Whether you need an extra burner when cooking a holiday meal or want a portable cooking option, single burners come in handy more than you might think.
You may be wondering what types of features you should be considering or what makes one single burner better than another. I’m going to cover the basics and introduce you to a few of the best single burners out there so that you can decide which one is best for you.
What is a Single Burner?
When you think of a single burner, you might envision a hot plate in a studio apartment or a flashback to a college dorm room making a pot of ramen noodles for one. Single burners might not evoke a positive cooking experience, but they are more versatile and convenient than you might realize.
While many of the single burners (or hot plates) from decades ago were not known for their quality or safety, modern single burners are rated for safety, durability, and have better designs overall.
These aren’t your grandfathers’ single burners.
Types of Single Burners
A single burner is more or less what it sounds like; it’s an individual burner used for cooking food the same way you use a full-size stove top.
For years, the only types of single burners available were either electric or gas (much like larger appliances), but today there are more types available.
Electric Coil Burners
Electric coil single burners are typically the most affordable types of individual burners on the market. Often referred to as a “fifth” burner, an electric coil single burner has the same features as the coil burner on a full-size electric stove.
Electric coil burners are typically the same size as standard stove top burners and plug into a standard outlet.
Induction cooktops are becoming increasingly popular, and if you’ve never used one, a single burner may offer the perfect opportunity without investing in a full-size cooktop right away. There’s a lot more to the mechanics of how induction cooktops work, but in short, a magnetic field and iron-containing cookware generate enough heat for cooking.
Induction burners are typically the safest option because only the cookware heats up and there’s no burner or open flame that can burn food or liquids. Keep in mind that even though the surface of the burner doesn’t heat up as much as other types of single burners, you should still use the same amount of precaution as you do when cooking.
Cast Iron Burners
Some single burners are made of cast iron and stainless steel. The cast iron hot plate is durable, heats up quickly, and easy to clean. Some people will buy a cast iron single burner to use with their cast iron cookware, especially if they are unable to use their cast iron pots on a regular stovetop (such as one with a ceramic top).
Even though some cast iron single burners come with safety features (such as auto shut off), it’s important to note that the burner retains heat the same way a cast iron pan does so it can be dangerous.
Ceramic Top Burners
Ceramic top single burners use infrared heat and similar to induction cooktops, they heat food quickly and have an almost cool-to-touch surface. Since ceramic top burners are more prone to scratches, it’s important to use cookware that won’t damage the surface of the burner.
For people used to cooking with gas, single butane burners are a great option. Most butane burners have a simple design, are easy to use, and butane refills are typically easy to find. It’s essential to always have at least one butane refill on hand just in case one cartridge malfunctions, or you run out of fuel when cooking.
Things to Consider Before You Buy a Single Burner
Now that you know that other types of single burners exist, you may either be more overwhelmed about choosing a single burner or know exactly which kind you want to try.
Even though there are many options to choose from, it doesn’t need to be an overwhelming process.
By considering the following, it may help you narrow down which type is the best single burner for you.
How Do You Plan to Use the Single Burner?
If you need an extra burner to use from time to time, especially when making large meals or keeping side dishes warm, almost any burner will suffice. If you plan to do outdoor cooking, a butane burner may be your best option, especially if you don’t know if outlets will be available.
Do You Need Safety Features and Multiple Control Options?
Some are looking for the most basic type of single burner on the market, and an electric coil burner is a solid choice if you’re looking for basic. If you need safety features, such as an automatic shut off or a surface that’s cool to the touch, induction heat and ceramic are excellent types to explore.
I love using induction cooktops because they are safer to use and have multiple heat controls, which allows me to cook with precision. Some single burners (despite their compact size) offer these same types of features.
While nearly every type of single burner is versatile and portable, the type you choose will depend on your specific cooking needs.
5 Best Single Burners
Now that I’ve discussed the different types of burners and given you some things to think about before buying a burner, it’s time to take a look at my top five favorite single burners on the market right now.
While electric coil burners are not my personal first choice, the Courant Electric Burner has a simple design and basic features. Whether you need to keep a pot of homemade soup warm while waiting to serve it or need something small for an office, dorm room, or even an RV, the Courant burner is versatile.
The single electric burner has a maximum of 1000 watts of power, a 6-inch diameter cooking plate, rubber skid-proof feet to keep the burner secure, and a simple control knob that regulates the temperature.
The lowest temperature setting is ideal for keeping foods warm, while the highest setting boils water quickly or hot enough to cook a complete meal.
The best way to keep the burner clean is to prevent food from boiling over, but you can clean the burner relatively easy with soap and water (as long as you don’t immerse the whole burner in water).
- 1000 watts
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Heats up to maximum heat in about three minutes
- Automatic safety shut-off
- Safe for all the same cookware you use on a regular coil electric stove
- May be hard to clean
- Control knob and surrounding surfaces can get hot during operation
- Not many features or control options
- Some users note issues with inconsistent heat or other malfunctions
If you’re looking for a single burner with a little more power and more temperature settings, the Waring Commercial Induction Single Burner has 1800 watts of power and 12 temperature settings which range from 120 to 500 degrees.
The burner has a ceramic glass surface which is easy to clean and a stainless-steel housing, which makes it NSF approved. Although NSF approved burners aren’t a requirement for home use, it’s a good idea to check for the approval rating if you plan to cook food for others in a public setting such as a cooking class or food demonstration.
Waring’s commercial single induction burner has “smart” safety features that detect a small object or empty cookware. Like other induction tops, all the heat goes into the cookware itself and leaves the surface and surrounding areas safer to touch but you should never use the induction burner (or any other single burners) unsupervised.
The single burner has a ten-hour countdown time, which makes the burner a great option when making soup stock or soups from scratch.
- The burner surface and housing is easy to clean
- Durable and lightweight
- Higher power option than other single burners
- Broad temperature range for versatile cooking
- Safety features
- You may need to purchase separate cookware if you don’t have “induction-ready” cookware
- Some users note error codes and inconsistent temperatures
- Not an ideal burner for recipes like a 48-hour soup or stock
The Secura Induction Cooktop Single Burner is another great option for people who are looking for a single burner with a wide range of wattage. The Secura cooktop has 15 power levels, which range from 200 to 1800 watts and 15 temperature settings between 140- and 460-degrees F.
The digital control panel has a digital timer which you can set up to 170 minutes and a diagnostic error message system (make sure to keep your user manual). If the burner doesn’t detect cookware on the cooktop, it will shut off.
The cookware alignment guide on the surface of the cooktop helps you place your cookware in the right spot to ensure an even cooking temperature, and as long as you keep the surface clean, the guide should stay visible for a long time.
- A variety of power levels and temperature settings
- Easy to operate and view the temperature/wattage
- Auto shut off if no cookware is detected
- Lightweight and portable
- Heats up quickly
- Takes a few minutes to cool down completely
- Noisy fan
- Some users experience inconsistent/inaccurate temperatures
The Cuisinart Cast-Iron Single Burner looks a bit industrial and has a simple design but is built for durability. While the Cuisinart burner is lacking some of the other common features on single burners, it has six temperature control settings (which is dial controlled) and 1300 watts.
The solid, “coil-free” surface and stainless-steel housing is easier to clean up, has even heat throughout while cooking, and good heat retention. Although the single burner is heavier than other single burners on the market due to the solid cast-iron burner, it is still a portable option for a variety of settings. Non-slip rubber feet keep the burner from sliding around on your cooking surface.
Although the burner doesn’t have safety features like an automatic shut off, there is a ready/on light and a short cord to prevent tripping.
- Easy to use
- Basic features
- Durable design
- Works well with different pot sizes, including a stock pot
- Inconsistent heat
- Limited temperature range (difficult to know without using a thermometer)
- Limited safety features
- Some users note strong “toxic” odors when using
Like the Cuisinart Cast-iron Burner and the Courant Electric Burner, the Ovente Electric Infrared Burner has a basic design with a thermostat control knob. The burner has crystallite glass on the surface and a metal housing a clean and durable look and finish.
The burner has 1000 watts of power, and the temperature control has five options which range between 105- and 212-degrees F. Although this burner may not be the best option for searing meats and cooking meals that require high and fast heat, it is a nice option for melting, simmering, and keeping foods warm.
The safety features are limited, but there are rubber anti-slip feet on the bottom to keep the burner in place when in use and there’s an “on” indicator light. As with all single burners, the Ovente should not be left unattended, especially around children or pets.
- Lightweight, flat, and portable design
- Easy to keep clean
- Works well for boiling water, melting, simmering, and other “slow cooking”
- Works with different types of cookware
- Limited safety features
- Temperature is not precise
- Some users note surface glass breaking shortly after use
A Note on Butane Burners
Earlier in my review, I mentioned single butane burners as a type of burner to consider. While I did not review one in my top five picks, you can find several styles of butane burners at various online marketplaces and restaurant stores.
My advice is to talk with a sales associate in person if possible, to discuss the different options and make sure that you have easy access to butane refills.
My Top Choice for Best Single Burner
Whether you live in a dorm room and need something to cook on or you need an extra burner on hand when you’re cooking a big meal, a single burner is a versatile and affordable option.
To help you decide which single burner may be best for you, I wanted to present you with a variety of options. While I like certain features from every burner in the review section, my top choice is the Waring Induction Single Burner.
Not only is it commercial quality and has an NSF rating, but I like cooking with induction heat. The Waring burner has higher wattage than many of the other top-rated single burners on the market, which means that the burner will heat up fast and the time you spend in the kitchen is more efficient. I also love that the burner is easy to clean and has safety features like “empty pot detection,” so I don’t have to worry about starting a fire or burning myself.