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Sep 27, 2009 01:56 PM

portable burners (maybe induction?) - need some advice

Has anyone used a portable burner, plain electric or induction, that they can recommend? I am considering purchasing one for children's cooking classes. I want them to be able to see into the pan and with a portable burner, I will be able to bring it down to their level. I have never used one of these before. I read a great deal about induction burners as well. They are quite expensive and require special pans, but are they worth it? Would a regular electric burner be better? Any advice you can provide is appreciated.

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  1. Portable induction burners are not necessarily that expensive. A professional model such as a Cooktek does cost an arm and a leg, but you can get one intended for home use much cheaper--under $100 if you shop around. I have two: a 1200 Watt Sunpentown Mr. Induction and a 2000 Watt Chinese unit I bought on Ebay (the brand name is tnaiy--don't ask me to pronounce it.) The Sunpentown is a little underpowered for some uses and has developed a few small cracks in its plastic housing from having overly heavy pots placed on it. I'm happier with the tnaiy unit, but it requires 240V power which you may not have available and it's not UL listed, which may be a problem if you have to deal with any kind of regulatory authority or insurance company for your classes.

    It's not that hard to find suitable pans. I've found quite a few induction-compatible stainless pans at TJ Maxx and I've also got a cheap carbon steel flat-bottomed wok that works OK.

    I would consider induction to be a good choice for your intended use. The heat is generated in the pan itself, so the cooktop stays fairly cool, with less risk of burns than a red-hot heating element or an open flame. If I were in your position I would consider the 1800W Max Burton 6000 or the 1500W Tatung TICT-1500W. Both of these use an ordinary 120V receptacle, cost under $100, and are more powerful that the Sunpentown that I have.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Matsukaze

      I think the Tatung would work well for you. I've had a 1300w model for several years. I've seen similar model with GE label at Walmart for under $70.

      As to pans, it comes with a wide, flared side pan (sort of a flat bottom stainless steel wok), with a glass lid. I also use inexpensive enamel steel (the blue speckled stuff). Recently I got a couple of induction-ready pans a TJMax, a Chantal SS 3qt, and a Berndes nonstick skillet. The Berndes is cast aluminum with steel inserts in the base to work with induction burner. Its rim gets warmer than the steel pans, because of the better conductivity of the aluminum.

    2. Considering all the safety and liability concerns, I think that using an induction pad is a no-brainer for your intended use. Not only does the induction pad itself stay cool, but so do the rims and handles of the pots you are cooking in.

      1. Thanks for the great input. It sounds like I should definitely get an induction burner. Didn't realize that a quality one would be so accessibly priced. A 120V is preferred since I bring equipment to other locations for parties and workshops. How much of a difference is there between the commercial and home use burners? Also, are the pans identified as induction pans or do I just need to know what I am looking for? Shopping information is greatly appreciated too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: doughreme

          "Also, are the pans identified as induction pans or do I just need to know what I am looking for?"

          Most pots and pans will have some sort of indication that they are induction-capable (the symbol often looks like loops or coils of wire). You can also test with a refrigerator magnet - if the magnet sticks to the base, the pan should work on an induction pad. In addition, carbon steel pans, plain cast iron pots and skillets (Lodge), and enameled cast iron casseroles and Dutch ovens (Le Creuset) all work great. I don't think I've ever run across a stainless steel pan that didn't work either. Glass, ceramic, stoneware, copper, titanium [?], plain aluminum, and anodized aluminum won't work (unless they have a steel insert in the base to make them induction-capable, like the Infinite Circulon line of anodized aluminum cookware). Hope you find this information helpful.

          1. re: tanuki soup

            Pans aimed at the European market are more likely to have a induction ready symbol.

        2. Yes. Very informative, thanks. I never needed one before, so I never noticed the "coils". I do have Le Creuset and cast iron, so I guess I'll be able to start cooking right away. I wanted to get a Le Creuset skillet and now I have a good excuse. My favorite pan for years has been a copper one though. Kind of a bummer.