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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 pots and heavy loads.
The Cuisinart Cast-Iron Single Burner is our tester's choice for the best overall pick. The flat top is easy to clean, and the burner produces enough power to cook everyday meals or keep food warm at a buffet. If you're looking for something simple, compact, and affordable, with just the basics, check out the Imusa GAU-80305 Electric Single Burner.
The following lineup of portable electric burners shares many features. Most are lightweight, easy to move, and run off the standard 120-volt power of your kitchen outlets. From there, the options vary in surface type, maximum power level, burner diameter, load capacity, and more.
To help you narrow down your choices, here are the best portable electric burners for various cooking needs.
Best Overall: Cuisinart Cast-Iron Single Burner
Flat, easy-to-clean top
Control knob stays cool
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.
The cast iron burner element efficiently spreads heat along a pan’s bottom and continues to keep food warm once you shut it off, as our tester found. She used this to simmer, boil, and slow cook for every meal. It worked amazingly well for melting butter in a pan and for browning chicken. Through all of her tests, the burner's temperature remained consistent and stable, so there were no hot or cold spots. Even when she used a frying pan larger than the 7.5-inch burner, the heat spread to the edges of the pan and cooked everything thoroughly. When you're all done, the flat burner and low-profile body easily wipe clean.
Surface Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 11.5 x 11 x 2.5 inches | Max Power Level: 1,300 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.5 inches | Load Capacity: 8 to 9 pounds
"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
Best High-Power: Broil King PCR-1B Professional Cast Iron Range
Variable heat control
1,500 watts of power
Nonskid feet ensure stability
Low weight limit for burner size
Fairly high price tag
As a cooking mainstay, this high-powered Broil King model is up to the job. Its 1,500-watt solid burner base holds plenty of heat, and variable temperature control lets you fine-tune from simmering to boiling. Once the burner hits the selected temperature, the built-in thermostat adjusts as needed to maintain it; the power light shows this by cycling on and off.
Broil King says this burner can hold 6- to 8-quart pots with a base of about 9 inches. The appliance’s manual advises that pots significantly smaller than the 7.125-inch-diameter burner may heat inefficiently. The flat burner surface is more stable and easier to clean than many coil burners and is compatible with all types of cookware. The burner’s porcelain housing is smooth and equally simple to clean.
Surface Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 14 x 11.5 x 3.25 inches | Max Power Level: 1,500 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.125 inches | Load Capacity: 10 pounds
Best Budget: Imusa GAU-80305 Electric Single Burner
Temperature marks with variable control
Shuts off after a certain period
Probably not up to big jobs
When cost is key, this small burner may be all you need. Its low price, simple design, and compact frame make it ideal for regular office lunches or late-night dorm snacks, but it can be fired up for a quick everyday meal in a pinch.
The portable unit includes all of the basics: a coil burner, drip tray, and power light. The temperature knob turns on the burner and then shows three levels (low, medium, and high), but you can adjust the heat anywhere within those ranges. It has a surprising amount of power for its size, too: up to 1,100 watts. Still, it’s not designed for long, slow cooking. Imusa recommends using it for no more than 60 minutes over a 2-hour period, and the burner shuts off when overheated.
Surface Type: Coil | Dimensions: 9.45 x 9.06 x 3.54 inches | Max Power Level: 1,100 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 5.5 inches | Load Capacity: 10 pounds
Best Double: BLACK+DECKER DB1002B Double Burner Portable Buffet Range
Cooking and warming modes
Must unplug to turn off
Challenging to clean
When you pull out a standalone burner for a family reunion or full-size stove breakdown, chances are you could use two elements. For less money than many single-burner units, you can cook on high heat over this unit’s 1,000-watt burner and cook delicate ingredients or keep a dish warm over its 500-watt burner. 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.
Despite its size, this device only weighs around 3 pounds and moves easily. Black+Decker says that as long as the pot is not bigger than the burner’s diameter, the weight of the pot doesn’t matter. 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.
Surface Type: Coil | Dimensions: 20.16 x 11.14 x 3.54 inches | Max Power Level: 500 and 1,000 watts | Number of Burners: 2 | Burner Diameter: 5.25 inches | Load Capacity: Unlimited
Most Compact: CUSIMAX 1500W Portable Hot Plate
Safety features include automatic shutoff, rubber feet
Heat extends to body
Only recommended for small loads
Cusimax’s hot plate pumps extra wattage into its cast-iron burner, letting you choose from seven settings that hold your desired temperature. Its two knobs turn the burner on and off and control the heat. They’re mounted on a black stainless steel housing. The exterior’s smooth surface and flat cast iron burner are both easy to clean, but the black finish may get spotty.
Although the burner size is listed as 7.4 inches, Cusimax recommends using pans with a 7.1-inch base or smaller, limiting your range of cookware options. Our home tester liked the heat performance of this unit but was concerned that the body and control knobs grew hot with high-temperature cooking. Although a safety feature turns the burner off if it overheats, that only applies to the burner, not the housing.
Surface Type: Cast iron | Dimensions: 11.3 x 9 x 3.5 inches | Max Power Level: 1,500 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.4 inches | Load Capacity: 6 pounds
"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
Best Infrared: Ovente Electric Glass Infrared Countertop Cooking Burner
Works with all cookware
Base stays cool
Small-diameter pans recommended
Steady heat can be hard to control
Like a ceramic stovetop, this infrared burner uses radiant coils to heat food quickly with minimal energy. Unlike an induction burner, which requires cookware that can react to its electromagnetic field, radiant heat works under any pan type. Ovente still recommends using pans with a flat base close to the burner’s 7.5-inch diameter. The device’s glass surface holds all the heat and, as a bonus, simply wipes clean.
The 1,000-watt burner has six temperature settings and a “0” off position. Even at the highest setting, the infrared technology focuses the heat to the cooking surface, which helps keep the base cooler. With this style of burner, the heating element cycles on and off during use.
Surface Type: Ceramic glass infrared | Dimensions: 12.2 x 11.4 x 3.7 inches | Max Power Level: 1,000 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 7.5 inches | Load Capacity: 11 pounds
Best Induction: Max Burton 6600 18XL Digital Induction Cooktop
Holds a wide range of pot sizes
Boils water quickly and efficiently
Temperature mode may not be intuitive
Shuts down automatically after three hours
“[An induction burner can be] 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,” says Chris DiMaio, executive chef and owner of Montana Craft Kitchen in Montana's Flathead Valley.
Aervoe’s extra-large Max Burton burner not only is one of the fastest heating portable burners, but it can also support some of your largest induction-appropriate cookware. The 9-inch burner works with pans and pots from 4.5 to 14 inches in diameter and holds up to 60 pounds, making it suitable for everything from cast iron skillets and stainless steel saucepans to induction-compatible pressure canners, water-bath canners, and stockpots.
Although it puts out a powerful 1,800 watts, the burner’s heat transfers directly to the pot, preventing the heat from spreading to the burner’s housing. The device lets you choose a temperature or power level. It comes with a wireless temperature probe, which is useful when targeting a precise degree. As our tester of a smaller Max Burton portable burner noted, induction temperatures are measured where the pot’s base touches the burner and might be hotter than the food inside.
Surface Type: Induction | Dimensions: 16.25 x 13.25 x 3.5 inches | Max Power Level: 1,800 watts | Number of Burners: 1 | Burner Diameter: 9 inches | Load Capacity: 60 pounds
“You can use a portable induction burner [for an induction-compatible pressure canner]. The unit should not be less than 1,800 watts with a heating zone diameter of 8 to 10 inches and a load capacity of 50 pounds. A fully loaded canner could weigh up to that amount.” — Barb Milkert, Home Economist at National Presto Industries
What to Look for in an Electric Burner
You’ll get the best efficiency and most even cooking if the burner size is close to the base diameter of your cookware. Smaller skillets and saucepans are often in the 7- to 9-inch range, and woks and coffee pots may have an even smaller base. If you plan to use wider sauté pans and stockpots on a portable burner, be sure to check that the burner is large enough.
Load Capacity and Wattage
Portable burners lack the burly frame of a full-size cooktop, and many are underpowered compared to a standard multi-burner kitchen range. To be sure your burner choice fits your intended use, check its wattage and load capacity. The higher the wattage, the better the burner will be at heating large, full pots to boiling. The more pounds the burner can hold, the more suitable it will be not just for daily cooking, but also specialized uses, like beer brewing and canning.
Portable electric burners can have a coiled or a flat top. When flat, the surface may be cast iron or smooth glass with a standard heating element or newer tech, like induction or infrared, beneath. Coil burners are often less expensive, but they may hold less weight and can be difficult to clean. Flat burners can be more stable and sturdy, but often have a higher price. Induction burners require compatible cookware.
How do you get melted plastic off an electric burner?
Removing melted plastic from a burner can be a stinky process, so it’s worth setting up your portable burner outside before trying to remove it. 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 cook off. Scrape plastic off a glass-top burner in the same way, but use baking soda to remove the rest.
How does an electric burner work?
Most electric burners rely on coils, either exposed or beneath a glass or cast iron surface, and circle electricity through the coils to heat the pot above it. Cast iron burners operate in the same way as coil burners, but they’re made of solid metal instead of a coil tube. With a glass-top electric burner, the heat passes to the glass surface and then to the pot, and it cycles on and off to maintain the desired temperature. An induction burner behaves differently, creating magnetic energy that transfers through the glass top to directly heat the pot with a steady, constant power.
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? The answers depend on many factors, including water temperature, altitude, and whether your pot has a lid. The factors that can be affected by the burner include surface area, power level, and heat source. The larger, more powerful, and more efficient the burner, the faster water will boil.
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, cast iron heats more slowly, but is better at retaining heat, and stainless steel falls between. Glass-top burners are prone to scratching, so cast iron and ceramic cookware and heavy pots should be used with care and lifted from, not slid across, the burner. Save your glass and plastic cookware for other uses.
“I use a lot of cast iron from the company Smithey, and as long as there is good contact surface for the pan, the induction burner works well for cast iron and, of course, stainless steel pans, too," says DiMaio.
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.