Everything you need to know about gas stoves, explained
Looking to switch to a gas stove? Here’s what you need to know.
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If you’re lucky enough to have natural gas or propane hookups in your kitchen, you already know the joy of using a gas stove. There’s something instinctive about cooking over an open flame, and it’s easy to love the visual indication of temperature increases and decreases as you turn the dial. Plus, cooking over fire allows you to shortcut a few cooking processes, like heating up tortillas or roasting chiles to perfection directly on the burner.
Recent advancements in induction have professional chefs (even me) wondering if it’s time to trade in their gas stoves for sleek, modern induction ranges. However, cooking with gas has undeniable benefits, so we're breaking down the pros and cons of using a gas stove to help you find the best fit for your kitchen.
How we test gas stoves
When our team tests ranges, we perform a series of tests on gas cooktops and ovens. On each range, we time how long it takes to boil water and measure the maximum and minimum temperature of each burner to identify which burners are ideal for searing steak or simmering sauces. For the ovens, we time how long it takes to preheat the oven before baking cookies, roasting a pork loin, and making pizza.
These tests allow us to not only assess each range but also determine the differences between cooking on gas, electric, and induction ranges.
The pros of gas stove cooking
Immediate, adjustable heat
Gas is the only type of cooktop that allows you to cook over a real flame. That not only gives you a visual indicator of the heat level, but it also creates an instantaneous change every time you turn the dial. There’s no need to wait for an element to heat, so you won’t have to fiddle with the dials as much.
Gas boils water faster than electric stoves
In our testing, we found that gas stoves have lower cooktop temperatures compared to electric cooktops. That said, they’re actually faster at boiling water. Some gas cooktops (like Bosch’s industrial-style range collection) even feature high-efficiency burner technology. That means the burner can boil water and heat pans faster while requiring fewer gas BTUs, making them more efficient as well.
Gas stoves are energy efficient
Speaking of efficiency, gas stoves are more energy efficient when compared to electric ranges. An electric range takes three times as much energy to produce and deliver the same heat as a gas range, so you may notice a large utility savings depending on your local utility rates.
You can cook directly over the flame without cookware
My favorite feature about gas cooktops is that you can use them without dirtying a pan. Cooking directly over the flame is a fantastic way to infuse smoky flavor into your favorite recipes. You can heat flour tortillas directly over the open flame or lay a few peppers on the grates to create roasted peppers and chiles with less effort than heating up the oven.
To take advantage of this feature, grab a metal mesh rack (preferably one that’s rated for use over fire) and a pair of kitchen tongs. Small vegetables (like asparagus, green beans, or cherry tomatoes) will cook in less than a minute, while larger veggies (like onions or bell peppers) take up to five minutes with constant turning. Very large vegetables like corn or eggplant can be charred on all sides and finished in the oven.
Make sure to turn on the vent fan or open a window before cooking over the open flame. It’s also wise to have a fire extinguisher ready to go, just in case!
It still works when the power goes out
The survivalist in me loves that a gas range still works if the power goes out. Of course, you’ll need to manually light the burners since the electric starter won’t function without power. Keep in mind that any electric-driven convection fans won’t function in the oven, either.
The cons of gas stove cooking
Installing a gas stove can be expensive
Gas stoves are generally more expensive than electric ranges, and they can cost more than induction depending on the features. The initial expense is well worth it when you notice a decrease in your electric bill, though.
If you need to install gas hookups to switch from electric to gas, the price goes up significantly. Depending on where you live and your home’s design, this may be very expensive or impossible, so we recommend getting a quote before buying the stove.
It’s hard to get the exact same heat setting every time
Cooking over an open flame has many benefits, but it can be hard to achieve the exact same heat setting every time on gas cooktops. That may lead to higher or lower heat than you were expecting, altering the results of your recipe. If you’re a beginner cook, this may make cooking more difficult.
They’re harder to clean
Compared to glass-top electric or induction cooktops, gas ranges are much harder to clean. You can’t just wipe off the surface, and it’s easy for food and grease to make their way underneath the cooking grates—especially if you’re using the direct flame cooking technique.
If cleaning is a major concern, look for gas stoves with self-cleaning ovens and cooktops with dishwasher-safe grates from brands like Bosch.
Gas ovens don’t heat as evenly
While gas ovens preheat faster than electric ovens, we found that they tend to cook more unevenly. Most gas ovens have a central flame location while electric ovens’ elements are spread out through the bottom of the oven. The flame also has to cycle on and off to maintain the temperature, creating the potential for uneven baking.
If you want the benefits of a gas cooktop but love to bake, we recommend looking into dual-fuel ranges.
Other considerations to make before buying a gas stove
What do I need for a gas stove?
Gas stoves require both a gas line and an electric outlet. Electricity is required to power the clock and control panel, as well as the electric ignitor (modern gas stoves don’t use a pilot light for ignition anymore).
If you don’t already have a gas line behind the stove, you’ll need to hire a plumber to install one. Most gas stoves can run on a standard 120-volt outlet, so you may need to replace the 240-volt outlet if you’re upgrading from an electric range, too.
Depending on the stove, you may also want to install a hood vent in your kitchen. Venting is beneficial whether you’re cooking with gas, electric, or induction cooktops to remove odors and keep dispersed particles from settling around your kitchen. It makes clean-up easier and helps remove impurities from the air. If you frequently deep-fry or cook oily or greasy foods, you may want to consider a hood that vents to the outside.
Finally, gas stoves burn natural gas or propane, which can release toxic fumes into the air. It’s important to install a carbon monoxide alarm in your home to alert you if the stove isn’t functioning properly.
How many BTUs do I need in my gas stove?
The heat output for gas cooktops is rated by BTUs—British Thermal Units—a measure of how much heat each burner can produce. We discussed BTUs in depth when we tested gas grills. In the end, we determined BTUs aren’t the be-all-end-all for determining grill success. With grills, BTUs are only an indication of how much heat the grill can produce not how hot it will actually get inside your grill.
When it comes to cooktops, though, BTUs absolutely matter. Unlike a grill, the flames on gas stove burners come in direct contact with your pots and pans, and the speed and efficiency of their heating capabilities are dependent on those BTUs. Each BTU of heat raises the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. So, the higher the BTU, the higher heat you can achieve (and the bigger the flame).
Most gas cooktops range from 5,000 to 20,000 BTUs, although high-end cooktops like Bosch Benchmark series feature high-efficiency burners that can go up to 59,500 BTUs. It’s nice to have a range of burners, too: A 5,000 BTU burner is perfect for holding soup or a braised dish at a simmer, while a 20,000 burner is better for searing steak.
What about dual fuel ranges?
Dual fuel ranges feature gas cooktops and electric ovens. That’s perfect if you want to cook over gas but you’re not sold on a gas oven. Instead, these ranges benefit from the even heat distribution of electric ovens, making them ideal for bakers. Of course, dual fuel ranges tend to be more expensive than traditional gas stoves, so it’s up to you whether it’s worth it.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.