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Single Induction Burner--any recommendations?

I'm debating purchasing either a single induction burner or a pressure canner. WRT pressure canners, I am leaning toward an All-American 10.5 quart model (and I have read some of the threads here). But what about induction burners? Would love to hear of your experiences.

I probably won't be buying it immediately, so I have some time to compare the CH recommendations with the ones on Amazon.

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  1. Hi, nofun:

    The Vollrath Mirage Pro is a great unit. A dial control, deep stong case, and 100 power settings. About $425.

    But even it will not work with All-American canners--they're aluminum. However, considering how bomb-proof both the hob and canner are, a converter plate might make it possible.

    Aloha,
    Kaleo

    15 Replies
    1. re: kaleokahu

      Thanks, Kaleo. Stupid question, but what's a converter plate?

      1. re: nofunlatte

        Hi, nofun:

        Not a stupid question. A converter plate is a piece of magnetic steel or iron that you put between the induction hob and your incompatible cookware, in this case an aluminum pressure canner. The plate gets heated by the coil and then conducts the heat to the pan, rather than the pan being induced directly.

        These allow you to use any material on an induction hob, albeit with a drops in energy efficiency and response times--neither of which matter for your application.

        Aloha,
        Kaleo

        1. re: kaleokahu

          nofunlatte: are you looking at the induction hotplate to use for just the pressure canner?

          If so, a 10.5 quart AA pressure canner won't be all that heavy except for the really cheap portable induction units which are probably too underpowered, anyway. You definitely want an 1800 watt unit but, for what you want to do, you do not necessarily need to spend $450 for a Vollrath 59500. Home-brewers report using 8 gallon kettles on Avantco and Max Burton/Athena units, Both in the $100 to $150 price range, IIRC, albeit less bombproof that the Vollrath.

          That said, my own test of a converter plate and a large aluminum water-bath canning kettle on an induction burner was in the "not-worth-the-trouble" category. Never really got the kettle to a full boil. My experience with the converter plates is that they work okay for cooking pancakes, making small batches of oatmeal, etc. Not great for big pots.

          Might work for pressure canning because you will have a lot less water in the pot when doing that. Still, you are basically converting the induction burner into a radiant electric unit. So why not just go for a regular portable radiant electric burner? Skip the the $29 units with 600 to 1000 watts from Walmart etc. because that is not enough power and the burner supports won't hold much weight, either. Check out the Cadco 1500 watt solid coil PCR1-S. A commercial unit, just as bombproof as the Vollrath induction unit, and less than a third of the cost. I wouldn't suggest this, nofunlatte, if you were looking at, say, one of the 20 or 30 quart AA units, but for the 10.5 qt. All American, it should be fine.

      2. re: kaleokahu

        Hey Kaleo - a question for you (or anyone else):

        What makes the Vollrath you mentioned worthwhile as compared to spending a fraction of the price on another portable induction cooktop with the same wattage? Like this one:
        http://www.amazon.com/1800-Watt-Porta...
        A little background: I've recently come to accept that a proper ventilation system will not likely be a financial reality for me for some time yet. As such, I'm starting to consider buying a portable induction unit that I could use outside with an extension cord. For it to be worth buying for me, I would want it to have the potential for relatively high heat output - the whole point is to use it for high heat cooking. I'm already aware that the absolute highest ranges of output with induction cooking are overkill for anything shy of boiling water very quickly, but I'm not sure how this applies to portable induction cooktops currently on the market.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          Hi Cowboy,

          What makes the Vollrath you mentioned worthwhile as compared to spending a fraction of the price on another portable induction cooktop with the same wattage?
          _______________________________________________________________

          In a word, control--and quality. Vollrath makes two units: one with 20 different settings, and the other (the PRO) with 100. In addition, Vollrath inspects and tests every unit. Since all the induction units come from various suppliers in China, that can be a huge advantage. I own the not so expensive 20 settings one (Cadet)--cheaper than the Max Burton "commercial." Many units have 7 or fewer settings, 20 or 30 degrees apart, leading to lack of temperature control--especially around warming, simmering, and boiling. It's a matter of software systems, and Vollrath has done their homework.

          If your special interest is in high temperature heating, you may not need the control. You might want 220 power.

          drrayeye

          1. re: drrayeye

            Thanks Drrayeye

            I would like to have reasonable control of temperatures so as to be able to adjust between 'hot, smoky pan' and 'raging grease fire.' But you're right that I'd still be simmering sauces and all that delicate stuff indoors and I don't need that level of precision. If the lower priced unit is reliable and durable, I can make do without 100 settings.

            "You might want 220 power."
            _____
            I'm assuming you mean a 220 volt induction burner. How much output should I expect from a 120 volt induction burner? More output than a standard cheapo electric stove, at least? I'm looking for output high enough to quickly hard sear meats, fudge the effect of a high temp stirfry, brown the heck out of mushrooms, etc. Pretty hot. But I don't need to boil a gallon of water in under 2 minutes or anything.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              220V is theoretically more advantageous in terms of electrical usage.

              I have the now-discontinued Viking VICC from the days when induction wasn't cool which maxes at 1800W output on 120V. I've used it in event settings and apart from the VICC's known hate-on for LeCreuset, I haven't found a huge difference in terms of high heat performance between it and a Vollrath 220V portable. Heat-up times were about the same.

              1. re: wattacetti

                What you get with a 220v unit is higher output for high-heat cooking and boiling -- they generally run 2500 watts and 3500 watts. That, of course, requires a 208/220/240 volt line but a 2500 watt induction hob gets you a bit (maybe 15% to 20%) more effective/usable power than from a 2500 watt burner on a cheap coil electric stove. If you get one of the 3500 watt models, you are way out of the cheap stove league.

                I haven't used any Vollrath units, but have used a commercial 2500 watt/240v Cooktek Heritage and found it noticably faster to heat than a 2500watt electric coil burner if I were boiling water in a stockpot.

                That's much less of a deal when talking about stir-frying and searing because you'll be running those at temps within the same range on the 2500 watt units as on the the 120v/1800watt units.(If you don't turn down the power, it is a very short trip for your onions to go from caramelized to carbonized.)

                So, as wattacetti says, there isn't a huge difference in heat-up for fry pans and such.

                When it came to boiling water in stockpots, the 2500 watt/240v Cooktek was noticably faster than the 1800 watt/120v Cooktek MC1800 heritage that I used for a couple of months some years ago. Not OMG, absolutely-blew-the-doors-off faster, but maybe about 20% with larger pans. Basically, we're talking about differences akin to those between using a 1500 watt coil burner and a 2500 watt coil burner. With smaller pans, such as 2 quart sauce pans, no big deal. Imperceptible differences. Bigger deal with bigger pans.

                Speaking of pan size, cowboyardee, what sizes are you looking to use? Twelve-inch cast-iron, carbon steel or stainless fry pans? Or ten-inch or smaller fry pans? Big dutch ovens and stockpots or regular sauce pans? (Bear in mind that its the pan base that matters for sizing to induction burners, not the maximum diameter across the top.)

                If you are thinking of bigger pans, there another difference between units that may help think through what to get. Most of the less expensive, residential type portable induction units have a 6" induction coil. Virtually all of the Chinese made units are this size. If you want to sear in a 12-inch cast iron pan, you might find there's an outer ring of an inch or so that doesn't seem as hot as the rest of the pan. (Same problem as when using big cast-iron pan on a 6" coil burner). The full-on commercial induction portables by Cooktek and Garland have 8" or 9" induction coils in them, so better suited to pots and pans with larger bases.

                I don't know for sure about about the Vollrath or the Viking, but I think I read that they used 6" coils in the 1800 watt/120v models. Actually, the current 1800 watt Vollrath might be the same or almost the same as the Viking. IIRC, Viking sourced their induction burners from Luxine until Vollrath bought Luxine a couple or three years ago and converted Luxine into the Vollrath division that produces its induction units. My recollection is that the Luxine factory is in China (although all of other Vollrath products are made in Wisconsin, New York and Mexico.) Most of the Chinese made induction burners in this country have only 6" coils.

                As for searing meat and mushrooms with the residential models, it will again be like working with a six-inch, 1800 watt coil burner. You can get a pan plenty hot enough for searing and,if you don't care about boiling a gallon of water very quickly, they may be perfectly serviceable.(Again, think about the extent to which pan size may be an issue for you.)

                Very workable for searing and sauces -- that was pretty much the conclusion that Cooks Illustrated reached when they tested some 1800 watt/120v units a couple of years ago. They basically liked the Viking and the Max Burton 6200 and favored the MB because it was so much less expensive. CI also thought the MB and Viking fine for simmering and saucemaking as well as higher heat applications but no big deal for boiling big pots of water.

                As for adjustability, some models are better than others in the lower-priced residential lines. Some have only six or seven settings. (Are you old enough to remember push-button electric ranges?) The Max Burton has a 9 integer step power settings with a separate "temp" scale with another 10 steps that fall between the integer-step power settings, which gives you 19 steps in all. (Although these are called temperature settings, they are actually only just intermediate digital steps where some software engineer has tried to make a rough correlation to target cooking temps. If you want a simmer, the software engineers apparently feel that using a temp setting of 210F would seem more intuitive than a power setting of 2.5, say.)

                I've found that my MB does a pretty good job with running a Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker and those PCs can be finicky about getting the temp right for maintaining pressure.

                I can tell you from personal experience with the MB that you can get a cast iron pan plenty hot enough to burn the seasoning off a cast iron pan. With the Cooktek that I used, you could heat a cast iron pan to well over 500F for searing. Don't know if its is true, but somebody once claimed to have melted lead with one of the 2500 watt units, if that's the kind of thing that turns your crank.

                Not all induction units are made in China, btw. Cooktek builds theirs in Chicago and Garland builds theirs in Canada (and both are an order of magnitude more expensive than anything else you might be considering.) Some of the European models are built in Fagor plants in Eastern Europe. I think some models are still made in Japan and Korea. (There's a post from Tanuki Soup somewhere here on chowhound about Japanese induction units). It just seems like a lot of the widely available but less expensive units come from China because they comoditified (is that a word?) induction for the East Asian market. We are getting the spill over here.

                What do you get from some of the less expensive commercial 1800 watt units (Eurodib, Vollrath) that you can't get from the less expensive residential 1800 watt units? More control steps (finer control), stronger (and bigger) cases, more durable construction. For an analogy, think non-milspec laptop computers versus desktop towers versus workstation computers.

                Eurodib, btw, has both a commercial 1800 watt unit (for about $370, IIRC) and a residential unit (for about $100).

                As watacetti says, Vollrath has a semi-pro line called "Mirage Cadet 59300" which is roughly half the price ($230, IIRC) of the full commercial Mirage 59500 (which is the one with the digital knob and the 100 power setting steps.)

            2. re: cowboyardee

              Hi, cowboy:

              What Ray said. Add robustness and a deep, well-ventilated case. I would also give Vollrath the benefit of the doubt about not scrimping on the size of the induction coil.

              Aloha,
              Kaleo

            3. re: kaleokahu

              Hey Kaleo,

              I have an old Sunpenton unit that I never liked because low setting were not really low power but short duty cycles of high power. No good for pressure cooking beans as stuff would settle between cycles and then scorch on the next or any good for simmering.

              Does the Vollrath run constantly and just rail back the power?

              Jim

              1. re: knifesavers

                Not Kaleo, but every portable induction unit I've ever seen does the cycling. That is pretty much the nature of all readily available electric burners including induction

                The difference between units is how well the cycling is managed.

                What I've seen with the less expensive units is that the cycles seems to be longer and less well managed by whatever sensors and software, so you may see simmers turning briefly to boils as I'm guessing you saw with the old Sunpenton. FWIW, I never had any such problems with Cooktek "Heritage" MC1800 that I used but, with the current Max Burton, it seems to vary with the pan. I see it some with with smaller sauce pans but not with larger pans. For pressure cooking beans in a 6 qt. Kuhn-Rikon pc, I found no cycling problems once I started using "250" on the "temp" setting scale rather than the integer settings.

                For a discussion of how well the Vollrath 59500 handles the cycling, you might want to have a look at the discussion in the May 7, 2013 customer review by daniel_I_miller_md on this amazon vendor site:

                http://www.amazon.com/Vollrath-59500P...

                Note that he has a couple of posts and I'm referring to his May 7 one. You will need to scroll a bit more that half-way down the page to find it. Detailed discussion.

                Also, fwiw, the users there confirm that Vollrath is using a six-inch diameter coil. You also might have a look at the post by dmz in this chowhound thread from last year (last post in the thread):

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/761432

                1. re: JWVideo

                  On my inexpensive Max Burton, power settings 1 & 2 clearly use cycling (more off than on). 3 to 10 are continuous, at least as observed in the boiling water.

                  1. re: paulj

                    On my cheapo PowerPac (bought in Singapore for USD30), it cycles on 150, 300, 600, 800 watts. It doesn't cycle for 1000 to 2000 watts.

                2. re: knifesavers

                  I use mine for pressure cooking all the time. I bring it to pressure at 1800 watts, then after the first pressure release, turn it down to 300 watts. 300 watts cycle on and off on my unit and I've never had beans or anything else scorch. Simmering hasn't been any more of a problem than with gas stoves on low. Perhaps it's a difference between our induction cookers?

              2. The All American canners are described by their manufacturer as being unsuitable for use on glass flat-top ranges, presunably because of their weight. Wouldn't this apply to induction cookers as well?

                1 Reply
                1. re: GH1618

                  All American makes pressure canners in some very large sizes including, IIRC, 30 quart capacities. The weight can be a problem for some ceramic/smoothtop cooking surfaces but the problem is more with the large diameter bases. Getting pots with diameters much larger than the burners can confuse the sensors used to control the cycling of the radiant burners and results in pans taking a very, very long time to come to a boil or not coming to a boil at all. Induction ranges don't use the same sensors as radiant smoothtops. Note that some induction ranges and built-in cooktops have an 11" and even 12" diameter hob.

                  As for the weight of the larger pots, that is mostly okay with the portable full-on commercial induction units from the likes of Cooktek and Garland, and, I suspect, Vollrath. A 30-qt. pot would likely be way too much for light duty units and not just because of the glasstop. I've put a 13" diameter 20-quart, induction capable stockpot on a Max Burton portable induction unit and did so without any problems in bringing the water to boil. (It did take a while), However,I've never tried this more than 8 or 9 quarts of water in the pot.

                  I can't really speak to using large pressure canners on induction ranges and built-in cooktops because, AFAIK, nobody makes large capacity induction-capable pressure canners. Folks on gardenweb, in brewing forums, and canning forums have reported using large induction capable stockpots --- using 20 and 30 quart quart stockpots --- Vollrath and Update being the brands I recall -- for brewing beer and water bath canning without problems on their induction ranges.

                2. I don't think there's any advantage to using an induction burner as heat source for canning. Apart from the aluminum issue, canner diameters are much larger than the heating diameter of table top burners. And canning does not need the rapid response that is a hallmark of an induction burner.

                  Notice the hot plates that Amazon customers considered in conjunction with canners

                  http://www.amazon.com/Cadco-PCR-1S-Pr...

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: paulj

                    I can't believe I didn't consider this, paulj. Thank you. I'm blushing with a little embarrassment here.

                  2. Thanks to all for your kind comments and suggestions! Gotta love the 'hounds--they always come through. You are all much appreciated :)

                    1. I have a cheapo single-burner PowerPac bought in Singapore for around USD30. I've had it two years and it's going strong. I originally bought it because we moved into an apartment with two radiant heat burners, neither of which was working. Turned out I love the induction cooker and hate the radiant heat burners so much that I never used the radiant heat burners again. Now we're in an apartment with a gas stove and I still use the induction cooker for as much as I possibly can, which is around 80% of what I cook.

                      A couple of pet peeves:

                      Cycling for all the lower settings - 800 watts and below. Everything from 1000 to 2000 is constant. Lower settings include 150, 300, 600, 800 watts. There are times, although rare, where I need something in between. Like 450 watts would be perfect for cooking my naan. 600 is too hot, 300 takes too long.

                      The effective range. It works only for a circular area with a diameter of around 8". So if I have a pan larger than that, then the area outside of that circle won't heat up directly like the inner circle will. Which means that my 14" pan has to be used on my gas stove if I want it to heat up evenly.

                      I have only one. There are times I really need a second one. Not very often, though, so probably not worth it. But yeah, if this is my third complaint, then I don't have any serious complaints really, do I?

                      The thing was cheap. We bought the cheapest unit we saw. We could have spent several hundred, but most were in the under-$50 range, and I didn't see the point in spending extra money then, so I didn't. I don't know if the more expensive ones would take care of my first two complaints or not - I haven't looked and, to be honest, they don't bother me enough for me to have to go look. And if this one dies, I'll probably just get another el cheapo induction cooker.

                      You couldn't pry my el cheapo induction cooker out of my cold dead hands.

                      Edited to add: Induction cookers are common here (we're currently in Malaysia). They're available everywhere. And because they're so common, it's really easy to find induction-compatible cookware here - everything is labelled. SO easy.