Portable Induction Burners
First there were induction ranges. Now there are portable versions, which come in handy when you need an extra burner in the kitchen (or a compact cooker in a dorm). Unlike traditional gas or electric burners, induction burners don’t get hot. Instead, they use a high-frequency electromagnet to create a magnetic field between the cooktop and the pan. The magnetic field penetrates the metal of the pan and sets up a circulating electric current, which generates heat.
The benefits? Induction burners are meant to be faster and safer than typical electric or gas burners and make it easier to precisely control your cooking temperature. On the downside, you can only use pans that contain iron, such as cast iron and stainless steel. Don’t even think about aluminum, copper, or Pyrex—and you can only use nonstick pans that contain iron material. (To find out if a pan functions on induction, try attaching a magnet.)
We selected six brands, priced from $124 to $499. After timing how long it took to boil 2 quarts of water in a 3-quart saucepan on a gas range (6 minutes, 30 seconds), we did the same on each induction burner. Despite claims that they operate “twice as fast” as a gas range, all of the portable burners were actually slower: The slowest took a whopping 12 minutes, while the fastest took a minute longer than the gas range. As it turns out, the power of these single burners can’t compare to a full-size induction range—the burners we tested had between 1300 to 1800 watts apiece, while a comparable induction range burner would be 3200 watts. Their power has to be limited because you plug them into an ordinary wall outlet, while a full induction range requires a special circuit.
Did they offer any advantage at all? Yes. With induction, it’s very easy to get precise control of cooking temperature, since the burner itself does not become hot—as a result, there’s little to no “carry-over” heat. We prepared heat-sensitive béchamel sauce and it was exceptionally easy to maintain the temperature just as we wanted. We also made macaroni and cheese on each unit, with good results. An induction burner is also much safer than conventional burners, because there’s no flammable surface. You can even touch it, because the surface never gets very hot, though it can become warm from the heated pan. We put a dollar bill between the pan and the burner; the dollar didn’t burn even with the power on and the pan’s contents boiling.
The top performers distinguished themselves from the losers with speed in the boiling tests and practical design. All of these burners had a “futuristic” look, but in lower-ranked burners, this worked to their detriment. Burners with overly slick surfaces didn’t offer traction, which meant pans of hot food slipped whenever we stirred them. And sleek touch-sensor controls made temperature adjustment a challenge. We much preferred user-friendly push buttons and dial controls.
In the end, we preferred our winner for its well-designed controls, efficient heating (just one minute longer than the gas stove), and reasonable cost. Should you buy it? It isn’t faster than a gas range and it’s pricier than your average hot plate or single-burner gas stove. But if you want a safe, relatively efficient portable burner, it does the job.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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