Gas or Electric? Choose Your Next Stove Wisely
A host of factors, from your location to your culinary ambitions, influence the choice between a gas and electric stove. If you're shopping for a new range, read on to learn what trade-offs to expect with each type.
Traditionally, most homeowners have two choices for the stove: gas and electric. More often than not, the type of stove you prefer boils down to what you learned to cook on. 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, it might be time for a replacement. We put the two types side by side—gas vs. electric stoves—to understand the key differences and decide what’s right for your household.
Gas stoves require a gas line.
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.
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.
Electric stoves tend to be a bit more expensive than gas counterparts, though differences in operating costs vary by region.
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 $450 to $2,800, comparable gas stoves range from $460 to $2,300. So there’s a difference, but it’s not a very dramatic one. (If price tags give you pause, be sure to check out our tips for buying appliances at a discount.)
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 percent less to operate on an ongoing basis.
Electric stovetops, however, are more energy-efficient.
While it might be cheaper to operate a gas stove for your needs, you waste more energy with gas. Seventy-four percent of the energy produced on an electric range is transferred to food, compared to about 40 percent on a gas range. (Still, it’s not the most energy-efficient stove out there. Though a study published in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings found induction cooktops to be an even better option, with up to 90 percent of the energy transferred to food.)
Gas stoves offer more precise temperature control than electric ones.
The main difference between gas and electric stoves lies in how they respond to temperature setting changes. Gas stoves respond more or less instantly as the flames spread around the bottom of a pan, and knobs that change the size of the flames give 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 that a gas stove can: charring, toasting, and flambéing. If you’re a committed home chef, the superior performance of gas stoves may sway you in their favor.
Electric stoves are generally safer for households.
Though covered with metal grates, the burners on a gas stove use an adjustable open flame. Wherever there’s an open flame, there’s a chance of a flammable item (like a rogue paper towel or dishcloth) getting too close and catching fire. Sure, electric stoves do not eliminate risks of burns or fires, but they are generally considered safer.
You also risk gas leaks if not properly hooked up to a gas line or a knob turns enough to release gas without igniting. To be on the safe side, any home with a gas stove should have a carbon monoxide detector. And all households, regardless of whether they have gas or electric stoves, should be vigilant to make sure that knobs are always turned Off when the appliance is not in use.
Electric stoves can be easier to clean.
While cleaning stoves with electric coils is comparable enough to cleaning those gas options with burners and grates, there’s another newer electric option that surpasses all as easy-care: a smooth glass or ceramic cooktop. When cooled, these smooth stovetops clean up with just the wipe of a damp rag and dish soap. And, on a bad day, a caked-on mess would still only take only the minimal abrasion that baking soda to scrub off.
All in all, when shopping for a new stove and choosing between gas and electric, choose what you’re most comfortable using. 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. For small spaces, a mini wood-burning stove is another option. The choice, of course, is ultimately yours.