Electric hot plates have long given home cooks extra burners to work with, not to mention the ability, say, to cook onions on the back deck instead of smelling up the whole house. But the design of hot plates has changed, Will Owen notes on Chowhound, in ways that some cooks love and others—not so much.
Old-style portable hot plates had rheostat controls that allowed you to vary the current that provides heat (similar to a volume knob). New hot plates operate more like a thermostat, automatically turning the power off and on as needed to maintain the temperature. Will Owen likes how the new models save power and are cheaper to operate, and he's had great results cooking kale and eggs at low temperatures. But Chowhound Steve Green finds that it's impossible to maintain a constant temperature for tasks like browning onions. "That cycling on-and-off drives me nuts," he says.
Another issue is the preciseness of the temperature gradations; rheostaticsfan recommends looking for a hot plate with finely grained temperature settings.
Photo of two-burner electric hot plate from Shutterstock