Induction burners use magnetic coils to heat more quickly and efficiently than conventional electric hot plates by sending most of the heat to the pan, rather than to the cooking surface.
Has your holiday menu outgrown your stove? You could heat that extra pot of potatoes on a $20 electric hot plate. But a growing number of manufacturers are hoping that you'll fork over as much as $500 for the added speed of a stand-alone induction burner. Our tests of four countertop models show that you don't have to spend that much to serve your feast on time.
Even the speediest of the countertop induction burners we tested can't match the 12 to 15 minutes it takes to boil water on a full-sized electric or gas range. As with induction ranges and cooktops, you'll need magnetic cookware. And induction burners have wattages that range from 1,300 to 1,800 watts--as much as a hair dryer. That means you could trip a breaker switch if you run a nearby toaster oven at the same time. But having a relatively fast extra burner in your kitchen could mean the difference between pleasant dinner conversation and a room full of grumbling guests.
The top-rated model brought 1.5 gallons of water to a near-boil in just 20 minutes on its high-power setting, compared with a leisurely 39 minutes for an electric hot plate. But the second highest-rated model took only 5 minutes longer than the top scoring model--and 5 minutes less than the bottom-scoring hot plate.
Superb low-heat control is another plus. Only one model had trouble simmering tomato sauce without boiling it and melting chocolate without scorching it. Induction can also mean safer cooking because its burners don't get as hot to the touch as electrics do, and they shut off when you remove the pan. And all the induction burners we tested allow for easy cleaning.