Do you want to know what’s the difference between cooking with gas and cooking with electricity?
You have mainly two different sources of power when it comes to cooktops: gas and electricity.
Gas cooktops are straightforward. Combustible gas is ignited and the flame heats up the cookware.
Electrical cooktops, on the other hand, can be subdivided into three main categories: Direct heat cooktops, radiation heat cooktops and induction cooktops.
In this article I will discuss:
Direct heat cooktops
These cooktops use direct contact between the heating element and cookware for heating up the base of your cookware.
They are usually either the traditional old coil elements or solid plate elements.
Radiation heat cooktops
These cooktops uses a heating element, usually a coil.
It sits underneath a ceramic glass cooking surface and the element transfers heat to the glass surface via radiation.
The glass surface, in turn, heats up the cookware due to direct contact.
Induction cooktops uses an electromagnetic field generated by conductive coils under the cooking surface.
These magnetic fields induce currents in the base of your cookware, which in turn, generates heat.
Be sure to read my in depth article on induction cooking.
All three have its pros and cons and different scenarios where it would have a better fit.
It is worth mentioning that the main advantage of the traditional direct heat cooktops was its price.
It was much cheaper to buy one of them ten years ago instead of an induction or gas cooktop.
Fast forward to today and the price gap has shrunk.
That is due to technological advances and optimization of manufacturing processes of gas and induction cooktops.
Although traditional coil and solid plate cooktops still have a place in modern society, it surely is getting less and less common with new affordable, energy efficient and feature packed gas and induction cooktops hitting the shelves every year.
Although being half a century old, induction cooktops have only more recently become more popular, with major reputable companies like Bosch, Frigidaire, Empava and Samsung all having their range of induction cooking appliances.
Induction cooktops are also still more expensive than gas cooktops, so for now we will focus on the difference in cooking with the cheaper cooktops: gas cooktops, and electrical radiation and direct heat cooktops.
So, without any further delays, let dig into the differences and why it matters!
One of the main goals of any cook is to have more precise control over your cooking temperatures.
With having more control comes more precise cooking and consistency, meaning you can firstly get that refined dish successfully cooked and secondly be able to repeat it in the future.
Precise temperature control is even more important in low-heat cooking scenarios like melting and simmering.
A constant temperature in your pot is much better than fluctuating temperatures because it almost completely eliminates the guessing.
Electric coil element and solid plate cooktops
The element in a coil or solid plate cooktop has in theory only two settings, on and off. You can’t adjust the temperature itself. What you adjust is the thermostat.
A thermostat is just an electrical switch triggered by temperature changes. It works almost the same as a hot water heater. You do not set a certain temperature, but a temperature range with an upper and lower limit.
When you switch on the heating device, whether a cooktop of hot water heater, the element switches on and heats up until the upper temperature limit is reached.
The thermostat cuts the power to the element and the temperature starts to decrease until it reaches the lower limit temperature where the thermostat switches the element back on again.
This process is repeated for the duration of the event.
So, by constantly switching the heating element on and off, a certain temperature range is maintained.
Gas works differently.
With gas you can adjust the flame size, which translates directly into temperature.
If you increase the flame size, you increase the temperature and vice versa.
And that temperature is for all intents and purposes constant.
As an added advantage, especially with non-sealed burners, you can physically see the flame grow and shrink when adjusting the temperature, so it serves as a rough visual indicator of the power level.
Reaching the desired temperature quicker
Your cookware can reach the desired temperature quicker because you have more responsive temperature controls with gas cooktops.
When you switch on a coil element cooktop, it takes a little while to reach the desired temperature.
The required temperature is reached almost instantly with gas.
This has secondary effects on for example energy efficiency and cooking times.
In the case of energy efficiency, because the desired cooking temperature is reached faster with gas cooktops, spent energy is being utilized quicker.
There is no temperature build-up phase where heat can be lost to the environment.
You will be able to finish sooner because you can start cooking sooner, which means shorter cooking times.
Shorter cooking times equals less energy used.
Over time and over the lifetime of the cooktop, the energy saved by using a gas cooktop adds up.
It is therefore necessary to realize that when cooking with gas you do not only save time in the short term, but money in the long term as well.
When it comes to cooking styles, many professional chefs prefer gas cooktops, even over induction cooktops, because you have the option to sear over an open flame.
There are instances where cooks prefer the added smokiness associated with cooking over an open fire.
In my opinion this is not a deal breaker since cooking over the open flame of a gas cooktop is not ideal and you run the risk of having sauces and pieces of food falling directly onto the burner and into the burner holes.
That would create a burnt mess that would be hard to clean, especially if you are using non-sealed burners.
With older coil element and solid plate element cooktops becoming more outdated by the day, one would assume the value of the kitchen, and thus also the value of the home, would be positively impacted when opting for a gas cooktop.
Earlier in the article we mentioned that we are comparing gas cooktops with older style element cooktops.
It would be short-sighted, though, to say that only gas cooktops would increase the value of the kitchen given that electrical induction cooktops are making headway in huge leaps.
Compared to older style coil and solid plate cooktops, it is definitely better to go for gas when considering the value of the kitchen.
However, when compared to induction cooktops, which are also more expensive, the arguments change altogether.
Cooking without electricity
Finally, the ability to cook without electricity. That is one of the often-mentioned advantages of gas cooktops.
Even if you have an electrical ignition gas cooktop, you can still ignite it using a match.
The question is, though, how many times would this happen?
I can count on one hand the times I needed to cook during a power outage.
Did I experience only 5 or so power outages during the evening all my life?
All I’m saying is that most of the time there is something around the house to eat that does not need electricity to be prepared.
No-one wants to struggle to cook in a dark kitchen with flashlights and lanterns.
And you certainly would not want to use a candle as a light source near the gas cooktop!
So, the reality is usually that when a power outage occurs and you don’t have something to eat around the house, the opportunity arises to go and get some old-fashioned takeaways.
What is more romantic than to have takeaways by candlelight and minimal dirty dishes!
I therefore feel that although it could be seen as an advantage, it’s not a deal breaker.
The biggest safety feature of any cooktop is probably the ability to prevent accidentally being switched on.
Gas cooktops has knob covers you can buy that covers the knobs and prevents accidentally being switched on.
In terms of electric cooktops, even old-style electrical cooktops usually have a power switch in the wall close to the cooktop which could just be switched off.
No fancy knob covers needed.
In terms of burning yourself on either the heat element or the gas burner, I’m not aware of any features that would prevent injury.
If you are to touch the cooktop element or burner, you will get burned.
So, no definite difference there.
Gas cooktops have a feature where the flame is being detected and if it should go out, the gas would be shut off or the cooktop would attempt to reignite the flame automatically.
Electrical cooktops don’t need that feature so no difference there either.
It’s my opinion that if you break down the safety features of both gas and traditional electric cooktops, there is no clear winner.
Given the above, I feel that gas cooktops , although more expensive, definitely have the upper hand in terms of pros and cons when compared to the electrical coil element and solid plate cooktops with the main factors being much better responsive cooking, better efficiency, more convenience and increased value, both in the short and long run.
It should be noted that there are more and more information about the negative health effects of cooking with gas in terms of air pollutants. Read this article to get my take on the matter!