These Portable Induction Cooktops Are Actually Worth Your Money

These Portable Induction Cooktops Are Actually Worth Your Money

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Long the go-to option for recipe demonstrators, food vendors, dorm room cooks and even professional chefs, a portable induction cooktop is more than just a simple hot plate. These single-burner devices come in handy even in the best-equipped kitchen. Whether you’re experimenting with induction, looking for a tabletop device for family hotpot nights, or need extra cooking space at the holidays, induction burners are a convenient way to increase your kitchen’s cooking capacity quickly and efficiently.

To find the best portable induction cooktops for your kitchen, we spent the depths of winter preparing classic meals like french onion soup and beef bourguignon on a handful of different models to find the best options.

Best overall portable induction cooktop

Compact and powerful, the Duxtop is quick to heat food, and cooks more evenly than any other we tested. This burner also comes with a bevy of useful settings like a child safety lock, timer, and boil and keep warm presets.

Best budget portable induction cooktop

At about half the price of the 9600LS, the Duxtop 8100MC Portable Induction Cooktop is just as powerful and is equally great at cooking, though it drops the convenience features and isn’t as attractively styled.

The Duxtop 9600LS Portable Induction Cooktop was the best all around induction burner we tried. It excelled on our cooking tests, handling a variety of tasks with ease. Since an induction cooktop can heat pans directly and efficiently via electromagnetism it can get up to temperature much faster than a flame or traditional electric burner, and the Duxtop 9600LS got up to temperature the most quickly (and held that temperature more accurately) than the competition. It cooked just as well as our brand new LG electric electric range, but in a fraction of the time.

The Duxtop 9600LS was the top-performing burner in our cooking tests. With 1800 watts of power, and temperature settings ranging from 130 degrees to 460 degrees, the 9600LS handled every ingredient and task we tested well. It boiled two quarts of water in 4 minutes, quicker than some cooktops which took upwards of 5 minutes to reach a full boil. The 9600LS burner also gently sauteed onions, caramelizing them perfectly, rather than blackening or charring, as happened with the other cooktops we tested. At the highest heat setting, the 9600LS also beautifully browned a beef chuck roast in a cast iron skillet.

The 9600LS is compact — about 11.5-inches wide by 14-inches deep — and suited even to cramped kitchens, and its design is clean and functional, with a responsive, easy-to-read angled control panel that enabled us to make the most of this burner’s cooking capabilities. You can adjust the burner’s output by either power level or temperature; we found it easier to maintain a steady simmer using the power settings (rather than temperature selection). A child safety lock, timer, boil and keep warm settings round out the selection of useful features.

The only issue we encountered was the high-pitched whine common to induction cooktops when used with certain cookware. This was actually less severe with the 9600LS than with the other cooktops we tested, so a point in its favor if you are sensitive to the sound.

The Duxtop 8100MC is a great alternative for the occasional user, someone on a budget, or people tight on space. For around half the cost of the 9600LS, the Duxtop 8100MC cooks nearly as well, browning meat, sauteing onions and holding a simmer better than the competition. It even brought water to a boil faster than its bigger sibling, in around 3.5 minutes.

The 8100MC is slightly more compact than the 9600LS (it’s about an inch shorter in depth), and has a similarly intuitive design, though the aesthetics are a bit less slick and the display more minimal. Like the 9600LS, the 8100MC lets you adjust settings by temperature or power level, though those settings are not as granular, spaced in increments of 40º F rather than 20ºF as on the 9600LS — even more so than with the higher-end model, we found it easier to stick to adjusting the burner output by power instead.

The 8100MC also has a timer function, but it lacks a child lock or presets for boiling water and similar common uses. That said, the lack of presets didn’t feel like a dealbreaker, because it’s still possible to simply set the burner on low (or high) and maintain a constant temperature regardless of having a specialized button for it. We liked the 8100MC’s tactile buttons, by the way, which were a pleasure to use.

As with the 9600LS and the rest of the cooktops we tested, the Duxtop 8100MC produced a whine when in use, but again we didn’t find that to be a dealbreaker.

Alex Arpaia/CNN Underscored

Induction cooktops work very differently from the electric or gas ranges you might be familiar with, and their advantages over both traditional technologies make them a great addition to your meal prep routine. Rather than transferring energy by thermal conduction to your pots and pans (which is what’s happening when you use a flame or an electric coil), an induction burner heats the pan directly via electrical induction.

An induction burner works by passing a rapidly oscillating current through a coil of wire located under the burner surface. This creates a magnetic field (you probably remember this from experimenting with electromagnets in school) and the current (which is alternating at a high frequency) produces an eddy current in a pan placed atop the coil; resistance within the pan then creates heat.

For this to happen, the pan has to be made of a ferrous material, which is why aluminum and copper cookware don’t work on induction surfaces. Cast iron and most stainless steel cookware should work fine; a good way to test is by bringing a small magnet with you when you’re shopping for cookware — if a magnet sticks to the bottom of a pan you’re interested in, it will work on an induction cooktop. Luckily, the great majority of high quality cookware we’ve tested recently, from dutch ovens and cast iron skillets to nonstick pans, is induction compatible, and manufacturers, recognizing the interest in the technology, have been making compatibility clear in packaging and labeling.

The benefits of induction are many (you can find a nice write-up on the finer points of induction over at Fine Cooking). Induction burners are at least twice as fast as gas or electric burners for most tasks. Since induction doesn’t depend on transferring thermal energy, induction burners are both comfortable to work in front of and very safe — only the pan itself is heated during cooking so there’s no residual heat and the burner’s surface remains relatively cool. And there’s of course

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