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Feb 8, 2012 08:32 AM

Max Burton induction cooktop design defect(s)

I recently purchased a new Max Burton Induction Cooktop #600, hoping to use it as a real "Slow Cooker" for conventional "crockpot"-type dishes (typically slow-simmered in the 4-8 hour range), and in addition, for home "sous vide" or confit-type slow-poached dishes, typically poached at temperatures well below the simmering point (in the 130-140F range, for beef and pork), for times in the 12-24 hour range.
Because of some unexpected (and unadvertised) serious design defects, however, the Max Burton induction cooktop is totally useless for such work, and indeed is inferior to a conventional (gas or electric) range, or even a hot plate, for such routine tasks as making a beef stock, or a boeuf a la mode.
My workhorse "slow cooker" (a rice cooker, controlled by a sous vide temperature controller with a thermocouple probe) recently expired, so I began researching possible replacements. The attraction of an induction cooktop (rather than another rice cooker, or a hotplate) is that it has (claims to have) a true thermostat to monitor the temperature of the pot, and in addition to the usual "power" (wattage) settings, also has temperature settings which can be set independently of the power settings. The Max Burton's temperature settings were relatively coarse (140F, 180F, 210F...), but no worse than those of other affordable "residential" induction cooktops intended for home cooking; and since the Burton unit got generally good reviews in various cooking blogs, I took the plunge and ordered one (along with over $100 worth of induction-capable pots and pans, as I had none).
After unpacking and setting up the Max Burton unit, as per the instructions, I began some trials (2 qts of water in 3-qt induction-capable pot), and soon made an amazing discovery: the d***n thing SHUTS ITSELF OFF after 3 hours or so!!!
I could hardly believe it, so ran a series of more systematic tests, at various power, temperature, and timer settings--all with the same result: the Burton unit automatically shuts itself of after 3+ hours (or sooner, if the timer was set at a non-default setting (1-180 minutes). For longer cooking times (to make a beef stock, for example, which is typically slow-simmered for 6-8 hours), one must manually restart the unit, and reset any non-default power or temperature settings (the default Power = 5 Temperature = 250F settings would soon have a beef stock at a hard boil, until the pot dried out and the unit shut itself off--and the stock was ruined.)
I reread the Operating Instructions once again, very carefully; but there was not a hint of this bizarre 3-hour shot off, much less of how to override or fix it.
So I called Customer Service, and was informed by the "Product manager"--evidently a marketing guru, certainly no cook--that that's the way it is, this "safety feature" was built into the unit "in case the cook forgets" that it's still cooking; and no, there's no way to override or disable this nutty "safety feature."
This bizarre shutoff behavior makes the unit totally useless for any kind of non-attended slow-cooking work; and the fact this nutty "safety feature" is not revealed in any of the product literature, including the Operating Instructions, that I had read before ordering, is nothing short of scandalous, amounting to false and deceptive misrepresentation of the product.
There may be other design defects as well. Several times, at the 180F temperature setting, when I uncovered the pot I found the water boiling merrily away at a full 212F; and on another occasion, after a long time at the 140F temperature setting, the water seemed to have reached equilibrium in the 175-180F range—hardly better that a conventional crockpot.
So the (lower) temperature setting may be totally useless as well. These are only impressions at this point, as I was primarily testing the shutoff behavior; but I'm now going to run some more systematic tests at various power and (low) temperature settings, and could post the results here, if anyone's interested.

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  1. It's possible that the automatic shut off exists to comply with UL 1026. While I understand your dilemma, the maximum temperatures that can be achieved with the induction burner are much higher than a crock pot or a steamer. I own a Max Burton 6000 and though I am happy with the performance I would never leave it or any stove top unattended for 3 hours no matter the setting.

    1. Hi. moonbeamer:

      Well, you put your finger on one of the huge issues with induction appliances--the electronics. You might get what you need, or you might not. They might work right, they might not. You might get things that you neither want nor need. They might CATO on you. They might deem themselves smarter and safer than you. They might even click and hum.

      But they're sleek, modern, easy to clean, won't heat your kitchen (much), require that you give up (or clad) the best two materials for cookware, provide uneven heat, and save you about $5 per year in utilities. Oh, and you have to replace them in about 5 years.

      Since you're doing more tests, try doing a skillet scorchprint with flour or parchment.


      10 Replies
      1. re: kaleokahu

        Perhaps for a portable burner unit, but certainly not for the 30 or 36 inch induction cooktops.
        These don't have the features that the portable ones claim to have, as they function like gas does in terms of temperature control. And mine (Thermador) even has a warm feature which is lower than the lowest cook setting (my old gas one certainly didn't have that).
        Heating is absolutely even, doesn't need replacement, and I use the heck out of it.
        Glad you're just referring to those 100 dollar units from the hardware store.

        1. re: freia

          Hi, freia:

          No, I was referring to induction in general.


          1. re: kaleokahu

   not true, but never mind...those with no direct experience with owning a 30/36 inch induction cooktop seem to be the biggest critics and look to the internet for validation of their uninformed a thought, you just might try one out, you just might like it! LOLOL

            1. re: freia

              Hi, freia:

              Tell me, who makes the electronics in your cooktop? What are the size of the coils under the glass? Have you seen the coils? Is a 30/36 built any differently than a single-burner?

              I have direct experience with these things. Do you?


              1. re: kaleokahu

                I have direct experience with my cooktop and my 100 dollar portable induction cooktop, which counts for more than your theoretical knowledge based on your internet research IMHO.
                Most, if not all, of modern appliances are run through electronics, and most of them are made in the same place. Don't kid yourself.
                Its like bemoaning the fact that the newfangled fridges are run with crazy electricity and sticking with the ole icebox. But your new electric oven is AMAZING.
                The issues described by the poster don't apply to the 30/36 inch induction cooktop -- I can maintain a very low slow heat with my Warm feature, the cooktop doesn't shut off after 3 hours, and I only have power settings not temperature settings, So to equate the capability and functioning of the two is ridiculous. The issue isn't with the manner or method of induction, its with crappy preset functions for both temperature and time.

                1. re: freia

                  Folks, we're not sure why cooktops incite such strong feelings, but we've removed a lot of posts that were getting personal from this thread. We'd ask that people keep the focus on the cooktops, and avoid psychoanalyzing your fellow hounds.

        2. re: kaleokahu

          Much easier than a scorch print is to simply set a full diameter pan with an inch or so of water in it on the burner, then watch where the bubbles form first. I occasionally poach eggs, and while I'm waiting for the water to simmer, I get a "picture" of the shape/lay-out of the induction coils in my burner. Shows up even better in a cast iron pan than in ss. My unit has a "hole" in the center about the size of a quarter where there are no magnetic coils. When I was curing my new wok, I had to keep moving it around so I didn't get the shiny quarter in the bottom of the wok. Water is by far the easiest way to see the heat distribution pattern. Of course if you're hell bent on burning flour and all that jazz, have fun!

          1. re: Caroline1

            Hi, Car:

            If what you wish to see is just the outline of The Great Oz, then you are right: the boiling will show that easier and without all the mess and scorching.

            However, if what you want to assess is the coil's propensity to hotspot (or not) across the spectrum of heat settings, then I think something that approximates food is best. Real scorchprints are powerfully persuasive because they *are* scorches, and don't disappear when Oz winks out.

            The method that I like the best is a circle of parchment cut to size, and weighted down with clear glass beads. Unless you totally carbonize the paper, then you have a record of what got hot and what didn't.


          2. re: kaleokahu

            would be helpful to "civilians" if acronyms like CATO were explained

          3. I've been using this model for about a year, and am generally happy. However I have never dreamed of using as a slow-cooker. I value it more for its speed and instant change of power, not its long term constancy.

            I haven't hit the 3hr limit, but I'm not surprised. Many modern ovens have an auto off feature (12 hrs or so), and have a special 'Sabbath mode' for people who need to leave it on for longer periods (up to 72 hrs).

            Without a probe, the thermostatic control cannot sense the actual temperature of the pot and its contents. What it does have is a sensor under the glass. In my tests, the temperature in a pot of water is about 20F hotter than indicated on the controls. Of course that only applies to the 3 lowest settings (below 212).

            I use the power settings more than the temperature ones. Default 5 is fine for bringing water to a boil (unless I am in a rush). 3 (800w) is fast sautee, guaranteed to burn onions if I don't keep an eye on them. Mostly I use 2 and 1. both of which cycle on and off. I would like something slower than 1, but for now make do with the 'low' setting on my coil burner, or a slow oven.

            1. I have a Max Burton induction hot plate and I'm pretty happy with it. One of the peculiarities of induction cooking that I suspect is the same, regardless of brand, is that how "responsive" any particular pan is to induction heating directly relates to just how ferrous the metal is. My most responsive pans are cast iron. Temperature changes are immediate. I have NEVER had cast iron respond like this on gas or electric. It is amazing. Ferrous stainless steel varies by compound. I have maybe seven or eight induction friendly stainless steel pots and pans, and while they all work on induction, they do not all respond equally. I figure it has to be the ferrous content of the metals. My wok works well, but it also reflects the pattern of the induction coils. I have no idea whether these peculiarities play into the problems you're having. Overall, I'm very happy with the performance of my hotplate.

              I tried all kinds of "work arounds" to approximate sous vide cooking. I found a very large pot on my cooktop could hold a fairly stable temperature, but I could not get it to hold the really low temperatures required for some sous vide procedures. It was also pretty expensive to use my cooktop for long duration slow cooking. My son is an electrician and patiently explained to me that I am NOT going to get economical and energy efficient slow/low cooking from a cooktop! I was also less than enchanted with the frequent temperature checks that my method required. I also did not want to be bothered with a bunch of separate pieces hoping they would work smoothely. In other words, a thermostat and a stock pot held no enchantment for me. So I broke down and decided that if I want to cook sous vide, I may as well do it right, so I bought a Sous Vide Supreme. I'm really glad I did. It is sooooooooo reliable, holds temperature for days on end, and completely frees me of any responsibility until it's time to remove the lid and take out the food, Initially the price bugged me. Now that I have it and find it so amazingly handy and reliable, I'm so glad I did it. I can sous vide beef for three days and I don't notice any change in my electric bill. That was NOT the case when I used the cook top. Something to think about...

              1 Reply
              1. re: Caroline1

                Adam of the ATK Equipment Corner loves the Sous Vide Supreme as well (on today's spaghetti an meatballs episode).

              2. I'd be very interested in the accounts and results of any tests you do, particularly with low temperature settings. I have a MB 6200 portable induction unit and am completely happy with it. But I didn't get it to use as a slow cooker, much less a way to simulate sous vide cooking, and don't consider its failure to act as either of these devices a 'design flaw'. It's a cooktop, not a self-contained cooker.

                I did learn that there was an auto shutoff before buying the unit, though I can't now remember where. I think it must have been on a blog, or possibly a customer review at some online store. While it's not a problem feature for me, and I can see that it's probably a way to meet some safety requirements, it is just wrong for the auto shutoff not to be noted in the (already fairly skimpy) literature that comes with the unit.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ellabee

                  The booklet does talk about the '180-minute automatic timer'. What isn't as clear as it could be is that the timer is always functioning.

                  I just got a toaster oven with digital controls. The timer is active in every mode.