There are two main types of stoves—gas and electric. Each type has its devotees, and its detractors. Which stove you prefer seems to depend largely on which type you grew up with. If you learned to cook using a gas stove, chances are that you’ll stick with it. However, conversions occur, and plenty of people find reasons to switch their allegiance. For instance, burgeoning chefs may be swayed by the versatility and accuracy provided by the flame heating of gas stoves. Meanwhile, parents with young children may switch to an electric stove, seeing it as the safer of the two. Families also appreciate the easy-clean virtues of electric stoves. Strong as one’s personal preference may be, economics play a role too: Depending on where you live, one or the other stove type might be cheaper to operate. If your current stove is scorching your sauces, burning the bacon, and ruining the roast, keep these considerations in mind as you choose between gas and electric.
Though propane, butane, or even liquefied petroleum gas can be used to power a stove, most gas stoves run on natural gas and require a gas line to the house. Depending on where you live, the requirement of a gas line may be a deal-breaker. In most suburbs, the infrastructure is such that gas- and electric-powered stoves are equally feasible. In more remote areas, gas lines are not a given. But no matter where you live, chances are there’s electricity. And so long as your home has electricity, you can operate an electric stove. It simply needs to be plugged in. Note, however, that most electric stoves do require a 240-volt power outlet.
As with any other investment you’d make in your home, choosing a new stove involves weighing both the upfront purchase cost and the long-term operating cost. Electric stoves tend to carry the higher price tag—not by much, though. Whereas average electric stoves range from $650 to $2,800, comparable gas stoves range from $800 to $2,300. So there’s a difference, but it’s not a very dramatic one. Operating costs, however, are often different enough to be a deciding factor for many. It’s difficult to make blanket statements here, because utility rates change from state to state. But in most states, natural gas costs less than electricity, and where that’s the case, a gas stove typically costs 10% to 30% less to operate on an ongoing basis.
When it comes to cooking, the main difference between gas and electric stoves lies in how quickly they respond to temperature setting changes. Gas stoves respond more or less instantly, giving you more of the precise control needed to be successful with certain dishes. Electric stoves do not respond as quickly, particularly when you’re adjusting the temperature down or turning the heat off. Besides that, there are also a few things that an electric stove simply cannot do (and that a gas stove can); these include charring, toasting, and flambéing. If you’re a committed home chef, the superior performance of gas stoves may sway you in their favor.
When you’re cooking with a gas stove, you’re effectively cooking on an open flame. That makes it the more dangerous of the two, because wherever there’s an open flame, there’s a chance of children or pets being burned (or a flammable item catching fire). There’s also the risk of gas leaks, so to be on the safe side, any home with a gas stove should have a carbon monoxide detector. Though electric stoves do not entail zero risk of burns or fires, they are generally considered safer. They’re also easier to clean. That’s particularly true if you purchase one of the newer electric stoves that features a smooth glass or ceramic cook top.
All in all, when shopping for a new stove and choosing between gas and electric, choose what you’re most comfortable with. If you have reservations about natural gas, or are nervous about cooking on an open flame, opt for an electric stove. On the other hand, if you’re budget-minded or a budding chef, gas may be best. The choice, of course, is ultimately yours.