Kitchen Myths

Facts and fiction about food and cooking, by Peter Aitken

Gas cooktops are better than electric

It’s become almost an article of faith that gas cooktops are better than electric, and that any “serious” cook should aspire to owning one. This belief does not stand up to intelligent scrutiny, however. Gas cooktops are fine, of course, but when comparing them to electric you will see that there’s no overall objective superiority. Let’s take a look at some of the ways gas and electric can differ:

  • Response speed. When you turn the heat up or down gas responds immediately. This is important for certain cooking tasks. Electric is definitely much slower responding than gas. You can compensate to some extent by moving the pan off and on the element, but it’s not nearly as convenient as gas. Winner: gas.
  • Simmering. Many gas stoves, particularly high-end ones, have greatly improved simmering. For slow, even, worry-free simmering, however, electric is still the champ. Winner: electric.
  • Boiling speed. In comparison tests, gas stoves are almost always slower to boil a large pot of water than an electric stove with the same BTU rating. This is probably because a lot more heat escapes with gas (see below).¬†Winner: electric.
  • Use with a wok. Woks are designed for cooking over an open flame, and the fast response speed of a traditional thin steel wok will be compromised when used on an electric element. If you have an electric stove you can do a perfectly good stir fry by placing a flat-bottomed wok directly on the element, but a round bottomed wok over a gas burner is better. Winner: gas.
  • Escaping heat. It’s unavoidable – a gas burner produces a lot of hot air that has no choice but to flow up and around your pan and into the kitchen. This means that less heat gets into your food, the pan’s handles may get very hot, and the room heats up more. With electric and a pan that is not too small for the element, more heat goes into the food and less into the handles and the room. In addition, gas ovens vent more heat than electric ovens. Winner: electric.
  • Choice of pans. Electric stoves, particularly the flat top models, require the use of pans with reasonably flat bottoms. The bottom does not have to be perfectly flat – which is essentially impossible anyway – but if the pan is too far off flat the efficiency of heat transfer will be lowered. Plus, pans with a convex bottom (bowed out) can be unstable on a flat top stove, rocking or spinning while in use. In contrast you can use pretty much any pan on a gas stove regardless of how flat the bottom is. Winner: gas.
  • Cleaning. While the old-style coil electric burners are not all that easy to clean, they are still easier than gas because you do not have to worry about gunk getting into the burners. Needless to say, the new flattop electric ranges are a breeze to clean. Winner: electric.

The bottom line is that each type of stove has its strengths and weaknesses and it’s impossible to say that one is “better” than the other in any overall sense. Choose the type that best suits you.

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30 responses to “Gas cooktops are better than electric

  1. Ella April 22, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I think gas is simply better because you can regulate your heat more quickly when making a sauce or other recipe that requires a quick move from high to low heat or the reverse . Electric stove tops are slow to respond to changes even the new types though you can keep two burners on but that can be dangerous and annoying. I got the run down from The Cordon Bleu cooking School near me before purchasing a Wolf stove with gas top and electric ovens. Gas ovens also cook differently than do electric and baked goods will come out damper in a gas oven according to The Cordon Bleu. I have cooked with both and find a huge difference between electric and gas. Personally I much prefer to cook with gas and bake with electric.

    • kitchenmyths April 22, 2011 at 5:39 pm

      What you say is quite true, and many cooks prefer gas cooktops for just the reason you give. But, many cooks, myself included, have learned to compensate when using electric and don’t have any problems with the slower response. Gas ovens do cook damper because the flame creates water vapor, and it can be hard to brown things nicely in a gas oven – chicken skin, for example. This is why the combo of gas cooktop and electric oven is so popular.

  2. Dane July 22, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Why are electrics better for simmering?

    • kitchenmyths July 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm

      Some gas stoves have trouble keeping a very low flame because it tends to blow out with the slightest breeze. With others, the lowest flame is not low enough for really gentle simmering. One solution is to use a “flame tamer,” a flame-resistant pad that sits under the pot and helps diffuse the heat.

      • Edward Antrobus August 6, 2011 at 9:36 pm

        My gas parent’s stove was 20 years old when it was replaced a few years ago. The pilot lights wouldn’t stay lit and the oven wouldn’t hold a steady temperature anymore. But the flame on never blew out, although the flame would blow away from the pot if the AC was running (only 220 outlet to plug the big window unit into was in the kitchen. And since many of my mother’s signature dishes included a bechamel, we did a lot of simmering on that thing

      • Kevin April 15, 2012 at 9:47 am

        I have a really old gas stove in my apt, and while I love cooking with it, I do find that simmering is really tricky, especially because the stove is directly next to my back door, which is the main door I use getting in and out. The slightest breeze does like to blow out a low simmer on a gas stove – and my stove even has the pilot lights underneath the cooktop!

  3. kitchenmyths August 7, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Thanks for the post. As you note, some gas stoves, even old ones, simmer just fine. But, as a general rule, electrics are better.

  4. Martin Pascual November 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    My preference for Gas cook tops stems from being able to remove a pan from the heat quickly but simply turning it off. Going from Medium-high or High to no heat is nearly impossible on electric unless you have the space around it for moving the pan. That being said my wife thinks gas cook tops are dangerous and doesn’t want one anyway.

    • thymej November 4, 2011 at 7:35 pm

      Would induction electric stovetops make the gas being better at quick response a moot point? It allows instant control of cooking energy similar to gas burners.

      • kitchenmyths November 4, 2011 at 9:01 pm

        I believe you are right but I have no personal experience with induction.

      • Florent January 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm

        In my opinion, yes. I’ve worked with an induction stovetop before, and they are amazingly fast and powerful because they heat the cookingware directly from the inside out. From that perspective, it’s faster than gas at heating (because it’s an even more direct method of heating up the pan), and just as quick to respond to temperature adjustements (essentially instantaneous). With it, I get boiling water from a cold start in 30 to 60 seconds in a regular pan.

        Plus:
        – Even heating (like electric)
        – No mess (like electric)
        – Powerful (faster than gas)
        – Quick response (as fast as gas)
        – Safer with children, as they won’t do anything if there isn’t a metallic object on the stove
        – Probably one of the most efficient in terms of energy transfer

        Minuses:
        – Requires you to upgrade your equipment to induction-ready cookingware, which can be expensive
        – Might be harder to get a “hot point” than with a gas stove, although I believe it is possible
        – Heats only the bottom of the pan, so if somehow you want to heat the sides as well (like with a very high flame on a gas stove), you’re out of luck

    • Pascal1 April 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      “Going from Medium-high or High to no heat is nearly impossible on electric unless you have the space around it for moving the pan.” Its not a problem. I simply plan ahead when I’m cooking and turn down burners before-hand. If you’re used to it, you can use the last bit of waste heat to cook the last minute or to keep the food warm. If it calls for complete removal from heat its easy to just move it around the stove or you can turn it down early enough that its cool enough.

  5. Nancy Davis November 5, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Does anyone know if there is a way you can diffuse the heat when cooking on gas at a higher temperature? Food seems to get burned onto the sides of my stainless pans when I cook which means a good deal more scrubbing. I think this might have to do with the fact that gas cooktops just have one ring of heat, while the multiple rings of heat on an electric keep the heat more evenly distributed on the bottom of the pan. I’ve always cooked on an electric stove and have never found it a disadvantage but my husband wanted gas in our new home. I am not particularly enamored of it. It takes forever to boil a pot of water and far longer to clean the gas cooktop. I daydream about going back to my electric and find I cook more with the oven and microwave just to avoid the cleaning and scrubbing…..
    Jazzmom

    • melinda weiner March 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm

      Sorry so late… just saw this post. Use a burner cover from Nordic Wear or an old cast iron “Pig” flat cast iron that looks like a pig-about 8 inches across ]that allows you to simmer indefinitely Minna .

  6. Danielle November 14, 2011 at 1:39 am

    @Nancy Davis – I’ve never had that problem with gas, but I use cast iron a lot. Maybe its the design of your gas stove that’s giving you the trouble, or maybe you’re using too large of a burner for the pots you’re cooking in. Personally, electric frustrates me, because I can’t just look at the flame to see my temperature and the old electric stove I’m cooking on has inaccurate controls.

  7. Mr Lewis January 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    should heat escape from a gas cooker ?
    our one has alot of heat escaping at the top centre of the door and cooking times are almost trebled recently ?

  8. Mr Lewis January 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    My cooker is powered by gas, not electric

  9. kitchenmyths January 10, 2012 at 9:15 am

    I think you mean a gas oven, that’s what we call it here in the US. For baking bread, roasts, and the like? Maybe the gasket around the door needs to be replaced.

  10. Mark August 29, 2012 at 11:37 am

    I just replaced my glass electric cook-top with gas. I am the cook, and have begged my wife for years to get a gas cook-top. Now residing in the USA but I grew up with gas in the UK. . Especially loved the gas grill above the stove for toast, when I was a kid. The 2 things I love about the stove so far, the instant heat control and lack of pilot light. I have a wok, and when the flame is on high, it ‘wraps’ itself around the bottom of the wok. Thereby creating an all around heat where the ingredients are sitting, rather than just at the base. My new cook-top came with an electric plug, which I thought was odd. Soon found out that this was for the ignition. Also, the gas cook-top has a bridge burner. oblong in shape. Allowing me to select 1-3 flame areas. When you have all 3 flames, you can set a cast iron oblong griddle on top for pancakes, eggs or bacon. I tested 32 oz of cold water heat to boil with an electric kettle and a gas top. Electric won. I was thinking of replacing my electric double oven with gas, but overall electric ovens rule when it comes to even heating. Especially with Souffles etc. Although it does take forever to preheat 425f.

  11. art November 8, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    I cook with cast iron, gas works much better with cast iron than electric.

  12. Anne Moore April 17, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    Ok. So basically I’m studying induction cooktops. Apparently, the saucepan has to be made of a metal that has “high internal resistance”. . What does this mean?. . How does this relate to induction cooktops?.

  13. Christina June 21, 2013 at 11:13 pm

    I was raised with gas. LOL–the old pilot light days. When i bought my house, it had electric. I really hated it. 20 years in this house and finally am installing a new gas range. My problems with electric were the elements staying too hot for far too long which made me always have to remove my pots. Not always sure which burner was on since I could not see the burner on until it was red hot. A few times over the years happened and started small fires twice. And having to replace the elements when they would start to burn out or get ruined with spills over the years. My baking is simple and I have used a convection oven for years. My new set has gas convection with a fan. “True Convection” they call it. Most of my cooking is stove top so gas is going to be a welcome change. I am not a fancy cook; just basic good food to keep me and hubby going.

  14. Nancy June 22, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Solved my gas stove issues….. got an induction cooktop and really love it. No more awkward and endless cleaning rituals and no more laborious pot scrubbing. Can’t believe how fast it boils water, how evenly it heats the pots and how easy it is to clean. The only catch is that burners heat more quickly and seem to run hotter than either the electric or gas I’ve used in the past. That means you have to check earlier and more often to be sure you don’t burn things or have a boil over until you get used to how it functions. Like all flat tops, it does scratch so you can’t slide pans across the surface. Many of our old pots and pans work on it but we did have to buy some new ones. They don’t have to cost hundreds of dollars as I was led to believe originally; two came from IKEA at a very reasonable price and our big soup pot was from TJMaxx. Bring a magnet when you shop.

  15. Tim October 20, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    James Beard only cooked on electric

  16. Dessyanaiwan March 5, 2014 at 6:22 am

    There are many pinions above and i also agree with them that they are right . Now days the kitchen are modern and the appliances used there are amazing in working . Electronic cook – top have so many features than gas cook top like temperature maintain , safe for kids , no smoke , quick and reliable .

  17. Doyle Gilroy March 25, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    The “fast” response time with gas is largely a myth too unless you are a professional cooking with typical thin pans/woks and watching things like a hawk. You can turn down your gas (or easily remove the pan from an electric element) but any thick bottom “premium” cookware or cast iron will take a lot longer to cool. Same with heating up, indeed as mentioned electric can typically couple more heat and respond quicker, particularly with anything but a thin pan.

  18. Sybil March 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Thank you for this…much as I suspected. Have been researching as we are about to buy a new stove and considered switching to gas . We already have gas at our beach house and while I like it, I haven’t found the common myths to be true…definitely takes me longer to get a pot of water to boil for pasta or heat up the tea kettle. So tired of hearing people say “serious cooks need a gas stove” as I AM a serious cook, REAL food foodie (cook every day, multiple times, from scratch)… and am not finding gas better. Cracks me up to hear someone say they “cannot” cook well on electric…seems like a reflection of skill.

  19. Venkat April 5, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    I found a big difference between gas and electric – one that matters. I cook rice on electric, up high, when water boils, add rice, turn down heat to about 2, cover and leave for 20 min, perfect rice. Tried this when visiting in a home with Gas stove – burned the rice twice already, turning down to the minimum level on gas after adding rice and cooking 20 min. I like electric!

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