After putting in more than 40 hours on research and testing, we’re confident that the Duxtop 8100MC Induction Cooktop is the best for most people. This reasonably priced induction burner boils water quickly and cooks rice faster than the competition. Its easy-to-use interface allows you to choose between a power mode (for general cooking) and a temperature mode (for specific tasks like frying).
The Duxtop burner also comes with a number of safety features to prevent overheating or to alert you if improper cookware is used. Unlike some of the other models we tested, the smooth, ceramic-glass cooktop allows for a breezy cleanup every time. If you don’t have access to a gas or electric stove, or simply want an extra burner to have in the kitchen, you could benefit from an induction burner. Unlike conventional cooktops, which transfer heat to the bottom of a vessel, these burners use a magnetic coil to generate heat through certain kinds of metal pots.
While we prefer the more reasonably priced Duxtop burner, we also thought the Max Burton 6400 Digital Choice Induction Cooktop performed well in most of our cooking tests. It boiled 2 quarts of water in just under 7 minutes (about 30 seconds faster than our main pick) and browned meat very evenly. This model has a convenient boil function, which allows you to boil water at the touch of a button. However, its simmer function is preset to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which isn’t very useful because it’s well below the point of simmering. The Max Burton 6400 also beeps and buzzes louder than our top pick, which some of our testers found bothersome. And while the 6400’s look is sleek, grooves on the cooktop surface can trap grease, making it more difficult to clean compared with our top pick.
Michael Sullivan has reviewed immersion blenders and food processors as well as other kitchen gadgets for The Sweethome. He lived for nearly three months without gas while his apartment building underwent emergency gas line repairs. During that time, he tested several induction burners by boiling, searing, sautéing, and frying food.
To better understand what makes a good induction burner, we spoke with several home cooks who live in the US and Europe, some of whom have been using induction burners for years. We also spoke with Mari Steverlynck, a home cook who has used gas and electric ranges for years and recently made the switch to an induction range. Additionally, we read reviews in Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) and Consumer Reports (subscription required). We also looked at highly rated models on Amazon.com.
Even if you host large parties or holiday gatherings only a couple of times a year, you could benefit from having a hot plate to cook on or keep food warm. If you live in a tiny apartment, you probably have a tiny kitchen and stove to go with it. An extra burner saves time and gets food to the table faster. If you’re a college student living in a dorm, you probably don’t have access to kitchens or cooktops, and a small induction burner makes cooking simple meals possible. If you like to camp, or “glamp,” you may benefit from the convenience of cooking with an induction burner directly in your camping trailer.
It’s not uncommon for apartment buildings to shut off gas lines for necessary maintenance work, so having a portable burner in your emergency kit isn’t a bad idea. If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation of being without gas for an extended period of time, owning an induction burner still allows you to cook. While full-size multiburner ranges are a great permanent option for many homes, for this guide, we focused on single and dual models.
Though magnetic induction was first discovered by English physicist Michael Faraday in 1830, and early induction burner patents date back to the early 1900s, this technology has been slow to gain popularity in the US. As Kim Severson wrote in an article for the New York Times, “Induction cooking has been around for decades, but only recently has demand driven prices down and selection up.”
Unlike gas or electric stovetops, which heat using thermal conduction, induction burners heat using electromagnetic induction. As we learned in high school physics, an electric current running through a coil can induce a magnetic field perpendicular to it. (Remember the right-hand rule). Below the surface of the glass-ceramic top in an induction burner is a magnetic wire coil. Electricity running through this coil makes a magnetic field that points directly up at the ceiling. Put an iron pot on top. The magnetic field makes the electrons in the metal of the pot get up and dance. But iron, and iron-based metals like stainless steel, are really poor electrical conductors, meaning that they’re bad at letting electrical currents run freely through them, unlike metals such as gold and copper. This pent-up energy has nowhere to go, so instead it’s released as heat. And bangazoom!, the pot heats up to use as you please. What’s unique about induction cooking is that heat is created directly in the pan instead of on the surface of the cooktop, which allows for more immediate control of the heat source.
Induction burners are also more energy-efficient than conventional gas or smooth-electric burners. The US Department of Energy compared the efficiency of energy transfer in residential cooking products and found that induction burners were 84 percent efficient, versus about 74 percent for smooth-electric cooktops and 40 percent for conventional gas burners. Since less energy is lost in the surrounding air when you cook with induction, your kitchen will remain cooler than it would if you were using gas. Steverlynck, who has been cooking with induction for three months, told us, “[Induction] is comparable to gas cooking in terms of control, but the advantage is that there is no excessive heat making the kitchen hot. I have the control of gas without the dangerous heat of gas.”
Pro chefs often turn to induction burners or ranges because they take up little space, which is ideal for small, oddly shaped restaurant kitchens. In a Food Arts article written by Merrill Shindler, the co-chef and co-owner of Frankies Spuntino in New York, Frank Falcinelli, says an induction burner provides, “a lot of heat, with no exhaust, so it works in any space.”
In our tests, induction cooktops brought water to a boil in almost half the time as conventional gas or electric burners. The fastest induction burner brought 2 quarts of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan in about 7 minutes, versus about 13½ minutes using a conventional gas burner, and almost 16 minutes using a smooth-electric cooktop. Steverlynck says induction is, “ideal not only for quick cooking but also for quick and tasty reheating of leftovers and other foods.”
The speed, efficiency, and complexity of induction burners are what make them drastically more expensive than their portable electric or gas counterparts. The average induction single-burner cooktop goes for around $60, while electric models can cost as little as $10. Portable gas burners are usually around $30, but require butane tanks that are sold separately.
The large price gap also accounts for the greater range of features offered in induction models that are missing from even the best electric or gas cooktops. Most portable induction burners include digital control panels with built-in timers and have wide temperature ranges (anywhere from 100 to 460 degrees Fahrenheit) with adjustable power levels up to 1,800 watts. Induction burners offer greater precision than gas or electric burners because most models have the capability to heat to specific temperatures. In Food Arts, Falcinelli says induction burners are “more precise than gas could ever be.”
Aside from offering a range of preset temperatures, most induction cooktops also have a number of safety features, including overheating sensors to avoid scorching and child-lock settings to prevent temperatures from being changed.
Most induction burners regulate the heat by repeatedly switching the energy field on and off to maintain an even temperature. In our tests, this was most noticeable on lower temperatures or power settings. (Full-size induction ranges generally maintain temperatures with better control, so fluctuations in heat may not be as noticeable.)
Since the surfaces of induction cooktops don’t generate heat, the area around where the pan sits is generally cooler and safer than most gas or electric burners. That being said, the area where the pan comes in contact with the surface will become hot from the indirect heat given off by the actual cookware. It’s best to avoid touching the surface of the burner during and immediately after cooking.
Finally, induction burners are generally easier to clean compared with gas or coil-electric ranges, which have space below the cooktop that can become splattered with sauce or collect crumbs. Generally, induction cooktops have a single, flat surface that can be wiped clean using a damp paper towel.
Aside from being more expensive than a typical portable gas or electric cooktop, induction burners require compatible cookware. Since heat is transferred through a magnetic field, the cookware must be ferrous (contain iron), such as cast iron or magnetic stainless steel. Copper, aluminum, glass, ceramic, and non-magnetic stainless steel (including 18/10 and 18/8) cookware will not create the necessary magnetic field. If you’re unsure if your cookware is compatible, test it using a magnet from your fridge—if it sticks, it will work. (Note: The Sweethome’s picks for saucepans, skillets, and Dutch ovens are either stainless steel or cast iron, and they’re fully compatible with any induction burner.)
If you don’t have induction-compatible cookware and don’t feel like purchasing new pots and pans, you can purchase an induction interface disk. These magnetic disks sit on the surface of the burner and allow non-magnetized pans to be used. However, the disks can be expensive (anywhere between $30 to $100) and are generally not as effective as using compatible cookware. Home cook Mari Steverlynck had to buy new induction-compatible cookware when she switched from using electric. While this was inconvenience at first, she said, “I was able to upgrade to better quality pots than what I had.”
There’s a slight learning curve that comes with induction cooking, especially if you’re more familiar with using gas or electric burners. While our testers adapted fairly quickly to cooking with induction burners, having no visual indication of heat levels was challenging. You’re basically cooking by numbers. Since each burner varies slightly, it may take a few uses to become familiar with the appropriate temperature settings. However, Steverlynck said, “I have not felt challenged and took on the use of induction with ease. This was mainly due to the adaptation and learning curve I had previously gone through when learning how to cook with an electric cooktop from the eighties that was installed when we moved into our current apartment.” She went on to say, “The main difference is when I sauté in oil. Instead of heating the pot [on] high and then putting it down to medium when all ingredients are in the pot, I immediately heat the pot at medium and leave it at that temp for most of the cooking time. Other than that, it’s very much like gas.”
In our tests, we found that rice stuck more to the bottom of a saucepan using induction burners compared with using gas. We found that by decreasing the cooking time and lowering the power mode we got better results. Steverlynck said, “As a general rule, I would say that the settings in induction are to be used at a little lower temp than when used with gas and electric.”
Most induction burners also have a cookware detection feature. If you remove a pan from the heat, the burner will beep to alert you. This can be annoying when sautéing vegetables in a skillet: Each time you lift the pan to toss the vegetables, a raucous beeping ensues.
Since the magnetic coil on the induction burners we tested ranged between 4.5 and 6.5 inches in diameter, cooking with pans with bottoms measuring between 4.5 and 10.25 inches in diameter were required for optimal heat distribution. However, according to a study done by Dave Arnold for the International Culinary Center’s tech and science blog, he found that induction burners didn’t distribute heat as evenly as gas burners. In his test, Arnold dusted an All-Clad skillet and a cast-iron skillet with flour and heated them on both gas and induction burners. The All-Clad distributed heat pretty evenly using gas, but the heat was concentrated only over the coil using induction. Arnold discovered that “[an] induction burner’s element is too small. Even a good conductor can’t make up for a burner that is too small.” Our own heat-map tests gave the same results.
If you have a pacemaker, most manufacturers recommend consulting your doctor before operating an induction burner. While it’s unlikely the electromagnetic field will interfere with the device, it’s best to seek a professional opinion before using one. Also, home appliances that use radio waves—such as radios, televisions, and cell phones—can sometimes interfere with an induction burner’s electromagnetic field, causing them to not work well. It’s best to operate an induction burner away from these devices.
Varying degrees of buzzing can occur as a result of the cookware being exposed to a high magnetic field, which varies depending on the type and quality of cookware or burner. All of the induction burners we tested had an unpleasant audible buzzing noise when using All-Clad pans, though some were worse than others.
For this guide, we tested single induction burners between $60 and $140, as well as dual burners between $250 and $320. Single induction burners are very efficient because they use a full 1,800 watts (at their highest heat setting), whereas dual burners split 1,800 watts between two burners (if both are in use). While it’s cheaper to purchase two single burners versus one dual burner, keep in mind that most residential circuits are 15 or 20 amps and will max out at 1,800 or 2,400 watts. In other words, if you have two induction burners plugged into two separate outlets that are on the same 20 amp circuit, you’ll risk tripping the circuit breaker or blowing a fuse. Likewise, if you’re using a single burner on a 15-amp circuit, there shouldn’t be anything else active on the circuit drawing power (such as kitchen lights) or it might get overloaded.
Dual burners are convenient for allowing you to cook two items at once: you can boil a large pot of water for pasta on one burner, while your tomato sauce simmers on the other. Single burners require that you finish one cooking task before starting another. However, after testing both models, we found that dual induction burners are less powerful overall and ultimately aren’t worth their steep price tag.
We looked for induction burners that offered a range of heating temperatures. Ideally, we wanted burners that could maintain a low simmer, yet still get very hot to boil water quickly. Having the option to choose between power levels and set temperatures was also important in our decision. If you’re familiar with gas or electric burners, you’ll probably be more comfortable using the power settings on an induction burner. However, having the option to choose set temperatures is convenient for when you need to maintain a specific temperature, such as when frying.
We wanted models that had a cookware detection feature to alert you if you try to use pans that aren’t induction compatible (aren’t magnetic), such as copper or aluminum. Also, we preferred models that allow you to lift the pan off of the cooktop without shutting off after a few seconds, which can be particularly annoying when sauteing. All of the models we tested have built-in timers, which automatically shut off the burner.
In choosing our selection of induction burners to test, we also took into consideration how stable each model was on a counter. Working with hot pans can be dangerous, so having a stable unit with substantial weight and rubber feet is important. All of the induction burners we tested had rubber pads on the feet to prevent them from sliding. However, be sure your counter is clean before operating your burner. Greasy countertops can make even the most secure units less stable and prone to sliding around.
One of the advantages that induction burners have over gas or coil-electric burners is that they are easier to clean. We searched for models that had minimal grooves and crevices where food and grease could build up easily. Ideally, we wanted burners with a single ceramic-glass top.
After researching more than 20 models, we tested four single induction burners: Duxtop 8100MC Induction Cooktop, Max Burton 6200 Deluxe Induction Cooktop, Max Burton 6400 Digital Choice Induction Cooktop, and Ivation Portable Induction Cooktop. We also tested two dual burners: Waring Pro ICT400 Double Induction Cooktop and True Induction S2F2 Double Burner.
We tested induction burners by timing how long it took 2 quarts of water to come to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. To test how hot the burners could get, we seared pieces of eye round beef to evaluate how evenly they would brown. We cooked batches of white rice to see if the burners could maintain a low simmer or would cause scorching. To see how evenly each burner distributed heat, we browned 2 tablespoons of flour in a 12-inch All-Clad skillet. We also tested models with automatic shutoff features and took note of any excessive buzzing or annoying beeps. Finally, we cooked many meals using the burners to get a feel for their overall practicality and ease of use.
If you need an extra burner for your kitchen, the reasonably priced Duxtop 8100MC Induction Cooktop is the best that we tested. While it was not a leader in all of our tests, it ranked high in all of them and lacks any glaring drawbacks. It has a straightforward control panel that allows you to easily adjust the power mode, temperature, and timer. The Duxtop boils water quickly and cooks foods faster than other models we tested. The Duxtop also comes with a number of user-friendly safety features to prevent overheating, or to alert you if you accidentally use the wrong pan. Also, the single ceramic-glass top on this model makes cleanup a cinch.
The Duxtop burner has a very straightforward interface (available in gold or silver), with controls that allow you to choose between both power and temperature modes. The power mode, which ranges from settings 1 to 10 (200 to 1,800 watts) is ideal for quickly bringing water to a boil, or for when specific temperatures aren’t necessary. In our tests, the Duxtop brought 2 quarts of water to a boil in just under 7½ minutes, which was only 30 seconds slower than the fastest model, the Max Burton 6400. The temperature mode has 10 preset temperatures ranging from 140 to 460 degrees Fahrenheit. The Duxtop’s timer can be set for up to 170 minutes on both the power and temperature modes, and automatically shuts off the burner when the time is up.
In our flour test, we browned 2 tablespoons of flour in a 12-inch All-Clad skillet to determine the approximate size of the heating area. We were able to determine that the magnetic coil below the surface of the Duxtop measures approximately 5½ inches in diameter (which was on a par with the Max Burton 6400 and the True Induction S2F2 burners). The Max Burton 6200 was about 4½ inches in diameter and didn’t offer as much heat distribution in the bottom of the cookware compared to the Duxtop. While the Duxtop didn’t sear meat as evenly as the Max Burton 6400, it cooked rice about 5 minutes faster than all of the other models we tested.
If the incorrect cookware is used, the pan-detection feature will show “E0” on the digital screen and beep to alert you. Though the Duxtop beeps whenever a pan is lifted off the cooktop, it won’t shut off for up to a minute, so you can toss vegetables in a pan with no worry of it turning off. Some burners, like the True Induction S2F2, shut off after just 10 seconds if a pan is removed. The Duxtop also has the quietest beeping of all the models we tested. It comes with a helpful user manual that includes an error-code chart to help identify any problems that may arise, including overheating or if there’s an improper voltage supply.
The Duxtop has a single piece of ceramic glass that was the easiest to clean among all the competition. Both the Max Burton 6200 and 6400 have more grooves around the perimeter of the cooktop, which trapped grease.
This model comes with a limited one-year warranty, which protects the unit from any “defects in material and workmanship under normal use and service.” If you encounter problems with the induction burner, contact Secura regarding repairs or a replacement.
The Duxtop makes an audible buzz caused by the electromagnetic field, which is an annoyance we encountered with every model we tested. However, the Duxtop was one of the quietest, especially alongside the Max Burton 6400 and the True Induction S2F2.
In our tests, it took several attempts to find the proper amount of time and the appropriate power setting to cook rice without sticking. In our first attempt, the rice was glued to the bottom of the pan. However, in subsequent tests we found that by reducing the cooking time to 15 minutes and simmering the rice over power setting 2, we produced evenly cooked rice with minimal sticking. As with all of the induction burners we tested, it takes time to get a feel for the heat levels on this model.
While we liked the Duxtop burner the best, the Max Burton 6400 Digital Choice Induction Cooktop performed well in nearly all of our tests. It’s a solid step up from our main pick, with a simple control panel, a bright digital display, and a sturdy base. The Max Burton 6400 boiled water the fastest and seared meat more evenly compared with the Duxtop. However, it has a noisier buzz than the Duxtop, it beeps loudly, and it’s more expensive.
Like the Duxtop, the Max Burton 6400 allows you to choose between a power mode (ranging from 500 to 1,800 watts) and a temperature mode. It offers more preset temperature options than our top pick, with 15 temperatures set at 25-degree intervals (from 100 degrees to 450 degrees Fahrenheit). This model also has a number of safety features, including: detection of unsuitable cookware, overheat protection, and improper voltage supply detection.
The Max Burton 6400 is more than double the price of our top pick, but it was slightly faster at boiling water, coming in first at just under 7 minutes (the Duxtop took 7½). Our testers liked the “boil” function unique to this model, which allows you to bring water to a boil at the touch of a button. This burner also has a “simmer” function, but it’s preset to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, which is well below the point of simmering. This model cooked rice slower than the Duxtop, but had minimal sticking and seared meat evenly.
The Max Burton 6400 isn’t perfect: It beeps louder than our top pick and makes a significant buzzing noise generated by the electromagnetic field. Although at times our testers thought the buzzing sounded like a fly whizzing around the test kitchen, it wasn’t quite as loud as the Ivation Portable Cooktop we tested. Also, unlike our top pick, this model has more grooves around the surface of the cooktop. We found that the grooves were prone to collecting grease, making the cleanup more difficult than with the Duxtop.
The Max Burton 6400 comes with a limited one-year warranty. Contact Aervoe customer service for questions regarding repairs or replacements.
Before cleaning the surface of an induction burner, always unplug the cooktop and allow it to cool completely. In most cases, a damp paper towel or non-abrasive sponge is all you need to wipe the surface clean. For food spills that are difficult to remove, use a damp paper towel with a mild soap and wipe the surface clean in a circular motion. Never use harsh chemicals or abrasive sponges on the surface of the cooktop, which can mar the surface. It’s best to clean the surface after each use, otherwise you risk staining or discoloring the glass top. It goes without saying, but never submerge the burner in water. Also, be sure the surface of the cooktop is completely dry before operating.
Avoid placing cooking utensils on the surface of the cooktop, especially if they are made of magnetic metals. Also, never move the unit while it’s hot or when pots or pans are placed on top of it. If for some reason the cooking surface cracks, immediately turn off the burner and contact the manufacturer for repairs. To avoid damaging the cord, be sure the outlet and plug are far enough away from the cooking vessel to prevent damage.
Always allow enough air to circulate around the exhaust vent (located towards the back of the unit). Most manufacturer’s recommend a clearance of at least 4 to 6 inches. If buildup occurs near the exhaust vent after prolonged use, some manufacturers suggest using a vacuum cleaner attachment to remove debris.
For our next update, we’d like to consider several models by Secura, including the Duxtop 9100MC and the Duxtop 9600LS. Both models have sloped control panels, which is ideal when you’re cooking with larger pans that have a wide circumference.
Although the Control Freak Induction Cooking System by Breville and PolyScience is intended for professional restaurant use, we wanted to see how well it compared to the cheaper models we tested. As its name implies, the Control Freak offers unparalleled temperature control ranging from 86 to 482 degrees Fahrenheit. The probe thermometer, which reads the temperature of liquids inside a saucepan, was extremely accurate in our tests. This model also boasts other helpful features, including a programmable timer and the capability to save preset temperatures for specific cooking tasks. Though it has lots of bells and whistles, the interface on this model is surprisingly intuitive. Also, we love that the Control Freak doesn’t beep when you lift a pan off the surface to toss ingredients. This model was by far the best that we tested, but at a whopping $1,800, it isn’t practical or affordable enough for home use.
The Max Burton 6200 Deluxe Induction Cooktop did well in our tests, but its grooves were more difficult to clean than those on the Duxtop or Max Burton 6400. It also beeped loudly each time we pressed a button on the control panel.
The Ivation Portable Induction Cooktop has a full ceramic-glass top that our testers found a snap to clean. However, this model could not bring water to a boil and flashed “E1” on the digital display after only seven minutes on power setting 10. According to the user manual, “E1” means that the burner is overheating, the fan is not working, or the sensor has failed.
The Max Burton 6000 Portable Induction Cooktop was Cook’s Illustrated’s (subscription required) top-rated portable burner, but a Max Burton representative said this model is currently being phased out.
The NuWave 2 Precision Induction Cooktop has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating on Amazon.com, but we had a bad experience with the company’s aggressive customer service representatives, who failed to answer detailed questions about their products.
The Fagor 670041920 Ucook Induction Cooktop, Black does not have many reviews on Amazon.com, and there seems to be availability issues.
The Fagor 670041860 2-Piece Induction Set with Cooktop and Skillet comes with an induction-compatible sauté pan, which we found gimmicky.
We had high hopes for the True Induction S2F2 Double Burner, which has a single ceramic-glass top and two burners that are fully adjustable, offering more flexibility than the Waring Pro ICT400. However, this model died during our testing process, and we weren’t able to revive it.
The Waring Pro ICT400 Double Induction Cooktop doesn’t have many reviews on Amazon.com, but it was one of the cheapest dual burners we could find. However, the right-hand burner’s low wattage setting was incapable of bringing 2 quarts of water to a boil in our tests.
The Avantco IC18DB Double Countertop Induction seemed like a good contender, but the company doesn’t offer a warranty for non-commercial (at-home) use.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: May 17, 2016