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I've heard it said many times that you're more likely to burn food on an electric stove than a gas one, but I can't tell a difference. This seems to me to be a fallacy perpetuated by the natural gas industry, and I would expect the issue to just be people are not sure how to accurately adjust the system they're not used to. Once the heat energy gets into the cooking vessel, say a cast iron skillet that will quickly disperse the heat, I can't even identify a physical (physics) reason why there would be a difference.

So my question is, is there something I'm missing; is there a physical reason why cooking on a gas vs stovetop would be different?

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In my opinion there is no physical reason. To cook food the same energy is needed, and to burn it too. It is behavioral differences because of the form of heat:

One is aware of the dangers of gas and is much more careful in turning it off on time, when food just starts to smell "singed". Electric : we may turn it off and leave the pot on the still hot element and a small singe becomes large.

Turning gas off zeroes the heat supplied. Turning the electric off has residual heat.

Recipes, in my experience, are timed on gas, all good cooks cook with gas because of the control of temperature it gives. Using the same times on electric and leaving the pot on the still hot element will turn a slight gold color to brown. Having changed from gas to electric I turn off the electric about 10 minutes before the recipe's end time and let it use the energy of the element to finish cooking.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, tuning in the heat exchange you want, and an electric element continues to release heat after it's turned off. Can you explain why gas would give better control of the temperature? I thought it would be similar, but different: low is low and high is high, but maybe not the exact same values. You seem to indicate the control and heat exchange rate are more linearly related for gas and non-linear for electric, or some such. Why would that be? Wouldn't the controls adjust internally for any differences and make the interface linear for the user? $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ I said it was behavioral. The door bell rings: One will turn off the heat and leave a pot on the element; if it is a gas one the heat is gone. If it is an electric element, electricity is cut but the element keeps heating for quite some time because it has a large heat capacity. $\endgroup$ – anna v May 5 '14 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ I understand the behavioral and residual heat points. What I don't understand is you said: "good cooks cook with gas because of the control of temperature it gives". How would gas give better control of temperature? I would have just chalked this up as behavioral: good cooks use gas because it's what they learned and it's what they think good cooks use / should use. $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 13:28
  • $\begingroup$ Well, gas when you want lots of heat gives it almost immediately, electric you have to wait for the element to reach the temperature it needs to radiate at the setting given. 3 in gas is there in 1 second, in electric in 5 minutes or more depending on stove. You lower gas, it goes down immediately, electric lags. So if you cook professionally you prefer gas, it saves nerves. I like gas, except my daughter was scared of possible accidents so I accepted to go to electric. $\endgroup$ – anna v May 5 '14 at 13:31
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, a timing issue, not just for removing heat, but for getting it going too. $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 13:34
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It is easier to regulate a gas stove. If you turn off or turn down the flame, the heats source is immediately reduced.

Turning off an electric stove leaves the element still hot. It continues to heat the pan.

In an oven, you don't often turn the heat up or down. In an electric oven the element heats by radiation. This is an even source of heat, particularly because infrared reflects well off the oven walls. Gas heats the air, which then heats the food. Heating depends on gas flow, which may not be as even.

For these reasons, I have heard it said that a gas stove and an electric oven are best.

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  • $\begingroup$ There are differences between gas and electric ovens: to some extent, there's a different atmposphere in a gas oven due to the combustion byproducts. And both gas and electric ovens heat primarily thru heating the air; convection fans facilitate even cooking in both kinds. $\endgroup$ – Carl Witthoft May 5 '14 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ When you say regulate, this speaks to what I meant when I said people don't know how to tune the unfamiliar system to get the heat energy per second exchange rate they want. It would seem you're saying the exchange rate is more sensitive to small changes in the dial setting for electric than for gas. $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ Does anyone have a good way to estimate what percentage (nearest 10 or 20%) of each method's heat exchange goes though radiation, convection, etc? $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 12:48
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If just boiling stuff, no difference. But if your fancy cooking requires you holding your pan, there is a difference. Getting a pan off the electric stove will immediately cut off all heat source. Getting a pan off a gas stove will just lower the temperature gradually, with a descent gradient. This difference can sometimes crucial to some cuisine method (thinking about fancy French).

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  • $\begingroup$ Why would removing it from the heat source be different depending on the heat source? $\endgroup$ – Travis Bemrose May 5 '14 at 4:17
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is wrong. The cooling depends on the pan, not on the heat source once removed from it. $\endgroup$ – anna v May 5 '14 at 4:18
  • $\begingroup$ Not totally 'removing', just hove the pan 2 inches above the stove. $\endgroup$ – digit plumber May 5 '14 at 4:28

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