The best induction cooktops for fabulous Van life meal preparation!
The best portable induction cooktops mean easier campervan cooking and better meals all ’round.
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.
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 cooktops are many and we believe you’ll find them to be an excellent addition to your campervan and campsite cooking equipment.
Table of Contents
12v induction cooktop
Unfortunately, DC or 12 volt or 24 volt portable induction cooktops for Campervans and RVs are not available.
This is due to the fact that induction cooktops require high wattage to function efficiently and effectively.
A low power induction cooktop just isn’t possible without loosing all the advantages that come with induction cooking.
Because of the strict power requirements of induction cooking, a 12v induction cooktop for van cooking is not possible.
This is one of those situations where a Campervan power inverter can make a big difference in your Vanlife kitchen setup.
Since portable induction cooktops commonly used in Campervans use a range of wattage between 1300 watts and 2000 watts, a larger inverter (over 2000 watts) would be best.
But if a single burner, low power induction cooktop like the Copper Chef 1300 Watt will work for your food prep needs, you can use a mid-range wattage inverter like the GoWise 1500 Watt Pure Sine Power inverter.
How much power does an induction cooktop use?
Smaller induction burners typically use between 1,200 to 1,800 watts. Those with larger burners can use as many as 3,200 to 3,800 W.
1800 watts is a common induction cooktop size.
These wattages allow for a wide range of cooking temperatures from very low to very high so you can reheat some leftovers on low heat, 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 lots of high quality campervan battery juice to spare.
What are the advantages of portable induction cooktops?
- 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 induction cooktops energy efficient?
The short answer is, absolutely!
Due to a fundamental difference in how portable induction cooktops 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 cooktops is over 89% efficient
Induction cooktops 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 cooktops 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 cooktop 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.
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 cooktop?
- Do you have enough solar panel power to keep batteries charged while using an induction cooktop?
- Induction cookers require grid quality power, so you’ll need a pure sine inverter. A modified sine wave inverter will cause problems for your cooktop.
Many people equip their camper vans with an induction cooktop 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 cooktops tend to be compact as well, having two stoves on board is not a burden.
The Campervan Podcast Episode #087: Portable Induction Cooktops
The Campervan Podcast is an audio program featuring ideas for design and building, cooking, organization, gear and more for a better overall Vanlife experience.
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🔥 Portable induction cooktops for Campervans
🔥 Copper Chef Single Burner 1300 Watt Induction Cooktop
🔥 Duxtop Double Burner Induction cooktop
🔥 Amps and Wire Gauge in 12V Electrical Circuits
Portable Induction Cooktops Podcast Transcript from The Campervan Podcast
Another very common question we get at vansage.com, and I get in email is with regard to induction cooktops.
In particular 12 volt induction cooktops. I thought I would get on that first just to get it out of the way, because, 12 volt induction cooktops are problematic.
This stuff is complicated and I'm not the best with electrical. I tend to defer to experts on the topic of electrical in general, I can handle myself at a basic level, but when we get into the math and anyway… enough about that. Other than to say that I found a great comment over at Sprinter-source.com
Someone had asked, you know, where do I get a 12 volt induction cooktop? And the comment goes like this. It's from PT Chambers. He says, and I quote…
“You do realize that a 12 volt cooker At 1800 Watts would require 150 amps, huge wiring sizes to minimize losses and any switching would have to use very large contacts and would require a massive battery pack to be able to use it very long.”
So very high amps at 12 volt is a-no good. You don't wanna mess with that. All that to say, let's just move on. There aren't any 12 volt induction cooktops. If you want to run an induction cooker in your van, then you need an inverter, unless you are hooked up to shore power and it's that simple.
So either a 12 volt or 24 volt to 110 volt or 240 volt inverter. I'm gonna go ahead and include a link here. It's from a site called Engineeringtoolbox.com and it shows amps and wire gauge in 12 volt electrical circuits, including charts and graphs, and how to choose wire gauge for various amps. It's very, very useful stuff.
You can see for yourself in this chart, if you're a disbeliever in what I just read to you with regard to 12 volts and induction cooking.
Moving along, we'll talk more about portable induction cooktops. We've got a great article called Portable induction cooktops over at Vansage.com. It includes the induction cooktops that we've found to have the highest rating and the best features.
All portable induction cookers, we're focusing on some single and double burne cooktops. My favorite is the duxtop double burner induction cooktop People love it. The ratings are high. It's got lots of settings and bells and whistles and gadgets, and it's a wonderful machine. check that out.
You can also just go to Vansage.com and search for induction to find this article.
But I wanted to talk specifically for a couple minutes about my experience with induction cookers, because I'm somewhat uniquely suited with regard to these electric cookers since I've traveled a lot in Asia and Europe, where most of the cooking is done on induction, cookers.
That's because the kitchens tend to be, especially in Asia, kitchens tend to be smaller and less well outfitted by western standards because people eat out more. Food is cheap on the street and there are restaurants everywhere and food carts everywhere. So cooking at home is less of a thing, even in the kind of lower, or I'd say lower middle class.
Not that there's much of a middle class in Southeast Asia, but at any rate, with regard to condos and hotels and Airbnbs and other rentals. It's almost always going to be a portable induction cooker and a small portable unit sometimes built in, but not very often.
I've used a lot of them. I've used a lot of different brands and I pay attention to the details because it all transfers to the vanlife and cooking in vans.
Anyway, what I'm getting at is that there are some peculiarities about induction cooking that I think are important to keep in mind and definitely some limitations.
Now, everybody prefers gas, including me. It's just a better way to cook. The heat is direct. It's. Infinitely controllable. You can really blast your food if you need to. The heating is very even, the flame will distribute beautifully across the bottom of just about any pan. So. I prefer gas and I actually prefer to cook outside on a white gas stove, such as a Coleman.
By the way, don't use a gas at all inside unless your everything is open and, and your stove is near the near the outside.
An open window or door… both, actually all of the above plus your fan on with gas. So, I'm speaking specifically in terms of CO and just how dangerous that can be, but that’s one of the reasons to get a portable induction cooker.
And honestly, the van I have right now isn't really suited for carrying both an induction cooktop and a gas cooker. But when I am in a larger van, I do keep both because it's just really nice to have the induction cooker for inside cooking when the weather's nasty and stuff like that. But that's really the only advantage as far as I'm concerned to induction cooking vs gas, other than again, being able to do it indoors.
So, now some of the cons of them, you know, they very rarely adjust evenly from one temperature to the next. Portable induction cookers tends to have kind of radically different systems for adjusting heat and timers and, you know, notoriously will lock and then you have to ulock them.
I was in a, in a Airbnb in Croatia and the built in induction stove locked on me and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how to unlock it. Well. finally I got on YouTube and it was very complicated to unlock. It was like, you know, hold the power button for 15 seconds. Now, push burner one, four times now push burner two, three times, etcetera, some bizarre combination.
Completely unnecessary and frankly, quite frustrating. Fortunately I only had to unlock that thing once Most of them, unlocking is just you hold the lock button down and, and then it unlocks
That's another factor by the way, or another aspect of induction cookers that I'm not crazy about is that the buttons are, are odd in because they're touch sensitive. Some of them are wonderfully sensitive. You just, you just tap it and, and you get an increase in temperature or the burner is turned off or on, or the power or whatever you need. But many of them, you kind of have to hold your finger down for one and a half seconds or stuff like that and that gets weird and time consuming to kind of deal with
It can be frustrating, especially when you're trying to time something like an omelet or more complex food like that and you don't want to be monkeying around with Insensitive or finiky buttons. So, yeah, that's another thing I'm not crazy about regarding portable induction cooktops.
Can Aluminum and copper pans be used on induction cooktops?
And then there's the whole issue with regard to steel and the sensitivity of the type of pans or the vessel that you're cooking with. A the long and short of that is, to simplify it is that your pan or pot needs to have iron, steel or magnetic properties in order to transfer the heat from the induction cooker surface through to the pan thereby allow the pan to heat up.
Again, I'll refer to our post at Vansage called Portable induction cooktops for Campervans where you'll find more info and some product suggestions for best pans for portable induction cooktops.
Now, there are aluminun and even copper pans where the manufacturers have incorporated iron, steel and or magnetics into the cladding in the pan so that you can use the fancier materials. There's lots of stuff out there.
There's also a cool thing that is called an induction cooktop plate.
And that's just a steel plate that you put on top of your induction cooker, and that thing gets hot and then you set your pan on it and you can cook now. Temperature variability is going to be an issue there because now you're waiting for this slab of steel to heat up and cool down. it's probably best to just go ahead and get some steel iron an or magnetic pots and pants to cook with
That's gonna be much simpler. If you're gonna go all in on induction, then go all in, get the right pants. That's the way to go. And I'm gonna go ahead and put a couple links in show notes here to our favorite portable induction cookers.
I'll put our top rated single burner and our top rated double burner links in. And I'll put, of course, the link to our article where you'll find information about how to cook on induction and what the pros and cons are and other stuff like that. And we've got some links to some great cookware and ideas for how to use portable induction cooktops in your camper van.
What is the best cookware for induction cooktops?
As detailed in this Wikipedia article, any pan used on an induction cooktop 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 cooktop and then testing your steel pots and pans on it, only replacing cookware if necessary.
Can Aluminum 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 cooktops.
Some manufacturers have created aluminum cookware with iron, steel and magnetic cladding specifically to be used with induction cooktops.
Another option is a flat steel plate that sits on the induction cooktop and functions as an activator andb 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 Cooktop Plate
Pros and Cons of induction cooktops
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 cooktop 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 cooktops
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 cooktop, also included below this section.
The best double burner portable induction cooktops
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 cooktops can be a great addition to your campervan