Professional chefs around the world love cooking with gas stoves, and they are essential in a professional kitchen. If you are new to cooking on a gas stove or are wondering how to make the most of it, this guide will show you everything you need to know about cooking with gas.
Advantages of Cooking with Gas
The truth is, modern smooth top electric ranges perform very well, and many of the key differences between gas and electric date back to a few decades ago, when the differences were more dramatic. Today, it’s more a question of the quality and manufacture of a stove, rather than whether it uses gas or electric fuel.
However, there are still some key advantages to gas stoves, and people who cook with gas get the benefit of:
Rapid Temperature Changes
Gas produces heat immediately and lowers heat immediately. Electric burners retain heat and take longer to heat up or cool down as the heat is adjusted. Many modern flattops and induction burners are capable of reaching and adjusting temperature as quickly as gas, but old fashioned electric burners are much slower.
Visual Flame and Precise Control
Many people simply prefer the ability to simply see how high or low a gas flame is, rather than adjusting their cooktop by temperature settings. Gas gives you immediate visual feedback of your temperature settings and makes for a more intuitive cooking experience.
Pan coverage is arguably the single best feature of cooking with gas. Gas flames reach upward and move over the bottom of the pan, conforming to the shape of the pan. This creates a gentler, more even heat over the pan surface, and it also allows cooks to use a wider range of pan shapes.
Woks and other pans with rounded bottoms were designed to take advantage of the way gas flames curve below a pan, and you can’t use those types of pans correctly on any other type of cooktop.
Many Asian chefs would say that you simply can’t stir-fry properly in a flat-bottomed pan on a flat-topped range.
With a gas cooktop, you can quickly fire-roast small quantities of vegetables without having to fire up the grill. Here’s a great video that demonstrates how.
How to Cook on a Gas Stove
If you are new to cooking on a gas stove, the first and most important thing to learn is how to light your stove, and how to know if your stove is lit. For beginners, this can be a bit intimidating, and it may also be a safety concern, so let’s address it first.
Gas Stove Ignition Types
A gas stove works by allowing the thermostat controls to adjust the flow of gas to the burners. When the thermostat is higher, the flames are higher, and when the thermostat is lower, the flames are lower. In all gas stoves, there is an ignition system that lights the flame, turning the stove from “off” to “on”.
So, it’s not just about the adjustable flow of gas to the burners, but about how the flame is initially ignited and turned on. Modern gas ranges and ovens have two types of ignition systems:
Pilot Light Ignition
In this system, there is a small flame that is always burning inside the stove, fed by a very small constant flow of gas, separate from the burners. When you turn on the stove, this small flame ignites the main flow of gas, which then heats the stove. If you have a pilot light system, it’s important to know exactly where the pilot light is. If it goes out, you may need to light it manually. So, identify and keep a loose eye on your pilot light.
Note: in the past, if a pilot light went out, it was possible for a small amount of gas to continue to flow from the stove, potentially causing a safety issue. Modern gas stoves all have a form of “flame failure” device that prevents the flow of gas if a pilot light or ignition system isn’t working properly.
Electric Ignition System
In an electric ignition system, turning the thermostat control knob starts the flow of gas to the burner, and then triggers an electric spark that ignites the gas. You will hear this sparking as a clicking sound, and then hear the gas ignite.
Electric ignitions don’t have a constantly-burning pilot light, and instead turn on and off when you turn the control dials on and off. It’s still important to know how to light your stove manually, because electric ignitions won’t work when there is a power failure. If the electricity is out, a gas stove will still work, but an electric igniter won’t.
How to Manually Ignite Your Gas Stove
If your gas stove isn’t igniting, it’s easy to do it manually with a long match or a barbecue lighter (cigarette lighters generally won’t work, because you usually need the flame to reach into a narrow area).
To Manually Re-Light a Pilot Light System
As mentioned, it’s important to know where your gas stove’s pilot light is located. If you aren’t sure, review your owner’s manual to identify the pilot light hole. If you know where the pilot light should be, and it has gone out, simply light a match and touch the flame to the pilot light area.
In most cases, the pilot light will simply catch flame and burn again like a small steady candle. If your pilot light won’t ignite, you need to troubleshoot your gas oven or gas supply.
To Manually Ignite an Electric Pilot Light System
In these systems, simply turn the temperature control to start a low flow of gas to the desired burner. You will be able to hear the flow of gas begin. Immediately touch the burner jets with a lit match or lighter. The flame should ignite right away. If the flame does not ignite right away, immediately turn off the burner and troubleshoot your stove or ignition system. Never leave gas flowing to an unlit burner.
How to Cook on a Gas Range
Once lit, cooking on a gas range is almost exactly like cooking on an electric range. There are only a few small differences:
Keep in mind that your pots and pans will reach high temperatures more quickly on a gas range than an electric one. It’s often a good idea to cook with your burners on medium or medium-high, if your recipes are written for an electric range.
It’s a good idea to use a hood fan. Gas ranges at higher temperatures are more likely to heat up your kitchen than electric, although they will cool down immediately when you are done cooking, so the heat won’t last as long. Using a hood fan will help to reduce both heat and food cooking smells.
Simmering may be tricky. If your recipes call for long periods of simmering at low temperatures, a gas range may pose some challenges. The gas must be at least ~400°C/750°F in order to burn at all, so lower temperatures are achieved by reducing the size of the flame and keeping it further away from the bottom of your pot or pan.
For the best long, slow simmer on a gas stove, it’s a good idea to invest in a high quality pot with good heat conduction and distribution, like this nonstick stock pot from Anolon.
How to Bake in a Gas Oven
Baking and roasting in a gas oven is almost exactly like cooking in an electric oven, particularly if you have a newer, high quality gas stove. There are just a few small differences that mostly affect baking:
Gas Heats Up More Quickly
Electric ovens heat the entire oven, which then transfers heat to the pan and then to your food. A gas oven, depending on the placement of your pans, may heat your pans and food more quickly and less gently.
Gas is More Difficult to Precisely Control
While gas ovens achieve temperatures quickly and their temperatures are accurate, the very nature of flame means that it is more difficult to control evenly. This means that many gas ovens are prone to “hot spots.”
For the perfect balance of done-ness, brown-ness, and crisp-ness, it’s best to rotate your pans and practice, to familiarize yourself with your specific gas oven.
It’s also a good idea to avoid dark colored pans, because they conduct the heat more quickly. Choose light-colored bakeware, or ceramic or Pyrex, to slow and even heat distribution. This bakeware set from OXO is a fantastic choice for a gas oven.
Gas stoves are energy efficient, easy to use, and even fun. They give you great heat, excellent control, and you can even fire roast foods without using the grill. For people who want to spend a little bit of time in practice, in order to achieve incredible results in the kitchen, gas stoves are an excellent choice.