The first thing you will want to get when you start hot-potting at home is a reliable ‘hot pot.’ There are many types to choose from, and it really does not need to be very expensive.
Think about how you want to use your hot pot. If you will mostly be dining alone or with two persons, then buying a large hot pot is probably a waste of storage space, and an induction cooker with a smaller pot might be the best option for you.
There are multiple ways to prepare hotpot. Some prefer a portable butane burner and pot, an induction set, a traditional pot with sterno, or an electric hotpot set. Although it is an option, I wouldn’t recommend a portable butane gas stove with integrated gas canisters (also known as ‘lunchbox cookers’), for they can pose significant safety risks when overheating.
Personally, I recommend a hotpot that is:
- Easy to clean
- Has temperature control (this is essential)
- Multi-purpose (depending on how big or small your kitchen is, it could come in handy when your hotpot is a multi-purpose kitchen appliance so you can use it for other things, too).
For this, an electric hotpot set is the best way to go, and we’d recommend a hot pot like this.
We will list some more options for you here:
‘Traditional’ Hotpot with Gel Fuel
It is the pretty hotpot you’ll see in those classic hot pot photos: the traditional Beijing, Mongolian, or Thai-style hotpots.
If you are all about aesthetics, you could choose to have a traditional Beijing charcoal hotpot. Although it is beautiful, I had one, and found that it’s quite a lot of hassle and that it can take a long time before the hotpot finally starts boiling, and takes quite some effort to clean.
Although these fuel gels, usually available at your local Asian supermarket or online, are generally deemed safe for use, there are still many accidents with flammable liquids. Please mind that if you do opt for this type of hotpot, the potential burn hazards are much bigger than with the more modern types of cookers. The hotpot broth should already be very hot (pre-heated on stove) before putting it in these bigger pots, because the fire coming from the gel sterno is not so powerful to make a full pot boil, unless you are very patient, or unless you opt for a small (one person) pot.
In China, it is quite common to have one-person hot pots with gel fuel when you order in hot pot, and those are actually very effective because you don’t need so much broth for one person. They look like this and although these are great options, do realize that you’ll need a new canister of gel fuel every time you have hotpot (so if you’re planning on having hotpot often, this is not the cheapest option!).
So, although we don’t really recommend the pots with gel liquids, they can be very ‘authentic’-looking and pretty, which can be great for parties or for presenting broths that are already cooked.
Another option for preparing hot pot is using an induction burner, which is also easy to use, safe, and often quite powerful. They are usually more expensive than a multi-cooker; it could also be used as an extra cooking zone in the kitchen.
A popular option is the Duxtop 8100MC Cooktop Burner, which is priced at $54.99. You’d still need the right (induction compatible) pot to go with it. The Tayama Induction Cooker with cooking pot is priced at $46.99 and also gets good reviews.
A shabu shabu pot (one with a divider) that would work with this kind of induction cooker is this HCX 30 cm Dual Sided Hot Pot, priced at $29.00, but there are many other options to go with.
This is my favorite option: it is efficient, safe, and easier to clean than any other option. Also, simple electric multi-cookers are a perfect option because they are not expensive, regulate the heat, and as a bonus, they are a handy kitchen appliance that could also be used for preparing other dishes.
Common multi-cookers are not always sold as a hot pot per se, but they will do the job for an affordable price. The hotpot I like and use is of an unknown brand named ‘Tulip’, which is a common cooker priced at only $35 but is only available locally.
The Aroma Houseware ‘Super Pot’, is very comparable, and is only priced at approximately $32. Besides slow cooking and simmering, it could also be used for grilling or steaming.
The Tayama brand also has some electric hotpot cookers available, prices starting at $51.53.
There are also some more expensive options, such as the large multi-functional electric skillet by Zojirushi ($93.19, image below), which is perfect for doing hotpot with multiple people due to its bigger size. It is also super versatile so is a perfect kitchen appliance.
If you prefer to have a hot pot with a separator, in order to serve a non-spicy and spicy broth, for example, there are also many options. The Sonya Shabu Shabu Electric Mongolian Hot Pot is also quite affordable ($66.99) and gets good reviews on Amazon.
There are many expensive hotpot cookers out there, and it is up to you how much you are willing to spend. Personally, I don’t think you’ll need to spend more than $80 to get a reliable and efficient cooker for your usual hotpot.