A hot plate can be a convenient, inexpensive cooking solution for RVs, studio apartments, college dorms or any other space without a full-sized stove.
Even homes with fully equipped kitchens might benefit from an extra burner on occasion. And while most hot plates run on electricity, some use gas and can be lifesavers during natural disasters.
Some people think hot plates are only useful for simple cooking tasks like making soup or heating up leftovers. Actually, many hot plates nowadays can cook just as well as a conventional stovetops, boiling water quickly and searing thick cuts of meat evenly.
Hot plate buying guide
Hot plates can cost anywhere between $10 and $100. They usually have a stainless steel frame with one or two burners that can fit pans and pots with diameters between 6.4” and 7.4”.
Most hot plates are compact enough for easy storage and very lightweight. Single-burner models can weigh as little as three pounds, while two-burners average about 10 pounds.
Aside from choosing between one burner or two, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when shopping for a hot plate:
• Heating element. Most hot plates are electric and heat in one of three ways: coils, infrared lights, or induction technology. The type of heating element you choose impacts how long the burners take to heat up and how evenly they transfer heat to pots and pans.
Cheap electric hot plates that cost $20 or less generally use metal coils. These coils heat up fairly quickly, transferring heat directly to the cookware sitting on top. While inexpensive, this type of heating is notorious for causing “hot spots,” that is, areas that get hotter than others and can result in food burning. They are also harder to clean as food can fall between and under the burners.
To improve how metal coils transfer heat and prevent hot spots, some manufacturers encase metal coils in cast iron. These units cost around $30 for single-burner models and up to $70 for double-burners.
The cast iron top creates a smooth surface so food cooks more evenly. The cast iron case also prevents food from falling between the coils and into the burner, allowing for easy cleanup with a few swipes with a damp cloth. However, because of the cast iron covering, heat does take longer to reach food.
Although metal coil burners are suitable for simple cooking tasks, serious cooks who want more precise temperature control and an even distribution of heat should consider an infrared or induction hot plate.
Infrared hot plates usually cost about as much as models with cast iron burners. Instead of metal coils, they use halogen lamps or another infrared light source under a sleek, ceramic cooktop. These lamps heat up the ceramic, which in turn heats the cookware. They heat food evenly and work faster than coil burners, which makes them more energy efficient.
Induction hot plates, however, take that to the next level. These are considered the best hot plates in the market and are, unsurprisingly, the most expensive — $50 or more for a single burner, $100 for a double. Induction hot plates generate a magnetic field that conducts heat directly to pans and pots, without heating the cooktop.
Because heat travels directly from the heating element to the cookware, these models give cooks great temperature control and eliminate the possibility of “hot spots” when using pans of the same size or smaller than the burner. (Using cookware that’s larger than the burner would result in the center getting hotter than the rest. This is also the case for coil and infrared hot plates.) Induction models heat up roughly twice as fast as others. For example, boiling water on a coil hot plate can take about eight minutes, but only four minutes with an induction model.
Note, however, that induction hot plates only work with magnetic cookware such as cast iron and some stainless steel. Glass, copper, and aluminum pans and pots won't heat up at all, even if the hot plate is at its highest temperature setting. In fact, some induction models will automatically turn off if they don’t detect compatible cookware.
• Wattage and temperature control. A hot plate’s wattage gives a rough idea of how much and how quickly it can heat. Most coil and infrared burners use between 900 and 1,500 watts; induction hot plates use 1,800 watts. Higher wattage is great for fast boiling and deep frying, but not that necessary for cooking simple meals and reheating leftovers.
Keep an eye out for double-burner hotplates advertised as having, say, 1,800 watts of power. Their wattage is actually split between the two burners, which means each one actually provides only 900 watts of heating power.
Besides wattage, consider the hot plate’s temperature settings. Some only have three power settings: low, medium and high. Others have six or more numbered settings, just like on conventional stoves. More temperature settings means more control, reducing the risk of undercooking or burning.
• Safety features. The most common safety feature among electric hot plates is an overheating protection, which shuts down the unit if temperatures get dangerously high.
Other safety features might include a child lock for the control panel, or an auto-shut-off system that turns off the unit for a specific amount of time (often a minute) if there isn’t a pot or pan placed over the burner.
Gas burners, on the other hand, often have an automatic shut-off system that will turn off the unit if it detects irregular gas flow or high pressure from the gas tank.
Best hot plates
1. Best overall: Techwood Double Burner Hot Plate
With this double-burner hot plate by Techwood, you can cook everything from eggs to steak with ease, just as you would with a full-sized stovetop. In fact, many reviewers say it's just as good as their main cooktop.
The unit uses infrared lights over a scratch-resistant glass surface, which heats up quicker than coil burners and, most importantly, more evenly. This helps prevent hot spots, or areas where pans and pots may heat up excessively. The overheating protection system turns the unit on and off to maintain the desired cooking temperature at all times.
The burners are around 7.5” in diameter, wide enough for most types of cookware (stainless steel, glass and aluminum, for example) up to 7.1” wide. Each burner has its own temperature knob and delivers up to 900 watts of heating power, more than enough for pan frying and boiling water. (Some reviewers mention boiling large pots of water can take 10 minutes or more but they have found putting a lid over the pot speeds up the process.)
The burners, along with the stainless steel frame, have no crevices, making them easy to clean. However, be sure to wait at least 15 minutes after use before cleaning, to give the unit time to cool down.
2. Editor’s pick: Cusimax Double Hot Plates
Like the our Best Overall model above, this Cusimax hot plate can heat up just as well as a full-sized stovetop — and for around $30 less. Many users praise how quickly they can boil water or sear steaks with it.
The Cusimax features a stainless steel frame and two coil burners. One of the burners is 7.4” in diameter and the second one is smaller at 6.1,” and each one has seven temperature settings.
The burners on the Cusimax are encased in heavy-duty cast iron to create a perfectly flat surface, similar to the one on glass burners, while costing less. The cast iron helps distribute heat evenly and prevent hot spots that may burn food
Cast iron burners are easier to clean than models with exposed coils. However, note that they do take longer to heat up compared to ceramic burners.
3. Best for low prices: Elite Gourmet Countertop Burner
For less than $20, this Elite Gourmet single-burner hot plate is small, lightweight and perfect for quick meals.
It delivers 1,000 watts of power and has a cast-iron burner that distributes heat more evenly than other budget-friendly coil burners. It offers seven temperature settings, takes up minimal space and weighs only a little over three pounds.
Many reviewers mention bringing it with them to cooking classes or using it as their main cooking solution in places with little counter space like dorms or studio apartments.
4. Best single burner hot plate: SUNAVO 1500W Single Hot Plate
Most single-burner, non-induction hot plates provide around 1,000 watts of heating power, which is enough for most cooking tasks. However, some people find these units take quite a while to heat, sometimes around 10 minutes to reach maximum temperatures.
The SUNAVO hot plate, on the other hand, is just as lightweight and compact as other single-burner models, but delivers 1,500 watts of heating power, which helps reduce heating time considerably. The cast-iron burner has six heat settings and an overheating protection, giving you excellent temperature control. The stainless steel body has two insulated handles so you can move the hot plate even while the cooking surface is still hot.
5. Best induction hot plate: Duxtop Portable Induction Cooktop
The Duxtop 9600LS can deliver up to 1,800 watts of heating power — the most powerful of all the hot plates in our list.
Using the touch control panel, you can select between an impressive 20 temperature settings (around 10 more than infrared and electric coil hot plates), with temperatures ranging from 100˚ to 460˚. It has dedicated Boil and Keep Warm buttons, making boiling water and simmering sauces simple. It also has a cooking timer that can be set to up to 10 hours, so it can essentially be used as a programmable slow cooker.
The Duxtop has several safety features including a child lock, overheating protection, low and high voltage warning and an automatic shut-off system, which will turn the unit off if it doesn't detect compatible cookware.
Keep in mind induction hot plates such as this Duxtop model only work with cast iron, enameled cast iron or other magnetic cookware.
6. Best gas stove burner: Gas ONE Propane or Butane Stove
Whether you’re going camping, backpacking or if you just prefer good old-fashioned gas, the Gas ONE GS-3400P can have you cooking in no time.
This gas-powered single burner is compatible with both butane and propane and is extremely lightweight, weighing around three pounds without the gas cartridge. (The unit can use either a single butane 8 oz-cartridge or a 16.4 oz-propane cylinder.)
It’s also self-igniting, so there’s no need to use a lighter or match. Just turn on the gas and turn the ignition knob, and the hot plate will generate a spark that ignites the flame.
The Gas ONE has a safety feature that can detect irregular gas flow and automatically shut down the unit. Additionally, it has a built-in cartridge ejection system that ejects butane canisters if there’s unusual gas pressure. Finally, be aware that most gas-powered burners, including this one, are designed for outdoor use only.