Gas vs. Electric Ovens

Love the house, love the yard, love the neighbors (for the most part). What I’m not so sure about is the stove that came with the place. It’s electric, and I’ve never cooked on an electric stove before. Well, I take that back. I remember this one electric coil stove I had in a cracker box apartment in Minneapolis, but this is a higher end job with the glass cooktop.

While I haven’t been cooking or baking all that much this last month, I have noticed some things. First, contrary to what I’d always heard about electric cooktops, it’s very fast to heat and cools down pretty fast too. And contrary to what I’d always assumed, the heat the elements put out (especially the adjustable size “large” element) is enormous. Much more than my last gas stove. In fact I’ve burnt quite a few things of late, forgetting where I am.

The oven is an interesting experience because the heat is so intense and so even. Not since I worked with commercial electric ovens have I felt the like. I can see why so many pro bakers have electric ovens in their home kitchens (for the rare times they can actually stand to bake at home). The heat they give off is extremely dry, which is better for pastry, particularly flaky doughs like puff pastry and croissant, which don’t need to be weighed down (or softened) by any extra moisture.

But Joe, isn’t all oven heat dry? I can hear you asking. Especially at those high temperatures? In point of fact, no. Though there’s no water in natural gas (which is almost 100% methane) water vapor is one of the by-products of its combustion, the others being carbon dioxide (note that I said carbon dioxide and not monoxide, the first of which is harmless, the second of which can kill you), plus a few nitrogen oxides here and there. So whenever the oven turns on there’s always a little water vapor being introduced to the environment, and that can impact your pastry. It’s the same with propane grills, which give off quite a bit of water, and why they never deliver the same crispy steak crusts that charcoal grills do. Bread baking is obviously a whole different matter. In that case you want moisture, though it’s not at all difficult to introduce it when you want to (spray bottles, ice cubes on a sheet pan, etc.).

I may just keep this stove, though at first I swore to get rid of it. The only real problem is that the instruction manual (yes, the previous owners of the house kept it and passed it on, part of how I knew we were getting a well-maintained house) says that the glass cooktop can’t support the weight of a boiling water canner. That may be a deal breaker come summer. But then there are probably ways to work around that. I’ve been meaning to get one of those big-heat outdoor propane burners for my wok. It would work for canning too I’m sure, plus canning outdoors would make me feel like an authentic Kentuckian. We’ll see.

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