The kitchen is the center of any home, especially during the holiday season, and the stove is a crucial component of a successful kitchen. Determining which type of stove to purchase can be a big decision. There are several stove cooktop options available, each with its own unique benefits. Learning the basics of each stove type can help you determine what works best for your needs.
One of the most common stovetops available to consumers is the electric stovetop. This stovetop uses electricity to heat the element, composed of either radiant heat coils or a glass surface. That heat is then transferred to the pan, pot, or other cookware. Electric stovetops with heat coils are relatively durable and can be scrubbed without worrying about causing much damage.
Cleanup is easy for electric stovetops with a glass surface; however, users should be careful not to scratch the glass. Electric stovetops have a moderate energy efficiency rating, where roughly 74% of the heat reaches the food; however, electric-coil stovetops are slightly less efficient than glass.
Another common stovetop option is the gas-powered stovetop, where the flames can be produced using either natural gas or liquid propane. Among the benefits, the most popular aspect of gas-powered stovetops is the ability to heat food more quickly than electric stovetops. Many cooking enthusiasts prefer gas because of the instant heat and ability to control temperatures more easily.
Gas stovetops will still function in the rare case of power outages, while electric stovetops will not. However, gas stovetops are the least energy-efficient, with about 40% of the heat generated reaching the food.
Much of the energy from gas is lost in the air and wasted as lost heat. It is also essential to be careful of the potential safety risks associated with gas stovetops, such as burns, impacts on indoor air quality, and gas leaks. Homes with small children or pets should be especially aware of these potential risks. An exhaust hood will be important to reduce potential air quality concerns from nitrogen oxide (NO2) and carbon monoxide (CO) with any gas stovetop.
Although less common, the induction stovetop is quickly gaining popularity. An induction stovetop uses electromagnetic heating technology to heat the cookware. Only specific cookware can be used on an induction stovetop. The cookware needs iron to react properly with the stovetop, making stainless steel, cast iron, or carbon steel excellent cookware options for induction stovetops.
Underneath an induction stovetop is a metal coil that creates a magnetic field, which reacts with the cookware through an electrical current, generating heat. The induction technology works quickly to heat food and is even faster than gas stovetops. Through the induction process, only the part of the stovetop directly touching the cookware becomes heated, while the rest of the stovetop stays cool.
One of the best benefits of an induction stovetop is safety; there are no open flames. The stovetop itself is cool to the touch, making burns much less likely. Induction stovetops are also the most energy-efficient form of stovetop cooking, with an energy efficiency rating of about 90%, so most of the energy goes to heating the cookware and not the surrounding air. Induction stovetops, like glass electric stovetops, are also easy to clean because of the smooth surface. Despite all these benefits, induction stovetops can be quite expensive––more so than gas or electric. Since special cookware is also required for the stovetop to work correctly, the total price tag becomes even higher.
Stovetop options come in various prices, sizes, and additional features that depend on specific models. Be sure to research the appropriate stovetop options for your culinary needs before making any final decisions. Assessing potential safety concerns in a home can also be the deciding factor between different stovetop options. Whether you choose electric, gas, or induction, stovetops are a vital piece for any home.
Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.