What’s cooking? A Practical Guide to Choosing a Stove

An integral part of your kitchen is the stove, from making a simple snack, to setting the table for an extravagant dinner, the stove will determine how and what you can cook. In Singapore, the most common types of stove tops you’ll be choosing from is likely between a gas stove and an induction stove, and each of these types have their own sets of strengths and weaknesses.

Gas Stove

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A gas stove the most common type of stove you’d find in households these days. Having been around for years, it is what most people are familiar cooking with. The concept is simple, from a supply of gas (whether from a cylinder or a central supply), the light petroleum gas (LPG) is channelled to a stove where it is lit and provides a source of heat for cooking. Control of the intensity and temperature is done by adjusting the amount and speed of the gas released to the stove.

 

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Your stove may also come with different burner sizes, which would affect the minimum and maximum temperature each individual burner can reach, giving you flexibility between which one you use.

Induction Stoves

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Induction stoves have reinvented home cooking. Using magnetic induction to heat up the pan, doing away with conventional concepts of thermal conduction in the cooking process. Because of this, induction stoves can very quickly and rapidly get a pan up to heat, but can also cool down very fast. They often have different sized heating areas to accommodate for differently sized pots and pans, and controlling the cooking temperature is either done by adjusting a knob, or setting a specific wattage (the higher the watts, the hotter the cooking).

Electrical Stoves

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Gaining popularity at the start of the century, electrical stoves came in as an alternative to gas stoves. Using electrical heating coils to provide the heat for cooking, the wire would be under a glass cover and you would place your pot or pan above it and allow the heat to conduct. However, with the rise of induction stoves, these have fallen out of favour as it is in-between a gas and induction stove, with no real benefit given these two options.

Safety

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Safety will always be a concern in cooking. Conventional gas stoves run the risk of household fires. With the possibility of gas leaks from old or faulty pipes or an accidental fire from leaving the stove on unsupervised, gas stoves are by far the most dangerous. Gas stoves are also going to get very hot as they cook, so care must always be taken  to avoid being accidentally burnt.

Electrical stoves are slightly safer than gas stoves. The lack of open fires reduces the risk of accidental fires. However, the surface will still be hot to the touch and can cause unwanted burns and injuries.

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Induction stoves fare the best in safety. Using magnetic waves to induce heating, whatever does not conduct the magnetic waves correctly will not be able to conduct heat, and thus will not be hot. This means your chance of accidental fires are pretty much zero (save for things burning in the pan), and the area around the stove top will remain cool to the touch. However, be careful around the area the pot or pan was in contact with, as the base of these utensils are hot and would have heated up the area they were in contact with.

Winner: Induction Stoves

Utility

When planning your kitchen, you would want to plan how easy it would be for you to cook food, including the types of pots and pans you need to purchase to equip your kitchen. Both electrical and induction based stove tops are strict in that they have flat surfaces and would need a utensil with a flat surface to function, so you won’t be able to use a wok on them, and items that are too large to fit on the heating area would not have a good distribution of heating.

Taking it a step further, induction based stoves have even more requirements. They require very specific types of pots and pans to function properly as they work on the principal of magnetic waves. That being said, only magnetic materials (iron and steel) would be able to function on them, and aluminium or copper would fail to work. Not only that, getting a stainless steel pan would not

guarantee that it will function on your induction stove. If you choose this option, you will likely have to get utensils which are “induction” approved and are guaranteed to work with your induction cooker, forcing you to buy pricier and more sophisticated equipment, which may be laborious for those who are not looking to cook very much.

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Gas stoves take the cake here though. Jack of all trades, gas stoves allow any type of equipment to be used. With the versatile feet holding your pots and pans above the fire, all types of bottoms are compatible, from flat pans to round woks. You won’t need to buy any special types of pots or pans either, so long as they are metal, they’ll work well over the burner.

Winner: Gas stoves

Taste

Arguably the most important aspect you should consider when choosing a stove, even more so for serious home cooks. How the heating source affects the cooking will largely impact the possible taste of the food produced.

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Induction stoves prevail in better control of exact temperatures. With sliding controls or index increases in wattage, you can very carefully choose your optimal cooking temperature and keep it constant throughout the cooking process. However, induction stoves fall short here as they fail to work once the pot or pan is no longer in contact with the surface. So if you start basting or lifting the pan to mix, the heating will immediately cut off and you may have to reset the wattage all over again.

Gas stoves are less precise, mostly from your estimation you can roughly get the same temperature of cooking when you repeat the process, but it will never be as exact as an induction stove. However, gas stoves have the advantage of having lower minimum temperatures, and higher maximum temperatures (especially if you use high pressured cookers) as compared to electrical and induction stoves. This means you can get better sears, or gentler braising, when you use a gas stove. This is critical in getting the all-important “wok hey” flavour in your food and wowing your guests, something that induction stoves would not be able to achieve. The heating will also always stay on, even when you remove the appliance from the surface, so you’’ll be able to move the pan without a problem.

Winner: Toss up! If you value precision, induction stoves win, but if you’re more serious about taste, gas stoves give a deeper depth of flavour.

Both induction stoves and gas stoves have their own merits and drawbacks. If you’re a serious cook, you may be more inclined towards a gas stove for their flexibility, but if you’re just cooking once every few days then an induction stove is going to be a better choice for you.

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If you still can’t decide between the two you can consider mixing it up and having the best of both worlds. With more stove tops you’ll be able to cook more things at once, and with the mix between the two choices, depending on what type of cooking you intend for, adjust your choice accordingly!