I was wondering what induction burners people have and if they are as good as the hype makes them seem. I'm really interested in induction and was thinking of just buying one of the portable single burners to see what it's like. Does anyone have a recommendation for a really good one?
Life of Pie, we have had an induction cooktop for a decade. Our first one was a Jenn-Air "hybrid": two ribbon radiant burners and two induction burners. In ten years of using it, we probably used the radiant burners no more than 50 to 60 hours, total (five or six hours, total, per year). The induction burners were so much superior, that we simply were disinclined to cook on the radiant side. The burners on the induction side were faster, more powerful, more energy efficient (our electric bills went down from what they were when we had an an electric range), and clean-up -- even immediately after a boil-over -- was ever so much easier. Unfortunately, a unique part in the inverter blew out at the end of last year, and Whirlpool, which now owns the Jenn-Air brand, had no interest at all in helping us find the part to repair it. So, unable to repair the Jenn-Air, we had to replace the cooktop entirely. No way we were about to reward Whirlpool by purchasing one of the Whirlpool brands after that.
We ended up purchasing an LG all-induction cooktop to replace the Jenn-Air. While the cooktop itself certainly is satisfactory in every respect, we already have had brushes with LG customer service that have given us twinges of regret. We certainly hope that we do not have to rely upon LG to stand behind its product, because every indication to date is that it will not. But the LG induction cooktop itself is an excellent piece of hardware.
There is an excellent website to aid you in choosing among induction units, including single-burner units: http://theinductionsite.com/ On the basis of our use of an induction cooktop for ten years, we have a few quibbles around the edges about the information on that site, but overall, it is an excellent resource.
LoP, all of the portables I've seen are 110 volt burners that many people have told me simply aren't going to give most cooks a satisfactory result.
In my current kitchen remodel, I really wanted to install a 2-burner induction unit next to my gas range, but I simply couldn't justify the expense. All the models I was pricing were well in excess of $1,000.
If I had to stay with electric, I'd give induction a very serious look -- but it does have certain drawbacks.
I've been using one I picked up at an asian market for about five years now(Tayama TR-16A ), and I really like it. It's the second one I've used, my ex kept the first one. They're really great for table top use since they're pretty thin, less than half the height of my butane burner. The thermostat control makes itt really nice for things like fondue or hot pot.
Look for rated wattage, the higher the better within reason. Mine is 1200 watts at 110 volts and is up to any task I've asked of it. 220 volt models in the US are for built in use mostly, but there may be some commercial units out there that you could wire a special plug for. I Imagine running another 220v line to your kitchen would make a couple of boat payments for your friendly neighborhood electrician.
I've recently become a huge fan of induction cooking. It may be worth investing in good commercial quality induction burners ((I'll explain below) but I would strongly recommend you buy an inexpensive hob ($80-150) to try it out. The entry level induction burners have pretty similar capabilities and all are delightful to use if you've never used an induction surface.
For a cook, the benefit of them is not just the intense heat you can put on the surface. The coolest thing is they can actually monitor the surface temperature quite precisely, so you can hold food at a temperature +- 4-5 degrees.
Cheapest out there is a $79 Tatung hob at Newegg that comes with an induction-friendly stainless skillet. We bought the entry level Eurodib from a restaurant supply house for about $105. There are also Avanti and Max Burton models that seem to get good reviews. I think many of the cheap models share the same components so there isn't a lot of difference, but some will run at 1200 watts and some at 1800 watts so pay attention to that.
I'm not sure I would invest the money in a 220 appliance -- our 1800 watt 110 volt Eurodib gives us the punch of a commercial gas burner at the high end. The only use I could think of for a 220 appliance would be a professional level wok hob -- which gives you as much heat as Hell itself -- but they're VERY expensive, thousands of dollars.
The high end 110 appliances MAY be worth considering -- not because they're more powerful but because they give you more precise control at the low end. The Viking is about $500 with dial temperature setting, but I think a better model is a Vollrath, a commercial brand. The Vollrath Mirage offers really precise temperature control and more flexibility than the Viking for about the same price -- $450 or so.