This product review is for the DUXTOP 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner 9100MC.
Secura, Inc. is a household appliance manufacturer based in Blaine, Washington state near the Canadian border. In additional to induction cooktops, Secura sells steamers, ovens, water boilers, and other such household goods.
One of Secura’s popular brands is Duxtop. They make both induction cookers as well as induction-compatible cookware, but you don’t need to use Duxtop cookware to enjoy Duxtop induction cookers. (If you’re looking for good cladded, induction-compatible cookware, see this comprehensive article I wrote.)
The Duxtop 9100MC has a 11 x 11 inch flat cooking square; the front panel adds another 3 inches to the front, so the entire unit is 11 inches wide and 14 inches deep including the front control panel. The unit is about 2.7 inches high.
The Duxtop 9100MC features a six-foot long power cord, 1800 watts maximum power, what appears to be a six- or seven-inch diameter induction coil similar to its predecessors (so the diameter of the circle of maximum heat is ~3.5 inches), auto shut-off if it overheats or does not detect a compatible pan, a built-in timer up to 170 minutes (this model lets you add time in 1-minute increments, and if you push and hold down the button, it increments faster; some cheap induction cookers only allow you to increment the time in much coarser blocks like 5+ minute chunks), and the ability to set power level manually in 15 increments, or via temperature sensor embedded in the device, also in 15 increments.
Wait, what? Does it really have FIFTEEN power levels as opposed to the ten, six, or even FIVE power levels that you get with other, similarly-priced induction cooktops?
Yup. The 9100MC’s headline feature is the 15 power levels. (You can download the 9100MC instruction manual here.) That’s power levels, not “temperature targets,” which are worthless if the underlying machine is not able to adjust power levels in small-enough increments. (In other words, avoid induction cookers like Nuwave PICs that boast tons of temperature targets but have fewer than 10 power levels in manual control mode.)
The 9100MC’s first 12 power settings are in 100-watt increments, from 200 watts to 1300 watts. The last three settings are 1500 watts, 1600 watts, and 1800 watts.1
The way Duxtop implemented the 15 steps of power is good: you get more control at lower wattage and less control at higher wattage–exactly what a chef needs. When you need lower power, like for simmering stock or making delicate sauces, you want as much control as possible. In contrast, once you are over 1,300 watts you are into super-hot zone where fine-grained control doesn’t matter as much; you would likely only use those high settings for boiling water.
Another rare feature of the 9100MC is how it does not pulse quite as much as most cheap induction cookers, though the unit still cheats a bit like all cheap induction cookers. They all pulse on for a moment and then turn off for a moment. That might average out to the claimed wattage in the manual, but that’s sort of like claiming that a zebra is gray. A zebra has alternating black and white stripes and is not gray.
The Duxtop 9100MC’s pulsing profile is roughly as follows:
Power Level 1.0 = 6/7 seconds on/off, listed as 200W average which implies the 6-second jolt averages 433W
Power Level 1.5 = 8/6, implies the 8-second jolt averages 525W
Power Level 2.0 = 9/4, implies the 9-second jolt averages 577W
Power Level 2.5 = 11/3, implies the 11-second jolt averages 636W
Power Level 3.0 = 12/2, implies the 12-second jolt averages 700W
Power Level 3.5+ = 100% on, implies a continuous 700W
Many cheap induction cookers are worse. For instance, my old Tatung induction cooker had 6 power levels, but the lowest settings were very crude interpolation settings. Even at minimum power level on the Tatung, you would get alternating intervals of 1500-watt induction activity and then zero induction activity, each interval lasting several seconds. Those high-wattage pulses can burn food in contact with the bottom of the pot. You can’t “un-burn” food once it’s burned, no matter how many seconds of zero wattage you give it.
What this means is that the Duxtop 9100MC is somewhat capable of a low simmer, like when making stock, without the usual ON-OMIGOSH-FULL-BLAST-1800-WATT-HOT-HOT-HOTNESS mixed with NO-WATTS-FOR-YOU-COME-BACK-ONE-YEAR that you get from most consumer induction cookers.2
The front panel of the 9100MC is angled, unlike cheap portable induction units that look like flat tablets and as a result can have hot pan edges overheat the electronic control panel. (The only other sub-$100 induction cooker on the market with 15 power levels is the Duxtop 9300ST, which is basically a flat version of the 9100MC that looks like a tablet and costs the same. It’s not worth getting the tablet-shaped 9300ST because it won’t last as long as the 9100MC. Tablet-like induction cookers have less room for heat dissipation inside, and larger-diameter pans will “cook” the electronics at the front of the tablet.) The power/temperature/timer are displayed via a red-colored LCD panel.
As for the temperature sensor, yes there is a temperature sensor underneath the ceramic, but no, I would not trust it. That’s because the temperature probe is underneath the ceramic, so there is a lag time between when the pan bottom reaches X temperature and when the ceramic senses it. For longer cooking tasks like simmering for a long time, the temperature of the thermometer and the pan bottom will be closer, though the thermometer will still slightly underestimate the temperature of the pan’s cooking surface by ~15 degrees Fahrenheit. So use a lower temperature target to compensate.
If you really want to know how temperature targeting works, it goes like so:
Let’s say you are making a thick stew. You set the induction cooker to, say, 200F. The unit looks at your room-temperature stew (70F) and decides that the 130F difference means that it needs to hurry up and close the gap. So the unit blasts maximum heat into the pot until its temperature sensor reads 200F, then inputs just enough power to stay at 200F indefinitely. (Higher-end units have a smoother transition between full power and minimal power.)
The problem is this that induction is different from electric coil/radiant smoothtops/gas because the hottest part of the system is not the stovetop, but rather the pot’s bottom. So if you blast max power into the pot bottom, that quickly heats up the pot, but the temperature sensor underneath the ceramic won’t notice for a long time because ceramic takes a long time to heat up. Your oblivious temperature sensor might think the stew is only at 150F when in fact it’s already 500F and scorching.
The workaround is to avoid using temperature-target until the ceramic warms up a bit. In the stew example above, you might use low or medium power for a several minutes while stirring, before setting a temperature target of 200F or whatever. Give that temperature sensor beneath the ceramic time to catch up to the real temperature of the pot. This is where cooktops that do not pulse on-and-off too much excel: you don’t have to rely on flawed temperature targets and have less chance of scorching your food during the “on” parts of the pulsing.
This DUXTOP 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner 9100MC has a somewhat loud fan, which is typical among cheap induction cookers. Also, the cooker emits a high-pitched squeal at maximum power (so avoid cranking it up to max if you have sensitive hearing). In the words of Ann: “It sounds like two pieces of metal rubbing against each other.” This happens regardless of whether a pan is full or not, or if you put paper towels between the cooker and the pan or not (which is how I’ve reduced that problem before with particularly noisy cookware). I had three of these induction cookers, and they all emit this sound. On the plus side, this squealing isn’t worse than other cheap induction cookers, and maybe I just have extra-sensitive hearing because very few Amazon reviewers mentioned the sound. And Ann didn’t notice the sound until I asked her to put her ear right next to the cooker.
The cooker uses a 2-prong plug; the manufacturer can get away with an ungrounded plug because the cooker is encased in plastic, which doesn’t conduct electricity, so even if the internal wiring somehow falls apart, you should be safe anyway.
Lastly, near the power button is a red LED that pulses if the cooker is plugged in, even when it’s turned off, although it appears that Duxtop fixed this in later-manufacturered models (2016). If you got an older model of the 9100MC, that pulsing can be annoying, but it’s a minor nuisance in the grand scheme of things.
Whoever wrote the Amazon product description is wrong. It reads:
Compatible with Duxtop and other induction ready cookware such as cast aluminum enameled iron and steel, stainless steel with a magnetic bottom, or cast iron.
That’s ambiguous because it looks like there should be a comma after “cast aluminum.” And if cast aluminum works, so should other aluminum, right? Wrong. (I personally tested this myself.)
In reality, induction cookers are only compatible with cookware bottoms where a magnet strongly sticks (as in, you could probably hang an apple off the magnet and it still would not come off). It is not compatible with aluminum cookware unless that aluminum is capped off on the bottom by a thin layer of magnetic stainless steel. If you want to use all-aluminum/copper cookware, or non-magnetic stainless steel, then you have to use an interface disk such as the VonShef Induction Hob Heat Diffuser Stainless Steel with Heat Proof Handle (9.25″). And I would advise against using such a converter disc because it turns your responsive induction burner into an unresponsive hot plate, and the disc will reach far higher temperatures than the pan due to the thermal inefficiency of transferring heat across microscopic air gaps between the converter disc and the bottom of your pan (neither of which are perfectly flat). This means a) more waste heat goes into your kitchen, b) slower cooking times, and c) possible damage to your induction cooker because the disc reaches far higher temperatures than naturally induction-compatible cookware would reach.
And by the way you can use any induction-compatible cookware with the 9100MC or any other induction burner. You do not have to buy any particular brand. If you aren’t sure if your existing cookware will work, take a kitchen magnet and see if it sticks strongly to any pots or pans. If so, then those pots and pans are induction-compatible. If none of your cookware is strongly magnetic on the bottom, then I’d recommend something like Cuisinart MCP.
If you don’t mind a somewhat noisy fan and don’t plan to use pans larger than 8 inches bottom diameter (or ~6 inches if you are using particularly poor heat conductors like cast iron)3, then the DUXTOP 1800-Watt Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner 9100MC is the highest bang for the buck you can find among portable induction cookers today. It checks all the marketing boxes, from timer to 1800-watt maximum power, and it features 15 increments of power that lets you better fine-tune the power level you want. I suspect the fan isn’t top-notch, nor is the coil particularly large, but that’s typical among sub-$250 induction cookers. You’d be be fine for home use with decent pans.
The next step up is the Duxtop 9600LS which was released in late 2016. It’s somewhat more expensive than the Duxtop 9100MC, but it also has somewhat better lower-wattage control and a whopping 10-hour timer so you could use it as a de facto slow cooker. The 9100MC’s timer only goes up to 170 minutes. The 9600LS also sports a touch interface and has better locking features in case you are worried about pets or kids disturbing the cooker (perhaps during a 10-hour slow cook).
The next step up from that is the $250 Vollrath Mirage Cadet, which gives you 20 power levels and a slightly more rugged build quality. I own both and can tell you flat out that the Cadet is not worth the extra cost over the Duxtop 9600LS. To do appreciably better than the Vollrath Mirage Cadet, you would have to step up to the $500 Vollrath 59500P Mirage Pro Countertop Induction Range, 14-Inch (I review it here) which boasts 100 power levels and a slightly larger coil.
- Due to various inefficiencies and variations in cookware and electrical wire and the cooktop itself, we’ll take these as estimates more than exact measurements. Indeed, my All-Clad Stainless did not actually reach 1800 watts on the highest setting, with or without a paper towel underneath the pan, nor did any other pieces of cookware. Since all portable induction cookers are inexact, we won’t hold this against Duxtop. ↩
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNwbjcuQUv8 ↩
- The thicker your aluminum or copper heat-conductive layer, the wider diameter of pan you can get away with. And the lower the cooking temperature, the larger the diameter of the pan you can get away with. For instance, I’d stick with frying pans of 8 inches or smaller diameter (measured at the bottom surface–NOT the top rim) for All-Clad Stainless and similar clad pans. If you have cookware with 1/4-inch thick aluminum bottom disc, or if you’re just simmering/boiling, you could go up to about ~9.5 inches bottom diameter. ↩