There might come a time where stationary appliances just aren’t applicable—camping trips, temporary living arrangements, you name it. This is where portable stoves come in. They are practical, affordable, and most of all, portable. If you recently snatched a portable electric stove on sale, here’s everything you need to know.
Types of Electric Portable Stoves
Hot plates have been a mainstay in many households for generations, but electric stoves have been getting more efficient and user-friendly in recent years. Whether you’re looking for a simple induction stove or an advanced magnetic double burner, there’s certainly a choice that’s right for you.
While chefs often swear by their gas stoves, it’s a hot debate for many. Electric stoves are more convenient and user-friendly, and despite the extended heat-up time, they can be much easier to use for inexperienced cooks.
Perhaps the simplest kinds of portable electric stoves are the single-burner coil models—while basic, they get the job done. Despite their lack of variety, most come with very intuitive controls and knobs that let you set the heat you desire. Although they are primitive in a sense, they could be all you need to cook up your food in a pinch.
Similarly, cast iron stovetops are fairly affordable but efficient. Regardless of if you’re looking for a single or double-top stove, these are typically as efficient as regular cast iron kitchen stoves. While coil stoves are more affordable, they might be less convenient to use than flat stove tops for many.
Infrared stoves might be the least-discussed type, but they have been growing in prevalence around households. They can heat up and stay hot with a lot less energy than conventional stoves and are often combined with halogen lights to let you know when they’re hot. They are often coupled with ceramic or glass, which don’t conduct heat as well as, say, metal, but also don’t need to since IR stoves can heat your food at a much lower energy cost.
Finally, there’s magnetic induction, which uses a copper coil beneath the surface to create a magnetic field. Once that field meets a conductor (like an iron pan), heat is created quickly and efficiently. Overall, magnetic induction plates are both precise and effective, which often makes them the priciest on the market.
Variety of Hot Plate Choices
While it may seem that most burners are just about the same at first, there is a wide range of options depending on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for something simple for basic meals like fried eggs, perhaps an affordable single-burner coil model is good enough. However, the fancier you get with your food, the more you might want to invest in a solid electric stove.
Infrared burners are perhaps the middle ground between the standard coil or flat-top cast-iron models and the luxurious magnetic induction plates. While they aren’t as efficient as magnetic, IR stoves are great for those looking for a little extra precision in their cooking experience. If you’ve got the budget for it, though, magnetic induction stoves are great for nailing your recipes every time.
It should go without saying that you also have the option of getting a double-burner model, something that might be suitable for gatherings and cookouts. While double models are unsurprisingly pricier than their singular counterparts, it certainly makes sense to buy one if you’re going to need a second stovetop.
The Dos and Don’ts of Portable Stove Use
Before you get to cooking on your portable stove of choice, there are some important rules to keep in mind. These rules don’t really differ much from conventional household stovetops, but it’s important to remember that hot plates are portable, and thus—you have to be mindful of where you place it.
For safe cooking, it’s imperative to ensure that it’s not in a dangerous spot. This means keeping it out of range of potential harm (as an extreme example, don’t leave it on the floor) and safely out of reach of children. Similarly, creating a “child-free” area to make sure kids understand to be careful or avoid a stove is a great way to minimize risk. Turn any pot and pan handles inward (away from the floor) when cooking to prevent any accidents. Likewise, avoid using pots or pans with rounded bottoms.
It’s crucial to never leave your pot or pan unattended—walking away from a hot plate could burn your food at best and start a fire at worst. To add to this, keep your stovetop clean from any grease, crumbs, or other food particles before you start using it. For your own safety, make sure to also tie back any loose hair, roll up long sleeves, and avoid any jewelry, clothing, or accessories that might fall into your cooking.
Finally, and perhaps the simplest and most important tip: never leave the burner on if it’s not in use. While some electric stoves have a “standby” feature which lowers the temperature/energy use after a certain time, it’s still vital to always turn your stove off after you’re done. As a safety precaution, it’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher nearby for any emergency situations.
For ceramic/glass-smooth tops specifically, avoid using any cookware that can scratch or otherwise damage the surface—an example is cast iron pans with a rough bottom.
How to Use an Electric Cooktop
Electric portable stoves aren’t too different from regular electric stoves—you turn it on, set it to a specific heat level, finish cooking, turn the heat back down, and turn it off. However, there are some differences between the various stove types.
Most hot plates you come across use an intuitive knob with various settings to denote the different temperature levels. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the temperatures these correspond to for optimal usage. If you have a twin plate, these knobs will either have markings denoting a specific stove top, or simply be right next to the one they turn on. Some older hot plates might need you to push the dial in before turning to your desired temperature.
Fancy induction or infrared burners might be different in that regard—some might have touch-sensing functionality. Usually, there is a power button, buttons that select a specific stove (if you have more than one), and +/– signs that increase or decrease that stove’s temperature.
How to Clean Your Portable Electric Stove
Before you get to the actual cleaning, be absolutely sure that your stovetop is not only off, but cool enough to touch. Avoid using any abrasive or otherwise damaging tools or products to make sure the cleaning process doesn’t leave any scratches or stains. Cleaning a hot plate is just about the same as cleaning your kitchen stove or oven.
For burners with a fair bit of grease (or any other wipeable grime), wiping that with a paper towel or rag first might make the cleaning easier. Otherwise, if you have an oven or stove cleaner already, spray that across your electric stove’s surface once it’s cool. Leave that on for a bit and wipe it with non-abrasive means—a rag or the soft side of the sponge will do. If there are any leftover stains, repeat the process to clean that off as well.
Note: many oven/stove cleaners are very bad for your skin, eyes, and lungs, so be very careful to not breathe it or get too close. Having the windows open (or cleaning outside) is helpful in that regard.
If you don’t have a cleaning agent handy, a mix of vinegar (or lemon juice) and baking soda is a great way to clean your hot plate. This combination can remove stains and smells, and won’t damage the surface of your stove. To get rid of any mist, grab a damp rag or paper towel, and wipe the surface one last time.
Conclusion: Pros and Cons
Portable electric stoves are a great tool in the right hands and beat conventional stoves in several areas. They are usually more energy-efficient (especially a high-end induction cooktop), don’t release any gases, and are safer to use in general compared to portable gas stoves. A hot plate is also quite user-friendly—simple on/off functionality, easiness to clean and use, and equal heat distribution make it a very enticing appliance.
However, there is a glaring downside: you need a power source to use it. On a more inconvenient (if not outright dangerous) note, electric stoves take longer to lower in temperature and require an even surface—something that might be hard to do on camping trips.
Frequently Asked Questions
A: Electric stoves have an electrical heating device (typically a coil) under the stove top, whose heat is controlled (typically) by a dial. Induction plates, however, use electromagnetic energy to heat up the pan itself, essentially making your pan the stovetop.
A: Portable electric stoves are often referred to as hot plates or portable burners.
A: Portable burners have the same rules and work the same as an electric stove in a kitchen, so theoretically they are just as safe as regular stovetops. However, the portable nature of hot plates makes them a little harder to care for and use safely, as the user constantly needs to be aware of its location to ensure safety.