How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

This article, ​How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy), was first published in August, 2017.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

If you've been thinking about getting a portable induction cooker, you've probably done a little bit of research.

And if you have, there's a good chance you're more confused than ever.

Portable induction cooktops (PICs for short) can be a hard appliance to feel good about buying.

For one thing, the price range is huge! If you have no idea what makes a $400 PIC ten times better than a $40 PIC (if anything), how are you going to know if you're paying too little or too much?

And if you want to spend in a specific range--say, around $100--how do you select from among the hundreds of options available? Is there really that much difference?

(The answer is yes.)​

Specifications don't help unless you know what to look for. Most PICs have very similar specs: similar size, similar weight, similar number of controls. It can be very frustrating trying to figure out how they differ from one another.

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In fact, I suspect the way most people choose is by throwing up their hands and buying the one that has the most reviews on Amazon (or some other review site they trust). 

This will get you a decent model, but it won't get you the best model.

Or, they think if they spend enough, they'll be sure to get a really good portable induction cooktop.

This is an excellent way to spend waaaay more money than you need to--or spend it on the wrong PIC if you don't know what to look for.

Maybe it was a late night infomercial that got you. These are notoriously high on marketing hype and low on pertinent facts. If you bought one of these, you might be disappointed in the features you thought it had that it doesn't.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

NuWave: King of the late night infomercial.

Furthermore, it is amazing to me how many review sites don't give readers the right information: the information that will result in them making a choice that's perfect for their needs and their budget. Instead, these sites will simply recommend the most popular PIC on Amazon, or a similar model that flat out costs too much for what it offers.

I think this happens because these folks haven't really dug in to the technology and don't understand what really makes one PIC better than another one. They're stabbing in the dark--and using the wrong criteria to recommend PICs (believe me, it is not a popularity contest).

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

If you're gonna spend the $$$, you should get exactly what you want.

It's unfortunate, but understandable. It's a tough thing to get right without a lot of research.​ And sadly, there's a lot of bad information on the Internet about how to choose a portable induction cooktop.

This is where I come in. I have spent hundreds of hours researching portable induction cooktops. I know the differences between the models, and I know what makes one better than another one, and why. And, I know this for portable induction cooktops at every level of the market.

I'm going to share my knowledge with you today.

So if you want a portable induction cooktop but don't know how to figure out which one is best for you, read on. By the end of this article, you'll know enough to get exactly what you want for exactly the price you want to pay.

If you don't want to read the whole article (and it's a long one!), use the Contents table to jump to the section(s) you're interested in:

Quick Recommendations

Here are my favorite PICs at a glance:

Category/Model
(click to see on Amazon)

Rating

Features

Best in $300-500 Range/
Best Overall:

Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

100 power settings (50-1800W)
Temp range 80-400F

6-inch burner
Unlimited run time
Stainless housing
Superb low temp control

Best in $100-300 Range:
Vollrath Mirage Cadet

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

20 power/20 temp settings
100-1800W/100-400F
Unlimited run time
Stainless housing

Best Under $100:
Duxtop 9600LS

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

20 power/20 temp settings
100-1800W/100-460F
10 hr. run time
Best control under $100

Best Under $50:
Gourmia GIC-100

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)


Easy dial control
8 power/8 temp settings
200-1800W/140-460F
Unlimited run time



If you want to know why these are my recommendations, you'll have to read the article...

Portable Induction Cooktops: The Backstory

There's a reason why most of the portable induction cooktops on the market look so much alike and are so similar in function (e.g., 8 or 10 power settings and a temp range of 140F - 450F).

Most PICs are made in China​. And of the Chinese-made units, many are pre-manufactured, then purchased by American companies, which put a logo on them and sell them as their brand. 

This explains why so many PICs are so similar: ​they're essentially the same induction burner with a different label!

This is particularly true on the low end of the market.

Look how similar these two PICs are, even though they're different brands:

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

They have different specs, but even so I suspect the same Chinese company manufactures both of them.

Conversely, a company that designs their own PICs, even if manufacturing them in China, has way more control over the final product. You'll pay more because the engineering was done in the USA. But you are almost certainly getting a better induction burner.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Vollrath PICs are made in China, but to American design and specifications--the result, a superior product.

So which companies design their own PICs and which buy them pre-made in China? As you can imagine, this is difficult information to nail down because no manufacturer wants consumers to know they're just slapping their brand on a product, with little or no concerns about design or quality control. 

You'll probably know if a product is "made in USA" because this will be listed in the selling points (​on Amazon and elsewhere). The only PIC I could find that was designed and made in the USA was CookTek (see it on Amazon). It's a fabulous product, but you'll pay for all that excellence!

But how do you know if a Chinese-made PIC is a good one? (And believe me, there are good ones out there.)

You have to do your research. Like reading this article! 

One of the biggest scams in PICs (in my opinion) is some of the higher-priced brands (in the $100-$250 range) that aren't giving you any more for your money than models costing less than $100. If a PIC is priced at more than $100 but only has 8 or 10 power settings, it's a low-end unit in a high-priced package. 

You may get a slightly better housing (or not), but the internal components are exactly the same as you'd find in most $40 - $99 PICs. That is, cheap temperature controls, loud fans, a small coil, etc. ​(NOTE: See below for a discussion on important features.)

The brands I recommend here (and in all of my other induction review articles) are either:

  • Not made in China, or
  • Made in China but with American-design specifications and quality control, or
  • Are so cheap that quality isn't really a concern (e.g., less than $50).

For example, you could buy 10 Gourmia GIC-100's for what you pay for one Vollrath Mirage Pro--and if all you want is a cheap unit that can boil water faster than your gas or electric range, that's exactly what you should do.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Duxtop and Vollrath are both excellent brands in their price ranges. Between these two brands, you should be able to find a PIC that will suit your needs. However, I've also included a few other choices--both for comparison, and to provide a really comprehensive range of options.

Selling Chinese-made, pre-manufactured goods is a common practice for many American companies. This also happens with clad cookware, where the quality difference can be extreme. It's not always a mistake to buy the cheaper goods, but you really, really have to do your homework.
Caveat emptor! 

Who Needs a Portable Induction Cooktop?

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

​Just about anyone who cooks regularly can benefit from having an extra burner occasionally. Here's a list of reasons why a PIC is a great thing to have in your kitchen:

  • ​For entertaining (an extra burner for big cooking jobs, as an omelet station for brunches, etc.)
  • For cooking outdoors when it's too hot to cook indoors
  • ...Or, for cooking indoors on a hot day when you don't want to heat up your kitchen
  • When you want easy cleanup
  • For easy, convenient cooking in your cabin, RV, or boat
  • For emergencies (your stove breaks)
  • For beer brewing and home canning
  • For camping (if you're not the totally rustic type)
  • For outdoor grilling and barbecues (an extra burner for side dishes)
  • Because you hate your electric stove and want something more responsive
  • To experience induction without committing to a full-sized cooktop (although you must buy at the high end to mimic full-sized cooktop performance)
  • To give to your college student for cooking in her dorm room
  • For downsizing when you move to a smaller space.

That's just off the top of my head.

And the great thing is, you can have the convenience of an extra burner for as much as you're willing to pay for it: you can spend less than $50 or more than $500. As long as you know what you want and what you'll get for your money, this price range offers excellent choices!​

The great thing about the PIC market is that you can spend as much or as little as you want to. As long as you've done your homework and understand what you're paying for, you'll be happy and confident in your purchase.

How Do Induction Cooktops Work?

Induction is a little bit complicated to fully understand. I've boiled it down to two main concepts: magnetism and pulsing.

What makes these the main concepts? Well, for one thing, they're the most basic and easiest-to-understand aspects of induction technology. But more importantly, they're the aspects that are going to most affect your purchasing decision.​

Magnetism​

Induction works by magnetism rather than heat. Current is passed through an electromagnet (the burner), and when a magnetic pot is placed on the burner, it creates heat.

This is a very simplified explanation, but it's all you really need to know because having induction-compatible cookware (i.e., magnetic) is a crucial part of the induction equation.

Here's a short video from Vollrath (who makes one of my recommended PICs) that explains induction cooking technology in a little more detail:​

​Pulsing

One more thing you need to know is how induction controls heat: induction controls heat by pulsing power on and off to reach and maintain the set point (whether power or temp). ​This is important because it explains the primary difference between inexpensive induction burners and higher-end ones.

In most cheap PICs, the pulsing is crude and poorly controlled, which accounts for the scorching that can happen with induction cooking and the inability to hold a nice simmer. 

In higher-end models, the pulsing has more sophisticated controls, with the ability to speed up and slow down based on how close it is to set point, and also to pulse at different wattages. This results in smoother temperature transitions and better ability to hold constant temps, particularly low temps. The result is less scorching and nice, gentle, constant simmers.

You don't have to pay a fortune to get decent pulsing. ​Duxtop makes a couple of models with good pulsing options for the price. No, it's not as good as the commercial PICs, but it's better than other PICs in the Duxtop price range. (See below for more info.)

How a PIC pulses power is one of the primary differences between a mediocre one and a great one.

Induction-Compatible ​Cookware

I said it above, but it's important, so I'll say it again: you need induction-compatible cookware to use with a portable induction cooktop (or any induction cooktop, for that matter).

Induction compatible cookware has a magnetic bottom. If you have aluminum or copper cookware, it won't work. And if you have old clad stainless (made prior to the mid-1990s or so), it may or may not work--testing the pot bottom with a magnet is the best way to know.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Use a magnet to test for induction compatibility: if it sticks to the pot bottom, the pot IS induction-compatible.

Most everyone has a cast iron pot or two in their kitchen, and these work well with induction (even enameled ones). ​

​For more info, check out our Guide to the Best Induction Cookware

Are Induction Cooktops Safe?

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Because the burner doesn't heat, induction cooking is very safe.

As far as basic kitchen safety, induction cooking can't be beat. Because the pans get hot and not the cooking surface (except for residual heat from the pan bottom), induction is waaaaaaay safer than gas and electric cooking. It also has built-in safety features such as not coming on unless it detects an induction-compatible pot and shutting off automatically when the pot is removed from the burner.

(These are often touted as safety features, but they're really just the by-products of how induction heating works.)

There are a couple of other things to consider, though.​

Pacemakers

If you or someone in your household has a pacemaker, consult with your cardiologist before buying a portable induction burner. Some (not most, but some) pacemakers are affected by the magnetism in induction cooktops.

This isn't because induction is inherently dangerous; it's just that some pacemakers are affected by magnetism--and induction burners are basically magnets.

The truth is that it is extremely unlikely to be a problem, as the pacemaker would have to be in close proximity to an operating burner for a good length of time. However, always better to be sure than to be sorry--so ask your doctor before purchasing induction if this is a concern for you.

EMFs​

There are a lot of anti-induction people out there who are afraid of the electromagnetic fields given off by induction cooktops. I have done a great deal of research on this and the evidence overwhelmingly says that induction cooking is safe.

Even one frequently-cited study about the dangers of induction claims (in the conclusion) that no real dangers were found. (If you read this study, read it carefully!)

For more info, see Is Induction Cooking Safe? on this site.​

And please, wear sunscreen before you go outdoors, because the sun accounts for about a million cases of skin cancer a year--and is therefore way more dangerous than any household appliance. 

Pot Placement​

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

And if you are worried about stray magnetic fields invading your body, there is an easy way to prevent that from happening: just be careful about centering the pot in the middle of the burner. This eliminates about 95% of the stray magnetic fields given off by induction burners.

I don't worry about them, but if you do, centering your pots is a good practice to follow.​

Induction Cooking Pros and Cons

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

An article on induction cooking wouldn't be complete without a list of pros and cons.

Pros

  • Very fast response time
  • Great low temp control (not on all models, but far better than gas on models that have it)
  • Efficient
  • Very, very safe compared to gas and electric​
  • Easy to clean (no burnt-on food, and you can use paper towels under a pot to catch splatters!)

Cons  

  • Require induction-compatible cookware
  • Glass cooktop can scratch easily
  • Cheaper PICs can scorch food and don't hold simmer temps very well
  • Cheaper ones can be noisy--they have noisy fans and sometimes "whine" or "squeal" with certain cookware.​

For a more detailed discussion, see Induction Cooktop Pros and Cons. You might also want to read Is Induction Cooking Better than Gas? (And If So, Why?)​

Important Features in a Portable Induction Cooktop

I break down PIC features into three categories: standard features, safety features, and important features. You can pretty much ignore the standard features and safety features, most of which are universal to induction technology.

The important features are the ones to educate yourself about and pay attention to when selecting a PIC.​

​Standard Features (What to Ignore)

All induction cooktops share some common "features" that shouldn't impress you. For example, all induction burners shut off automatically after a pan is removed; some have a delay function (which is an excellent feature!), but they all do it.

For the same reason--that is, because a burner needs an induction-compatible pan to function--no induction burner will come on if it doesn't detect a pan.

While these features do make induction cooking safer, they aren't technically safety features, but rather just a by-product of how induction works.

Most portable induction cooktops have:

  • ​Auto pan detection and shutoff (although a delayed shutoff is a nice feature)
  • Burners that won't switch on if no pan is detected
  • Power/temp setting options
  • Digital display
  • Error codes to help with troubleshooting.

Don't be too impressed by any of these.​

Safety Features (You Can Pretty Much Ignore These, Too)

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Overall, induction is much safer than gas or electric cooking, even if you were to buy a PIC that has no extra safety features whatsoever.​ For this reason, I don't consider safety features to be a very big selling point when comparison shopping for PICs. But for the sake of thoroughness, here are the most common safety features found on induction cooktops (in addition to auto shutoff and pan detection, discussed above):

Lockable controls: Some portable induction cooktops have safety features like lockable controls so settings can't be changed inadvertently. Most important for households with children.

Hot Burner caution: "HOT PAN" or something similar flashes on the display until the burner has cooled down after use. 

Overheat Shutoff: Most PICs (probably all of them, actually) also have an overheat function that switches them off automatically if they go past a certain temp. This is to save the internal components from overheating, and is a good feature (but a standard one, so don't worry too much about it).

Max Run Time/Auto Shutoff: Some PICs have an auto shutoff feature that switches them off after a certain max running time. This time can vary from 2 hours upwards to 99 hours.

In general, less expensive units tend to have shorter max run times--probably to save wear and tear on their cheaper internal components.

I consider the auto shutoff an anti-feature. ​I would never buy or recommend a PIC (or any induction cooktop) that had an auto shutoff feature less than 10 hours. What a hassle if you're making stock, or something else that requires a long cook time!

On the other hand, if you get a PIC primarily for its fast heating capability, this may not be an issue for you.

TIP: Most inexpensive PICs have shorter auto-shutoff times, some as short as 2 hours. This is probably to protect the less durable components from wear and tear. More expensive PICs, especially those labeled "commercial," will run indefinitely--no auto shutoff at all. If this feature is important to you, be sure to check the specs before buying.
None of the PICs I recommend here have an auto shutoff less than 10 hours.​

Important Features (What Really Matters)

Now we get to the features that are important--the features you should pay attention to and that will help you select the best portable induction cooktop for your needs.​

Number of Power Levels and Power Progression

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

This one is obvious: the more power levels, the more control you have over the cooking process.

However, power levels are not all created equally. The best PICs don't have a linear progression of wattage (100W, 200W, 300W, etc.). Instead, they offer smaller jumps at low wattage, where more control is needed, and have bigger jumps at higher wattage, where control is less important.

For example, many cheap PICs have a low wattage level of 200W. This is a lot of wattage--so they're going to have a hard time maintaining a constant low temperature. These PICs will be pulsing like crazy at a low power setting and will probably do some scorching.

More expensive PICs have lower low wattage levels. The Vollrath Mirage Pro ($460), for example, has a low wattage level of 50W. This is unsurpassed by any other PIC as far as I know (but you have to pay for all of this precision).

The Duxtop 9600LS ($99) is an example of an inexpensive PIC that has good temperature control. It has a low wattage of 100W, with small jumps from 100W to about 660W. This is about the best you can get under $100. (Indeed, the Duxtop 9600LS outclasses everything else in its price range by a long shot).

Conversely, some brands claim many more settings than they actually have. NuWave is one brand that claims to have dozens of settings, but they arrive at this figure by counting the programmable settings and the shortcut keys (Simmer, Boil, etc.), which are really just more ways to set to the same settings. They're not a terrible brand, and the Titanium in particular has a lot of features for a cheap PIC. But their marketing jargon is misleading, which is why I prefer the Duxtop LS9600 (which is about $25 less, as well).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If you can't find good, clear information on the actual specs of the induction cooker--the ACTUAL number of power levels and temperature levels, as well as the lowest wattage level at which it will operate--DON'T BUY IT.
You may have a hard time finding that info on Amazon or even on the manufacturer's website. However, it is all here on Rational Kitchen--I would not recommend a product if I didn't know what it was capable of! 🙂

Number of Temperature Levels/Temperature Range

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Temperature levels go hand in hand with power levels: the more levels, the more control you have over the cooking process.

As with power settings, this is particularly important at low temps, which are harder for PICs to maintain. 

Temperature isn't quite as important as power. Not because it doesn't matter (it definitely does!), but because it's just harder to control. This is due to the temperature sensor being buried underneath the glass burner, which creates a lag-time in temp reading--this is true even in expensive PICs.

However, this lag time is particularly bad in cheap units because their heat controls aren't very sophisticated. You'll get a lot of boiling or scorching before the PIC settles into a temp--and even then, it will have a hard time keeping a constant temp.

PIC COOKING TIP: Even if you want to set the PIC at a specific temperature, use the Power setting first, then switch to Temperature after it's warmed up. This will help prevent wild fluctuations and scorching.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If you want a portable induction cooktop with decent low end temperature control, you have to look at 2 things. First is its temperature range: The most common range is 140F - 460F or thereabouts. A better temperature range will start at 80F, 90F, or 100F. Second is the wattage range: the lower the lowest wattage, the better it'll be at low temperature applications.​
This isn't always the case with more expensive PICs because even if their lowest wattage is fairly high they can still control low temps with better pulsing. However, with cheap induction burners, the low wattage is important if you want a model capable of simmering.

Weight

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Weight is an indication of how well-built a PIC is.

It indicates sturdy internal components and, most likely, a steel housing (which, it goes without saying, will last longer than a plastic one).​

So if you're unsure about a PIC and what its specs are telling you, look at the weight. This is an excellent indiction of a well-built unit.​

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Cheap PICs almost universally weigh in the range of 5-8 lbs. The cheapest PICs will be at the bottom of this range (5-6 lbs). Many mid-range PICs ($100 - $200 or so), with stainless housings but lacking durable internal components, will be at the top of this range (8 lbs or so). "Commercial" grade PICs and those with stainless housings and durable components will clock in at over 10 lbs--some close to 20 lbs!
If the specs aren't making sense to you, look at the weight. This is a great indication of a PIC's quality.

Coil Size (Actual Burner Diameter)

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The electromagnet PIC coil--as you can see, it's nowhere near the size of the cooking surface.

Contrary to what the marketing literature might lead you to believe, the coil (that is, the actual burner size) is not the same as the cooktop dimensions.

Coil sizes run from 4.5 inches up to about 8 inches. But even these dimensions might be misleading, because even if a coil is 6 inches in diameter, it might have a heating diameter of only 4 inches.

Small coil size often gets blamed for scorching food (in Amazon reviews in particular), but scorching has more to do with how induction cookers work (that is, with pulsing--see the discussion above on how induction works).

The coil size range is surprisingly small, although a more expensive unit is likely to have a larger coil. Duxtop coils are around 4 inches, while Vollrath coils are somewhere around 6 inches. I've read that CookTek coils are around 8 inches in diameter, but haven't been able to verify this.

While a bigger coil is nice, it doesn't affect performance all that much. Think of the circle of flame on a gas stove--it's probably 4-5 inches in diameter, but you think nothing of using it to heat 10-inch or even 12-inch pans. For this reason, I don't worry too much about coil size. I do, however, have good clad stainless cookware to use with my induction cooker. Its ability to spread heat evenly makes a huge difference!​

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Unless you're going to be using HUGE pans ALL the time, don't worry too much about coil size. If you have good clad stainless cookware to use with your PIC, even heat distribution shouldn't be a huge issue. (And remember, as discussed above, scorching is more a factor of how a PIC pulses power, and less about coil size.)

Control Panel

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

PIC control panels can be all digital, all manual, or a combination. What you prefer is largely a personal choice.

Having said that, it is my opinion that the easiest controls to use are manual knobs. This may not be important to you but more expensive PICs tend to have manual knobs, while cheap ones tend to be all digital, requiring several button clicks to set and change. (The exception is the Gourmia GIC-100; its manual dial is the primary reason why this is my pick for a cheap PIC.)

Also, a lot of PIC control panels offer several extra keys. Some of these make operation easier, like the "Simmer" and "Sear" keys that allow you to bypass Up/Down key presses. (Note that these extras are unnecessary if the PIC has a manual knob.)

Some, though, are overly complicated. They can have programmable functions that allow the PIC to "remember" your most used settings. For some, you can even set time/temp to turn the PIC on and off, run it at a certain setting, and plug in your favorite "recipes" so you can recall them with just a couple of button clicks.

As I said, whether you like these features and will use them is largely a personal preference. (I find it easier to turn a knob, and have rarely used programmable the programmable features on any of my kitchen devices--but that's just me.)

I will also add that from what I've seen in my research, cheaper units often have more complicated controls, while more expensive units often have little more than a Power button and a dial. (My first PIC, a Viking--no longer made--had just a dial and a red light to indicate that the unit was on--no timer, no temp setting, no digital display--nothing.) I think this is because computer chips are cheaper to manufacture than durable components. 

Anyway, here are the NuWave Titanium PIC control panel (top) and the Vollrath Mirage Pro control panel (bottom): 

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Which looks easier to use??

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: While you should go with your own preference, look for a simple interface, preferably with a manual dial because it's the fastest way to change settings. 

Fan Type

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

There's not a lot you can do about fan type. If you buy a cheap PIC, it's going to have a cheap fan. This fan will most likely be a sleeve-bearing fan, which is noisy and not as durable as the ball-bearing fans found in more expensive units.

Just know that a durable fan is one of the things you get when you buy a more expensive portable induction cooker--and one of the first corners cut on cheaper ones.​

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Price. Low price = cheap fans. Expensive price = durable fans. You just have to know this going in.

What makes one fan better than another? Here's a 5 minute video that explains the different fan types. It's about computer fans, but the same basic designs are used in induction burners. At the end, it has some valuable information about getting the most life out of your fan (regardless of type):

(Video courtesy of Techquickie)

Max Run Time

If you ever want to use your PIC for long projects, max run time is an important consideration. Nothing is more frustrating than a PIC that shuts itself off after just a couple of hours--especially if you didn't know it did this when you bought it!

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If a long run time is important to you, make sure you know a PICs max run time before you buy. (All are given in this review.)

Timer

Just like a regular oven or cooktop, some induction cookers come with a timer. Some units switch off after the timer elapses, and these are the most useful timers. Some just beep and keep operating.

I almost never use the timer feature on my PIC, and don't consider it an important feature. (How many kitchen appliances do you need with a timer on them??) But if you do consider it important, make sure you buy a PIC with a timer that functions how you want it to. (E.g., long enough, shuts off when time is up, has enough granularity, etc.)

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: If a timer is important to you, make sure you understand how the timer works before you buy a PIC. Some shut the unit off, while some do not.

Warranty

The warranty is important, and you should get a PIC that has a minimum of a one year warranty. 

Sometimes, manufacturer warranties are not honored when buying through third party vendors (like on Amazon) or when buying a commercial product for home use. If this is the case, invest in the buyer protection plan offered through Amazon or another third party. It's only a few extra dollars, and you'll be very glad you have it if something goes wrong.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A manufacturer warranty of at least one year. If buying through Amazon or another third party (esp. on the Internet), invest a few extra dollars in the buyer protection plan--especially if you're buying an expensive unit.

How Much to Spend on a Portable Induction Cooktop?

How much you want to spend on a PIC is a personal choice. As long as you know what you're getting for what you pay, you can be happy at any price point.

Here, I give my picks at several price ranges, plus a few honorable mentions. ​

Which Portable Induction Cooktops Are Best? (The Reviews)

​If you've decided that you want a portable induction cooktop, the next step is picking one out. Here are all of my choices in several price ranges. My choices are based on the all of the criteria above--plus a lot of research.

Best in the $300 - $500 Range (And Best Overall): Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P

​Price: About $490 

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P (see it on Amazon) is a commercial unit, so it's a well-built, heavy duty machine with a ton of great features. I think it's the best all-around PIC on the market today.

It has a temperature range of 80F - 400F (but gets up to about 550F). It also has an unmatched 100 power settings--more even than some PICs that cost hundreds more! 

Okay. You probably don't need 100 power settings. If you think about it, you really only use 6 settings on your full-sized cooktop: low, medium low, medium, medium high, and high.​ But this kind of precision is possible with induction in a way that it isn't possible with gas--so why not take advantage of it? Having 100 settings is kind of the digital equivalent to being able to turn a knob on a gas stove wherever you want it.

The Mirage Pro is made in China with American-made specs and design. It's an excellent, excellent PIC--tough to beat at any price point.

Click here to see the full review.

Pros

  • 100 power settings (from 50W to 1800W)
  • Temp range of 80F - 400F (but gets up to 550F or so)
  • 6-inch burner and 14-inch cooktop
  • Easy to use control panel
  • Stainless housing
  • Quiet ball bearing fan
  • Unlimited run time
  • 2 year manufacturer warranty​.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • The warranty may not be honored if purchased for home use (get the extended warranty from Amazon!).
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
Buy the Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P on Amazon:
amazon buy

Best in the $100 - $300 Range: Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300

Price: About $250

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300 portable induction cooktop (see it on Amazon) is the Mirage Pros little sister. It isn't quite as capable, having G1 internal components rather than the G4 of the Mirage Pro...but it isn't quite as expensive, either. It's a commercial unit designed for use in the food service industry, though, so it's durable and heavy duty and will hold a temperature down to 100F (although with a bit less precision than the Mirage Pro). 

With the Cadet, you're getting durable build quality and very good performance.​

Pros

  • 20 power settings from 100W - 1800W
  • Temperature range from 100F - 400F (10-degree increments)
  • 6-inch burner
  • Stainless housing
  • Quiet ball bearing fan
  • Unlimited run time
  • 1 year warranty.

Cons

  • ​All digital control panel (this may not be a con if you prefer digital controls)
  • Warranty may not be honored if purchased for home use (get the extended warranty from Amazon!).
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
Buy the Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300 on Amazon:
amazon buy

Best Under $100: Duxtop 9100LS

Price: About $99

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The Duxtop 9600LS portable induction cooktop (see it on Amazon) is Duxtop's newest and most sophisticated offering yet. For the price, it has amazing power and has a fairly durable build quality. In fact, it outclasses all other PICs at this price range.

Like more expensive PICs, the 9600LS has finer control at the low end where it's needed. This means less scorching and better simmering capability.​

Here's how the power levels work (from the 9600LS User Manual):​

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Honorable Mentions: The next best Duxtop is the 9100MC (see it on Amazon), which also has good low-temp controls for a $70 PIC (but not as good as the 9600LS). The 9600LS also has a 10-hour max run time, while the 9100MC has only a 170 minute max run time, as do all the other Duxtop models including the Amazon best-selling 8100MC (see it on Amazon). 

For more details, see the Duxtop product reviews here.​

Pros

  • 60 second-delayed shutoff when pan is removed--very nice feature not available on most models in this price range (except other Duxtop PICs)
  • 20 temp settings from 100-460F
  • 20 power settings from 100-1800W
  • ​10 hour timer settable in 1-minute increments (will run for 10 consecutive hours!)
  • One-touch Boil and Keep Warm shortcut buttons
  • 1 year warranty
  • Absolutely the best PIC at this price point.

Cons

  • Plastic housing and noisy fan (like all PICs at this price point)
  • At about 4-inches in diameter, a smaller coil than found in more expensive PICs.
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
Buy the Duxtop 9600LS on Amazon:
amazon buy

Best Under $50: Gourmia GIC-100

Price: About $45

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The Gourmia GIC100 (see it on Amazon) portable induction cooktop is a cheap, no-frills induction plate. If you want something inexpensive that gets very hot very fast, this is the one to buy. With moderate use, it will probably last a few years. But at this price, that's perfectly fine.​

The Gourmia ​GIC-100 has the (limited) features you'd expect at this price point: 8 power levels, 8 temperature settings, a digital readout, a timer, and a few error messages to help you troubleshoot problems.

It also has a few very nice extras that you don't always find at this price: a manual knob, a 180-minute timer with auto shutoff, and unlimited running time (if you don't use the timer). ​

It's not going to handle low temps very well, but the Gourmia GIC-100 is a nice extra burner for when you need something done in a hurry.​

As for whether this PIC is pre-made and bought as-is by Gourmia, I don't know. (As I said, that info can be hard to find.) The mediocre quality would lead me to believe that it is. But since this is the case with most PICs at this price point, I don't consider it much of a drawback.​

For more details on the Gourmia GIC-100, see The Best Portable Induction Burners.​

Pros

  • Good features at a low price
  • ​Lightweight (5 lbs)
  • 180 minute timer with auto shutoff (5 minute increments)
  • Manual knob! 
  • Unlimited running time (if timer isn't used).

Cons

  • Only 8 temperature settings from 140-460F 
  • Only 8 power settings from 200W - 1800W
  • Plastic housing not built for long-term durability.
How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)
Buy the Gourmia GIC-100 on Amazon:
amazon buy

A Few Other Good PICks

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Here are a few other PICs to consider. I don't have as much experience with these brands, but from my research I think they're all excellent options.

All are 1800 Watt, commercial-quality burners. If you're buying on the low end, I strongly recommend you go with the Duxtop 9600LS, the Duxtop 9100MC, or the Gourmia GIC-100 (all discussed above).

The CookTek MC1800 commercial induction burner (about $900 on Amazon) has some excellent qualities that may entice you to pay the extra $$$$. It's made for commercial use, is super durable, and has extremely accurate controls. Temp range 80F - 500F with 20 power settings. One of its best features is that it's made in the USA. 

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

The CookTek MC1800 Commercial PIC

The Mr. Induction SR-183C Commercial Induction Burner (about $350 on Amazon) is my top choice in another review. It has a temp range of 90F - 440F with 20 power settings. It's commercial quality and built to last. Made by Sunpentown, an American company, though manufactured in China.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Mr. Induction 183C Commercial PIC

The Iwatani IWA-1800 Table Top Induction Range (about $470 on Amazon)​ is another commercial unit, very durable, with excellent temperature control. I love that it has its temperature range (110F - 410F) and power levels right on the control panel, so you can see exactly what level you're on all the time--and all this without being overly complicated.

How to Choose a Portable Induction Cooktop (And the Best Ones to Buy)

Iwatani IWA-1800 Commercial PIC

Summary​

Whew! This article should answer pretty much any question you might have about portable induction cooktops. Have I missed anything? Is something still unclear to you? Or do you have a favorite brand you'd like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

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