Whether you’re cooking hot pot at the dinner table, short on stove space, or looking for a compact cooktop for your camper, it can be useful to have a portable electric stove. They’re convenient, easy to use, and safer than a gas stove. But there are a ton of options, and finding the right one can be a challenge.
On top of how well the stove works objectively, you also need to consider how well it would fit into your lifestyle. In this guide, we’ll talk about the factors you should consider when choosing a portable electric stove. At the end, we’ve also got a list of our 10 favorites to help you get started on your search.
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Mobile stove top
Induction Heat is Fast and Safe
Induction heat is one of the safest and most efficient ways to cook. It produces a magnetic current that heats only your pot or pan and keeps the cooktop cool to the touch. It heats quickly and evenly and is extremely controllable–down to the degree.However, induction stovetops require pots and pans that are compatible, so if you don’t already have induction-friendly cookware, you would have to invest in that, too. Induction cooktops are made from glass, which is extremely easy to clean, but can be more delicate than other materials.
Infrared is Efficient and Widely Compatible
Infrared stoves use infrared radiation to directly heat your pot without losing energy. They’re efficient, heat up fairly quickly, and can be used with any cookware. The cooktop is generally ceramic, which, like glass, is easy to clean but also a little delicate.
Cast Iron is Durable and Heavy-Duty
Cast iron stoves provide even, long-lasting heat, though they may take a little longer to heat up compared to other types. They’re strong, suitable for any sort of cookware, and can take a bit of a beating (feel free to use your wok on these!).However, they’re the heaviest of all the cooktops, which may make them less portable. But they’re just as easy to clean as glass or ceramic.
Coil is Lightweight and Cost Effective
Coil stovetops are the original electric stove top. There may be more inconsistency with coil cooktops, and in general, they aren’t very efficient and can be quite difficult to clean. However, they’re light, cheap, and durable, which makes them great for use in the great outdoors.
When Judging Portability, Consider Both Size and Weight
Whether you plan on using your portable electric stove at home, at a party, or on a camping trip, make sure that it fits your space and is small enough for you to carry around. When considering size, don’t just check how much space it occupies but also how much it weighs, especially if you plan on moving it around quite a bit.
Look at Wattage for Energy Consumption and Strength
Depending on how portable you really need your electric stove to be, you may have to weigh the costs and benefits of a higher wattage stove. Portable stovetops range from about 900-1500 watts, while those with dual burners can be as low as 500.For reference, an installed home stove is normally around 1750 watts. A higher wattage stove will give you power and heat capacity comparable to a typical stovetop, but if you’re using a generator or working off a car battery, it might be better to go with a lower wattage.A lower wattage doesn’t mean that your food won’t get cooked, but it might take longer, and you may not get the same results.
Choose Between a Single or Double Burner According to Space and Cooking Needs
Portable stoves come fairly evenly split between single and double burners, and while more may seem like better, don’t forget to consider your own needs when making your choice.Single burners are easy to pack and carry. They’re better if you’re low on space or if you’re just using your portable stove as a supplement to your regular installed stove. However, they do limit you to cooking one thing at a time.Double burners take up more space but allow you to have two things going at once–if your cookware is small enough to fit side-by-side. They’re also heavier and consume more energy, though some double burners feature one full-powered burner and one lower powered warming burner.
Look for Safety Features for Peace of Mind
Considering these stoves can get to some pretty high temperatures, it’s important to look for built-in safety features to lower the danger factor.One of the most important features to look for are raised feet to add space between the stove and your counter to promote air flow and keep the stove cool as well as prevent your table from burning. Other features to look for are auto shut-off, overheating protection, and heat level indicator lights.
Power options for stoves and ovens
The heat output from electric cooktops is measured in watts. Output varies from stove to stove and burner to burner, but the output generally falls somewhere between 1,200 watts for low heat on a small burner and 3,800 BTUs for high heat on a large burner, though we’ve seen outliers at both ends of the spectrum. There are different types of electric cooktops from which you can select:
Smoothtop (glass-ceramic cooktop)
These cooktops are made of smooth glass-ceramic with heating units under the surface. A built-in sensor lets you know when a burner is still hot. This is important with smooth electric cooking surfaces, because the burner doesn’t always turn red if the heat is low.
Keep in mind that this type of cooktop is prone to scratches, and not all cookware is safe to use on the surface (the appliance’s manual will give you those specifics).
These burners convert the electricity that runs into the coil into heat. These cooktops contain thermostat sensors that notify you when a burner is on, but not necessarily whether it is still hot. Electric coil stoves are notorious for uneven cooking because of uneven distribution of the coil.
In short, it is hard to keep the coil perfectly level, which can make all of the food in the pan slide to one side. In addition, electric coil stoves are slow to heat and slow to cool. But ranges with this type of cooktop are cheaper than comparable models.
Induction burners use the heat created from electromagnetic energy to cook your food. An element just below the surface of an induction cooktop creates a magnetic field. When you put a piece of cookware containing iron on top of that magnetic element, it causes a vibration of sorts that converts to heat through a series of magnetic interactions with iron (you can read more about the science behind induction here).
These cooktops are safer than gas or electric burners because they don’t use flames or direct heat — induction burners won’t start to heat if you put something on them that doesn’t contain magnetic material. Induction cooktops are also more efficient and heat things quicker than other types of burners (the ones we’ve tested have boiled a large pot of water in an average of 6 minutes).
There are a few downsides to induction cooktops. You have to make sure you have cookware that will work with the cooking surface, and ranges with induction burners tend to cost more money than comparable electric or gas ranges.
Electric ovens: This type of oven uses a heating element that is either visible on the top or bottom of the oven, or hidden. Our baking tests show that they often cook more evenly than their gas counterparts.
Both home and professional cooks have valued gas stovetops because of the how uniform the heat output is. An open flame surrounds the bottom of your cookware, which evenly distributes the heat around it. This heat output is measured in BTUs (British thermal units). Like electric models, the power range varies from model to model, but the output generally falls somewhere between 5,000 BTUs for low heat on a small burner and 18,000 BTUs for high heat on a large burner. We’ve seen burners on high-end ranges get as low as 800 BTUs and as high as 20,000 BTUs. If you’re a speedy cook, be aware that our cooking tests show gas cooktops tend to take longer to boil large pots of water than electric or induction cooktops.
When it comes to gas ovens, we’ve seen in our cook tests that they have a harder time producing even baking results than electric ovens.
Some ranges use two types of power: gas for the cooktop, and electric in the oven. These dual-fuel ranges are a good compromise for folks who want the direct heat of a gas burner but the even cooking of an electric oven. However, these hybrids cost more than traditional one-power-source ranges.
Freestanding ranges are designed to fit anywhere in a kitchen. Oven controls are often located on a back panel that raises up above the cooktop. These are less expensive than slide-in models.
These ranges don’t have a back panel and are meant to fit in flush with the surrounding countertops. Slide-in ranges are often more expensive than freestanding models because of the mechanics that go into putting all the controls up front.
Drop-in ranges are similar to slide-in models — they sit flush with the surrounding countertops and all the controls are located at the front of the unit. But this type of range looks like you dropped it between two cabinets because of a strip of cabinetry you place beneath the appliance.
The search for an oven or range can resemble a visit to a car dealership — there are always opportunities to upgrade. Assess your needs and decide if these bonus features are worth throwing down more money for an appliance.
Companies have become more proactive in including wireless capabilities such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and near-field communication (NFC) in their ovens and stoves so you can control your appliance from your smartphone. For example, you could begin to preheat your Wi-Fi-enabled oven on your way home from the grocery store, so it’s ready for your frozen pizza by the time you get home.
Manufacturers have also started to connect appliances with smart-home products to add some automation and voice control in the kitchen. For example, GE’s Wi-Fi-connected ranges work with Alex and Google Assistant, so you can give voice commands to control your appliance. And Jenn-Air wall ovens work with Nest Learning Thermostats ($269 at Amazon) so you can automatically lower your home’s temperature when the ovens get hot.
Convection fans are built into the back of oven walls. They circulate the heat in the oven so hot air is more evenly dispersed, which means your food will bake more evenly. You’d want convection fans if you’re baking food like cookies on more than one oven rack at the same time. Midprice ovens will have at least one convection fan. Some ovens have what’s called “true” or “European” convection, which means there’s a heating element that surrounds the fan that warms the air as the fan blows. Read more about the science of convection here.
Special cooking modes
Your basic oven can bake and broil. But as the price for ovens increases, you’ll see that there are more cooking options. For example, ovens with convection fans will have modes for convection baking and convection roasting, which will enable the fans and heating elements. Some ovens also come with cook settings for specific foods, such as pizza or turkey, or food preparation methods, like dehydration or bread proofing.
Bottom drawers (baking/warming/broiling)
Some ranges come with a bottom drawer that can serve one of many purposes depending on the model. Some range ovens offer a baking drawer, which enables a person to use the main oven to roast or broil, and the baking drawer for smaller dishes, so you can cook more than one thing at the same time using different temperatures. A warming drawer will keep food warm, but it won’t cook the food. Some ovens have a broiler drawer, which functions like a traditional broiler and must be watched just as closely to ensure that food does not burn.
Temperature probes plug into the wall of your oven, and you use them to monitor the internal temperature of meat as it cooks. The temperature displays on the control panel of your oven, so you don’t have to open the door to see if your dish is done.
Double ovens in conventional space
The ovens on some ranges have dual baking chambers, which give you the flexibility of double wall ovens without the need for more space. These ovens allow the convenience of simultaneous cooking at different temperatures. Some ovens come with a divider that allows you to split your single oven into two unique temperature zones that will remain separate as long as the divider is in place.