The ability to cook a hot meal during an emergency can improve your well being, and allow you to eat more foods that you love. However, most preppers say that you need to have a wood burning stove or propane gas to cook a hot meal in times of disaster or grid down living. I disagree.
An inexpensive portable electric burner can easily cook hot food and boil water in emergencies. Choose one of these best low wattage electric burners and use with a portable power source. This setup is ideal for apartment dwellers, people that live in the city, and anyone that doesn’t have the strength or desire to create a fire in a fire pit, or invest in a propane stove and replacement cylinders.
When paired with an appropriate power source, these are also great to use indoors during inclement weather, such as rain, snow or bitter cold.
Using an Electric Burner for Off-Grid Living
You might think that if the power is out, you wouldn’t be able to use an electric burner. And you are correct in some ways. However, if you have a portable power source available, you will be able to use one of these inexpensive small burners to cook food and boil water, rather than powering your entire stove.
What kind of portable power sources would work to run these single burners? Here are some options.
Portable Power Station (such as a Jackery)
A Jackery is our favorite method of having power for grid down prepping and cooking. The rechargeable, battery-powered portable power bank can be charged up with a wall outlet before there is any emergency. We have found that the battery keeps its charge for quite a long time. We have let it sit charged up for several months and only lose about 1-3% of battery life.
The Jackery can also be recharged using optional folding solar panels that you can place on your porch or even in a sunny room in your house. In this way, the power pack has an unlimited supply of power using the sun. It is perfect for grid down prepping. Generators will only work as long as you have gas to power them.
Also, a Jackery can be used indoors, because there is no combustion. It is very quiet to use (almost no noise). Not only does it make it a pleasant experience to use, but it doesn’t alert other people to the fact that you have power, which can be a safety concern.
The smaller models are also much easier to carry and move since they do not weigh a lot. Which is very important for anyone who is older or has physical challenges.
There are many different sizes of a Jackery. The wattage of these burners was very important for us to consider because we wanted to use it with our 1,000 watt Jackery and still have plenty of power left over to cook more meals or power lights. There are larger sizes that would have more power supply.
A generator, either a whole home generator or a portable generator, needs to run on gas to power appliances in your home. If you have a whole home generator, your oven might not be connected to the backup power. If the oven is, then you might not want to use that much energy to deplete your fuel supply.
A portable generator is heavy, loud and cannot be safely used indoors. It also runs on gas and you will need to have a fuel supply to keep it going.
The low wattage burners can be used with a generator. For a whole home generator, their electric use will be minimal so they will not have much of a draw on your power. For portable generators outside, you could plug in one of these burners to cook food while the generator works to power other appliances in your home.
Outlet in your vehicle
If you have a car, truck, van or RV that has a standard electrical outlet, you could use these burners off of the battery.
How We Tested the Single Burners
We bought three single burners that were under 1,000 watts. One electric burner actually says 1100 watts, but we figured if we didn’t use it on the highest setting it would be under 1,000 watts. There are not a lot of portable burners that have a low wattage.
We bought each of these burners and used them while plugged into our 1,000 watt Jackery. Each burner was used on the Medium setting. I monitored the battery level to see how much battery was consumed, as well as the wattage consumed. I used a stop watch to determine how long it took 2 cups of water to come to a boil in a 1 1/2 quart pot. The same pot was used for each test and allowed to cool completely in between testing.
Best Low Wattage Electric Burners
These are the three brands that we tested. Each was a single burner with an electric cord, which means they can easily be used at home. We tried two coiled burners, and one flat top burner.
The IMUSA was the cheapest single burner that we tested, yet it performed among the best.
We strongly considered keeping this one, but were a little concerned about storing the burner safely and not damaging the coil.
- Average Wattage Used: 850 watts
- Amount of Battery Used: 11%
- Time to Boil 2 Cups of Water: 6 minutes and 30 seconds
- What We Paid: $12
Elite Gourmet Single Countertop Electric Burner
The cost of this Elite Gourmet Single Burner was more than the IMUSA, however we didn’t find any benefits for the increased price.
The cord was a couple inches shorter than the other coiled burner we tested. There was no indicator light, which the other two burners had. The box stated that it was a 750 watt burner, but we used 800 watts on Medium setting.
Handles on the sides are useful if you need to move the burner, although we definitely wouldn’t suggest doing that while the countertop burner is on. What we found was that the handles sticking out would have been awkward for storing.
- Average Wattage Used: 800 watts
- Amount of Battery Used: 10%
- Time to Boil 2 Cups of Water: 5 minutes and 45 seconds
- What We Paid: $17 (I have seen the price go up, though)
Elite Gourmet Coiled Countertop
This is the portable electric burner that we liked the most and ended up keeping for off-grid living.
At the highest price point, I wasn’t sure that we really needed a flat cook top surface. However, after comparing putting pots on each type of burner, we really enjoyed the stability and safety of the flat top. We also liked that it was flat and could be easily packed away with other items on top of it, if necessary.
This portable burner was among the heaviest. The cooktop also stays warm the longest.
- Average Wattage Used: 790 watts
- Amount of Battery Used: 11%
- Time to Boil 2 Cups of Water: 8 minutes
- What We Paid: $21 (although I’ve since seen it for less and for more)
You might also like to see our video comparison on our Youtube Channel (this was posted on our camping channel, but the information works for use at home, too):
If you are looking for low wattage electric burners that can be used on the countertop or for emergency prepping, there are quite a few options. The cheapest burner that we tested was one of our favorites. While we ended up keeping the most expensive countertop burner, it was based on the safety of the flat top surface, as well as the lower wattage use.