Gas vs. electric stoves: notes from my own direct experience

You might have heard a couple of weeks ago that NY Governor Kathy Hochul came out in favor of banning gas stoves starting in 2030 or 2035, depending on the nature of the project. This kicked off a firestorm of alarm, consternation, and misinformation, adding another log to the culture war fire. I’ll leave the culture war to others but wanted to write here about my direct experience switching to an electric stove after using gas stoves for most of my life. I’ve been using an electric stove (induction specifically) for two years now so everything below is from direct hands-on experience. In short, I love my induction stove and it feels like a serious upgrade from gas.

When most people hear “electric stove,” I’m pretty sure they think of the 1980s version of an electric stove, with the coils that turn red when you turn the knob to high. I grew up with one of those and have occasionally stayed in Airbnb’s with them. Those electric cooktops do, in fact, suck and are terrible to cook on. Induction is a completely different experience.

First: a simple $69.99 step to make such a decision easier

When we were renovating our house, we had to make many decisions that we knew we would have to live with and one of them was what kind of stove we would use. Our idealistic selves wanted an all-electric home using as much clean energy as possible. I have used gas for nearly all of my life and was skeptical of induction, mainly because I hadn’t used it — but I was curious. I fretted a little about the decision and then my wife had a great idea — we could buy one of these single-burner induction cooktop from Ikea for $69.99 and actually test it out instead of speculating. Our renovation was going to take multiple years and we didn’t have to make our final decision just yet, so we put that $69.99 Ikea induction burner on the counter beside our gas stove and started using it to cook our usual foods. Once I had direct experience, I never looked back. Induction is awesome (and it was the linchpin in being able to have what is now an all-electric home).

Update 2/23/23: One library in Northampton, MA now lets patrons check out induction cooktops for free (1, 2). Very cool. I hope other libraries take note.

Speed of cooking with electric vs. gas.

Electric (induction specifically) is much faster than gas. I know this from direct experience doing everything from boiling water to searing a steak. There is no “debate” to be had here.

You can see a live demonstration of the speed difference below on this “Ask This Old House” segment:

Precise control when cooking

While I’m not a professional chef, I cook a lot. Even simple things that I cook require fairly fine-grained temperature control. For example, I know from reading recipes that pancakes cook best on a 375° surface. Of course, you can cook by “feel” with induction but I like to be scientific about things when I can. I have an infrared gun that I point at the pan as I turn the heat up (see photo) to get the surface temperature.

I’ve noticed that when I dial up the heat on my induction cooktop, the temperature moves very predictably. And when I accidentally go a little too far heating up a pan, it goes down just as predictably when I turn the dial the other way. I’m able to hit 375° reliably when I’m making pancakes and they come out great every time.

Top chefs increasingly love induction. In “The Case for Induction Cooking, Versus Gas Stoves,” you can read about how Eric Ripert, the chef of Le Bernardin, renovated two of his homes and opted for induction. “After two days, I was in love. It’s so much more precise than watching a flame. You can really focus on your cooking and pay attention to what’s inside the pan, not what’s underneath it.”

On this topic, also check out “Professional chefs tout the culinary — and environmental — advantages of induction stoves.”

Practical shortcomings of induction

The only practical shortcoming I’ve identified from induction is that cooking in a typical wok on an induction stovetop isn’t really possible. Induction depends on direct contact with the pan so a round-bottom wok on a flat induction surface doesn’t generate the intense heat on the rounded sides of a wok. There are solutions for that, though. You can see a consumer-grade induction wok demonstrated here by Jon Kung that you can buy yourself. There are commercial options available, too, if you’re super-serious about wok cooking.

If you’re in a position where you’re making the same gas vs. induction choice we did and you feel a little nervous about it, give induction a try. I think you’ll be really happy with it and be very pleasantly surprised.