Hot Plates Review
Why Buy a Hot Plate?
The top performers in our review are Sunpentown, the Gold Award winner; BergHOFF, the Silver Award winner; and Max Burton, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a hot plate to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 products.
Breaking bread with friends and family is a bonding experience that you don’t want to miss, but what if you have a large group to feed and you need more than the standard four burners on your stovetop? You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen switching out pots and pans while your guests wait for you. A hot plate can save the day by being that one extra hot surface needed to either keep a pot of mashed potatoes hot, to boil a pot of water for pasta or to cook a quick pan sauce and keep warm as you finish the other dishes. In addition to a hot plate’s versatility, it’s also very portable, so you can take one with you when you’re traveling and save money by cooking your own food – all you need is access to an electrical outlet.
If you’re feeding more than a dinner party and need a way to warm large amounts of food, you may want something more like these food warmers. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a way to feed an army without having to slave over a hot stove, you should check out our lineup of slow cookers.
There are two common types of hot plates: an electric hot plate and an induction hot plate. Both are powered by electricity, but the electric hot plate uses a traditional coil or an iron plate that heats up and then transfers heat to your pan or skillet. It also turns off and on to maintain a constant temperature. Magnetic induction heating directly heats the pan through a magnetic field rather than the cooktop.
Induction hot plates are always going to be more costly than electric cooktops, but they are also safer – the surface of the hot plate cools down within seconds, whereas an electric coil can stay hot to the touch and potentially dangerous for curious young children for several minutes. However, you do need specific cookware – cast iron or stainless steel – for an induction cooktop, because it needs to generate a magnetic field while an electric hot plate can heat up any type of pot, pan or skillet. To learn more about how induction heating works, be sure to read our articles about hot plates.
Hot Plates: What We Tested, What We Found
We tested 10 of the top brands of induction and electric cooktops to provide you the most comprehensive data on each hot plate to make it easy for you to choose the best one for you. Each cooktop was tested at the highest setting to ensure accuracy and consistency so you know that when you boil a pot of water, for instance, it only takes four minutes on some of the top-rated cooktops, such as Max Burton and Sunpentown. We also melted chocolate at the lowest temperature to determine how gently each hot plate can heat food. We also tested the medium settings for each hot plate to determine how evenly it heated foods like crepes or brown meat.
After several tests, we found that induction hot plates provide more even heating and control over the temperature of the food you’re cooking. Generally, the wattage of induction plates is higher than their electric coil and iron plate counterparts, but not in all cases. And yet, you still get a faster turnaround with induction because you aren’t waiting for an appliance to heat a metal coil or plate and then transfer that heat to a pan – the heat is created in the pan itself, so induction hot plates bypass the middle man.
Overall, there was also more even browning from the induction plates because they provide constant heat in the pan. The traditional units had to cycle on and off to maintain the same temperature but often failed – burning food in some tests and not cooking food in a following test – all without changing the power setting.
Cleanup was also easier with the induction hot plates because the surface of each one is smooth and can be wiped down once it's cool to the touch. The traditional coil hot plates have drip trays that protect the unit from spills, and you can lift the burner up in order to clean the tray when needed. None of the appliances should ever be submerged in water.
What Else Should You Consider When Buying a Hot Plate?
There are several other factors you should weigh before making a purchase, including required cookware, cost and added features.
Hot Plates: Specific Cookware
Regardless of how quickly a hot plate heats your food, you have to be sure you have the proper pots and pans for the job. If you have to buy magnetic pans to ensure you can use your induction cooktop, is it really the right appliance for you? An electric hot plate will do the job with the cookware you already have. If you aren’t sure whether your cookware will work on induction, simply grab a magnet, like from the front of your refrigerator, and place it on the bottom of a pot or pan. If it sticks, you can use induction cooktops. If not, you’ll have to invest in new cookware.
Cost of Induction vs. Electric
The price tag on a single induction burner is, in most cases, going to be more expensive than an electric cooktop because they are more complicated to construct. If cost is a factor for you – whether that’s the cost of the cooktop or the cookware needed – you would be better off buying an electric hot plate such as Aroma or Brentwood.
Added Features: Functional and Environmentally Friendly
Cooking with induction heat is more energy efficient – you can cook food faster and there is less loss of heat. So, induction is a great choice if you’re environmentally conscious. You have to make sure you use flat-bottomed pots and pans, though. Woks and other rounded cookware won’t work. Sometimes finding the right hot plate is all in the details. The best hot plates offer extras, such as several power settings, which give you more control over how low or high you need your heat to be, and a timer that helps you track how long a dish has been cooking. Some hot plates shut off when the timer goes off. Also, a power button can be a reassuring feature, as it ensures that even if the hot plate is plugged in, it isn’t on unless you press the button.
Some models, such as Secura and Tatung, offer added benefits like digital temperature control and automatic shut-off. Also, most units include a 1-year warranty for any defective parts, so you know your money isn’t wasted.
Hot Plates: Our Verdict and Recommendations
After looking for the hot plates with the most flexibility in temperatures, the most control over those temperatures, and those with the best features that scored well in our various tests, we concluded that induction hot plates are far superior to electric coil and iron plate burners. Sunpentown and Max Burton both boiled water in less than 5 minutes, which means that you can get dinner on the table faster than ever. We also found that these are the best induction hot plates because each one was able to maintain a constant temperature, which is needed when you need to use different cooking techniques such as browning or frying. The BergHOFF hot plate scored well in our tests, boiling water in less than 10 minutes, and its surface around the pot on the burner stays relatively cool.
Although Tatung did not place in the top three of our lineup, it’s an excellent hot plate for cooking and it melted chocolate delicately. If you’re in need of an electric cooktop and you don’t want to buy new pots and pans, check out the Brentwood – it gets the job done.
Regardless of which electric hot plate you choose, one of the 10 in our list can suit your needs and budget.