the atomic level within the metal of the pan, which creates friction. The friction generates heat directly in the cookware, which then cooks whatever food is inside. The burner is not actually generating any heat, just an electromagnetic field. All the heat is created within the pan itself, which must be ferromagnetic for this process to happen (in other words, induction-compatible cookware must contain iron and be able to attract a magnet). All cast iron (including enameled cast iron, like most Dutch ovens), carbon steel, and magnetic stainless steel pans are great partners for induction burners. For nonmagnetic stainless steel and other cookware, an induction interface disk can bridge the gap by providing a magnetic surface that sits on top of the burner and heats up similarly to a traditional electric burner. It allows you to continue using your favorite pots and pans, even if they aren’t magnetic. You can read more about induction, including its pros and cons, here. 

A Bit About Portable Induction Cooktops

Portable induction cooktops do all of the aforementioned in a small package. They’re good for people who want to try out induction cooking before committing to a whole stovetop, renters and college students, or those who just want the flexibility of an extra cooking area. The “portable” bit comes in handy, too, as you can set up a cook station outside to prevent smoking up your kitchen during a hot sear or the lingering odors that accompany deep-frying at home. Brady Seals—an expert in household energy who works at RMI, a nonprofit organization that is focused on global sustainability—says that she frequently uses her portable induction burner (along with a grill pan) on her balcony as an apartment-friendly, fossil-fuel-free alternative to grilling. Win, win, win.

The Tests

Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger


  • Flour Test: To test the heat distribution of each burner, I sprinkled a tablespoon of flour evenly over the surface of a large stainless steel skillet and set it to medium heat (using power settings, when possible). Without stirring or moving the pan, I observed where the flour browned to find the hottest area of the burner and timed how long it took to toast.
  • Boiling Water Test: I timed how long it took each burner to bring a gallon of room temperature water to a boil in a 4.5-quart Dutch oven. I used the burner’s Boil preset if it had one; if there wasn’t one, I used the highest power level. A special note here: I am at a high altitude in Denver, so my water boiled around 202°F. I used a probe thermometer to ensure accuracy.
  • Simmering Test: After boiling the water, I reduced it to a simmer to test each burner’s heat stability. Where possible, I tried to find the appropriate temperature setting to keep the water between 185 and 195°F (a simmer at my altitude) and marked how much the water fluctuated over an hour duration.
  • Scrambled Egg Test: I cooked a batch of soft-scrambled eggs in a medium nonstick skillet on each burner and judged how intuitively I was able to set it to medium-low heat (using power settings where possible). I also examined the responsiveness of the controls and the performance of the burner.
  • Seared Chicken Breast Test (Winners-Only): I used each of the top-performing burners to sear two chicken cutlets over medium-high power to test how intuitive it was to cook with, adjusting when needed. I noted how evenly each burner browned the cutlets and if it left the edges undercooked.
  • Onion Rings Test (Winners-Only): I deep-fried onion rings using the top-performing induction burners. I timed how long it took the oil to come up to 375°F and how well the burner recovered the temperature after adding the battered onions. I marked down burners that had trouble maintaining consistent heat or struggled to bring the oil up to the correct temperature to start.
  • Cleaning and Usability Tests: Throughout all of the tests, I paid attention to how simple each burner was to use, how intuitive the heating levels were, and if it was easy to clean. I also noted if a burner felt durable or acquired marks and scratches during use.

What We Learned

Pan Size Was Important for Even Heating

Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger


Induction burners were only great at heating the pan where it was in contact with the surface directly above its coil. If the pan was too small, the burner could not conduct an adequate current and wouldn’t heat up; if the pan was too large, it wouldn’t cook evenly around the edges. Most of the models I tested recommended pans with diameters between 4.5 and 10 inches (although the IKEA TILLREDA Portable Induction Cooktop suggested no pans larger than 7.9 inches). 

For the flour test, I used a 12-inch stainless steel skillet that had a nine-inch base. While all of the induction burners could heat this pan (even the IKEA burner), I consistently saw 4- to 5-inch hot spots show up in the flour at the center of the pan. Without stirring the flour to redistribute the heat, the flour around the edges remained white and untoasted, regardless of the burner make. Even the winning cooktops had trouble heating the skillet during the seared chicken breast test, and left the chicken that was nearest to the rim pale. Comparatively, my mid-sized, 8-inch nonstick skillet (which had a five-and-a-half-inch base) had uniform, controlled temperatures during the scrambled egg test. For the most even heat, it’s best to match the pan diameter with the size of the cooking zone of the burner.

One more thing about even heating: empty pans should not be used on induction. Because the cookware can heat up almost instantaneously with induction heat, it can cause them to warp or become damaged from the sudden temperature changes. Having food inside helps to regulate and distribute the heat in the pan. While they come standard with safety shut-offs for overheating, induction burners also have a hard time detecting when a pan is too hot when there is nothing inside. An empty cast iron left on the Mueller RapidTherm Portable Induction Cooktop quickly rocketed upwards of 750°F within a minute and a half (according to an infrared thermometer) before its safety feature turned it off. Don’t try that at home—every burner warns against heating empty pans for this reason. A few seconds of preheating is all a pan needs when used on induction. 

Although Wattage Was the Same, Efficiency Varied

As I mentioned before, all of the portable induction cooktops had a maximum of 1800 watts of power. Some were more efficient than others, though, which manifested as being slow to warm up or unable to cook at higher temperatures. The Caso Pro Menu Single Induction Burner, for example, was sluggish to cook with. It only had faint browning in its center after several minutes on medium heat during the flour test, and took 24 minutes to boil water (compared to the Duxtop 9100MC, which took 16). It was difficult for me to determine what actually caused certain burners to be less efficient than others, though, and the winning Duxtop was also fallible. During the onion ring test, the Duxtop 9100MC quickly heated the two quarts of peanut oil up to the required 375°F, but could not raise it any higher. Its counterpart, the Duxtop 9600LS, failed to ever reach 375°F, topping out at 350°F after nearly two hours of preheating. The IKEA and Hamilton Beach Portable Single Induction Cooktop both showed their potential in that test, though, and could easily surpass the 375°F oil temp if on full heat. For the less efficient burners, modifications like using a smaller pot or cooking in reduced batch sizes could have helped maintain their power.

Temperature and Power Levels Had Distinct Purposes

Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger


A majority of the portable burners I tested included power and temperature options for managing heat levels. A power setting corresponded to wattage being continually conducted into the pot (like turning the knob on a gas or electric stovetop), while a temperature setting represented a steady level of heat at the base of the cooktop surface (the burner will fluctuate wattage and on/off cycles to maintain this). 

Temperature settings are not indicative of what’s going on inside the cookware, though. A burner on a 212°F temperature setting is probably not going to maintain a steady boil because not every bit of heat energy is absorbed into the water (no matter how much more efficient induction is). During tests, I often found temperature settings unintuitive at first. The temperature setting needed changes depending on the food being cooked and the thermal conductivity of the cookware. It also changes from burner to burner. During the simmering test, the Mueller cooktop efficiently maintained a steady low simmer (around 185°F) at its temperature setting of 212°F. The Caso, on the other hand, had to be set over a hundred degrees higher at 340°F, even though I used the same amount of room temperature water and the same Dutch oven. With all of the burners that had temperature options, I tried to find the Goldilocks zone for hands-off simmering. It took extra time as I adjusted and waited for the water temperature to settle before making additional adjustments. Even though it required some trial and error, it was achievable in each of them. Over time, this would be easier and allow for more stable temperature maintenance, especially during long cooks.

Power settings were much more universally intuitive for most cooking tasks. If the power levels ranged from one to nine, for example, I could map out the numbers on a low-medium-high scale and start the scrambled egg test on a medium-low three. Every burner’s power settings were comparable in heat level using this method—except the Mueller, which only allowed temperature adjustments (and admittedly, I browned the eggs because I set the temperature too high on the first batch). 

Presets Often Hindered Ease of Use

Several of the burners I tested came with additional features like preset cooking shortcuts and timers to automatically shut off the heat. The Mueller used its presets as the starting place, forcing me to select from Hot Pot, Boil, Slow Cook, or Keep Warm before I could adjust the temperature setting up or down for what I needed. The presets also had automatic timers associated with them (Hot Pot and Boil were the same temperature setting with different timer lengths), which felt unnecessarily clunky. 

The Duxtop 9600LS—not to be confused with the winning Duxtop 9100MC—also had Keep Warm and Boil buttons. I used the latter during the boiling water test. The preset turned the burner up to its highest power setting and set a 10-minute timer. That would have been plenty for a small pot of water, but the timer ran out and turned off the burner while the gallon I was boiling was at 156°F, eight and a half minutes before it actually came to a boil (a big flaw if you were using the water to boil pasta, for example). The process for changing the Duxtop 9600LS’s timer took at least 10 to 20 seconds and several extra button presses. Combined with all the taps needed to adjust settings while cooking, the additional time and button presses started to add up. After that, I found myself manually setting the heat level without the presets and keeping a separate timer for check-ins, skipping the automatic shut-off if I didn’t need it (which I rarely did).

The Hamilton Beach had a unique preset that no other model had: a Booster button. When pressed, it would turn the heat up to maximum power for 30 seconds, before returning to the previous setting. Since induction is so responsive to heat adjustments, this short surge of power didn’t have an obvious use for me and seemed more like a shortcut for burning whatever is in the pan. The touch sensor button was also easily activated by accident, which happened multiple times throughout testing.

Overall, I found the more buttons and features that crowded an induction burner’s user interface, the harder it was to operate. At their best, extra features can be occasionally useful—like a timer for long simmers. At their worst, presets meddle with the cooking process by suddenly turning off the heat or blasting a pan with high temperatures. The minimalist IKEA induction cooktop was the simplest and most efficient burner of the lineup, with Lock being the only function other than power adjustments (locking the burner would freeze the power setting in place while cooking, or keep the burner from being turned on accidentally between uses). Not only was it effortless to learn how to use, but it was fast and intuitive to make adjustments while cooking, too.

The Criteria: What to Look for in a Portable Induction Cooktop

Serious Eats / Ashlee Redger / Grace Kelly


The most impactful characteristic of a portable induction cooktop was intuitiveness. Having predictable heat settings played into this, and power settings tended to be more beginner-friendly than temperature settings (although temperature settings can be a boon if you take the time to dial them in). A simple user interface also helped intuitiveness by making quick adjustments easier, especially while cooking. Preset buttons can be as much of a hindrance as a help. They allow shortcuts to certain settings, like high power for boiling, but often include drawbacks, like a timer that turns off the heat before cooking is done. For that reason, I preferred models without them as they were faster to operate and felt closer to traditional cooktops.

Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop 9100MC

Amazon


What we liked: This model had a straightforward user interface and intuitive power settings. It brought a gallon of water to a boil in 16 minutes (the fastest of the lineup) and had less than 5°F of fluctuation throughout an hour-long simmer. The control panel also had physical buttons rather than a touch sensor, so I was able to wipe up oil splatters while I cooked without fear of changing any settings. 

What we didn’t like: While it had enough power to accomplish all of the tasks, it was at its max during the onion ring test. In order to keep the oil at 375°F for frying, I had to keep the burner on its highest power setting the whole time (it wasn’t efficient enough to get the oil any hotter than that). It didn’t have a problem heating up the large skillet for searing chicken, though, and modifications like using a smaller pot or less oil could help boost efficiency when needed. It lacked boil and keep warm shortcuts, so quick temperature changes required more button pushes. While I liked the physical buttons over a touch screen, the icons printed on them could wear out over time.

Price at time of publish: $78.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Dimensions: 14 x 11.3 x 2.8 inches
  • Burner diameter: 8 inches
  • Recommended pan diameter: At least 5 inches
  • Cord length: 55 inches
  • Surface weight limit: 25 pounds
  • Power level range: 15 settings from 200-1800 watts, in 100- or 200-watt increments. The power levels are labeled in half steps from 1 through 5.5, and whole numbers from 6 through 10.
  • Temperature level range: 15 settings from 140°F to 460°F, in 20- or 30-degree increments
  • Lock function?: No 
  • Timer: 0 to 170 minutes, in one-minute increments. The burner will automatically stop cooking after two hours if the timer is not set and no buttons are pressed during that time.
  • Cleaning and care: Once the burner has cooled, wipe its surface with a moist cloth. Mild liquid detergent can be used to clean grease and other stains. Do not use abrasive cleaners or materials on the cooktop, as they can damage it. Wipe dry after cleaning. If you’re not cooking with it regularly, cover the burner between uses to protect it from dust.

Hamilton Beach Portable Single Induction Cooktop

Amazon


What we liked: This burner was a close runner-up to our overall winner. Although it took a little longer to boil water, it was the fastest and most efficient at heating oil for frying. It had great temperature stability during long cooking tasks and was intuitive to use.

What we didn’t like: The controls could be a little touchy, and I accidentally hit its Boost buton—a puzzling feature that turned the power up to max heat for 30 seconds—more than once during testing.

Price at time of publish: $70.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6.4 pounds
  • Dimensions: 14.25 x 11 x 2.5 inches
  • Burner diameter: 8.5 inches
  • Recommended pan diameter: 4 to 10 inches
  • Cord length: 45 inches
  • Surface weight limit: Not specified
  • Power level range: 10 settings, up to 1800 watts (actual wattage per power level not specified)
  • Temperature level range: 15 settings from 175°F to 450°F in 25-degree increments (can be adjusted to use Celsius)
  • Lock function?: No
  • Timer: 1 to 150 minutes, in one-minute increments (does not specify an automatic shut-off if the timer is not set)
  • Cleaning and care: Wipe the cooled cooktop surface with a soft, damp cloth. Mild detergent may also be used if further cleaning is needed. Do not use abrasive cleaners or sponges.

IKEA TILLREDA Portable induction cooktop

IKEA


What we liked: Although it was slightly smaller than the other models, the IKEA portable induction burner was a powerful machine. It had no issues getting pans super hot for searing and frying, but also easily cooked delicate soft-scrambled eggs at lower temperatures. The responsive touch controls were dead simple, too. There were only four buttons: Power, Lock, and Plus and Minus buttons for adjusting the heat. It is a good pick for small spaces (it has a hook for hanging it) and is great for those who want to minimize the induction learning curve.

What we didn’t like: IKEA recommends using pans between 4.7 and 7.9 inches in diameter on this burner—which could be limiting, especially if cooking for a family. It still heated my 12-inch skillet (which had a base diameter of nine inches), but didn’t evenly brown the chicken that was around the edges of the pan. It also isn’t as adept at hands-off temperature maintenance, as it only comes with power settings. It achieved a steady hour-long simmer without difficulty but kept overshooting the oil temperature during the onion ring test.

Price at time of publish: $70.

Key Specs

  • Weight: 6.2 pounds
  • Dimensions: 12.8 x 10.6 x 2.5 inches
  • Burner diameter: 7 inches
  • Recommended pan diameter: 4.7 to 7.9 inches
  • Cord length: 55 inches
  • Surface weight limit: Not specified
  • Power level range: 9 settings from 200-1800 watts. The levels are numbered 1 through 9.
  • Temperature level range: This burner does not have temperature level options.
  • Lock function?: Yes
  • Timer: This model does not include a timer, but will automatically turn off if the power setting is not modified after two hours.
  • Cleaning and care: Use a damp cloth and mild detergent to clean the cooking surface after it has cooled. Wipe dry after cleaning. Avoid using abrasive detergents or materials, as they can scratch the surface.

The Competition

  • Cuisinart Double Induction Cooktop: Cuisinart’s single induction burner was discontinued, so I looked at its double burner option instead. It took the longest to boil water (a full 10 minutes longer than the Duxtop 9100MC), but it had a nice interface and even heating. An important note, though: this model had the same wattage capabilities as the single burners. If you’re using both sides at once, the power could be limited as it’s divided between the two.
  • Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop 9600LS: The Duxtop 9600LS is highly rated online. It comes with features like a 10-hour timer, a touch sensor interface, and Boil/Keep Warm shortcuts. It has more heat settings than any other model (20 temperature and power levels each). It was more expensive than the overall winning Duxtop but wasn’t as fast or powerful as the 9100MC model during tests. It took a lot of button taps to operate, and it couldn’t heat the oil up to the temperature required in the onion ring test. After over an hour and a half of heating on the highest setting, the oil topped out at 350°F (the recipe called for 375°F), plus it had a hard time rebounding when the onion rings were added and the oil temp dropped.
  • Mueller RapidTherm Portable Induction Cooktop: This model was quick to boil and excellent at maintaining a simmer, but its interface forced the user to select one of the four presets (Boil, Hot Pot, Slow Cook, or Keep Warm) first before adjusting the heat as needed. The product boasts both power and temperature settings but only displayed (and allowed adjustments to) the temperature settings. There were big gaps between the settings (for example, there was no option between 140°F and 212°F), which made it difficult to achieve appropriate heat levels, especially at lower temperatures.
  • Caso Pro Menu Single Induction Burner: Caso’s induction burner had a streamlined look and handsome matte touch sensor panel, but it was sluggish to heat up and fluctuated a lot in temperatures during the simmering test (after a lot of trial and error to find the right level). The exhaust fans also made my countertops quite hot while on higher settings.

FAQs

How does induction work?

Induction burners work by creating an electromagnetic field between the copper coil in the burner and the base of the cookware on top. This causes imperceptible vibration in the electrons of the pan’s base, which creates heat directly within the pan (the burner does not generate heat by itself). This means that the cookware itself is doing the cooking, and is therefore much more energy-efficient than traditional gas or electric burners.

What kind of cookware can you use with induction burners?

Cookware must be ferromagnetic to be compatible with induction. In other words, the pot or pan must have strong magnetic attraction and contain iron. Cast iron (including enameled), carbon steel, and magnetic stainless steel pans are all induction-compatible. An easy test for determining induction compatibility is to hold a magnet to the base of the cookware. If the magnet is attracted securely to the bottom of the pot or pan, then it will work on induction.

What is a portable induction burner good for?

Portable induction burners are great for people who want to try out induction before committing to a stovetop, renters, college students, and anyone who wants to have the flexibility of an extra burner. They can be used to set up cooking stations outside of a kitchen since they are just as powerful as a stovetop burner, in a compact package.

How do you clean a portable induction burner?

You can clean your induction burner by wiping it with a damp, soft cloth. A little mild detergent can be added to the cloth for grease or other stains, and a dry towel will buff out any streaks after cleaning. Never use abrasive detergents or materials on your burner, as you may damage its surface.