Now you're not cooking with gas!
August 26, 2007 6:06 PM   Subscribe

How to cook on electric stove?

I just moved to a place without civilized things like gas service - how can I best compensate for having to use an old coil-top electric stove?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:09 PM on August 26, 2007

I had to make this switch a couple years ago. The main difference is that you don't have the kind of fine control you're used to. It's like driving a truck: it takes a long time to get going and once you do it takes a long time to stop. If you need high heat, start the burner and let it get going for a while before putting a pan on it. If you need to boil and then quickly reduce the heat to a simmer you'll need two burners so you can move the pan from the high heat burner to the low heat burner. It's pretty simple really, just inconvenient.
posted by cali at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2007

Here's a trick I use on my electric stove when I need to reduce or increase the heat under a pan in a hurry: use two burners (one on low, and the other pre-heated to high).

(I may have learned that here)
posted by YamwotIam at 6:11 PM on August 26, 2007

Probably from cali, in fact.
posted by YamwotIam at 6:12 PM on August 26, 2007

get a couple of metal diffusers that fit over the burners. it makes the burner heat more evenly and you can cook at lower temperatures.
posted by elle.jeezy at 6:15 PM on August 26, 2007

The "long time to heat up and cool down" thing may or may not be true. In my old house, I had a newish flat-top electric range, and it was very much like that. I moved to my current apartment, which has a circa 1980s coil stovetop, and I was amazed how much better it was. It heats pretty quickly, but if something starts to boil over, I do have to remove it from the burner for 30 seconds or so until the burner cools down. The quicker heating may be due to older appliances not having as much energy controls as newer ones.

The main thing you need to do is pay attention to where your control knobs are for the desired result, then trust the knob position for future cooking. With a gas stove, you can see the flame. On an electric, you learn to look at the knob.

Pretty soon, it will be second nature.
posted by The Deej at 6:47 PM on August 26, 2007

Here's something I didn't know until, oh, about 3 or 4 years into owning an electric stove. You know those metal dripguard things under the burners? They're not just to guard against drips. They're reflectors, and they help distribute and maintain heat. So when they start to get gross enough where a spin through the dishwasher doesn't bring them back to shiny-shiny, get new ones. I bought new ones based purely on aesthetics and was shocked as hell to see how much of a difference it makes.
posted by macadamiaranch at 6:54 PM on August 26, 2007

Oh, yeah, and before you start completely dissing electric burners: I know for a fact that my electric stove puts out more heat than any home gas range I've encountered. You just have to learn how to work it. Longer to heat up, longer to cool down. If you're unluckly like me, the notches on your burner dials might actually mean something. I can't boil 4 qts of water and pasta in a 5 qt pot without either: boiling over on high or not quite boiling on medium high. The burner actually seems to have some non-linear settings that correspond to the lines on the gauge. This annoys me more far more than any other difference between gas and electric. If your stove is newer you might not suffer from this, but be on the look it for it. The solution is to use a bigger pot with more water, so that the high setting doesn't result in a boil over.
posted by mollweide at 7:54 PM on August 26, 2007

In case it isn't obvious from the other answers about the elements taking some time to cool: remember to remove your pan/pot from the burner once the cooking's done. Your sauce (or whatever) will continue to cook for quite a while if you leave it on an element you've just switched off.
posted by bunglin jones at 8:22 PM on August 26, 2007

I've moved to a place with an electric stove from a place with a gas stove and never noticed any difference in the cooking times (except for not having to pay the gas bill).

As for water boiling over in an open pot, I use a pot watcher. It rattles just when the water comes to a boil. I reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking and that prevents a boil-over.
posted by plokent at 9:17 PM on August 26, 2007

It's the end of the summer and the gas grills are going on sale. Y'know, to keep your 'cooking with gas' skills up to par while you learn to use the electric.
posted by desuetude at 6:08 AM on August 27, 2007

You might want to get yourself an induction burner/hotplate. You have to use induction-capable pans (most stainless and all cast iron, no aluminum), but they're much more responsive than standard electric ranges.
posted by Caviar at 8:34 AM on August 27, 2007

Coils do take longer to heat up than gas. At least you won't have to deal with what my stove does—one of the burners stays in lighting mode the entire time, meaning I can't use it unless I want to go crazy from the pop-pop-pop sound.
posted by oaf at 4:56 AM on August 31, 2007

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