Stuck w/an electric stove (glass top) - how do I get lower temps?
I am stuck with an electric stove vs. gas due to restrictions in my subdivision. We have the stovetop that was in the house when we bought it - it is one of the solid surface glass-top models with four "burners". The two front burners are the size of a medium pot. One back burner has an inner ring and an outer ring, so you can turn the heat on the inner one or both. The other back burner has two rings side by side, and somewhat overlapped. Again, you can turn on one or both. That burner section is what you use with an oval pot, like a roaster.
I can't figure out how to keep the temperature low enough to gently simmer. It seems like it leads everything to eventually boil or simmer rapidly, even on low.
I use Revereware copper-bottomed stainless pots, some cast iron skillets, and I do have some Wilson Armetale/Wagnerware (I think they are heavy aluminum) stockpots/roasters.
An example - (I'm teaching myself how to cook) - today I am making homemade chicken stock for the first time, with a whole chicken in the small oval roaster on the side-by-side burner, and the instructions said to gently simmer it, but it's boiling more rapidly than I want.
Should I replace my cookware? Put some sort of simmer plate in between the cookware and the stove top? If I had a regular electric stovetop with real coils, would there be more of a temperature gradient to work with?
Budget is very limited now, so I need an affordable fix, but since we are stuck with electric, I am curious whether it's just that the solid surface glass cooktops are sucky at regulating temps, whereas an old-school electric cooktop would work better?
I've always had gas until my current house. I have a Miele glass cooktop which I find excellent at low temps, in fact I consider it their strength over electric. I'm wondering if there is something wrong with your cooktop. Before I remodeled I had a cheap Kenmore glasstop which also had no problems with simmer.
I will be interested in any helpful suggestions you receive. I too have a glass drop-in cook top and I can't tell you how many dishes I have burned - I have even melted the bottom of a tea kettle so badly a piece of the glass top popped off. I have never had such a horrible cook top and I can't wait to get rid of it. After 2.5 years I still have not found a way to lower the temp enough; even on the lowest setting on the smallest ring. I have read that some of the newer electric drop-in tops are much better now at low temps and are not that expensive. Good luck and good cooking.
Lucy, if I were you, keeping the budget in mind, I'd go conservative and experiment step-by-step with the lowest cost options first.
I'd try a diffuser/simmer plate first. I had a range like yours, with similar problems, in a previous house. A chef friend suggested a "no-cost" solution...that I try using my cast iron griddle as a free diffuser. Though I never grew to love the stove, that improved the situation until I was able to get a new range.
If you don't have a griddle, maybe you could try setting your simmering pots in one of your larger cast iron skillets?
If you try those steps & find things better, then you could purchase a diffuser.
Then, thinking economically still, I'd probably try purchasing *one* piece of different cookware to see if it fares better--maybe a 2- or 3-quart saucepan--to see if it will truly simmer on the range. You can find plenty of "monthly specials" online for individual pieces of all-ply or heavier cookware, or...you might find something at a tag sale or consignment shop, etc.
Also--not for big batches of stock or sauce--but for smaller portions of certain recipes--don't forget the good old-fashioned double boiler. If you don't have one, you can fashion one from two pans that fit SAFELY together, and for some recipes, even set a heat-proof bowl (e.g., Pyrex) over a saucepan.
A good place to consult would be a restaurant equipment supply source that also sells retail, either online or if one is in your area. They tend to have cost-effective solutions to all kinds of questions.
Best of luck and have fun learning to cook!
You're welcome, Lucy. I thought john's suggestion was good, too, and it reminded me...I don't know if you live in an area of smaller towns, there an hour outside of Austin...but I now live, for the first time in my life, in a region of smaller communities with fewer services than I'm used to. It took me a while to catch on. Many things I previously bought at specialty stores, and which I thought I couldn't get here, are often stocked in our hardware stores on the town greens. I guess when there's there no big city nearby, they have to be all things to all people. I find them to be very helpful. So certainly check out your local True Value or family owned hardware stores for advice on easy fixes and things like diffusers.
We actually have one of these in our work kitchen. Yes, crazy, our business is nothing to do with food, and we have a nicely stocked kitchen. I'll never forget trying to boil a big pot (for corn, actually, hehe, that was a fun day) on that thing. The pot was not flat and it was darned near impossible!
Anyway, main thing I wanted to point out is don't overlook the fact that part of the issue is how long the top stays hot even after you turn the heat down. If, for instance, you had the heat way up high to start something boiling, then turn it down, it will be some minutes before the heat is really down to that level. This is the one thing that the glass tops do the worst: respond to the changes. In fact, an old fashioned coil burner is more responsive than the glass (although still not as much as gas, of course). So if you need to switch from pretty hot to a low simmer, the best option, if you have room, would be to switch burners, so that your simmer burner is low enough rather than waiting for the hot one to cool down.
Another thought: our range at work has a special low simmer setting on one of the burners. This requires pressing in an extra button on the panel while turning it on, something like that. I dunno, we don't use it there. It should be obvious if yours has this, so it probably doesn't if you haven't noticed. But worth double checking if you aren't sure.
I hope the OP does talk to an appliance person, but I can't help wondering if the thermostat is off on the stovetop. If the thermostat is off, then getting it fixed should be less expensive than buying a new cooktop.