Ovens, by and large, come in two varieties – those powered by electricity, and those powered by gas. The former use a large heating element, which increases in temperature as current flows through. The latter works by igniting a steady supply of gas. Both heating mechanisms are to be found at the rear of the oven, often shielded by a protective cover which helps slow the distribution of heat through the compartment.
So, which is best, electric or gas ovens? Each technology has its advantages and drawbacks, so it’s difficult to state that one is always better than the other. Let’s run through them, so that you can decide which will be the best fit for you. We’ll start with the advantages of a gas oven.
Why choose a gas oven?
It’s worth first noting one of the features that gas users often cite – you can tell when a gas oven is off in much the same way that you can tell when a gas hob is off, since the flame is often visible at the rear of the oven. Use the appliance for a while and you’ll learn the knack of telling how much heat you’re adding to the compartment.
Unlike an electric heating element, which takes time to reach the required temperature, a gas stove creates a flame that pops into existence instantly, allowing you to start cooking more quickly, and perform small adjustments easily. Gas tends to burn at a hotter temperature than the average electric oven, and it tends to produce more moisture as it burns. Natural gas, if you’ll remember your chemistry lessons at school, is comprised of methane – which combines with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water as it combusts.
Depending on what you’re cooking, this may or may not be a good thing. Creating that browning effect around the edges of roasts and cakes requires the surface to be quite dry. On the other hand, you might wish to cook a meal all the way through without burning the outside of the food, in which case a steamier compartment might be advantageous.
Cost of Gas
Gas is a primary resource – it’s extracted from the ground, refined and then burned. Electricity, however, is usually created by burning gas or another natural resource. As such, gas tends to command a lower price per joule consumed. That said, gas ovens tend to demand greater up-front installation costs – which we’ll touch upon shortly.
Effective through power cuts
If your home is subjected to frequent power cuts, it’s worth considering how well you’ll be able to cope if you’re unable to cook anything! Ovens require a considerable amount of power – and only a very beefy generator will be able to keep them up and running. Naturally, a gas oven isn’t entirely immune from power outages – the spark that ignites the gas in the first place, after all, is generated by electricity.
Why choose an electric oven?
Electric ovens tend to cost less up front than gas ovens. They can also usually be installed with minimal adjustments and upheaval, as there are likely already several items that use electricity in your kitchen. This advantage is of course negated if you’re replacing one gas oven with another.
Unlike gas ovens, electric ovens do not depend on a steady supply of toxic material, which means there’s no danger of a leak springing and filling your kitchen with potentially lethal gas. Of course, the chance of this happening is incredibly rare – particular with modern gas ovens – but if you’re unfamiliar with gas, excluding it from your kitchen might put your mind at ease.
Do gas ovens cook unevenly?
While a gas oven might provide more instantaneous heat, it’s also more likely to experience ‘hot-spots’, where the temperature is consistently higher than a space just a few inches away. Again, this problem is far less prominent in newer ovens, but owners of older gas ovens might find themselves wondering: “why does my gas oven cook unevenly?”
Since gas ovens heat more quickly, you might find that the air inside the compartment doesn’t have time to circulate from one side to the other. It’s therefore crucial to properly pre-heat the oven, and periodically rotate whatever you’re cooking. You might even invest in a pizza stone, which will absorb and slowly release heat over the course of the cook.
So, should you buy a gas or electric oven?
In most cases, purchasing decisions of this sort are influenced by kitchen’s existing setup. If there’s already an electric oven there, and no gas supply to sustain a gas oven, then it makes sense to opt for a like-for-like replacement.
That said, personal preference is sure to prove hugely influential – particularly if you’re a committed cook and looking to spend much of your time in the kitchen. If you’re accustomed to a certain sort of oven, or you’re planning to create your dream kitchen and have very specific requirements, then fitting a new gas line into your kitchen might be worthwhile. It’s worth also assessing the impact that such a change might have on the value of your home – you might consider it an investment that’ll pay for itself when you finally sell up.