If you've been thinking about getting a portable induction cooker ("PIC"), you've probably done a little bit of research.
And if you have, there's a good chance you're more confused than ever.
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.
In fact, the way most people probably choose is by throwing up their hands and buying the one that has the most decent reviews on Amazon (or some other site they trust).
This will get you a decent PIC, but it may not get you a great model, or the best PIC for your needs.
Or, people 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.
Furthermore, it is amazing 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, a lot of sites will simply recommend the most popular PIC on Amazon, or a similar model that flat out costs too much for what it offers.
This probably 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 . (We guarantee you, it is not a popularity contest.)
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 we come in. The Rational Kitchen staff has spent hundreds of hours researching portable induction cooktops. We know the differences between the models, and we know what makes one better than another one, and why. And, we know this for portable induction cooktops at every level of the market. So even if you were planning on spending upwards of $1000 to get all the bells and whistles, you should read this first, because we could save you hundreds of dollars.
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.
Recommendations at a Glance
Here are our favorite PICs at a glance:
Best in $300-500 Range/
100 power settings (50-1800W)
Best in $100-300 Range:
20 power/20 temp settings
Best Under $100:
20 power/20 temp settings
Best Under $50:
20 power/20 temp settings
Portable Induction Cooktops: The Back Story
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 name.
And sometimes, a different price tag.
This is particularly true on the low end of the market.
Look how similar these two PICs are, even though they're different brands:
They have different specs, but even so, they could have been made in the same factory in China.
Conversely, a company that designs their own PICs, even if manufacturing them in China, has much 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.
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 label 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 we could find that was designed and made in the USA was CookTek (see it on Amazon). It's a fabulous product, but boy, will you pay for all that excellence!
That leaves overseas-made products. So, how do you know if a Chinese-made PIC is a good one? (And we guarantee there are good ones out there.)
You have to do your research. (Reading this article is a good start.)
One of the biggest scams in PICs 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 $40 - $99 PICs. That is, cheap temperature controls, loud fans, a small coil, etc. (NOTE: See below for a discussion on important features.)
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.
But if you want great temperature control as well as a sturdy build quality, you'll have to spend over $200, and your best options will start over $300.
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, we'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.
Who Needs a Portable Induction Cooktop?
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 a downsized cooktop if you move to a smaller space.
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're getting for your money, this price range offers excellent choices!
How Do Induction Cooktops Work?
Induction is a little bit complicated to fully understand. We've boiled it down to two main concepts: magnetism and pulsing.
These are the most basic aspects of induction technology. But more importantly, they're the aspects that are going to most affect your purchasing decision.
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 our favorite PICs) that explains induction cooking technology in a little more detail:
The other 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 (rather than On/Off, On/Off). This results in smoother temperature transitions and better ability to hold constant temps, particularly low temps. The result is less scorching and gentle, constant simmers.
You don't have to pay a fortune to get decent pulsing. Duxtop makes several models with good pulsing options for the price. No, it's not as good as Vollrath and other commercial brands, 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.
We said it above, but it's important, so we'll say it again: you need induction-compatible cookware to use with a an induction cooktop.
Induction compatible cookware has a magnetic bottom. If you have aluminum or copper cookware, it won't work. 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.
Cast iron and carbon steel cookware is always induction compatible.
For more info, check out our Guide to the Best Induction Cookware.
Are Induction Cooktops 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 much 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.
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.
There are a lot of anti-induction people out there who are afraid of the electromagnetic fields given off by induction cooktops. We 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 much more dangerous than any household appliance.
And if you are worried about stray magnetic fields, there is an easy way to minimize them to almost zero: 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.
Proper pot placement--centered on the burner--reduces stray magnetic fields by 95%, resulting in faster, more efficient heating.
Induction Cooking Pros and Cons
An article on induction cooking wouldn't be complete without a list of pros and cons.
- Very fast response time
- Great low temp control (not on all models, but far better than gas on models that have it)
- 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!)
- Require induction-compatible cookware
- Glass cooktop can scratch easily
- Cheaper PICs can scorch food and don't hold simmer temps very well
- Cheaper PICs 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
We break down PIC features into three categories: standard features, safety features, and important features (that is, features you might be willing to pay for). You can pretty much ignore the standard features and safety features, most of which are universal to induction technology.
The important features (see below) 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 too much. 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, because induction heating requires a pot to complete the magnetic circuit.
For the same reason, no induction burner will power on if it doesn't detect a pan. If you turn on an induction burner without a pan placed on it, you will just see an error message in the display.
While these features do make induction cooking safer, they aren't technically safety features, but rather just by-products 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. They're standard for pretty much every PIC.
Safety Features (You Can Pretty Much Ignore These, Too)
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, we 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.
By the way: We consider the auto shutoff an anti-feature. We don't recommend a PIC (or any induction cooktop) with 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 want a PIC primarily for its lightning 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 we 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
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 scorch some food.
More expensive PICs also have lower low wattage levels (or should), meaning a wider range of power options. For example, the Vollrath Mirage Pro has a low wattage level of 50W. This is unsurpassed by any other PIC as far as we know (but you do have to pay for all that 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).
The more levels, the smaller the jumps, and, therefore, the more precise the controls.
A lot of PIC makers overstate the number of power options their units have. They might count all the preset function keys and programmable features to arrive at a large number of levels. But the only thing that matters is the number of power and temperature levels, and how big the jumps between the levels are. E.g., a "Simmer" shortcut key is the same as putting the PIC on the lowest power setting, so it doesn't count as an additional power level.
The same goes for temperature levels...
Number of Temperature Levels/Temperature Range
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 at a steady rate.
Temperature isn't quite as important as power. Not because it doesn't matter (it definitely does!), but because it's harder to control (so you will likely use the power setting more than the temp setting). 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 cheaper units because their heat controls aren't very sophisticated. You'll get a lot of boiling and scorching before the PIC settles into a temp--and even then, it will have a hard time keeping a steady, constant temperature.
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.
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 build quality and durability.
Coil Size (Actual Burner Diameter)
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 approximately 4-6 inches in diameter. But the coil size doesn't matter as much as people might think.
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, pulsing--see the discussion above).
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.
While a bigger coil is nice, it doesn't affect performance all that much, believe it or not. 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. This is because the pan itself distributes heat fairly evenly throughout, with some hot spots right where the flame is, which you accommodate for by stirring and moving food without even thinking about it.
So don't worry too much about coil size. Do, however, have good clad stainless cookware to use with your 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.)
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 our opinion that the easiest controls to use are dials. 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. (E.g., you have to scroll through a menu to get to a desired setting.)
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 to select a power level. (Note that these extras are unnecessary if the PIC has an "old-fashioned" dial.)
Some control panels 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. These are all nice extras, but in general, the best controls are the simplest ones.
From what we've seen in our research, cheaper units often have more complicated controls, while more expensive units often have little more than a Power/Temp Mode button and a dial to easily change the setting.
Anyway, here are the NuWave Titanium PIC control panel (top) and the Vollrath Mirage Pro control panel (bottom):
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.
As we mentioned above, all PICs stop working when a pan is removed from the burner. This is because induction technology requires the pan to complete the magnetic circuit.
However, some PICs (and most full-sized induction cooktops) have a delay feature that keeps the burner operating for up to 60 seconds before it switches off. This is great if you need to remove a pan for any reason, or if you like to do the "chef toss" to move food around.
Duxtop is one of the few lower end brands that has a 60-second shut off delay, while the more expensive and commercial grade brands all have it (e.g., Vollrath).
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. High price = durable (and quieter) 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 (stockmaking, for example), 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.)
Just like a regular oven or cooktop, some induction cookers come with a timer. Some units switch off when the time elapses, and these are the most useful timers. Some just beep and keep operating.
If you do consider the timer 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: Make sure you understand how the timer works before you buy a PIC. Some shut the unit off, while some do not. Also, not all PICs have a timer, so if you want one, make sure the unit has one before you buy.
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.
Important Features Summary Table
Here's a summary table of important features that you should think about before you buy:
Important PIC Features
What to Look For
Number of Power Levels (Wattage)
The more power levels, the more control options you have.
Number of Temperature Levels
The more temp levels, the more control options you have.
A heavier PIC indicates better quality, sometimes the only way you can tell. 10 lb+ is a good weight.
Coil Size (Burner Diameter)
Burners can be from 4-6 inches, but this doesn't matter all that much unless you'll be using HUGE pans.
Dials are easier to use than menu keys, but usually cost more.
A great feature that allows you to remove a pan for several seconds without having to turn the PIC back on.
Cheap fans are loud and don't last as long. (An argument for spending more.)
Max Run Time
Some PICs have unlimited run times while some have only 2 hrs.
A timer should turn the PIC off when done (not all do, and not all PICs even have a timer).
Make sure a PIC has at least a 1 yr warranty. It's also smart to buy an extended warranty, esp. if you go with an expensive commercial grade PIC.
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, we give our picks at several price ranges, plus a few honorable mentions.
Best Overall ($300 - $500 Range): Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P
The Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P (see it on Amazon) is a commercial unit, so it's a well-built, heavy duty PIC with a ton of great features. We consider it to be the best all-around PIC on the market today.
It has a temperature range of 80F - 400F (but gets up to about 550F) and a wattage range of 50W-1800W. It also has an unmatched 100 power settings--more even than some PICs that cost hundreds more!
It has a temperature/power control system that Vollrath calls "G4." It's one of the most sophisticated temperature control systems around, able to hold constant temperatures, as low as 80F, very well. We are aware of no other PiC that can do this. (In fact, many full-sized induction cooktops can't do this.)
You probably don't need 100 power settings. But the Mirage Pro's ability to hold constant temperatures and go down to 80F is a fantastic feature. It means you can set a temperature and walk away without worrying about scorching or shutting off. It means you can simmer for hours at a time. And it means you've got excellent all-around temperature control.
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.
- 100 power settings (from 50W to 1800W)
- Temp range of 80F - 400F (but gets up to 550F)
- 6-inch coil diameter and 14-inch cooktop
- Easy to use control panel
- Auto shutoff timer
- F/C display option
- Stainless housing
- Quiet ball bearing fan
- Unlimited run time
- Manual dial (no menus to scroll through).
- The warranty may not be honored if purchased for home use (get the extended warranty from Amazon!).
Buy the Vollrath Mirage Pro 59500P on Amazon:
Best in the $100 - $300 Range: Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300
The Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300 portable induction cooktop (see it on Amazon) is the Mirage Pro's 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.
- 20 power settings from 100W - 1800W
- Temperature range from 100F - 400F (10-degree increments)
- 6-inch coil diameter
- Stainless housing
- Quiet ball bearing fan
- Unlimited run time
- 1 year warranty.
- 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!).
Buy the Vollrath Mirage Cadet 59300 on Amazon:
Best Under $100: Duxtop 9100LS
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):
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.
- 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.
- 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.
Buy the Duxtop 9600LS on Amazon:
Best Under $50: Duxtop 8310
While the price of this model hovers right around $50, you should be able to find it for under $50 most of the time.
This is a newer Duxtop model, and all the newer models have the same innards as the 9600LS (reviewed above). That is, 20 temperature settings between 100-460F and 20 power settings from 100-1800W. The main difference is in the design: the 8310 has an all glass top with a sensor touch panel. That is, all the controls are beneath the glass surface.
It's also a "tablet" model, meaning that the controls are on the same plane as the burner. This means you have to next to the unit to read and adjust controls. While we prefer an angled panel, the sensor touch glass makes this tablet model safe to use--no worries about a hot pan bottom melting the control panel.
Why is the 8310 so much cheaper than the 9600LS? Probably because of the max run time, which is only 170 minutes (as opposed the 10 hour run time of the 9600LS).
In any case, the 8310 is vastly better than other PICs at this price point.
If you want to know more about the Duxtop induction cookers, check out our Duxtop Review.
Buy the Duxtop 8310 on Amazon:
Two Other Good PICks
Here are a few other PICs to consider. We haven't tested these brands, but from our research we think they're all good (but maybe not great) options.
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.
The Iwatani IWA-1800 Table Top Induction Range (about $470 on Amazon) is another commercial unit, very durable, with excellent temperature control. 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.
We hope this article has answered any question you might have about portable induction cooktops. Have we missed anything? Is something still unclear to you? Or do you have a favorite brand you'd like to recommend? Let us know in the comments below!
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