Portable electric burners have come a long way in the last century. Some are designed with the minimalist in mind, offering basic warming and cooking in small batches. Others are powerful, sturdy beasts that can handle large stockpots and other heavy loads. To help you narrow down your choices, we put together a list of the best portable electric burners for various cooking needs.
Cuisinart Cast-Iron Single Burner
Flat, easy-to-clean top
Control knob stays cool
Small burner size
Metal body gets hot with extended use
Cuisinart’s portable burner is simple to operate, yet works well for a range of uses from family meals to a buffet spread. Its single knob turns on and controls the unit via six temperature settings. Like a waffle maker, lights tell you when the burner is on and ready to use. Our reviewer found great success with everything from frying eggs and browning chicken to slow, controlled simmering in her in-home tests. The heavy cast-iron cooking surface holds heat very effectively and evenly, but our tester still found it quick to preheat—she also was able to use the hot burner to keep food warm after it was turned off, just like on a full-size range.
A negative with this burner is its relatively small size. Our tester was able to effectively heat and use pans somewhat larger than the burner's 7.5-inch diameter, but the whole thing is only 11.5 inches wide, so it's not practical for enormous skillets or the largest stockpots. The body of the unit also got quite hot after running at high temperature for any length of time, though our tester was impressed that its little rubber feet both keep it in place effectively and insulate whatever surface it's set on from the heat.
This machine might not be the prettiest thing in the world, but it's a durable workhorse that's easy to clean with a simple wipedown, and it comes at an excellent price for its quality.
Price at time of publish: $60
Burner Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 11.5 x 11 x 2.5 inches | Maximum Power: 1,300 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.5 inches
"I liked the Cuisinart Countertop Single Burner as a spare burner or for use on a buffet. It’s small enough to be portable and easy to store, yet powerful enough to bring a pot of water to a boil." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
Imusa GAU-80305 Electric Single Burner
Variable temperature control
Overheats and shuts off after about 60 minutes
Coil burner is small and hard to clean
When cost is key, this small burner may be all you need. Its low price, simple design, and compact frame make it ideal for heating up a pot of soup for lunch at the office, making some late-night snacks in a dorm room, or cooking a quick dinner at an RV campsite or rustic cabin. One nice feature is its variable temperature control: You can set the knob to anywhere between low and high rather than choosing among a limited number of temperatures. It has a surprising amount of power for its size, too: 1,100 watts. However, the burner is a puny 5.5 inches in diameter, which means you're limited to small pans, and its coil design is much harder to clean than flat cast-iron burners. It’s not designed for long, slow cooking, as Imusa recommends against having it turned on for more than 60 minutes in a two-hour period, and the burner shuts off automatically when overheated.
Price at time of publish: $12
Burner Type: Coil | Dimensions: 9.5 x 9.1 x 3.5 inches | Maximum Power: 1,100 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 5.5 inches
Broil King PCR-1B Professional Cast Iron Range
Variable heat control
1,500 watts of power
Non-skid feet ensure stability
Low weight limit for burner size
If you need an electric burner for heavy-duty daily use, this high-powered Broil King model is up to the job. Its 1,500-watt cast-iron burner holds plenty of heat, and the variable temperature control lets you fine-tune from simmering to boiling. Instead of setting the burner power level, you set a temperature and the built-in thermostat turns the heat on and off as needed to maintain it.
This model's smooth porcelain housing, without any corners or gaps that can collect debris, is easy to clean, as is the flat burner surface. Broil King says the 7.125-inch burner can hold pots and pans with a diameter of up to 9 inches, but the manual advises that pots significantly smaller than the burner may heat inefficiently.
Price at time of publish: $188
Burner Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 14 x 11.5 x 3.3 inches | Max Power: 1,500 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.1 inches
Best Double Burner
BLACK+DECKER DB1002B Double Burner Portable Buffet Range
Cooking and warming modes
Must unplug to turn off
Challenging to clean
If you're busting out the standalone burner—whether for a big family gathering, a full-size-stove breakdown, or a trip to a rustic location—chances are that a second element would be useful. For less money than many single-burner units, this machine offers a high-heat 1,000-watt burner alongside 500-watt one for cooking delicate ingredients or keeping food warm. Each burner has a knob with eight temperature options, including minimum heat and a slightly higher “warm” setting. What they lack is an “off” setting: To completely turn off the burners, you have to unplug the device from the wall.
Despite its size, the Black+Decker only weighs around 3 pounds and moves around easily. Cleaning the coils can be a finicky process, though. Black+Decker recommends wiping the base and burners with a damp cloth once the unit has cooled and warns against submerging it or using abrasive cleaners.
Price at time of publish: $56
Burner Type: Coil | Dimensions: 20.2 x 11.1 x 3.5 inches | Maximum Power: 500 and 1,000 watts | Number of Burners: 2 | Burner Diameter: 5.3 inches
CUSIMAX Electric Hot Plate for Cooking
Heat extends to body
Only recommended for small loads
Despite its small size, Cusimax’s hot plate packs an impressive 1,500 watts of power. Paired with its heat-holding cast-iron material, that's enough to get really hot. Hot enough to effectively sear meats or stir-fry veggies. However, our home tester found that the whole housing—including the temperature knob—got very hot with the burner turned to the highest and even medium-high settings, making it hard to use and a safety hazard, especially with kids around. She found the Cusimax much better-suited for lower-temperature slow-cooking or simmering, something it's likely to do as an extra burner at Thanksgiving or a family reunion. And it carries a fairly moderate price tag for its power and features.
The whole unit is not much bigger than the burner, and it's only 3.5 inches tall, easy to tuck away in the back of a cabinet when you don't need it. Although the burner size is listed as 7.4 inches in diameter, Cusimax recommends using pans with a flat base, no larger than 7.1 inches, limiting your range of cookware options.
Price at time of publish: $60
Burner Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 11.3 x 9 x 3.5 inches | Maximum Power: 1,500 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.4 inches
"This little electric burner performs surprisingly well considering its tiny price tag. Once the cast iron burner was hot, it held the heat, so that means it will continue cooking or keep food warm as the burner slowly cools." —Donna Currie, Product Tester
Ovente Electric Infrared Burner
Works with all cookware
Base stays cool
Small-diameter pans recommended
Heat can be hard to control
Like a ceramic stovetop, this infrared burner uses radiant coils to heat food quickly and efficiently. Unlike an induction burner, which can't use aluminum, glass, ceramic, and other non-magnetic pans, infrared works with any material you can put on a standard stovetop. (For best results, Ovente recommends using pans with a flat bottom, close to the 7.5-inch diameter of the burner.) The device’s flat glass surface holds all the heat and, as a bonus, simply wipes clean.
The 1,000-watt burner offers six temperature settings. Even at the highest one, the infrared technology focuses the heat to the cooking surface, which helps keep the base and housing cooler. With this style of burner, the heating element cycles on and off during use.
Price at time of publish: $38
Burner Type: Ceramic glass infrared | Dimensions: 12.2 x 11.4 x 3.7 inches | Maximum Power: 1,000 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.5 inches
Max Burton 6600 18XL Digital Induction Cooktop
Heats quickly and efficiently
Doesn't work with all cookware materials
Rather than heating a burner that then transfers heat to the pan, induction cooking uses electromagnets to directly heat the pan itself. This makes for quick heating and energy-efficient cooking—and extra safety, as the burner surface stays cool until you put a pot or pan on it. The big downside is that induction limits your choice of cookware. Induction cooktops can only heat up metals that are magnetic, like iron and steel; glass, ceramic, and even plain aluminum won't work on this burner. (Another downside is cost, as induction burners are generally more expensive than other types.)
This extra-large Max Burton is a great choice for jumping into induction: Its 9-inch burner works with pans and pots from 4.5 to 14 inches in diameter, making it suitable for everything from warming a sauce to making cast-iron fried chicken to boiling pressure canners and stockpots. Its powerful 1,800 watts can handle heating even huge amounts of food, while its induction technology keeps the housing cool to the touch. Induction cooking also allows very precise heat control; using the included temperature probe, you can set the Max Burton 6600 to maintain an exact temperature to within a single degree.
One of our testers reviewed a smaller Max Burton model at home, and was extremely impressed with how quickly it was able to bring water to a boil and how much control it offered over temperature and heating. She also noted the helpful feature that the machine beeps and displays an error message if it detects a non-induction-compatible pan on the burner; it's easy to forget to check if you're an induction newbie.
Price at time of publish: $119
Burner Type: Induction | Dimensions: 16.3 x 13.3 x 3.5 inches | Maximum Power: 1,800 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 9 inches
"An induction burner is powerful, quick at heating, and can hold temperatures to a single degree of accuracy, which makes it great for holding a steady temperature of water for, say, poaching eggs or even using it as a sous vide bath.” — Chris DiMaio, Executive Chef and owner of Montana Craft Kitchen
The Cuisinart Countertop Single Burner has enough power for everyday cooking needs at a reasonable price and is our No. 1 pick. If you're looking for a bare-bones-but-capable burner at a bargain-basement price, we recommend the IMUSA GAU-80305 Electric Single Burner.
What to Look for in an Electric Burner
Burner Size and Capacity
You’ll get the best efficiency and most even cooking if the burner diameter is close to the base diameter of the cookware you want to put on it. Portable electric burners are usually smaller than built-in stovetop burners, with a diameter in the 5- to 7-inch range, and aren't equipped to handle huge sauté pans and stockpots. If you're looking for a camping stove or auxiliary Thanksgiving burner, a small one might work, but if you're looking for a burner for making soup or even brewing beer, you probably want a larger size, like 9 inches or more. There are also some models that include two separate burners, though the individual burners are usually pretty small. Another consideration is the weight capacity of the burner. More cheaply constructed burners might not be able to hold a heavy, full pot without breaking, even if the pot can physically fit on top.
Electric appliances of all kinds measure power in watts: Higher wattage means more power. Of course, wattage isn't everything, as the burner's design also affects how efficiently it heats. Minimum power also matters; some burners can supply a small amount of power consistently to maintain a simmer, while others have to cycle on and off and can't hold a temperature as consistently. No matter which portable electric burner you choose, it won't be as powerful as a full-size electric range, which uses a special high-powered outlet instead of a normal 110-volt wall plug.
The least expensive portable electric burners have a coil-shaped heating element, which is a perfectly good way to heat a pot but is difficult to clean if anything drips on it. A flat cooking surface—either in the form of a heavy cast-iron plate or smooth tempered glass—is easier to clean but adds cost. Beyond shape, there are also multiple burner technologies; both coil and cast-iron burners use a standard electric heating element, while more advanced (and more expensive) cooking methods include infrared and induction, both of which cook on a flat, glass surface.
How does an electric burner work?
Most electric burners rely on coils, either exposed or beneath a glass or cast iron surface, which heat up when electricity passes through them. When you put a pot or pan atop the hot coil, cast-iron plate, or glass surface, it absorbs heat directly. Infrared electric burners work similarly to coil ones but are designed to radiate heat into the cooking vessel more quickly and evenly. An induction burner uses electromagnetism to directly heat up magnetic materials like cast iron and steel without heating up the surface of the burner itself; this is more energy-efficient but can't heat up non-magnetic cookware.
How do you get melted plastic off an electric burner?
Removing melted plastic from a burner can be a stinky process, so you'll want to set up your portable burner outside before you start this process. For a coil or cast-iron burner, turn on low heat just until the plastic starts to soften, and then scrape it off with a wooden or heat-proof silicone spatula. Once you’ve removed as much as you can, turn the heat to high and let the rest burn off. For a glass-top burner, start with low heat and scraping as above, but then shut off the heat and scrub with baking soda to remove any remnants.
Will a portable electric burner boil water?
You can boil water on any portable electric burner—the question is how much water do you want to boil, and how long will it take? Obviously, the larger, more powerful, and more efficient the burner, the faster water will boil, but there's a limit on how much water any burner can heat up to boiling at once. To speed up the boiling process, put a lid on your pot, and remember that water boils at a lower temperature at high altitude, which affects cooking in lots of different ways.
Is there anything you shouldn't use on an electric burner?
Standard electric burners, whether portable or built-in, can handle all types of metal cookware. Aluminum heats and cools quickly, while cast iron heats more slowly but is better at retaining heat. (Stainless steel falls somewhere in between.) Glass-top burners are prone to scratching, so you should use cast iron, ceramic cookware, and heavy pots with care and lift them off the burner rather than sliding them across. Nothing plastic should ever touch an electric burner, and glass cookware should only be used if it's safe for a standard stove. With an induction burner, avoid aluminum, glass, and other non-magnetic materials. There's really no safety danger with putting induction-unfriendly materials on an induction burner, though; they just won't heat up at all.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Julie Laing has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years and blogging about good food at Twice As Tasty for more than five years. She’ll cook anywhere with whatever tool she can get her hands on. Julie has used portable propane burners for canning, canister stoves in the sailboat cockpit, lightweight liquid-fuel stoves while backpacking, and portable electric induction burners when teaching cooking workshops. She published her first cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Pickling," in 2020.
Jason Horn, The Spruce Eats staff commerce editor, updated this story with additional home-testing insights. Despite a full career as a food and drinks writer, he took AP physics in high school and could explain how induction cooking works in much more scientific detail than necessary here.
Chris DiMaio is the executive chef and owner of Montana Craft Kitchen.