Having worked in my share of dorm rooms and cramped apartment kitchens, I know the value of a compact kitchen appliance. The best portable electric stoves can be a great kitchen helper for anyone, as long as you know what to look for. Take a look at my top picks below, also chosen for their power, control, safety, and style.
In This Article
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: SUNAVO Electric Double Burner with Handles
At a little over 10 pounds, this electric double burner stove by Sunavo is bulkier than most of the other models on this list, which normally wouldn’t earn it my top rating. However with a quality build and good selection of precise temperature controls, you’ll find that each of those pounds is well accounted for.
Each of the two burners are topped with a heavy duty cast iron cooking surface, helping distribute the heating elements’ heat more evenly and helping prevent the unpredictable burning endemic in some budget hot plates. The rest of the stove is stainless steel, which is easy to clean after every use, both for dorm rooms and camping sites.
The burners themselves are two different sizes and operate at 1000 and 800 watts, which can add a bit of versatility to your cooking, or just allow you to heat more than one dish at a time. Six levels of temperature control is standard for a stove of this size, and should be plenty whether you want to boil water or slow-cook bacon.
One feature I wish was more common among double burner electric stoves are the heat insulated handles, mounted on either side. This makes it easy to carry the appliance when transferring it from the counter to the table, even if it’s still hot. The heat indicator light is another nice touch that will keep you safe when doing so.
Simple, safe, and versatile enough for most everyday cooking tasks, I’d recommend it to anyone who has the space in their camper or dorm room. I can say from personal experience that if I had had something this nice during my own college years, I would have burned fewer pots of macaroni and cheese.
What we like
- Cast iron heating element
- Attractive and easy to clean stainless steel surface
- Heat insulated handles
What We don’t
- A bit heavy
- Paired-down temperature settings
Best Budget Stove: Ovente 1000W Single Hot Plate Electric Countertop
Of course, the reason why portable electric stoves have become staples in the first place is they’re readily accessible to everyone, even those on shoestring budgets. This 1000W hot plate by Ovente is case in point, with all the features you need to heat a pot of chili, at a price that’s cheaper than a takeout dinner.
The design is made with simplicity in mind, with a six-setting knob that will let you do everything from simmer to boil water. The crystallite glass and stainless steel exterior are both sleek and easy to clean with a single swipe of a wet rag. Non-stick rubber feet and a heat indicator light are two much-appreciated safety features.
However, what I like best about this portable electric stove is it’s slim design. At just 2.6 pounds, you’ll have no trouble carrying it in a backpack or even a large purse, which makes it perfect for travel. Even if you already have a larger hotplate, having this as a backup in your car or camper isn’t a bad idea. The heating element and exterior metal housing are both durable, so you won’t have to worry about it getting dinged up in travel.
It’s true that this single burner cooktop doesn’t have many extra features to boast about. And it’s true that the smaller size isn’t made to accommodate any of your bigger pots and pans. But when it comes to convenience and portability, you can’t beat it. I would recommend this little hotplate to anyone who needs a simple cooktop for basic meal preparation, or else to more well-equipped chefs who are looking for a trusty backup.
What we like
- 6-setting temperature control
- Heavy duty stainless steel exterior
- Slim hotplate perfect for campers and dorm rooms
What We don’t
- Limited settings
- Only a single burner
Best Double Electric Stove: Cusimax Portable Electric Stove, 1800W Infrared Double Burner
When I first saw this double burner electric stove, I was surprised at how much power and versatility Cuisimax was able to fit into such a compact package. While there are more than a few double burner stoves on the market, I didn’t find any of them quite as nice as this model.
The first thing that caught my eye was the design. The eight-setting temperature controls are positioned to fit seamlessly into the curvilinear design, offering an aesthetic appeal you don’t often find in portable appliances. It’s covered end to end in black stainless steel and combined with a pair of smoothtop burners, it has a modern look that’s hard not to like. And at just three inches thick, it’s as easy to carry under your arm as a book or laptop.
The ‘infrared’ burners heat up in seconds and visibly glow, so it’s never hard to know when they are activated. Just in case, a pair of heat indicator lights are also included. Made of heavy duty cast iron, they will heat food evenly with minimal heat loss.
However, the fact that both of the burners are the same power output does seem like a bit of a waste to me, as they don’t offer any variety in heat settings. Though in most cases, it won’t matter as much as you’d think, and having the second burner still adds plenty of flexibility when cooking.
Give this electric stove a try if you’re willing to spend a bit of extra money for the attractive design and quality build. The fact that it comes with an 18-month warranty should leave you confident in its quality.
What we like
- Heavy duty and easy to clean black stainless steel
- 8 temperature settings
- Attractive design
What We don’t
- Electric burners are each the same power output
Other Great Products to Consider
Still exploring portable stovetop options? Here are a few more options that are worth a look.
This is the more compact counterpart to the Cuisimax double burner stove listed above. While the single burner design cuts your cook load in half, the reduced price and portable size may catch your attention. The most exciting thing about it is that its burner operates at a full 1,500 watts, which will boil water even faster than the larger version.
In my opinion, cast iron is the way to go when it comes to electric burners. Sure, they do add a little extra weight, but what you get in durability and even cooking more than makes up for the extra load. This top-of-the-line portable electric stove puts this feature front and center, and backs it up with a stainless steel body made to support up to a 12 quart pot. It does have a pretty steep price range, but if you recognize quality, this could be the perfect option for you.
It doesn’t get much more basic than this. A single exposed-coil electric burner with three settings–high, low, and off. While it might not seem impressive at first glance, the truth is that I love this little hot plate for its simplicity. Despite it’s rock-bottom price, it is well-made and durable, and offers everything you need to cook dinner, as long as you can fit it all in one pot.
Buyer’s Guide: Features to Look Out For
A portable electric stove may not have all the same features of a full-size range, but you may be surprised at how much can be packed into these little appliances. Be sure to consider all these features as you choose yours.
The electric burner on your stove has a power rating measured watts. This power determines the maximum heat your burner can achieve, as well as the baseline power it operates at for all cooking tasks. Unlike gas cooktops, an electric stove can’t technically heat on “medium” power, but instead cycles on and off to achieve the desired temperature. For this reason, it’s good to find burners with power ratings in the middle range, between 700 and 1000 watts.
However what’s more important than raw power is having a range of settings that will let you get the temperature control you need. A double burner stovetop can have burners with two different power ratings. There are also “flex” heating elements which can operate at different power outputs.
While every portable electric stove on this list uses radiant electric heat, there is another main type of electric cooktop. An induction cooktop, which uses electromagnetism to heat your cookware, comes with a few differences which any smart home cook should take the time to understand.
Since induction cooking heats indirectly, it requires specialized cookware to function. Stainless steel and cast iron are both good bets, as they usually contain enough ferrous metal to be compatible. Aside from this, you can use an induction cooktop the same way as a traditional radiant electric stove, as long as you remember that your heating element may be on, even if it is cool to the touch.
When choosing your portable stove, make sure to check whether it’s induction or radiant electric first. If you’re interested in checking out the best induction cooktops, see our picks here.
All radiant electric burners work basically the same way, by running an electric current through a coil, and converting this current to heat. However the way these coils are incorporated into the overall design of the stove can differ.
The most basic option is an exposed coil design. With these, you can see the metal coil directly, as it sits a few inches above the surface of the cooktop. They tend to be a little less expensive, though can take a little extra time to clean if food gets stuck to them.
The other style of heating element are smoothtop burners. These imbed the coil beneath a smooth surface, often ceramic glass. This gives the stove a sleek design and makes it a little easier to clean. However, the added glass adds to the overall weight, and will tend to increase the price.
Number of Burners
Generally, portable electric stoves can be found with either one or two burners. Single burner stoves are obviously the most simple, as they can only heat a single pot at a time. However they are also the most portable, and can often be squeezed into a backpack or small bag.
Double burner stoves will let you diversify your cooking a bit, and can be crucial if you want to heat tomato sauce and boil spaghetti at the same time. They’re less ideal to take camping though, and will be more expensive.
Size, Weight, and Portability
The small size of an electric stove makes it an ideal choice for taking camping, parties, or anywhere an extra heat source will be appreciated. If you’re planning on taking yours out of your kitchen on a regular basis, it will be a good idea to consider its size carefully.
Single burner stoves will tend to be between 9 and 12 square inches while double burners will have a little more than double the width. Either way, this should keep them slim enough and lightweight enough to carry in a backpack or suitcase. However don’t forget that luxury features like a cast iron heating element will add even more weight, with some getting as heavy as 12 lbs.
The best way to take advantage of your electric stove’s portability is to ensure it is durable enough to stand up to regular use and frequent travel. Luckily, most of them are simple appliances with only a few moving parts that aren’t likely to get easily damaged. If you want to find a stove with the maximum durability, try to avoid models with a digital interface, as these won’t stand up well to moisture. A cast iron heating element can be a good idea, as long as it comes with a rust-proof coating.
One factor that makes portable electric cooktops a bit different that full-size ranges is that you need to keep weight capacity in mind. These lightweight appliances aren’t always as durable, and placing a pot that is too large or heavy can cause a safety hazard.
Luckily, most manufacturers will list a weight or size capacity in their product description. Look for a cooktop that can hold either 10-quart cookware or a total of 10 lbs. This will ensure you can cook just about anything without having to worry. If you want to invest in a bit of extra durability, a cast iron cooktop surface is the best option.
Many portable electric stoves have very simple controls that consist of only a single dial and a few heat settings. Some of them may be a little more complex with timers, LCD displays, and different functions like boil and keep warm. However finding settings that are any more robust than this is rare, so expect to find plenty of simple and straightforward interfaces.
Whether you’re looking to add a cooking option to a dorm or office, or want to help your kitchen’s main cooktop carry the load during large parties, a portable electric stove can be your best friend. What makes them even better is that fact that you should never have to spend more than $80 to get a good one. In fact, if you’re looking for a basic design, there are some $30 options out there which will serve your needs well.
Frequently Asked Questions
Portable electric stoves have plenty of features to explore. Learn more about them here!
What Advantages do Portable Electric Stoves Offer?
You might not recognize all the advantages a portable electric stove brings to the table until you have one yourself. Whether you need a way to cook in your dorm room or camper, or like to have a trustworthy backup on hand in case your main range needs some help, there are plenty of good reasons to keep one of these little cooktops on hand.
They’re also a good choice for chefs who are just learning to expand their horizons beyond Easy Mac. Sometimes, a single burner is the best way to learn how to crisp salmon skin or sear a steak.
What Drawbacks Will I Need to Get Used to?
Of course, you can’t expect to cook anything that requires more than a single burner (or two, if you have a double burner portable stove) so the kinds of dishes you can cook will be limited. The other factor to keep in mind is the weight capacity of your stove. In many cases, if you try to load a large pot of water onto the burner, you run the risk of crushing your little appliance beneath the weight. Most models come with a weight capacity, so be sure to check beforehand.
What is the Difference Between a Portable Gas Stove, and Portable Electric Burners?
Portable gas stoves work in much the same way as electric ones, except that they use a different kind of heating element. Gas burners function by releasing and igniting gas, resulting in an open flame that can warm food without coils. While some cooks prefer the heat control of a gas cooktop, keep in mind that they tend to be a bit more bulky because of the onboard fuel source they require.
What Should I Cook on my Portable Electric Stove?
You might be surprised how versatile even a single burner hot plate can be. Anything from instant rice to gourmet risotto is possible, as long as you have the ingredients on hand. You can even make a full spaghetti dinner with just four ingredients and one pan.
Start by melting three tablespoons of butter in a 7 or 9 inch pan. Once it’s fully melted pour in a 14 oz can tomato puree, followed by half an onion, peeled, and placed flat-side down in the sauce. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every 20 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. If your sauce is too try you can add in a half cup of water. Finally, add the dry pasta directly to the sauce and cook until perfectly al dente, about 15 minutes.
Is a Battery-Powered Stove a Good Idea?
There are a number of battery-powered electric stoves out there, which can be a great asset when cooking without a power source. However, unless you’ve done your homework and are confident it is the right choice for you, I wouldn’t recommend them. The reason is that battery-powered stoves can never get quite as hot as plug-in models, and even when operating at a low temperature, will eat through your battery quickly.
As you can see, it pays to do your homework when choosing a portable electric coil stove. In my view, the best way to get the most for your money is to find a cooktop that meets all your cooking needs, in as small a package as possible.
For those who want the durability of cast iron in a double burner format, Sunavo’s 1800W two-burner hotplate can’t be beat. If you’re looking for something a little easier to take on the go, Ovente’s 1000W Single Hot Plate pairs a sleek and easy to clean design with six precise heat settings. No matter what shape or size you’re looking for, these compact appliances are the best at making cooking easy.