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Our favorite portable induction cooktop
Induction is the most efficient cooking method, both for a speedy dinner and a carbon-free future. A portable induction cooktop can add cooking space to a small kitchen, let you try out induction on a small scale, and cook anywhere there’s a standard outlet.
If you want fast, precise, and safe heat on any surface, the Duxtop 9600LS is the best portable cooktop for induction cooking. After using it for as much cooking as possible for two weeks, reading through hundreds of reviews, and considering ratings by esteemed publications, it’s our pick for the best portable induction solution, whatever your current setup is.
Why we like the Duxtop 9600LS
The Duxtop 9600LS is a powerful, versatile cooktop that hits the right price point for anyone just trying out induction, avoiding a bad stovetop, or taking their cooking on the go.
Duxtop has been making portable induction cooktops for some time. I purchased a Duxtop portable induction cooktop seven years ago, with fewer features and a slightly larger body size, but the same wattage and 8-inch induction surface. It’s been my go-to for faster pasta water, when the stove is too crowded, or if I want to cook something low and slow for hours, like stock or pasta sauce, without quite so many safety concerns.
The 9600LS wraps all the benefits of induction cooking up into a relatively nice-looking slab, with 20 different heat settings, an easy-to-read screen, and a shape and weight that’s easier to tuck into storage than you might expect. It warns you when its surface is hot, and it has both automatic and manual timers to ensure both safety and proper cooking. It reminds me of a little classic iPod-—one that could cook a whole chicken, if left long enough.
There are other induction cooktops that are cheaper, larger, smaller, or offer complicated timing and heating features. But the 9600LS adjusts rapidly, offers a wide range of temperatures, comes from a known brand, and looks as nice as an 8-inch electromagnet with a flat top can look.
What it’s like cooking with the Duxtop 9600LS
How the Duxtop 9600LS will work for you depends on what you want from it. If you just want to boil water as fast as possible, it’s great at that job—there’s even a dedicated 10-minute button for it.
I timed how long it took for 3 quarts of unsalted water to reach a steady, pasta-friendly boil in a large, induction-friendly pot on both the 8-inch 9600LS induction top and the 8-inch burner on my electric stove. It took 15 minutes and 18 seconds on the 9600LS, and 18 minutes 39 seconds on electric. That’s longer than the 10-minute timer, but your timing will vary with different pots and water amounts.
The time savings over gas are greater. I don’t have a gas stove to test on now, but in my former home, my induction cooktop was always preferred over the stove. With induction, too, it’s far safer to walk away from boiling water, especially if you set a timer, versus gas or even flat-top electric. And, not for nothing, you’re not polluting your home’s air with harmful agents.
Frigidaire and other induction stove makers cite more drastic sped-ups, like 1 minute 30 seconds to boil in a small pan versus 5-7 minutes on gas or electric. Induction stove makers want induction to seem fast, but it’s true that cookware can make a big difference.
It’s not all about fast cooking with induction. You can set a specific temperature, from 100-460 Fahrenheit (38-238 Celsius), for slow simmers, for frying oil consistency, or to adjust from the last time you cooked this recipe. There are 20 heat settings; that’s quite a lot, compared to the five typical settings most people use on their stove knobs: low, medium-low, medium, medium-high, high.
The cooktop’s manual notes that the temperature sensor is underneath the glass, and that different cookware, with different thicknesses and metal mixes, will yield different temperatures. So the temperatures are “estimates,” but “accurate enough for daily cooking requirements.”
Fast boiling is mostly what I used my older Duxtop model for, but I wanted to try and cook everything on the 9600LS for two weeks. I already had a 12-inch non-stick pan, a 12-inch cast iron skillet, an enameled ceramic/iron Dutch oven, a large stock pot, and an 8-inch steel pan, all of which worked with induction. I planned for as many one-pan meals as possible, or switched out pans if I cooked in stages.
One thing I learned quickly is that, while a portable cooktop can be used almost anywhere, you should mostly use it near proper ventilation. While it sizzled and browned onions and peppers in a cast iron pan much faster than my electric stove, the stove has the advantage of a vent fan above it. If you can easily fit your induction pan on top of your stove’s cooktop, this is less of an issue, but at that point you should be considering a full induction stove.
If you lift a pan from the surface of the 9600LS, it will warn you that it’s lost its magnetic connection with an “E0” error (the same as if you put a non-induction-ready pan on it). But you’ve got a whole minute to put the pan back on. So while induction cooking encourages you to stir inside the pan rather than lift and toss, both are possible.
I learned that, as an actual stove replacement, a portable cooktop is less than ideal. But as validation for induction cooking, and a sidekick eager to simmer, boil, or occasionally fry, the 9600LS is more than worth the storage space.
What is a portable induction cooktop, exactly?
A portable induction cooktop takes the benefits of an induction stove or cooktop and reduces it to one or two cooking surfaces (or “burners,” despite their non-flammable nature) that you can pick up, move around, and plug in.
Shopping for a portable induction cooktop can be tricky, because the word “cooktop” more typically means a full set of multiple burners, the kind you would permanently mount on a kitchen counter, with or without a stove underneath. Cooktop is just a slightly more logical word for this kind of device than “burner,” since induction doesn’t burn anything.
How does an induction cooktop work?
A portable induction cooktop works the same as a full induction stove or cooktop. A powered electromagnetic creates an electromagnetic field inside the induction cooktop. The field passes through the ceramic top, but when it hits your metal pans, it creates swirling electrical currents that, in turn, heat up resistive metal when it tries to pass through.
Image credit: Nicole Kelner
Modern induction cooktops can monitor the temperature of the metal pan sitting on top of it, then adjust their current draw to heat, cool, or steady the pan’s temperature. You control most induction cooktops with buttons and small screens, rather than dials or knobs.
If you’re wondering what it looks like inside a device that electro-magnetically heats up pans, Mark Furneaux took apart an older Duxtop model and explored its innards.
Why is induction better than gas or electric cooking?
The most basic way that induction beats gas or electric cooking is that there’s one less element of heat transfer.
Gas and electric stoves—which are conductive—heat up your cookware by setting gas on fire, or heating up a resistive coil with electricity, which conducts energy into your pan. Whenever energy changes form, some of it is lost, and heat energy is especially prone to inefficient waste. Induction, well, induces your pan to heat up, creating a more direct interaction between the heat you want and the food you’re cooking.
There are lots of benefits to this direct, electronic cooking, including:
- Faster boiling liquids, oil heating, and other hot jobs
- Quicker response to temperature changes
- Cooler kitchens due to far less waste heat
- Safer cooking, without exposed flames or red-hot coils
- Timers and safety controls alleviate “Did I leave the burner on?” anxiety
- Less indoor air pollution in your home
- Easier to clean than flat-top electric cooktops
Perhaps most beneficial for everybody is that induction cooking doesn’t require fossil fuels to run, like gas, and is far more energy efficient than a traditional electric cooktop. Induction cooking is one piece of the puzzle we need to solve in order to create electric, efficient, carbon-free homes.
What are the drawbacks of induction cooking?
One of the main drawbacks of induction cooking is the flip side to its major benefit. If your foods, liquids, and oils heat a lot faster than they used to, you have to learn new mental timings for your recipes, and, at least at first, watch them and react more quickly.
A drawback beyond the cooking realm is that people with pacemakers need to read up on some rare but present risks. A 2006 study found that a unipolar, left-side pacemaker, kept within 35 cm of a cooktop that had a pan far off-center, could receive interference. Most people don’t cook with their chests hovering less than a foot from a misaligned cooktop, but caution for pacemaker implants is still advisable.
Induction cooktops are generally more expensive than their comparable gas or traditional electric counterparts. Scanning a few larger appliance stores, induction stoves were typically $400-$800 more than similar gas stoves with like features.
Finally, the most significant short-term challenge to induction cooking, portable or otherwise, is having the right kind of pans. In order to cook on induction cooktops and stoves, you’ll need ferro-magnetic pans.
What kind of pans do I need for induction cooking?
Induction cooking only works with pans that have ferrous metal inside. If a magnet sticks to it, induction will work with it. Some or even most of your pans may already be ready for the switch to induction: cast iron, Dutch ovens (Lodge and Le Creuset), and stainless steel (i.e. All-Clad)
If you’re just trying out induction with a single portable cooktop, you can start small. Look for an induction-ready pan, maybe a non-stick to keep it simple and affordable. Grab a pasta-sized pot, too, so you can experience the joy of 10-minute boiling water.
If your portable cooktop has converted you to the joy of induced heat, Serious Eats recommends good induction-ready cookware (that still work with your now antiquated-seeming gas or electric stove).