Help! How do I cook on an electric stovetop?

I am moving into a fabulous apartment with one significant drawback: an electric stove. Any tips for coping? What about using my All-Clad frying pan, Le Creuset Dutch oven, cast iron griddle? Suggestions welcome!



susan G. December 20, 2011
I was at about 40 years of marriage when we finally moved into a house with a gas stove, gratefully. However, there is one thing I miss about the electric -- that residual heat on the elements. There are times when that slowly diminishing warmth is exactly what I want, so I hope you will come to appreciate it too. And if power outages are a problem, a propane fueled camp stove or a smallish outdoor grill (if you have a deck or balcony) are good backups.
mrslarkin December 20, 2011
congrats on the move, latoscana!

Great tips here. When I first moved here, the house had a really old electric range w coil burners - big pain in the butt to clean, especially when things overflowed. Shortly after, we upgraded to a new electric range - Kenmore Elite - aka "The Bi-Polar Oven." Would I buy it again? Probably not. Definitely get an oven thermometer - that's a huge help. Test out the temperature with, say, a batch of cookies, and check to see if the oven is at temp during baking. Then you can adjust up or down as needed.

My range is a glass top, so I like that when not in use, it serves as another counter surface, especially since I have limited counter space. And it's super easy to clean.

I use all my pans on the flat-top range. Cast iron, stainless, enamel/porcelain coated. Makes no difference for me.

On the down side, when there's a blackout, there's no cooking AT ALL. We live in an area with seasonal storms, lots of trees, and power outages galore. Seriously considering getting a propane oven, as there's no gas service in our town. That, and a generator. :)

But basically, it's just a learning curve. You'll make great food with an electric stove.
java&foam December 20, 2011
latoscana, my parents have an electric cook surface, and while i much prefer a gas burner, i promise its not a culinary death sentence. i cooked with them my entire childhood...but they can be temperamental and need getting used to.

sam1184 is very right about residual heat. with the burners exposed, its easy to know which is hot since they get bright red, but when they aren't actively heating it sometimes gets harder to tell, ESPECIALLY if you have a glass surface (upside it is SUPER easy to clean). make sure you become familiar with the lights on your range, since most newer electric stoves have lights to indicate which burners are still warm after you have it turned off.

The coils can be frustrating to clean and if you have a burner you don't use often and dust settles on it, the burning smell can take you by surprise. If your have an exposed burner stove, I would invest in a set of ceramic burner covers to cover your burners when you aren't using them. they keep them clean inside and if you drop a spoon while cooking and sauce splatters, you're protected from having to clean. you can get the cheap ones at target for $10/4...but you can also get nice decorated ceramic ones to spice up your kitchen.

Make sure your large pots are perfectly flat on the bottom. Because of the intense heat transfer from the surface/surface contact...if your pots aren't sometimes the bottoms will warp a little weird and cause them to wobble as they heat (usually when boiling water). On an upside, I do find that electric ranges boil water faster on average than gas ranges do.

As electric ranges get older, sometimes their heat regulators spazz out and need to be adjusted or replaced. gas ranges function by allowing more or less flame, not based on heat output. with electric stoves, the coils function similar to a dimmer lightswitch does...and the regulator helps make sure the heating coils stay in the temperature range you want them to be. sometimes as they get older the regulators fail and the stove will interpret "low/simmer" as "high heat" and it can catch you off guard. If this ever happens, you can call someone in to adjust/fix it.

Ultimately, all stoves have certain temperaments and you will have to make slight adjustments (maybe medium in a recipe means slightly below medium on your stove, etc) but it shouldn't affect much of your cooking unless you cook a lot with non-flat bottomed pans. If you use a wok a'll probably have to buy an electric wok to cook separately with.

I hope this helps. Congrats on the new (and awesome) apartment!
SKK December 20, 2011
Well said, jave&foam! How I dealt with a coil stove was every two days or so unplugging the coils and taking the pans out from underneath the coils and putting them in the dishwasher. (The pans, not the coils!) Also a great time to wipe the coils.

When you plug the coils in again be sure the burners are completely turned off or they like to spark a little.
Sam1148 December 20, 2011
Another item I love is the T-fal "Professional" non-stick pan.
To me non-stick pans are short lived..and I replace them every 5-7 years as they always degrade over time.
The T-Fal has a little 'red spot' that's heat sensitive and shows when the pan is up to heat.
Yeah, not very useful on gas stoves---but a good visual indicator on glass top stoves for when to add oil.
The "Professional" one is the one to look for, as the other models don't have a nice heating diffusion pattern without the metal core bonded in the pan. You might have to amazon it "Professional" as keyword, as it's not widely available in cookstores; the lower models are more popular; 35 bucks or so from Amazon.
I don't see why to spend more on a non-stick pan that no matter how fussy you are will degrade over time.
latoscana December 20, 2011
Thanks for all of your guidance - I will definitely follow your advice!
SKK December 19, 2011
Cooking with an electric stove just takes a little more time and careful attention. When I am frying or sauteeing I always put my pan on to preheat before I add anything. I use the same cookware you reference in your question except for the griddle. The heat doesn't radiate the way I like. Great cookware is a must for electric cooking - cheap cookware will burn.

Baking takes attention also. Recommend buying a thermometer for your oven to find out if it is regulating properly. Don't care how new an oven is, the thermometer make a difference.

Is it glass cook top?
P.S. Sam has some great ideas
bigpan December 19, 2011
Ouch! Best to experiment a lot - put pan/pot on burner to pre heat, then add product and cook until done- remove from heat . Not the same as gas but you will get used to it. Remember it takes a while to get up to temp, that is why I say pre heat. Also, consider searing, then put into preheated oven to finish by roasting.
Sam1148 December 19, 2011
If you're used to gas, it will be some that when you turn of the heat---the heat does not go off immediately. For most things you should be fine. The cast iron grill might not heat as well you'd think---and if it's a glass top that's another problem for cast iron grills on glass tops.
A heat diffuser might help with sauces and low simmering. Also using the 'two burner' method for somethings helps---one burner on "HOT" and another on "low" and move back and forth.

Emile Henry 'flame top' cookware works great on glass tops.

Also, if you do stir fries with a round bottom wok, get a cheap single table top butane burner from an Asian store. The gas canisters are specialized but cheap at Asian stores---they same form factor as a 'hair spray' can. Easy to deploy the canister fits inside the device; and would probably work well with cast iron griddle pan. By cheap, mine was 25 bucks and 3 canisters are 9 bucks. (40mins/canister).
Food O. December 19, 2011
Be careful!
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