Transition advice from Gas range to electric
- blackbookali Jun 23, 2009 10:43 PM
About to move into a loft that has an electric range and oven, smooth top. Been using gas since, well, 1998? Anyways, Ive used electric before, an early 1990s Thermador range in my parents house and cursed it. Any advice for dealing with electric? Should I just retire my cast iron skillet? How will my all clad fair?
PS my gas stove is pretty cheap. Not like Im leaving a Wolf six burner range.
I would like to bump this up-I am buying a second home on the river with the smooth top electric stove- I have gas at home (which I adore) and do not no how it will be different to cook? I have not cooked on electric for 20 years and it was not smooth top.
I've been lucky enough to cook in many peoples homes, all ranges of food. I personally have a kitchen outfitted just like I want, but have to be flexible when creating a meal at other places.
Biggest issue for me is timing. I find my electric set-ups can get relatively hot, but they just don't do it as quickly. Be sure to preheat for a considerable amount of time. If using cast iron, and you call for high heat, I would recommend pre heating it in the oven at full temp for quite a while, then use the electric to maintain the temp.
All clad is good all around, even heat distributing cookware. Again, as long as you plan for the preheat (and cool-down - be sure to take things off the burner, even if you reduce the heat or turn it off until the temp has adjusted). All-Clad also has good heat retention capabilities, so that will help 'even' things out for you.
You'll get used to it pretty quickly, and if you use great ingredients while planning ahead - your food won't suffer a bit.
ssgarman has it right! I made this change a few years back when moving into our house (until my kitchen renovation finishes this summer!). The biggest difference is how much time it takes to heat up and cool down - not good if you're impatient or trying to make dinner in 30-mins, but I adjusted. And the heavier the pan, the longer it will take to evenly heat. I find my All Clad and Le Creuset take much longer than my nonstick pans to heat to the edges.
You will hate the new one also. In our last house I was stuck with an expensive Dacor smooth-top that I swore at for 4 years. If there was gas available I would have ripped the electric range out. I would even settle for a cheapo gas range rather than the most expensive electric. Our current place has gas and my wife is very happy with the lack of swearing.
As others have mentioned, you need to budget about twice as much time to get anything done. One of the biggest problems I have is getting something up to a boil and then down to a simmer because it just takes so long for any temperature changes to occur. It seems like 5 minutes after I turn the burner down to low, it's still boiling like it's on high. I just end up standing over it until I feel like it is safe to leave, which I never had to do with the gas. I would avoid using heavier cookware for anything that needs a fairly quick change of temperatures.
I also find it pretty hard to clean. By the time the smooth top gets cool enough to clean, anything that spilled out has often dried up and is caked on. My parents swear by the Magic Eraser to get that gunk off and their range doesn't seem to be scratched.
You can use any kind of cookware on a non-induction electric stove. The major issue with a smooth top is that pan bottoms must be very smooth to ensure full contact with the heating surface. Cast iron and All Clad are ideal. Anything that is warped will give you grief.
If the heat source under the smooth top is halogen, you don't need to adjust your cooking all that much. It really won't be any worse than adjusting to a different gas range.
Electric coils under a smooth top are a different matter. As others have noted, preheating and cooling issues are significant and you'll need to practice. It's not that electrics don't get as hot as gas. In my experience, electric burners often get much hotter than gas burners on mainstream consumer level stoves. However, they heat up slowly and seem to transfer heat at a lower rate, especially when pan bottoms aren't even.
When you need to reduce heat quickly, you would typically move the pan off the burner while you wait for the coils to cool down. Just lowering the heat setting is often not enough.
Induction and halogen aside, the best electric ranges are found among those with the ugly, old fashioned, open coils.
Electric is much easier to use now than it was a few decades ago. I grew up with gas, a 1940 Quality brand range. My first apartment had a beautiful slide - in GE electric range that was their top of the line in 1964. It had five buttons to control the heat output of each burner. The low settings activated only the inner coils; the high settings lit up the whole burner. I destroyed an entire set of decent cookware before learning how to control the heat.
I heart my 7 year old KitchenAid halogen flat top! Heats fast, cools fast, works fine even on my slightly warped cast iron skillet. Is it better than gas? No, but it's easy to clean and useful for extra counter space. Mine has touch-controls w/ no knobs, so i can even knead dough on it (as long as I remember to hit the "all off" button!) It does NOT take twice as long as gas to cook anything. adam
I found electric coils in my house when I bought it, and burned more food than I care to admit. When I replaced the cooktop with a ceramic smooth cooktop, it was much closer to the gas experience. Water actually boils faster when you place a pot on a high output burner, and it is easier to clean.
I use all of my old Le Creuset, plain cast iron, copper and stainless steel on this with no problems. I even use a cast iron griddle and an All Clad LTD griddle for pancakes, even though the bottom is slighty higher than the sides and doesn't side flush on the burners. It still works great.
Clean up is easier. Just be sure to get a bottle of cooktop cleaner to remove the burned on stuff. I would avoid dragging soft aluminum pots and pans across the surface, as those tend to scratch and leave little metal particles on the surface that seem to take a long time to remove.
Other than being able to tip a pan to ignite alcohol in a skillet, it really is the same and you will get used to this surface quickly. Make sure that your pots and pans are perfectly flat. If the pan spins because the bottom is warped, throw the pan out or give it to someone with gas burners. Pans that tip or spin are dangerous on this surface.
LeCreuset, cast iron, disk bottom pans, and well-constructed clad or copper tend to have the flatest bottoms. Anodized aluminum seems to be troublesome and doesn't sit flat on this surface, and these have been the pans I have replaced.
The early-1960s gas wall oven and cooktop in my kitchen (used by me since we moved to this house in 1985) are becoming a safety hazard -- especially the oven (a skinny little 18"W, with pooped-out door hinges and an increasingly-crochety pilot light). The owner of the local hardware store (who services what he sells, and who we've bought other appliances from before) told us that wall ovens as skinny as ours just aren't being made anymore, so we're switching to a standalone range. My husband insists that we go electric (safety reasons -- our autistic teenage son likes to toast things in the broiler, and isn't verbal enough to tell us when the pilot light doesn't immediately kick in). A self-cleaning oven would be nice, too (it might get cleaned more often that way). Once the electrician upgrades the kitchen wiring (something it's needed for a while anyway) to accomodate an electric range, all that'll be left to decide will be "coil or smoothtop?". (Then we'll get our favorite local contractor to shut off the gas to the old oven, remove it, attach a door the right size to the opening, and perhaps install some shelves, converting it to a pantry.)
Our cookware is mostly cheap Target "Basic Essentials" nonstick aluminum (which is still thicker than the even cheaper porcelain-enamel aluminum wedding-present cookware we started out with as newlyweds). I also have a Lodge preseasoned cast-iron skillet (not yet used) and a Lodge Color Dutch oven (which gets used a couple times each month, but mostly in the oven). If I need to replace any cookware when transitioning to an electric range (especially a smoothtop), I'm pretty sure really nice, expensive stuff like All-Clad or Le Creuset is not going to be an option -- but a semi-nice set (like the Tramontina stainless set Cook's Illustrated liked, or one of the $150-or-so nonstick sets that got good reviews in the new Consumer Reports) might be something I could talk my spouse into.
(BTW, the local hardware store only sells Crosley brand appliances (well, Maytag too, but the Crosleys have a better warranty).)
Late to the discussion here, but I've been using a smooth-top electric range for the past year and a half. I'm going to be switching out to a gas top in the next few weeks, but I must say that I've gotten to the point where it wouldn't kill me if I had to stay with this range.
As others have said, the changes in temperature are the biggest difference -- but a smooth top has the huge advantage of being able to move your pots slightly off the element when you want to reduce the heat quickly. It's very much like using an Aga cooker, which has its advantages.
Remember, Julia Child used electric coils for her TV career at least. Anyone who says it can't be done should have come over to my mom's or grandmother's houses when I was a kid!
Frankly, there are as many differences in cooking on different ELECTRIC ranges as there are between ELECTRIC and GAS ranges. No two ranges cook alike,,,period! There will be differences to which you will just need to become accustomed.
A couple of things I would pass along, which I have seen, as a servicer, for many years:
1. Heavier, flat bottomed pans are better on smooth top cooktops, because they absorb the heat more evenly than cheap, aluminum or stainless steel cookware. Using the thin cookware can cause "heat stress risers" on the ceramic surface, and it will crack. That's a VERY expensive repair. Absolutely DO NOT DROP OBJECTS ON THE CERAMIC COOKTOP!! They're tough, but brittle, and, as I said previously, they're expensive.
2. Another, more insidious thing to beware of is; don't forget to turn off the controls when the cooktop is not in use. You can't see a flame or glowing element, and it's easy to overlook, untill you adjust to this type of cooktop. Lots of fires are caused by folks who forget the top is hot, and leave something on it(like a dishcloth). Even on the lowest settings, the top will get hot enough to ignite almost anything in a kitchen. Additionally, if you forget and put your HAND on that cooktop,,,,,,,well, your gonna remove it REALLY QUICKLY, but probably not quickly enough.
Just don't expect the new range to act like your previous one,,,,,it wont.
Thanks for your time.