Induction cookers: a great addition to your Vanlife kitchen
I love to cook and one of the things I miss the most when on the road in my van is a full sized kitchen.
So I’m always looking for kitchen gear that can help me create great food while traveling.
The best portable induction cookers mean easier campervan cooking and better meals all ’round.
Of course portability, storeability and simplicity are requirements of nearly every piece of campervan gear.
Since induction cookers tend to be compact, this means more precious counter space, and easier storage when you need it out of the way.
While there are some cons, the pros of induction cookers are many and we believe you’ll find them to be an excellent addition to your campervan cooking gear.
Our Top Picks for best portable induction cookers
What are the advantages of the best portable induction cookers?
- Efficiency: As you’ll see below…
- Speed: The induction elements heat up and delivers almost instantly
- Temperature control: The best portable induction cooktops provide infinite temperature control
- Size and portability: Single and double burner units are thin,compact and easy to store
- Cost: Compared to an entire gas system, they’re a bargain
- One, two or more burner options
- Simplicity: Set it on the counter or cook table, plug it in and start cooking
- Brand and product options: A multitude of stable brands and models available with many high ratings
Are portable induction cooktops energy efficient?
The short answer is, absolutely!
Due to a fundamental difference in how portable induction cookers generate heat, they use less energy than both electric element cooktops such as hotplates and traditional element stoves, and they’re more efficient than propane gas (LP in the UK) and other natural gas cookers.
The U.S. Department of Energy states that induction heating transfers energy at nearly 85% efficiency.
Furthermore, power usage of induction cookers is over 89% efficient
Induction cookers use 2.8 kW of power to create 2.52 kW of equivalent heat.
Compare that to electric coils using nearly 2.0 kW to create 1 kW, or to gas which requires over 3.4 kW to create only 1.75 kW of heat.
Why are induction cookers more efficient than electric element stoves and gas cooktops?
The primary reason that induction cooktops are more efficient than gas or electric coil (including glass top ranges) is because the induction system only heats the metal pan that contacts the cooktop.
More technically in the Wikipedia article on induction cooking:
“Induction cooking is performed using direct induction heating of cooking vessels, rather than relying on indirect radiation, convection, or thermal conduction. Induction cooking allows high power and very rapid increases in temperature to be achieved, and changes in heat settings are instantaneous.”
So no energy is dissipated in the air around the cooker or the air.
Another, less intuitive reason these units are more efficient: By not heating the air in your campervan while you cook, your air conditioning unit doesn’t have to compensate for extra heat in the air.
This also reduces the need to use roof top fans and vents for air cooling.
How many watts does my induction cooker need to be?
1800 watts is the most common induction cooktop size.
This wattage allows for a full range of cooking temperatures from very low to very high so you can reheat some leftovers on low heat, or simmer on medium for long periods.
1800 watts is also enough power to do common, high heat tasks like quickly boiling water. or quickly searing a steak on high heat.
There are more powerful units available and you might consider one if you plan to do a lot of cooking while connected to shore power or you just have battery juice to spare.
Can I run my induction cooktop with my power inverter?
If you’re relying on battery power, any electric heating appliances, whether for comfort or cooking, can be painful in a campervan.
Furthermore, converting power from 12/24 volts DC to 110/240 AC is inefficient and results in wasted power.
While we’re big fans of campervan power inverters, you’ll need to give serious thought to whether or not an induction cook top is best for your build.
Here are some considerations
- Do you have ample battery power to prepare meals on an induction cooker?
- Do you have enough solar panel power to keep batteries charged while using an induction cooker?
- Induction cookers require grid quality power, so you’ll need a pure sine inverter. A modified sine wave inverter will cause problems for your cooker.
Many people equip their camper vans with an induction cooker AND a gas portable camping stove so they’re never without the ability to prepare a meal.
Since there are many small, portable gas stoves available and induction cookers tend to be compact as well, having two stoves on board is not a burden.
What is the best cookware for induction cooktops?
As detailed in this Wikipedia article, any pan used on an induction cooker needs to have a high iron or steel content in order to transfer heat from the heating element into the pan bottom.
Some very thin metal pans don’t work because they don’t allow the cooktop to concentrate enough heat at the surface for cooking.
Some pans are available that are specific to induction cooking, but they are not necessary and some are even over priced gimmicks.
As long as your pans have a reasonably thick bottom and a high iron or stainless steel content, they will work fine on your induction cooker.
We suggest buying your cooker and then testing your steel pots and pans on it, only replacing cookware if necessary.
Can Aluminium and copper pans be used on induction cooktops?
Pans with all aluminum, all copper or glass bottoms that contact the cooktop surface cannot be used with induction cookers.
Some manufacturers have created aluminum cookware with iron, steel and magnetic cladding specifically to be used with induction cookers.
Another option is a flat steel plate that sits on the induction cooker and functions as an activator and any cookware can be heated on it. While this somewhat defeats some of the novelty of induction cooking, it would allow for use of copper or other specialty pans.
Induction cookware suggested products
|Duxtop Induction Cookware Set||Cuisinart Induction Cookware Set||Gourmia Induction Cooker Plate|
Pros and Cons of induction cookers
Of course every item of campervan gear has it’s ups and downs.
Here are the major pros and cons of portable induction cooktops we’ve discovered.
- Fast, efficient heating
- Easy to store
- Easy to use, simple design
- Easy to clean with very few nooks and crannies for food to get stuck in
- Long lasting and durable
- Safe: No flame and the element only heats when in contact with a metal pan
- Availability: Reasonably priced, tried and tested units are available from a number of manufacturers
- Require consistent, grid quality electrical supply, so if you don’t have a large battery bank and solar, you may need to rely on shore power more often.
- Can use a lot of power, as can any electrical heating device
- Cooking on an induction cooker can feel strange at first as the heating method is different from the element burner or flame that most of us are used to
- Only iron and steel clad cookware can be used with an induction cooktop. See above for details.
The best single burner portable induction cookers
If you’re a Vanlife solo traveler, you may find that a single burner is enough for all your cooking needs. Especially if you also have a gas cooktop, a microwave, a water boiler or other auxiliary cooking gear on board.
Personally, I love to chef it up, and whether I’m throwing together some easy campsite recipes or something more complex, I use a double burner induction cooker, also included below this section.
The best double burner portable induction cookers
If you’re traveling with a crew of family and/or friends, you’l want a double burner induction cooktop.
As mentioned above, I like to have a double burner on board. That way I can boil water for pasta while cooking the sauce, simmer a pot of soup while toasting a cheese sandwich…
The double burner units just feel more like a “normal” kitchen experience.
Of course you’ll need the power supply, whether shore supplied or large battery bank, to power two, 1800 watt burners, so keep that in mind.
- Fast heat, compact and storable, easy to clean, reasonably priced, durable, great safety features…
- If you love to cook, they’re a great addition to the vanlife kitchen
- 1800 Watts is the most common size and plenty for most users
- You’ll need a grid quality power supply (pure sine inverter or shore power) and plenty of it
- As cooktops go, induction units are highly efficient
- If you’re running solo, a single burner may be enough for you
- If you love to chef it up, or traveling with two or more, get the double burner
- You’ll need some iron or steel pans
- Buy the cooker, test your existing pans, buy new pans as needed
- The best portable induction cookers can be a great addition to your campervan