The 10 Best Portable Cooktops
This wiki has been updated 36 times since it was first published in March of 2015. Ideal for RVs, dorm rooms, and studio apartments, these portable cooktops make it easy to prepare a meal in an energy-efficient, space-saving manner and are often quicker to heat up than standard stovetops. They are also ideal for providing a couple of extra burners when you are preparing a large family dinner, and are compact enough to stash easily when not in use, or pack for travel. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 17, 2020:
In selecting portable cooktops for this update, we looked for models with expansive features that nearly mimic the experience of a full-size stove, and user-friendly designs.
December 18, 2019:
If you need flexible cooking capability and a good hot plate doesn't have enough real estate, there are plenty of portable cooktops that have multiple burners. Induction technology is by far the most efficient, though it hasn't been widely adopted; one of the reasons for that is its somewhat restrictive cookware requirement. But even with that in mind, for many situations, induction cooking is the best option. That, plus the unit's incredible reliability and variety of functions, are why the Duxtop 9260LS got the top spot. The Cuisinart ICT-60 and NutriChef PKSTIND48 are similarly effective, and though they don't have quite the same feature range, they are a bit less expensive. The MDC Commercial is another induction burner, and while it's only a single-burner device, we included it because it's one of the few dependable 220-volt options. So while it won't work in your home kitchen, if you need it for a professional restaurant, it's perfect.
But you're not out of luck if you prefer traditional heating methods. The Cusimax Double and Cusimax C180N both use infrared technology and as such are compatible with every type of pan imaginable, including copper and aluminum, most of which don't work with induction burners. The Cusimax 1500W is also worthy of consideration because it's just about the only 3-burner portable unit we could find. The downside of this, of course, is that its 1,500 watts are split among 3 elements, but if you're careful, you can still get quite a bit of functionality out of it. And the Courant 2183W uses a somewhat old-school radiant element; while it's not terribly efficient, the unit is very inexpensive, and it's perfectly reliable, especially for something so affordable.
Of course, you aren't restricted to electric models if you're on the go. If you don't have access to an outlet, you can always pick up some propane and either the GasOne 4078 or Camp Chef Ranger II. The GasOne mimics a fancy drop-in cooktop with a ceramic and glass top and generally high-end feel, while the Camp Chef is a lightweight and highly capable model that's perfect for use at camp and significantly more versatile than the standard Coleman camp stove.
Vollrath Cayenne HD Vollrath makes a ton of excellent commercial cooking gear, and their Cayenne HD series is one of their most impressive offerings. It's not exactly portable in the sense that you can toss it in with your camping gear, but it is an incredibly powerful option available with 2 or 4 burners and it doesn not require permanent installation. vollrath.com
Nemco Equipment Nemco products are frequently found in high-end kitchens, and for good reason. Their portable induction burners utilize either 110- or 220-volt outlets and are among the most reliable options on the commercial market. Plus, they can stand up to use with extremely heavy pots, making them ideal for preparing or warming huge batches of food. nemcofoodequipment.com
Creating Classy Cuisine Anywhere
Along with organization, cooking a great meal means using great ingredients, and often these ingredients can be prepped well ahead of the actual cooking and serving.
Great cooking often comes down to superlative organization. It's no surprise that the most successful professional kitchens are those that are properly managed by an executive chef who oversees a trusted, efficient staff. Even in the home kitchen organization is key: knowing where each spice is when you need it, having the knives and other tools cleaned and ready, and knowing where each ingredient of your recipe is stored, all help make great foods. The same is true even when you're not in your home kitchen. Organization is key to quality cuisine.
With a bit of ingenuity and a lot of proper planning, you can create masterful meals almost anywhere. Along with organization, cooking a great meal means using great ingredients, and often these ingredients can be prepped well ahead of the actual cooking and serving. That means the chance for fine gourmet fare served from the food truck, at the campsite, at a picnic, from the food station at an event, or almost anywhere else, you have a way to cook your provisions. All you need to to do is make sure you have the right vessels for proper food storage and transport and the right utensils for cooking once at your location.
Pre-cut and chop everything you can; carrots, peppers, and onions, for example, can be diced and sliced hours before they will be used, or even the day before, provided you can keep them cool and sealed. Put those cuts of meat in bags to marinate overnight and not only will they be ready to cook the next day, they will be even more delicious. And make sure you reverse engineer your meals, planning to start cooking with whatever ingredients need the longest time over the heat.
If you're working in a restaurant or in your own home's gourmet kitchen with the five burner stove and a double oven, all this planning may be overkill. If you're trying to prepare a meal on a single or double burner portable cooktop, then without great planning, your feast will fizzle. Remember, you can make gourmet fare anywhere, as long as you do it with care and planning.
A Portable Cooktop For Professional Cooking
If you need to cook at a serving station during a wedding or other event, at a food stall at a concert or street fair, or in any other semi professional mobile setting, then you need a powerful, efficient portable cooktop. You need one that offers the same heat levels and control as that you would find in a regular kitchen. Fortunately, there are many such units available on the market today.
Thus the popularity of single burner portable cooktops at omelet stations, for example.
However, the right portable cooktop for the serious chef might actually be a double unit. Most double burner portable cooktops feature plates that are under eight inches in diameter. If you need your cooktop to accommodate a larger skillet or pot, then a single burner option might be the better choice. Many single burner cooktops can handle larger pots and pans, and are perfect for the chef focused on single items. Thus the popularity of single burner portable cooktops at omelet stations, for example. These units can also be good for keeping large pots of sauces or soups at an even simmer for long periods of time.
While many chefs tend to have strong feelings -- one way or the other -- about induction cooking, there is no doubt that this method is one of the quickest ways to create heat. Thus it's worth considering a portable induction cooktop to help keep your cooking efficient when space is at a premium. Several single burner portable cooktops have the option to be used as induction stoves or as electric stoves, which is a great convenience if not all your cookware is conduction ready.
The Portable Cooktop For Casual Use
A portable cooktop is a great asset for the casual chef. It can serve as the primary stove for those who live in smaller homes or apartments, or for those on the road in a camper or setting up a temporary kitchen at a campsite or cabin. But more often than not, the portable cooktop shows its true value when your primary stove is out of commission.
The mobility of a portable cooktop allows you to prepare myriad foodstuffs requiring disparate cooking techniques all in one place, even if that place is outdoors.
With a portable cooktop, if you have power, you have a fully functional stove (albeit a smaller one than that to which you're likely accustomed). This means your cooktop can be hooked up to a generator during a power outage, or AC powered when your stove breaks or needs cleaning, or simply when all of its burners are already being used.
Plugging in a portable cooktop outside next to your grill can create a fully functional outdoor kitchen that will be the envy of the neighbors. The mobility of a portable cooktop allows you to prepare myriad foodstuffs requiring disparate cooking techniques all in one place, even if that place is outdoors.
A portable cooktop can also be used as an effective warming plate: set your cooktop on a low setting and you can use it to keep a batch of soup or stock simmering for hours, ready to be served to guests or used in that stew you cook for an entire afternoon.