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Dual Fuel versus Gas Oven: What are the Advantages?

BeckyAndTheBeanstock Jul 22, 2011 10:15 AM

I realize there's a lot of discussion on this board about dual fuel, but mostly the comments seem to revolve around which ones people are using and liking. I appreciate this info (and if anyone wants to add to that here, please do!) but I'm also wondering: what is the big advantage of dual fuel? I know the temperature is supposed to be more precise, but is it? And can't you regulate the temp in a gas oven by using baking stones and refraining from opening the door until you have to? I guess I'm just wondering if it's worth the extra expense, and what, exactly, I'll be getting for the extra money.

  1. BernalKC Nov 13, 2011 09:15 AM

    Thanks for the input, hounds. Very helpful.

    I will be getting a convection oven in either case. Sounds like that will be the biggest difference maker. Presumably that will help with uniformity at higher temperatures, and help crisp-up my pizza crusts? If this is the case, cost factors will weigh heavily towards gas.

    I'm hearing that the dryness of the electric heat actually helps develop some crispness to roasts, like a nice crisped chicken skin. Is that the case? I'm worried that there would be a drying problem for longer cook times, like a Thanksgiving sized turkey. Any comment on that?

    And what about the broiler unit. Any strong preferences out there for gas versus electric broilers?

    4 Replies
    1. re: BernalKC
      freia Nov 13, 2011 09:26 AM

      I've cooked with electric forever, never had an issue of dryness and cooking unless I've overcooked something, which can be done as easily with gas as it can be with electric. If you're concerned about dryness, just put a small ramekin with water in the oven, it'll moisten things up.
      Personally, this really is kind of a non-issue to me as I've never had an issue with food drying out.
      I blast cook my chicken/turkey in any event, much higher temperature than usually recommended and this keeps the skin crisp and the meat moist, but that's just me.
      Broiling is broiling, I would go with either a gas cooktop/range or dual fuel but like the others said, going to power up an oven may require electrical. Don't mess with electrical. We had to upgrade the amperage of our house to handle our electrical requirements during our kitchen reno. Don't do this yourself. The consequences of botched electrical can be far more serious than, say, botching up a tile job. JMHO.

      1. re: freia
        wekick Nov 13, 2011 04:33 PM

        In considering broiling, it will depend on what you broil. You might want to consider the width of broiling passes. Some gas ovens have infrared broilers that produce a huge amount of heat and is what they use in steak houses.

      2. re: BernalKC
        splatgirl Nov 13, 2011 10:34 AM

        I think uniformity in cooking temp in the oven chamber is hit or miss regardless of fuel type. I've never cooked in an oven that didn't have hot spots. Using the convection feature on mine doesn't change this much. Furthermore, if you're going to get down to that level of analysis, I find that the SIZE of the oven chamber is as much a factor as anything else, performance-wise.

        1. re: splatgirl
          wekick Nov 13, 2011 04:43 PM

          I have a Wolf 36 inch wide oven(range) and an 30 inch Electrolux wall, both electric convection and you can load them fully and no hot spots. The Wolf does have 2 fans. It is all in the engineering. The ovens I had immediately before these were horrid and I only kept them 7 months. The total cost was about the same for both sets.

          The biggest benefit for some for electric might be the self clean. This is less commonly found on gas.

      3. splatgirl Nov 13, 2011 09:02 AM

        IME electric is the only way to go if you are a big baker and particular about your results. Water/steam is the byproduct of gas combustion, so you'll always get less crispy and different results in gas because there's always more moisture in the oven chamber vs. electric which is dry. In some cases the humidity from gas can be a good thing, but with baked goods it's almost always a negative.

        I have a dual-fuel but recently baked and cooked in a not low end all gas range. It did fine with some things but was terrible with baked goods. I never realized how much of a difference in performance there is until now.
        FWIW, I got my dual fuel mostly for the convection feature which I use much less than I thought I would, but based on the above, I'd still always insist on an electric oven.

        2 Replies
        1. re: splatgirl
          wekick Nov 13, 2011 04:27 PM

          While it is conventional "wisdom" to say electric is dry heat and gas has more moisture, and therefore electric is better for baking there is very little scientific study to back this up. You can't even find a good study comparing the humidity in an empty oven let alone the humidity in an oven loaded. Also you would have to study how humidity would be beneficial or detrimental to various kinds of baking/roasting. I wouldn't dismiss gas for baking just by one oven. You can pay a lot of money for an oven and it won't heat evenly. My BIL is a professional baker and they have always used gas convection in the bakery and have gas, conventional at home. The added humidity can be a benefit for some baked goods like breads, cakes and things that need to rise. I had a gas oven for 12 years and also several electric ovens, each 2-6 years all non convection, and really saw very little difference in them.

          1. re: wekick
            splatgirl Nov 14, 2011 01:03 PM

            It's a fact that gas combustion produces moisture, and thus IMO logical to assume there is a greater level of moisture present during operation in a gas oven than electric. As you point out, how that moisture affects baked goods is less clear--scientifically at least. I was speaking from personal experience and believe, as you say, that there are pros and cons to either fuel source depending on what one is baking.
            You mention bread. I am a hardcore bread baker and my experience is similar to what I have heard from other home artisan bread bakers--I get less nice bread crusts in a gas oven vs. electric--or at least the several different gas ovens that I have baked in. The added humidity that is an asset to oven spring in the initial stages of baking turns into a handicap in developing a great crust. (FWIW, I get less nice bread crusts in an electric oven vs. my wood-fired oven, too--the WFO being an even drier environment.)

        2. f
          freia Nov 12, 2011 08:19 PM

          Dual fuel is what I chose to have, gas top/electric oven. i've never baked with a gas oven so I was more comfortable with electric. I didn't like the idea of the uneven heating possibility, and I didn't like having to mess with the pilot light or electronic ignition system in a gas oven (no problem for me on a cook surface, it's trying to see if the gas is lit in the oven or not and how to address it because you have to turn the gas on to assess the problem). Others might have no trouble but I wanted a hassle free oven for me, since I had no experience with a gas oven. Personal preference I think? Oven/gas technology has come so far from back in the day, that it just comes down to personal preference.

          1. wekick Nov 12, 2011 08:12 PM

            I have baked/roasted in many ovens, gas and electric over many years. My current range is a DF and I have an electric wall oven. Every oven has many different features and they all work a little differently in each oven. In just the gas vs electric, I don't think there is a huge amount of difference in outcomes. You can argue that there are electric ovens that keep with in 2 degrees but is this going to make a difference in what you are baking? You can add bricks if you want to but ultimately the temperature is controlled by the thermostat. If the tolerances are for a 25 degree swing then that is what you will have, although the cycle may take longer. It will also take much longer to pre heat the oven. The bigger difference is if you opt for convection. The air movement will provide a more even temperature, a more drying heat which will make meats crispy but depending on your oven may not be the best for cakes or things that have to rise. What "convection" will do for you will depend on fan speed, size of the oven, size of the fan etc and the Wolf has 2 fans. Some electric ovens have have various modes for baking/roasting and allow you to direct the heat a little more from the top, convection roast or the bottom, convection bake. Some also have a third element around the fan that is mostly a benefit if you oven is fully packed out but seems to vary in what it really does. To me this feature is way oversold. Gas ovens don't have a third element but just a fan. Many commercial ovens are made this way. One benefit in some of the more expensive gas ovens is an infrared broiler.

            1. BernalKC Nov 12, 2011 12:30 PM

              I was going to ask this question since I'm weighing the same choice right now. Time to bump this topic and try and get some feedback.

              I'm attracted to a dual fuel range because I love to bake, and I have not been happy with my cheap gas ranges in terms of max temperature, temperature consistency, and the way baked goods come out. I just have not been happy with the way my breads and pizzas have come out - the crusts are just not crisp enough. I grill a lot, but almost exclusively on a gas grill in the back yard. I'm surprised to read that some people prefer gas broilers over electric - I have not been happy at all with my gas broiler.

              On the other hand, I'm not sure if my problem has been the poor quality of my range. I'm worried that the dry heat of an electric oven will be a problem for roasting, especially long roasting times for turkeys, pork shoulder, etc. The other big issue for me is that I don't have 220V service, so running a new circuit to the kitchen adds about $1K to the cost.

              So please share your experiences and knowledge on dual fuel versus gas ranges.

              8 Replies
              1. re: BernalKC
                jkling17 Nov 12, 2011 02:33 PM

                >> The other big issue for me is that I don't have 220V service, so running a new circuit to the kitchen adds about $1K to the cost.

                Whomever quoted you that is trying to rip you off. Electrical work is easy and reasonable. I do some stuff myself but I also really like working with my electrician so I have him out sometimes when I could do stuff solo and we bang things out with a beer or two and for only $30 an hour - cash. The MOST that I'd pay for that type of work is $40 an hour. It's not brain surgery!

                So, even without having a CLUE about the layout of your place, let's call it 6 hours at $40 per hour, plus materials. The breaker should be about $40, the wiring and such perhaps $150. There's no way it should cost you more than $500, plus a permit/inspection fee - those are usually $75-100.

                Rather than getting a big company, you can get licensed electricians through craigslist. I often will put ads out there saying what I'd like to have done and what I have in mind to pay for it, and I'll get tons of responses within just 1 day.

                Ok - that aside ...

                The best of all worlds is electric oven and gas stove. There certainly are good gas ovens, but value for dollar an electric oven is more precise and efficient. Even very inexpensive electric ovens tend to work very well. My electric stove/range is GREAT for the oven - very precise and I have validated it with an oven thermometer. The stove ... is a piece of garbage. In my experience, even "good" electric stoves just stink. They are fine for boiling water but that's about it. So, since I moved in here I've been using two small portable propane stoves from my local asian market - and they are fantastic.

                Now, we're getting serious about fully redoing the kitchen from scratch, having finished the master bathroom. What you may wish to consider, and this is the direction that we are taking for our own kitchen renovation, is a separate eletric wall oven and gas cooktop. It's nice to have the oven (or dual oven) separate and away from the cooktop. Also wall ovens can be placed nearly anywhere you like. So, you can put them below any of your counter top spaces. Many people like to have them at a healthy balance, where they are at waist level or so, to make it easier to see what's going on and avoid all that bending over to get food in and out.

                Separate wall ovens are expensive, most are $1000 or more new, regardless of single of double configuration. We found a real bargain in a GE Profile single electric wall oven, black, in fantastic shape for a mere $75 on craigslist. This saved us so much money that I can buy nearly any 30" or 36" cooktop and hood that I want with the money we saved. We don't bake a lot, so it'll be nice for us to just install this oven in our kitchen island, out of the way of the cooktop area.

                Unfortunately, there's a moratorium on cutting the street for another 3 years, so our cooktop will have to be propane instead of natural gas but we can always convert the cooktop down the road, since that's very easy.

                1. re: jkling17
                  dcrb Nov 12, 2011 03:26 PM

                  I have both gas oven in the range and an electric wall oven. I like both. Without any proof, I would tend to lean toward electric as possibly being more accurate. Perhaps another chow hound will be able to speak with some authority on this. I will say that we don't have any problems roasting or baking in with either of the ovens.

                  1. re: jkling17
                    splatgirl Nov 13, 2011 08:52 AM

                    You are assuming the OP has panel space and service to the house that can accommodate the necessary larger capacity circuit. If the existing service and/or panel are maxed out, it would be very easy to exceed 1K just in labor even at good guy rates, not to mention that the materials alone are expensive when we're talking high A circuits. Having to add a sub-panel would be best case--needing that PLUS a service upgrade worst case.

                    1. re: splatgirl
                      dcrb Nov 13, 2011 09:01 AM

                      One needs to ensure that the service panel can support the increased load. A lot of older hoses had maxed out at 100 amps. With all electrical gizmos that people install, a 200 amp panel may be necessary, with a new lead from the transformer. I went thru this with the install of central AC.

                      1. re: splatgirl
                        BernalKC Nov 13, 2011 09:08 AM

                        The panel is just barely able to accommodate the new circuit. Actually the specs call for a 40A circuit which technically would require an upgrade, but the range's power rating suggests (and comparable units require) 20A. I have room for 30A with no other heavy power draws on that sub-panel, so we can skate by. The main cost driver is that I'm in the Bay Area and labor is a lot more than $40/hr.

                        1. re: BernalKC
                          freia Nov 13, 2011 09:28 AM

                          i wouldn't skate by with electrical, but that's just me. We were in the same situation in many ways, and even though our new appliance needed a 30 amp draw, our code in the area is a separate 50 amp insulated wire and circuit. We had to upgrade the amperage from 125amps to 200amps, and although it cost a ton, I can sleep safely at night knowing I haven't overloaded my panel or circuits. The consequences of faulty electrical are way more serious than the consequences of a DIY backsplash tile job. I'd be saving up and doing it through a qualified electrical service instead of just getting by. But that's just me.

                        2. re: splatgirl
                          jkling17 Nov 13, 2011 11:38 AM

                          Ok I will admit that I did assume that the current main panel can handle it. Why? Because if a 200 amp service upgrade was required, the quote would have been a lot more than $1000. And therefore, I think that it's likely that Becky's current current panel has room for one additional double-pole 30 amp breaker, assuming she sticks with a single oven. A double wall oven will typically use a 40 amp circuit and there's more risk of needing a service upgrade IF the main is only 100 amp.

                          I've done a LOT of electrical, especially in my latest home - a Victorian built in 1875. Loads of upgrades and replacements were needed. This included a full service upgrade from 100 to 200 so that I could converge a separate 100 amp panel back to the new main ( to drop the separate service), and added 2 new subpanels off the new 200 panel down to the basement.

                          To clarify something that you wrote. Best case is not adding a sub panel. If Becky's main panel doesn't have capacity for the new circuit, then adding a subpanel doesn't help this - sorry! A subpanel would require a dedicated dual pole breaker at the main panel that is even larger than the max draw of the remote subpanel. So, if the main panel already has the capacity for the one appliance, then one simply installs a "home run" to a 30 amp dual-pole breaker at the main panel and runs a 3 wire #10 to the range. (#8 if 40 amp). There are valid reasons to add a subpanel in different situations but this just probably isn't one of them.

                          I do agree that the worst case scenario is a full service upgrade at the main to 200 amp and then running the dedicated 30 or 40 amp circuit. As the quote that Becky got was $1000, I stand by my "assumption" that this isn't the case. So I think that the contractor was simply trying to pad the quote and max their profits for running a pretty simple circuit.

                          Again - it's easy to hire a fully qualified and LICENSED electrician for $40 an hour (or possibly less - pay them in cash). This job is going to be done in one day or less. So let's be generous and call it a full 8 hours. And then let's assume even more materials (copper is up a bit now). So that's $320 + $300 for materials + permit, which is usually separate anyway. Most contractors don't include permit cost in the quote.

                          1. re: jkling17
                            freia Nov 13, 2011 04:25 PM

                            I've had a full service upgrade to 200 amp from 125 amp and I can attest to jkling's thought that it'd cost more than a thousand dollars...for us, triple it and add 500...

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