"The Vollrath Mirage Pro: The Ultimate Review of the Ultimate PIC," was first posted August, 2017.
A quick intro to the Mirage Pro by the manufacturer:
If we compare portable induction cooktops (PICs) to cars, the Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P is a Ferrari, while everything else (at least everything else in the 3 figures or less category) is pretty much a Ford.
Yup: This Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P induction cooktop outclasses every other 1800W portable induction cooker on the market under $1000.
What sets it apart? What makes it SO much better than cheaper PICs (and even some that cost hundreds more)?
Read on to find out...
Click on any topic in the Contents table to jump to it:
The Mirage Pro At a Glance
Here's a table comparing the Duxtop 9100MC (one of Amazon's most popular PICs), the Mr. Induction 183C (another commercial brand), and the Vollrath Mirage Pro:
Mr. Induction 183C
Vollrath Mirage Pro
140F - 460F (but gets hotter)
90F - 450F (but gets hotter)
80F - 400F (but gets hotter)
No. of Power Levels
15 (200W - 1800W)
20 (350W - 1800)
100 (50W - 1800W)
No. of Temp Levels
15 (20-degree increments)
20 (20-degree increments)
32 (10-degree increments)
Sleeve bearing (noisy)
Buzzes with some cookware
Good to Excellent
Max Run Time
Type of Controls
Digital display, manual knob
Digital display, manual knob
For the price, the 9100MC is a good unit. With 15 power levels and 15 temperature settings, it has more than almost every other PIC under $100. If you want an inexpensive PIC, the 9100MC is one of the best options available. (See TRK's review of Duxtop Induction Cooktops for more info.)
But as great as the 9100MC is for the price, it's obvious that it doesn't come anywhere near the performance of the Mirage Pro.
In fact, no other PIC on the market, and not even many full-sized induction cooktops, can boast 100 power levels, or a low heat of 80F. Add to that the excellent build quality, large coil, and manual--manual!--control knob, and you can see what makes the Mirage Pro such an excellent PIC.
What makes it a Ferrari among Fords.
A Quick Primer on Portable Induction Cooktops (What to Know, What to Look For)
What Is Induction?
This 30 second video from Vollrath quickly explains the induction concept:
So that's how it works. But so far so what, right? What makes this better (or worse) than gas or electric cooking?
Like all cooking methods, there are both advantages and disadvantages to induction cooking.
What Is Heat Pulsing and How Does It Work?
Induction burners control heat by pulsing, or turning the heat on and off, on and off, on and off again until the setpoint is reached. (Actually, it's not turning heat on and off, it's turning a magnet off and on, with the end result being heat.)
You don't have to understand all the technology behind heat pulsing, but you do have to know that this is how induction works, because:
The ability to pulse heat well is what sets an expensive induction cooker apart from an inexpensive one.
Inexpensive PICs can only pulse full blast-off, full blast-off. So they'll run at their full 1800 watts until the setpoint is reached, then they'll shut off (0 watts). When the temperature falls below a certain level, they switch on full blast again until they overshoot the setpoint by a certain amount. Then they shut off, and the cycle continues.
The more expensive PICs (and full-sized induction cooktops) have "smarter" electronics than this. They can heat up just as quickly (probably more quickly), but when they get close to the setpoint, they lower the rate of pulsing, and/or the wattage level of the pulsing, rather than just shut off and switch back on again when the temp falls too low. They still pulse, but they're able to pulse at many different rates and many different power levels in order to maintain temperature equilibrium.
This is why with cheaper units, you get a lot of scorching of food and the inability to hold a simmer--the full blast/off, full blast/off cycle makes it almost impossible to hold a precise cooking temperature without wild fluctuation--especially at low temperatures.
So, what's the upshot? If you simply want a PIC that gets very hot very fast and don't care about a lot of precision, any PIC will do and you shouldn't spend more than $50 or so. (And this is certainly a nice thing to have, even if you use it primarily to boil water or heat up leftovers.)
On the other hand, if you want something that can hold a constant temperature without scorching, particularly a low temperature, you're going to have to spend a few bucks. For temperature precision, the Mirage Pro is your best bet by far.
The biggest difference between an inexpensive PIC and the Mirage Pro is that the Mirage Pro can hold a constant setting without scorching--even at very low temperatures.
What Are the Advantages of a Portable Induction Cooktop?
Induction cooking has a number of advantages:
- Induction cooking is more efficient than conventional electric, and much more efficient than gas cooking. Most of the magnetic waves go right into the cookware, and there is very little ambient heat lost to the atmosphere. This can result in lower energy bills (although honestly, the difference may be too small to notice) and a cooler kitchen.
- Speed. If you know anything about induction, you know that it gets super hot, super fast. It heats faster than gas and much faster than electric. An average induction burner can bring a cup of water to a boil in about 90 seconds--that's fast! Speed isn't always what you want in the kitchen, but when you do (pasta water, for example), nothing does it better than induction.
- Responsiveness. Induction cooktops react instantaneously to changes in temperature settings. They are so quick, in fact, that many people find there's a bit of a learning curve in using induction. You don't need to preheat pans, for example. And never, ever walk away from a hot pan until you're familiar with the settings, because you're almost sure to burn whatever you're cooking.
- Safety. Induction cooktops don't get hot, so they are inherently safer than gas or electric cooktops. They also have several safety features that add to this inherent safety. They won't turn on without an induction-compatible pan on them, and they shut off automatically after a pan is removed (times for this vary from a few seconds up to a minute--the minute delay is a great feature found on more expensive models).
- Portability: PICs are lightweight enough that you can use them anywhere--out on your deck on a hot day, on a buffet line if you're doing a Sunday brunch; a dorm room; you can even take them camping. They are an excellent extra burner whenever and wherever you need one.
- Easy cleaning. Because the surface itself doesn't heat, induction cooktops are super easy to clean. Food won't cook onto the surface, and you can just wipe the burner off after cooking. You can also put newspaper or paper towels down underneath the pan to catch splatters--because the unit works with magnetism, the (non-magnetic) paper won't burn.
Here's a short video demonstrating cooking with a paper towel:
What Are the Disadvantages of a Portable Induction Cooktop?
- It can be tricky to find accurate information on them, so it can be hard to know that you're buying one you'll be happy with. (Reading the articles on Rational Kitchen will help!) Specs given on Amazon and even on manufacturer sites can be sketchy. And how the heck do you figure out the difference between a $50 PIC, a $150 PIC, and a $450 PIC (or, for that matter, a $900 PIC)? If you don't understand all the terminology, it can be really hard--and the bestsellers on Amazon aren't necessarily the best way to go, especially if you're looking for precision, durability, and longevity.
- Low-cost PICs have notoriously poor low-temperature controls. They get very hot very fast, but because of how heating is controlled (with the on-off pulsing described above), they do poorly at lower temps. (This is not the case with the Mirage Pro, and one of the key features that sets it apart from less expensive PICs.)
- If you want a top quality portable burner, the initial cost is also going to be fairly high--the Mirage Pro is around $460. This is ten times what some other PICs go for! But for that price, you get everything: durability, precision, longevity, and ease of use.
- You need induction-compatible cookware. (See our induction cookware guide for more info.) Cast iron works and most newer stainless clad cookware works. Aluminum, copper, and non-magnetic stainless are not compatible with induction cooktops. (Although clad cookware with layers of copper and/or aluminum will work if it has an induction-compatible stainless exterior.)
If you're not sure whether or not your cookware will work with induction, test the bottom with a magnet: if it sticks, then the cookware works with induction. (And the stronger the stick, the better the cookware will work with your PIC!)
Check out Induction Cooktop Pros and Cons for a more detailed discussion about the good and the bad of induction cooking.
Can Induction Cooking Be Dangerous?
As far as safety in the kitchen, induction can't be beat with a stick. But there are a few other areas of concern: 1) Pacemakers, and 2) Electromagnetic radiation.
Some pacemakers can be affected by the magnetic operation of an induction cooktop. This isn't because induction cooking is dangerous; it just has to do with the frequencies of the pacemaker and the cooktop.
Most pacemakers are NOT affected by induction, and of those that are, the pacemaker typically has to be in extremely close proximity to an operating burner to be affected.
Nevertheless, if this is a concern for you, consult with your cardiologist before purchasing an induction burner. It is always better to be safe than to be sorry.
Electromagnetic radiation is a more complicated subject. And while there are a lot of differing opinions about the safety of electromagnetic waves in general (and induction in particular), the scientific consensus is that non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation is safe. In fact, using your induction stove is safer than being out in the sun without sunscreen. This is because the sun's radiation causes skin cancer, while the induction cooktop's radiation does not.
For a detailed discussion on this topic, see Is Induction Cooking Safe?
What Features Should I Look for in a Portable Induction Cooktop?
Here are what I consider the most important features of a portable induction cooktop:
Why It's Important
The weight is an indication of how well-built the unit is because weight is an indication of how durable the internal components are and of how durable the housing is.
This mostly applies to the low-end temperature range, as all PICs are good at getting very hot (around 525F even though the highest temp given is usually 400F-450F). A good low-end temp range indicates better internal temp control.
No. of Power Levels
The more power levels, the more control you have over the cooking process.
No. of Temp Levels
The more temp levels, the more control you have over the cooking process. (Having said that, holding a constant temp is hard for most PICs with poor electronics, so price is actually a better indicator of how well the PIC can hold a constant temp.)
The larger the coil, the better the PIC will be at heating large pans.
Cheap PICs have sleeve bearing fans that are loud and not very durable. Expensive PICs have ball bearing fans that are quiet and durable.
Some PICs are noisier than others. Cheap PICs tend to be noisier because of cheap internal components. They are also more prone to buzz squeal with some induction cookware.
This goes back to temp control. Good simmering = good internal components. Cheap PICs tend to scorch food because of their crude pulsing.
Max Run Time/Timer
This is only important if you want to do long simmering projects, but some PICs will only run for a certain time and then shut off automatically. The time can vary from 2 hours to 99 hours, so be sure to check this feature before buying (it can be frustrating to have a PIC shut off when you weren't expecting it to!).
Type of Controls/Control Panel
The easiest controls to use are still manual knobs. This may not be important to you but more expensive PICs tend to have manual knobs, while cheap ones are all digital, requiring several button clicks to set.
Find a model with at least a 1 year warranty.
Price is the ultimate indicator of the quality you're getting. You have to spend upwards of $300 to get a PICs with great components, a steel housing, a nice coil size, etc. And even then, you have to do your homework, because even at $300 or more, not all PICs are going to have the features that may be important to you.
Features of the Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P
The Mirage Pro has every great feature listed on the table above, as well as some extras.
These are the features listed on the Vollrath website:
- G4 Engine (from the Vollrath website: Mirage® Pro induction ranges feature the G4 Engine, using four IGBTs so the workload is shared across four parallel switches. This increases the efficiency, control and longevity of the Mirage® Pro induction range.)
- Temperature Mode: Settings of 80F-400F (27C-204C), settable in 10-degree increments.
- Power Mode: Power level Settings 1-100 with approximate temperature of 80F to 400F (at highest power setting, will get up to 525F).
- Fahrenheit/Celsius display option.
- Knob control--fast and easy to change settings.
- Digital readout and troubleshooting display.
- Stainless housing with aluminum underside.
- Green LED digital display--bright and easy to read.
- Setting memory: remembers the last setting used when powered on.
- Fully framed ceramic top for durability
- Factory bench tested for ultimate quality control.
- "Hot" warning display for safety.
- 6' (183 cm) cord and plug
- 2 year warranty (for commercial use only).
- Sophisticated heat control: The Mirage Pro has sophisticated controls that use split-second pulsing as low as 50 watts (unlike the all-or-nothing, 1800W/0W pulsing of less expensive PICs). It also goes as low as 80F. So if you plan to use your portable induction burner for delicate kitchen jobs like melting chocolate (which burns above 105F) or cooking eggs, this is an important feature. It also makes this cooker useful for simmering stock and possibly as a sous vide cooker because it can hold a steady temperature better than just about any other PIC on the market (and is hands down the best in its price range).
- Full Power to Any Size Pan: Another unique capability of the Mirage Pro is its capability to use full (or almost full) power to any pan size. Most portable induction burners use less wattage with small pans, even if you set them to full power, which means slower heating times. But the Mirage Pro uses a full wattage level for any pan size.
Yes, all PICs should be able to do this. After all, when you turn a PIC to a certain setting, you just assume that that's where it will be set. But in reality, most of them are only able to do this with pans that fully cover the cooking area. Only the Mirage Pro has electronics that are smart enough to use full wattage with any sized pan.
But wait! There's even more cool stuff going on with this portable induction cooker:
You're not going to find this info on Amazon, and not even on the Vollrath website unless you really dig for it. Why aren't these excellent features highlighted? You'd think they'd be shouting from the rooftops how this PIC is magnitudes better than most others on the market!
I wish I knew. Maybe the manufacturer assumes that consumers aren't savvy enough to understand how cool these features really are. Or maybe they think 100 settings is enough to turn heads.
In any case, the Mirage Pro is really in a class by itself.
You may not understand exactly how the G4 engine works, but you sure as heck will understand how great the Mirage Pro is once you start using it!
SEE BEST PRICES FOR MIRAGE PRO ON AMAZON NOW:
Specifications of the Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P
Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P Product Specifications
1800W (standard U.S. 120V/60Hz, 3-prong plug-in, 6-ft. cord)
Stainless body, black ceramic top, green button and LED display, stainless manual knob for power/temp level selection.
15 in. x 14 in. x 3 in.
80F - 400F (but can exceed 525F at high settings)
180 minutes in one minute increments; shuts off when time has elapsed.
60 second delayed shutoff if no pan is detected
Displays "HOT" until surface cools, "ADD PAN" if no pan is detected.
Approximately 12-inch diameter (despite the website's claim of 14-inches)
Approximately 8-inch diameter
4-inch - 12-inch diameter bottoms. (You can use larger pans but may not get satisfactory results depending on the pan's heat induction capabilities.)
Daily Use (Controls)
The Mirage Pro has a super easy user interface, with just three buttons, a knob, and a digital display.
The Control Knob is awesome! It's an old school, manual control that changes settings almost too fast. If you're in Power mode, it zooms from 1 (lowest) to 100 (highest). If you're in Temperature mode, it goes from 80F up to 400F in 10-degree increments.
Operation would go something like this:
- Press the On/Off button.
If there isn't a pan, the display will flash "ADD PAN" and the unit won't come on. If there is a pan, it will automatically run on the setting at which you last used it.
- Use the setting it's on, or change it by turning the knob until the desired setting is shown in the display.
Alternatively, if you want to switch modes, press the Power/Temp button until it's in the mode you want (Power, Temp (F), or Temp (C)), then turn the knob until the desired setting is shown in the display.
- Cook your food.
- Press On/Off to turn the cooktop off. (Or just let it shut off by itself, which it will do after 60 seconds.)
- Do not touch the cooktop surface while the display flashes "HOT," which it does until the surface is cool. (Yes, after it's switched off.)
It doesn't get much simpler than that. And if you use it for the same thing every day (for example, I use mine every morning to boil water for my French Press coffee), the memory is a really nice feature.
This diagram from the Mirage Pro user manual shows features and operation of the control panel:
A Word About Temperature Control
With all this emphasis on low-end temperature control, it's probably important to talk about it in a little bit more detail.
First of all, when and why would you want to use temperature control? The best example I can think of is when you want to hold something to a simmer. If you simply set the power level to a low setting, the PIC will continue to get hotter, just at a slower rate than if it were at a higher setting. So if you want to keep a pot at a low simmer--just under the boiling point, 212F/100C--setting the unit to 200F will do a better job than if you set it to a low wattage.
At least, in theory this is the case.
One of the problems with using the Temperature settings on PICs is that the temperature sensor is buried beneath the glass surface of the unit. Add to this the fact that the pan, not the burner, gets hot, and you see that the sensor has to read through a few layers. By the time the setpoint temp gets down to the sensor, the burner has already gotten too hot.
On cheap PICs, this adds greatly to the overshoot/undershoot problem: the sensor reads the temperature and turns the pulsing off. Then, by the time the sensor figures out it's cooled down way too much, it turns the pulsing back on. (Remember: full blast/off is the only option on inexpensive PICs.) The result is a very uneven heating cycle that produces a full boil, then no boil in turn rather than true simmering.
I've tested the Mirage Pro at how well it holds a temperature setting. And it really does hold a temperature pretty well without a lot of fluctuation! However, because it has the same sensor issue, it does tend to overshoot a temperature setting. Yet because it has more sophisticated electronics, the overshoot is limited to about ten degrees, and the undershoot is even less.
It's really quite impressive--and if you plan for that extra 10 degrees when you use the Temperature setting, you'll get stellar results. I certainly do!
Pros and Cons of the Mirage Pro
First the pros:
- 100 power levels
- Excellent temperature control
- Manual control knob
- Durable and well built with stainless housing, ball bearing fan, and smart electronics
- 8-inch diameter coil
- Many extras, including adjusting to pan size, 60-second delayed shutoff when pan is removed, a low temp of 80F, 180-minute timer, and unlimited running time.
Now the cons:
- Home use may void the warranty. (It must be on a dedicated outlet.)
The warranty might be a deal breaker for some people, and I understand that. I've pored over the Vollrath website and I just can't tell whether or not they'll honor the warranty. It would seem from some reviews on Amazon that they might not.
However, if you use the Mirage Pro on a dedicated circuit (that is, don't plug anything else in to the outlet) and follow all other guidelines for proper use, I think Vollrath will honor the warranty. After all, what difference does it make where it's plugged in (a restaurant kitchen or your home kitchen), as long as you follow all of the operating instructions?
The Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P is a superb portable induction cooktop. It is vastly superior to everything else in its price range. I love, love, love this thing!
Highly, highly recommended.