REVIEW – Cooking with magnets. It almost conjures up an image of Wylie E. Coyote and a huge Acme magnet trying again to capture and fricassee that roadrunner. We’re going for something a little more civilized and will be looking at the Sunmaki 316 portable induction cooktop. No coyotes or roadrunners were injured in the writing of this review.
What is it?
The Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop is an induction cooking device that uses a copper coil that is mounted under the cooktop. Passing an electric current through the coil induces a magnetic current in the target pan sitting on the cooktop. That makes the pan get hot and cooks your food. It is more efficient than resistance-based electric cooktops or gas. The Sunmaki 316 induction cooktop is just such a device. It comes with 1800 Watts of cooking power and room for a single pan. Speaking of pans, you can’t just use any pan you want. Induction only works with iron or steel cookware.
What’s in the box?
- Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop
- A user manual
- Dimensions: 10.6″ x 13.7″ x 2.6″
- Weight: 5.15 lbs
- Power cord: 5′
- Power requirements: 120V, 15A
- Power levels: 9 – 200/400/600/800/1000/1200/1400/1600/1800 Watts
- Temperature levels: 10 – 140/176/212/248/284/320/356/392/428/464 F
- Timer: up to 3 hours
- Construction: plastic body and glass cooktop surface
- Pan sizes supported: 4.8″ – 8.6″
- Controls: touchpad
Design and features
Let me apologize for the product photos. The Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop is glass so it is really, really shiny. That meant that no matter how I aligned the cooktop and camera, I still picked up a reflection of something. In the photo below, you can see a ceiling vent and a can light. Sorry about that, but it is what it is. I hope the reflections aren’t too distracting.
The top of the Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop is all smooth glass. The location of the induction element is indicated by two concentric partial circle markings. The controls are all touch-style and appear across the bottom of the cooking area. From left to right, they are:
- Lock – disables the controls
- Boil – one-touch high heating mode
- Minus (-) – lowers the power/temperature/time
- Plus (+) – increases the power/temperature/time
- Mode selection – cycles through power/time/temperature
- Power on/off
Above the blank area between the buttons, you can see the mode indicators. One will be lit, indicating that the touch controls are acting on power, time, or temperature. That blank area between the buttons is actually a digital display that shows a variety of items.
When you first plug the Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop in, all of the display elements momentarily illuminate.
The display illuminates with a -L- indication. This means that the touch controls are unlocked and ready to use. Holding the lock button for three seconds locks the controls so they cannot be used. The display changes to L (without the dashes. The top shows a locked unit indicated by the L and the illuminated lock icon. Holding the lock button again unlocks the unit as shown at the bottom.
Here is the Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop, plugged in and ready to go, but still off.
Pressing the power button on the right turns the unit on.
Once on, you press the touch button (second from the right) to choose power selection mode or temperature selection mode. Once done, you can then choose timer mode and set up to three hours of cook time. When the timer ends, the cooktop will automatically shut off. The touch button lights up when active. After making your selection, touch mode automatically turns off to prevent accidental touches.
Timer mode (and power mode)
If you turn on the power without a proper pan in place, the display shows an E0 error and it will not do anything.
Flipping the Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop over, we see the cooling fan grate and the feet.
Note that the feet closest to the chef have a semi-slippery, rubbery insert. The legs farthest from the chef are hard plastic with hard nubs.
I’d rather see a more grippy set of feet to keep the unit from sliding around.
The Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop is ready to go right out of the box – just plug it in and get cooking.
We cook on gas. Our cookware, as it turns out, while fine for gas cooking, won’t work for induction cooking. Our cookware is mostly aluminum. Induction cooking requires iron or steel to be able to induce that magnetic field and heat the pan. Luckily, we do have a couple of cast iron fry pans as well as a small steel stockpot so I could test the cooktop.
I started out with the stockpot. I filled it with two cups of water out of the tap and put it on our gas cooktop. I fired up the biggest burner on high and started the stopwatch.
In just over four minutes, the water was boiling, but in an interesting way. Most of the bubbles were located around the edge of the pan while the center had almost no action. I let it go for another minute or so and the pattern remained. Gas heats where the flames hit so the pan heated unevenly. I also noted that the handles of the pot were quite warm. I needed hot pads to empty the pot. That’s because gas is inherently inefficient with a lot of the heat leaking up the sides of the pot. Still, it got the water boiling pretty quickly. It also heated the area around the stove and it was noticeably warm standing there.
After the pan cooled, I repeated the experiment using the Sunmaki cooktop. I was surprised to see a rolling boil after only 3.5 minutes. The most interesting part was that the water was boiling uniformly across the bottom of the pan. Induction cooking heats the pan directly and evenly, heating the entire bottom of the pan. That is an important thing when cooking delicate items like eggs. The other thing I noticed was that the handles weren’t warm at all. There is no lost heat like there is from a flame. That meant that there was no warming of the area around the cooktop. Nice! Finally, the cooktop itself wasn’t warm. Only the pan gets hot, the cooktop does not, other than from heat transferred from the pan to the glass. With a quick boil, the glass barely felt warm.
When the unit is on, an internal fan whirs away, keeping things cool. That fan stays on for a minute or two once you shut the unit off. Once it has done its job, the fan turns off automatically. It isn’t loud or annoying – just there.
I tried the cast iron frying pan at a variety of power settings and was amazed by how quickly it heated up. Cast iron is so heavy, using it on a regular electric or gas cooktop always seemed to take a lot of time before it got hot. Induction works directly on the pan, getting it hot right away.
To test cooking in cast iron, I pulled some steaks from the freezer that were vacuum sealed with the Anova Precision Pro vacuum sealer. I fired up the Febote sous vide cooker and got them cooked to 135F. Once I cut open the vacuum bag, the sous vide-cooked steaks had their usual bland appearance. It was time for that perfect sear! I put the cast iron pan on the Sunmaki induction cooktop and cranked it up to its full 1800 Watt setting. In less than a minute, the coating of oil I had placed in the pan started smoking. I tossed in the steaks.
In a couple of minutes, I had a nice sear on both sides of the perfectly cooked steaks.
With a salad and a nice baked potato, it made for a great meal.
Not having to wait for several minutes to heat up the pan like I would have had to do on the gas cooktop was a real pleasure.
One interesting note – when the pan was heating, I lifted it to swirl the oil to coat the pan. As soon as I did, the E0 error popped up and the Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop stopped. I assumed that I would have to power-cycle it to clear the error. Nope! As soon as I placed the pan on the cooktop, it resumed heating, right where it left off.
With all the adjustability built into this cooktop, a chef will have a lot of flexibility in food preparation.
What I like
- Super-fast heating of the pan and just the pan, no excess heat is produced
- The smooth top cleans easily
- The side range of power/temperatures makes this a versatile cooking solution
What I’d change
- Add better non-slip feet
The Sunmaki 316 1800W induction cooktop has me sold on induction cooking. Wow, it’s fast! Changing cooking temperatures happens immediately. If you have a timed cook, this can support a timed finish of up to three hours. Fast, flexible, and easy to use. What’s not to like?