Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Mar 11, 2009 01:50 PM

BTU difference?

Is there a lot of difference between a 12000 BTU range and a 16000 BTU range? Any difference in searing, etc? Thanks!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think there is. We have a 30" Wolf after using mostly standard small ranges and the difference is noticeable. Certainly you can get it higher, which comes in handy when you need that pasta water to come to a rolling boil quickly. But mostly I think it's control. In addition to getting hotter, I can also adjust it to a very low simmer, which I couldn't before, and everything in between. It's still the cook that makes the meal, but I'd say having tighter control doesn't hurt

    1. Yes.

      BTU short for British Thermal Unit is equal to the amount of heat energy required to raise a pound of water by 1°F.

      FYI... A pints a pound the world around. In other words a pint of water, 16 ounce or the metric equivalent, an 1/8 of a gallon is one pound by weight.

      A 16,000 BTU burner is 33.3% more efficient than the 12,000 BTU burner.

      When comparing a 12,000 BTU burner to a 16,000 BTU burner, the former is 75% as efficient as the latter.

      6 Replies
      1. re: Demented

        I'm not sure if "efficiency" is what you're looking for here necessarily. But higher BTUs clearly translate to more heat. And more heat means pans will recover more quickly, and get hotter in general.

        1. re: Demented

          British (and Canadian) pints are 20 fluid ounces. In fact it is only in the USA (I think) where a pint is 16 ounces. Most countries have now left the imperial system, including the UK. (And excluding beer)

          As a Brit child I learnt... "A pint of water weighs a pound and a quarter". Easier still is that a UK gallon is 10 pounds.

          And you need pans with a large flat base to to use big burners. I have to disagree about your efficiency statement. The BTU calculation is a measure of the amount of gas being burned.

          1. re: Demented

            Efficiency; The extent to which time is well used for the intended task.

            Using an 8.5 quart copper stockpot,

            65°F water was brought to 212°F in 22 minutes on a 9,000 BTU burner.

            65°F water was brought to 212°F in 16 minutes on a 12,000 BTU burner.

            Clearly the higher BTU/hour burner, is more efficient at bring a piece of cookware to operating temperature or a given volume of water to a boil than a burner of lower rating.

            As such, similar results should be expected when comparing a 12K burner to a 16K burner.

            1. re: Demented

              If you simply make up a definition of efficiency, you can of course claim that it is the word you're looking for.

              However, I'd be very careful when making claims of efficiency when dealing with something clearly related to fuel consumption. That's like saying driving 100 miles an hour to get to the store is more effecient than driving 50 miles an hour, simply because you get there faster.

              I think it's pretty clear that a 16k burner gets stuff hot faster than a 12k burner.

              1. re: tommy

                Correct. Demented's well meaning comments about efficiency are not accurate. There is no information about fuel consumed delivering these BTU's. Nor is there anything to define efficiency of the 8.5 quart pot used on different BTU settings on differently rated burners. There would need to be readings from a CF/hour gauge to factor in determining efficiency. If you have a meter you could read, that would help. It just might not be that accurate.
                Unrelated to efficiency, but related to accuracy, is the pot, water and grate's temperature. They should be consistent, test to test. I don't think I am equipped to do this kind of analysis accurately and crunch the numbers, nor are most folks.
                It is nice to have the observations, though. I, however, am going induction.

                1. re: tommy

                  In the below context of the word... All things being equal (pan diameter and grate diameter), the 12K BTU burner is more efficient than the 9K BTU burner.

                  This test was done to determine which burner would accomplish the task, boiling water, fastest.

                  I didn't “Make Up” a definition for efficiency, I used my Webster's dictionary, and used the the meaning which best suited the purpose of the test.

                  For this post, I searched Google “Define efficiency”, below are links to the first two listing.


                  The extent to which time is well used for the intended task.


                  Skillfulness in avoiding wasted time and effort.

                  Fuel efficiency, the 12K BTU/hour burner on high for 16 minutes should have used 3200 BTU's, while the 9K BTU/hour burner should have used 3300 BTU's.

                  The 12K BTU burner would appear more efficient i regards to time and fuel economy.

                  p.s. Natural gas, 100,000 BTU's = 1 therm. Propane gas, 92,000 BTU's = 1 gallon.

            2. It simply means that the higher BTU stove has the ability to get your pans hotter and to boil things faster (well, a little faster anyway). The critical factor in determining whether that's a good or bad thing in YOUR kitchen is whether you need your pans to get hotter. Do you do a whole lot of wok cooking? How critical is it to you to have water boil a little faster? How well will your ventilation system handle the extra smoke and steam? And then there's also the question of how much you want to heat up your kitchen.

              Regardless of whether one cooks plain or fancy, the majority of the things we do cook will come out pretty well on just about any stove on the market. Only you can figure out whether the price difference (if there is one) is worth it for your style of cooking.

              Good luck!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Caroline1

                Just to clarify, burners are rated in BTU/hr. A burner with a higher power rating burns proportianately more fuel. To actually take advantage of all that extra power, your pots and pans need to be big enough -- otherwise the flame spread will direct all that lovely heat somewhere other than what you are attempting to cook. For most apps, it's a simple matter of trading time or volume for heat (aka fuel).

                1. re: MikeB3542

                  Excellent clarification! And if anyone is interested in the environment, unless stoves and/or cooktops/flattops in this heat range are induction units, they are not likely to carry an Energy Star rating. If one is planning for the future (and the financial costs of many things in the future, but especially energy), then something like this can turn out to be a very cost-laden decision for the future. Two ways around it that I know of: One is to make your own energy (wind or photovoltaics will take care of the electrical side, for gas you're on your own) or go to the most energy efficient appliances you possibly can every time you "upgrade." There has GOT to be a reason why so many European chefs and restaurants have been converting to induction cooking all these years!

              2. I brew beer, make mead, can fruit, juice, jelly, jam, pickles and preserves. When waiting for the 40 quart brew pot or 20 water bath to reach a boil, I often wish I had gone with a cooktop having a 16,000 BTU burner rather than 12,000.

                Having a high BTU burner doesn't equate to running it full tilt all the time, I use it on high only when boiling large amounts of water.

                Just for the halibut, I'll time how long it takes to bring 4 quarts of cold tap water to a boil, in an 8 ½ quart copper stock pot on a 9,000 BTU burner and on a 12,000 BTU burner today... and post the results.

                The results should be relevant since the output of 9,000/12,000 BTU burners are equivalent to that of the 12,000/16,000 BTU burners in question, proportionally.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Demented

                  Should the pot's bottom surface area be proportional to the BTU output for this to be fair? The amount of water has to be the same. Probably not for a real world comparison, but I don't think you will see the full potential of a powerful burner without a bigger pan with the same amount of water.

                  1. re: Scargod

                    Should the pot's bottom surface area be proportional to the BTU output...

                    The diameter of a pot (it's bottom surface area) should be matched to the diameter/area of the burner grate rather than the output of the burner.

                    I don't think you will see the full potential of a powerful burner without a bigger pan with the same amount of water...

                    I don't know about this. Putting a 16” pot over an 8” burner may or may not give better results where boiling water is concerned.

                    Putting a 16” pan over an 8” burner would most likely not provide optimum performance from the cookware or burner for any other type of cooking. Hot spots/uneven heat distribution would be the likely outcome of this mis-match.

                2. For searing on a home stove you need extremely high heat (cast iron an a high-output burner) and most just won't get hot enough. For example, the infrared searing elements that are on newer grills are around 30,000 BTU. You also can't get up high enough for real stir-fry temps and possibly for maintaining deep-fry temps on most home stovetops.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: ferret

                    Temperature does not equal heat.

                    My guess is that the difference in temp would be pretty similar (assuming a nice heavy pan.) The lower output burner would take longer and its equilibrium temp (where heat is being thrown off the pan as fast as the burner is cranking the heat) would be a little lower. In any event, that equilibrium temp is probably way higher than where you would actually be cooking. (Unless you plan on re-seasoning your pan!)

                    The big difference is what happens once the food goes in. Both pans will have a temp drop once the food goes in. How much temp drop? That will almost entirely be up to the temp and thermal mass of the pan, and the amount of food you are putting in. Since the high output burner is throwing more heat at the pan, it will bottom out at a somewhat higher temp than the pan on the lower output burner.

                    The higher output burner will then recover faster. The thing is, recovery does you no good. If you really let your pan temp get too low, you are steaming instead of searing anyway. The real issue with searing is to control how much you put in the pan. If you crowd your pan, you will have a mess no matter how high the flames. The higher output stove will get your pan ready to do the next batch quicker.

                    Similar issues are at work with stir-fry.

                    1. re: ferret

                      I sear meat, fish and poultry all the time in copper cookware over a medium-high flame. It takes a matter of minutes for the pan to get hot enough, stir frying and deep frying also work. No problem, so long as you don't over load the pan/wok/oil.

                      1. re: Demented

                        Woking in batches is a misery. I'd love a range with enough BTU so I can do stir fries in one shot.