I tested two-dozen portable induction cooktops during a brutal heat wave in summer 2022. It was a slog as I seared steaks, boiled pasta, and simmered sauce in a fourth-floor apartment, relying on two struggling window-unit air conditioners to keep me cool.
The biggest surprise? My kitchen stayed noticeably cooler when I was using those induction cooktops than when I cooked on my own gas stove. I ended up buying Wirecutter’s top pick, the Duxtop 9600LS, and I have been appreciating its chill vibes ever since.
Portable induction cooktops—which let you cook almost anywhere you can find an outlet—don’t emit heat but instead make your pan hot through electromagnetism. As a result, induction is faster, safer, and cooler than gas or radiant electric ranges or cooktops. Unlike expensive full-size induction cooktops, a decent portable induction cooktop can be found for as little as $70. And, no, you probably don’t need to get new pans.
During the global heat waves of 2022, I wanted to see if I could put some data behind how much cooler induction cooking really is. Using a digital indoor humidity and temperature monitor and several instant-read probe thermometers, I tracked the temperature in several parts of my kitchen while I cooked on both my gas stove and my portable induction cooktop. In doing so, I learned that the latter can help keep a kitchen cooler in five distinct ways—all of which tend to making cooking a little easier, too.
You don’t get hot, and neither does your stovetop
When I boil water on my gas stove, everything else around it heats up, too—myself included. The outer edges of the metal grates the pot sits on hit 235 °F. The stovetop reaches 140 °F. Even the plastic handle of my tea kettle and the metal handle of my kitchen cabinet heat up to 110 °F. I used a probe thermometer to measure the temperature of the air around my waist, and I found it could read more than 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the room (as measured by my temperature and humidity monitor).
With my induction cooktop, only the glass surface directly under the pot heats up, and even a quarter-inch beyond the edge of the pot, it would register only 5 or 10 degrees above the ambient room temperature. The handle of the kettle and my kitchen cabinet doors do not increase in temperature at all. But the best part is that I don’t feel the heat while I am cooking—my imperfect probe thermometer suggested the air temperature in the immediate vicinity of the induction burner rises only 1 to 2 degrees.
Gas or electric stovetops or burners heat via heat transfer: A flame hits a pot on a metal grate or an element heats glass, which in turn heats a pot. Some of that heat goes where you want it to (the food), but the excess just goes into your kitchen. (It’s like using a giant watering can to water a tiny plant.) But induction burners use electromagnetic induction, which creates heat directly in the pot or pan. It’s far more efficient, and besides the pot and the food inside, not much else gets hot.
You can boil faster
This is probably the best-known perk of induction cooking, and after over a year of working with it, I know it’s true: In a 1.5-quart whistling tea kettle, it takes 4 cups of water 4 minutes 11 seconds to come to a full boil on my portable induction cooktop. The same task takes 6 minutes 14 seconds on my gas stove.
Two minutes may not seem meaningful until you realize that’s 2 extra minutes of heat and humidity transferring to your kitchen as an almost-boiling pot sends out a growing plume of steam until it finally reaches a full boil. (That’s in addition to the radiating heat from the gas or electric burner itself, natch.)
Portable induction burners have one catch: Their boiling powers don’t work so well with, say, a giant spaghetti pot. Their heating elements are a little less powerful than the large elements of an electric stovetop (which can reach 2,400 watts or more, compared with about 1,800 watts for a portable induction burner) or the eyes of a gas burner (where the flames can lick the edge and sides of a large pot). Most portable burners work best with pot sizes that are no larger than 10 inches wide at the bottom.
I have found that a 5-quart Dutch oven—or a large saucepan with a bottom around 9 inches wide—is the perfect vessel for boiling or simmering on a portable cooktop. I can make a pound of pasta in a pot that size, and it works fine. (According to food scientist Harold McGee, you don’t need so much water for pasta, anyway.)
You can set a target temperature
With most portable induction units—and a few induction ranges and cooktops—you can set and maintain a precise target temperature, rather than a guesstimate heat setting. For example, if I want to simmer beans, I can set my induction cooktop to 180 °F, and the unit will work until the bottom of the pot reaches that temperature, and then it auto-adjusts to keep it there.
Now I don’t have to open the lid of the pot to know exactly what’s happening inside: small, constant bubbles. With my gas stove, I have to open the pot to peek as the liquid reduces, to make sure the bottom isn’t burning, and every time I do this, steam and heat escape into my kitchen. It also decreases the efficiency of the whole process.
During my tests, the humidity rose several degrees whenever I opened a seriously simmering pot. When it’s already 78 °F in your kitchen (whether due to the season or an overzealous radiator), that’s a big deal, and you notice it even when you aren’t standing right by the stove.
You can go really low
You can set an induction cooktop to consistently maintain a low heat. Some higher-end electric and gas stoves may handle this task well, but many (like mine) don’t. If you can cook things more reliably at a lower temperature (such as when you are gently reheating leftovers), they might take a little longer, but there’s less risk of burning your dinner.
Because of the way induction cooktops work—electromagnetic heating—you can also reduce the temperature much faster than with a gas or radiant electric stove or cooktop. A simmer or a boil (and the high heat and steam they cause) go away almost immediately when you press the button to lower or turn off the heat, or when you remove the pan.
You can stop cooking automatically
Nearly all portable induction cooktops come with a timer. This is helpful for three reasons. First, you don’t have to get up from your chair to walk to a very hot pot and turn it off. Second, when it’s combined with the ability to set a constant temperature, you’re less likely to need to open or touch the pot until everything is done.
The third benefit is that if you occasionally forget to turn off the heat on a pot—as I do when I’m reheating leftovers or boiling pasta—the burner does it for you. This is a great safety feature for everyone, and it’s a bonus when you’re trying to stay comfortable.
This article was edited by Courtney Schley and Marilyn Ong.
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