It’s a question often asked of chefs and cooks everywhere – do you prefer a gas or electric cooktop?
There are a number of ways to approach the comparison and it all starts with the obvious difference – the power source. It’s hard to say whether gas or electricity actually cooks food differently or better, but there’s no doubt the cook of the house notices the difference.
These days homeowners can choose traditional gas models or electric induction ovens or even the best of both worlds – a dual fuel system. But for the sake of this guide we’ll focus on gas vs electric and the key differences between the two power sources.
What is the Essential Difference?
Gas stoves are plumbed to a gas line and the burners on the cooktop work by igniting combustible fuel that produces an open flame. There are two popular types of gas – natural gas or LPG (liquid petroleum gas). With natural gas you are connected to the mains grid while LPG requires refillable tanks. Natural gas is generally preferred as the better option for energy efficiency, safety and cost.
An electric oven is connected to a dedicated 220 volt outlet which can handle the level of power required for stoves. Electric stoves heat and cool slower than gas stoves, which makes them more difficult to control, but advances in technology have led to great improvements in electric models.
Which One Looks Better?
There is a real difference in looks due to advances in electric cooktop technology. Both types are available in a wide range of styles, but there’s no doubt electric models have changed the most over the years.
A gas cooktop will usually feature metal grates over ceramic burner plates, allowing pots and pans to rest over the open flame, a traditional design which hasn’t changed a lot. Modern electric cooktops are completely flat and the burners glow red when heated. The ceramic or glass stovetop looks sleek and stylish, much better than older models which featured raised, coiled heating elements.
Which is Easier to Maintain – Gas or Electric?
Both gas and electric models are fairly easy to maintain and all ovens – regardless of type – should be cleaned at least once a month.
However, gas cooktops are more difficult to clean. The grates and ceramic burner caps should be removed in order to give it a thorough clean. Modern electric cooktops are simple to clean being a smooth surface, but make sure all burners are turned off and have cooled down before doing so (if you’re cleaning it directly after use).
For more serious maintenance it would be best to contact a professional technician, with either gas ovens or electric models. This is particularly important for a gas cooktop – if a gas line is faulty it can lead to a gas leak or carbon monoxide leak, both of which are potentially fatal.
Which is the Cheapest Option?
Electric cooktops are generally cheaper to buy and install than gas-powered stoves, while gas is more energy efficient to run and will save money in the long term. The difference in power bills might be minimal, but that depends on how much cooking you do.
An induction stovetop is more expensive to buy but is the best option for energy efficiency, according to the Sustainability Victoria website, as it uses electromagnetic technology to heat pots and pans without wasting energy by heating the cooking surface. The heating occurs within the pot or pan due to electric impulses that pass through it, unlike traditional gas and electric stovetops which heat the cooking vessel from the outside. Be warned that some traditional cookware can’t be used with induction models.
Regardless of the speed and accuracy of a standard electric or electric induction cooktop, some cooks will still prefer a gas cooktop because of the visible control they have over the blue flame. That’s a personal preference that can’t be argued with.
Which One is the Safer Option?
There’s no question that an electric stovetop is the safest option. Gas cooktops are generally safe to use but all gas appliances require regular maintenance to test for the potential of gas leaks or carbon monoxide leaks.
Unlike electric cooktops, there is no automatic shut-off with a gas range, the gas will continue to flow even without a flame unless it’s manually turned off. There is also an open flame, which means clothing and other material can catch fire without due care. This makes gas models more dangerous for children as well.
Electric induction cooktops are the safest of all. Due to the use of electromagnetic impulses to heat cookware, there’s no flame or element that heats up. This means there’s no chance of accidental burns from touching the cooking surface.
In summary, both gas and electric cooktops have their advantages and there’s no doubt that many cooks will continue to choose gas, which is energy efficient and heats food quickly and evenly.
Electric cooktops are more affordable and there are more choices of design, they are easy to operate and heating is quick and reliable. Whatever your fuel preference, be sure to keep your cooktop well maintained for maximum efficiency and safety.