Are portable induction cooktops worth it?
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Are portable induction cooktops worth it?

Jun 03, 2024

By Yasmin Jeffery

So, you've been hearing a lot about how induction stoves are cheaper to use than gas.

How they're better for the environment and your health.

You'd love to do the swap! But if you rent or can't afford a conversion, is a portable induction cooktop a good option?

We asked an expert and a food creative for their pros and cons.

Ismat Iwan, who works as a digital food creator, bought a portable induction stove on sale for $40 not long ago. Since she already had a compatible pan to use on it, that was the entire set-up cost.

"I've found it faster, comparable to a built-in induction [and] easier to clean than gas or electric," she says.

"Overall the cooking process is streamlined because if you have the right pans everything heats up real quick."

Ms Iwan likes it so much that she hopes to invest in a better-quality portable set-up in future.

"[My first one] changed my perspective on induction cooking," she shares.

"[I now feel like it's] adaptable and something we should all consider … you're looking at a quicker cook, less mess and less energy costs — so it's definitely been worth it [for me]!"

An induction cooktop can get dinner on the table faster than most stoves, but there are a few tricks when learning to use one.

As a home economist and test coordinator at CHOICE, Fiona Mair has tried out many portable induction cooktops.

She is far less enthusiastic about them.

"Look — they're lightweight, so they're easy to move around," she begins.

"They only require a 10-amp plug, so you can plug them into any suitable power point.

"They're relatively cheap — $49 is the cheapest one we've come across. And we've seen them up to $300 for a twin cooktop, which has a larger area.

"And they're quite easy to clean because it's just one surface — there aren't any dials to lift and move around.

"But I struggle with recommending them because of how difficult they are to use when you're not familiar with them," she says.

"I think [the portable versions are most] suitable for people with holiday homes or caravans or someone who wants an extra cooking surface in the kitchen or for an undercover outdoor barbecue area."

Emphasis on the *extra* there.

As for renters looking for an alternative to gas?

"Using a portable induction cooktop is fine and would work, but you are restricted in having only one cooking zone to cook on," Ms Mair says.

"I have never looked back; it is literally the best thing about our kitchen."

Ms Mair gets right into it.

"They're a benchtop appliance which means they will reduce the amount of bench space you have."

Complicating things, Ms Mair explains they can't be placed on metal surfaces (including stainless steel benchtops) or near utensil drawers.

"And portable induction cooktops have restricted pan and pot size," she continues.

"They're also extremely noisy. This is because they have quite a lot of vents. When you turn them on, the cooling fan comes on and they tend to be quite loud.

"The vents also suck in dust and particles in the air, so it's recommended you vacuum them so dust doesn't build up, because that can cause the unit to overheat and malfunction."

There's more — you ready?

"We've also found the settings [for portable induction stoves] to be confusing. Some of them have pre-set temperatures like 'stir-fry', 'heating milk', or 'boiling' and then you're restricted with those settings," Ms Mair continues.

"And then some of them have temperatures ranging from 60 degrees to 240 degrees. How would you know what to cook at 60 degrees?"

Ms Iwan didn't experience any of these issues herself — but she does find the fact portable induction stoves only have two cooking zones, max, a struggle.

"I like to cook a few things at a time. So only being able to do one at a time is not the best!"

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"We've also found that spills can run into the workings. If you spill anything, if anything boils over, it can end up in the mechanics and that can malfunction the unit," Ms Mair continues.

They also have slightly lower wattages than built-in induction stoves, making them less efficient.

That said, Ms Iwan says the speed discrepancy between portable and built-in induction hasn't bothered her so far — she's still found portable induction to be faster than electric and gas.

Ms Mair says she'd opt for a multicooker instead of a portable induction set-up for those looking to reduce their use of gas stoves.

"They're a little bit more expensive, but they can do so much more. They can sear, deep-fry, slow-cook, and pressure-cook."

Ms Iwan agrees — though she has her eye on an air fryer.

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