If you want to get serious about cooking, you need to start where the action is: Your cooktop. There are three types of ranges you can choose from: Electric, Gas, and Induction. Each has their own benefits, as well as downsides, and choosing which is right for you depends on several factors. Sometimes, you don’t have a choice what you use; if you’re in a rental kitchen and it comes with electric, you’re probably stuck. If, however, you are in the market for a new range, you may want to consider all your options carefully before just buying the first thing you come across.
Electric stovetops are common because they are easy to use, and they’re pretty safe. They’re also inexpensive for the most part. While the most inexpensive type of electric stove is one with coil burners, in recent years, flat surfaces have become popular because they are more attractive and easy to clean. In general, serious chefs avoid electric stovetops, and you will almost never see one in a professional kitchen.
- They’re inexpensive and easy to find. Walk into an appliance store and you’ll find plenty of choices when it comes to electric ranges, with the cheapest being only a couple hundred dollars. You can get whatever color you’re looking for with a lot of options for features and number of burners.
- They don’t require any special modifications to use them. You don’t have to run a gas line, which if you don’t already have one can add a hefty cost in addition to the stove. You simply plug it in and you’re ready to cook, which is why many rentals have them.
- They’re easy to clean. An electric stovetop, especially one with a flat glass surface is as easy as wiping it down once it’s cool to the touch. There aren’t a lot of nooks and crannies in which you can spill stuff. Even the coil burners aren’t that difficult to clean, although it’s very important that the burners are completely dry before you put them back on the stove.
- You can’t control the heat. This is perhaps the biggest downside to an electric stove. The burners heat up fairly quickly, but if you need to adjust the heat quickly to avoid your pot boiling over, it may be too late by the time you turn the knob down. They can also take some time to cool, which can be problematic if you have small children that may accidentally touch the stovetop.
- You may not be able to use all of your cookware on certain models. Glass cooktops are the nicest looking, and much easier to clean, but they can crack if you use the wrong type of cookware on them. Cast iron, or anything really heavy, can very easily damage your stovetop, and in some cases void your warranty.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for something inexpensive and easy to care for, an electric stove may be right for you. You don’t have to do any modifications or installations; once you purchase it, you can plug it in and start cooking. Flat top electric stoves are easy to clean and most attractive, although they are on the higher end of the price range for electric stoves. If you’re serious about cooking, an electric stove may not be for you as it’s very difficult to control the heat.
Gas is generally the choice for professionals due to it’s ease of heat control. This is what you’ll find most serious cooks use if they have the option, but it has a few drawbacks you should consider before jumping in headfirst.
- You can adjust the heat quickly and efficiently. Turn the burner down, and the flame goes down instantly. This means if you see a pot starting to boil over, you can easily prevent it if you get to the knob in time. With electric, by the time you catch it, it’s too late. You can also easily avoid burning food.
- You can use the flame for other types of cooking. You can roast peppers, make s’mores by roasting marshmallows, or make flame broiled flat breads that have a charred flavor. With a gas stove, you can also make a flambé if you know how.
- Gas stoves are generally much more energy efficient, and you’ll spend less per month on your electric bill. You can also use them if the power goes out.
- You have to run a gas line if you don’t have one. If you’re making the switch from electric, chances are you probably don’t. This can add several hundred dollars onto the price of your stove, so make sure you put this in your budget.
- The unit itself is generally going to be more expensive, although you can buy cheaper models. Probably not quite as cheap as the most inexpensive electric stove, however.
- You’re much more likely to start a fire if you’re not careful.
Bottom line: Gas is the clear choice when it comes to serious cooking, mostly due to the temperature control. It is more expensive upfront if you don’t have a gas line, but you’ll likely save money each month on your electric bill.
Induction cooktops are relatively new on the market, but they have some serious benefits that pros and passionate cooks love. They heat up super fast, and their claim to fame is that you can boil water in a minute or so. They’re on the pricey side, and when you go looking for cooktops, you’re not going to find a lot of options like you will gas or electric.
- Induction cooktops heat up fast. You can put a pot of water on the burner, turn it on, and it will boil in a minute or so, depending on how much water you have. When you compare this to the 10-15 minutes it may take you for gas or electric, this can be a real time saver. This also means heat control is super sensitive, even more so than gas.
- They’re extremely safe. Induction heats up magnetically, so only the part of the pot that is on the burner will heat up. Dish towels, pot holders, or a child’s hand will not get hot on an induction burner, even if you turn it on high heat. When you remove a pot or pan from the burner, it will cool down almost instantly as well.
- They’re easy to clean. Like flattop electrics, you can simply wipe the entire surface of the cooktop, and you don’t have to wait for it to cool down.
- They’re expensive. Even on the low end of induction cooktops, you’ll pay as much as a higher end gas or electric model.
- They’re hard to find. If you walk into an appliance store, you’ll be lucky to find one or two induction cooktops. This is because it’s fairly new, inexpensive, and not that popular among the average home cook. This means your options as far as color or features are extremely limited.
- They aren’t compatible with all types of cookware. Only cookware that is made of magnetic material will work on an induction cooktop. This limits you to stainless steel or cast iron. This means if you have an expensive set of copper cookware, you’ll need to invest in a new set of cookware before you can even use the stovetop. This is a serious consideration before investing in induction.
Bottom line: Induction is useful and powerful, but hard to find and expensive. Professionals love it, but for the average home cook, it’s not quite practical.
If you do a lot of cooking, your stovetop is an important appliance that you should consider with care. Electric is a safe and inexpensive option, but for serious cooks, gas or induction may be the way to go. In addition to choosing the right stovetop, make sure you are using the right pots and pans.