When it comes to the kitchen, choosing a heat source for the oven and hob can cause a strong incendiary reaction among couples, with many of us having a strong preference on just how the cooker should poach our eggs in the morning.
Well, despite any premeditated preferences we might have, each type of cooker does have its own merits. And while we do tend to favour the type we grew up with, if you’re renovating your kitchen it may be worth at least thinking about what other options are available to you, you never know, it could even cause a road-to-damascus moment and convert you to a whole new heat source.
Electric hobs are generally the cheapest type of stovetop cooker you can get. They come in two varieties; ceramic hobs which is where the surface looks like a flat, black pane of glass as the heating elements composed of ceramic are held beneath the surface. The other type of electric hob is the solid plate variety, which have the traditional raised electric hotplates on them. Solid-plate hobs do tend to be a little cheaper but are a tad harder to clean.
Electric hobs come in a wide array of styles to fit even the trendiest of kitchens. However, out of all of the options they tend to take the longest to warm up and cool down, meaning they’re not great for cooking things where you need to rapidly go from a boil to a simmer and the only way to get around this problem is to physically move the vessel to a different element, which may not be practical if you're cooking several things at once.
Still relatively new, induction hobs use magnetic wizardry to directly heat the cooking vessel without actually getting hot themselves. Induction hobs when compared to traditional electrical varieties offer excellent heating speed and allow for rapid temperature variation.
Induction hobs are arguably the safest type of stovetop. As the hob needs direct contact with a ferromagnetic pan in order to create any heat, so accidentally twisting a knob will not cause any heat output unless there's already a pan on it. And as the element does not warm up, the only heat left on the hob is the residual heat left from the vessel, which is the same you’d expect from leaving a hot frying pan on the worktop.
While it may seem that induction hobs offer the best of both worlds from gas and electric they are not without their faults. As the technology is relatively new and has only been domestically available for around 15 years induction hobs do tend to be somewhat more expensive than alternative options. Also as they work through magnetic induction they will only work on pots and pans made out of materials such as cast iron and magnetic stainless steel.
It is possible to purchase special ferrous discs to place onto the hob plates when using cookware made out of copper, glass. aluminium or non-magnetic stainless steel. however, these essentially turn the cooker into a traditional electric hob negating many of the advantages of induction hobs.
Still the most popular heat source in professional kitchens (although induction is starting to gain traction ) gas offers instant heat that is unparalleled, and providing your kitchen is already hooked up with a gas line it’s possible to pick up a gas hob relatively cheaply, the so called ‘gas on glass’ worktops are more expensive but are much easier to clean.
The only real downfall of gas is the perhaps the safety concern. Family’s with young children may worry that small, but curious fingers could find there way to twisting one of the knobs, while many gas hobs today come with automatic ignition features this may still be too much of a worry for some.
When it comes to the oven the main choice is still most commonly between gas or electric. Gas offers instant heat. However, gas ovens are not typically fan-assisted so they tend to offer a less even cooking environment with the top shelf being considerably hotter than the lower.
Electric convection ovens do need be pre-heated for sometime before they can be used, particularly when baking but they also offer a more even heat source.
If you’re looking to purchase a range, rather than separate oven and hob then remember it’s still possible to get a combination cooker, e.g. a range which uses a gas hob but electric oven.
A slight wild card. But a heat storage range could be the right choice for some homes. These types of cooker, the most famous brands of which is Aga. Can be gas, electric, or even oil fired and work on the heat storage principal. This means they have a cast iron core which, once bought up to temperature is constantly on, as cast iron is incredibly efficient at retaining its heat, they use a small but constant amount of energy to stay hot, although critics argue that they still use far more energy in a year than ‘on/off’ cookers.
Having a heat storage cooker means that the ovens and hot plates will constantly be pre-heated and ready to use. Most designs offer a large boiling hot plate and an equally sized simmering plate. both of which can accommodate several regular sized saucepans. They also typically feature a selection of oven compartments at different temperatures for different things.
Heat storage cookers can also be used to double as the home's boiler, supplying hot water for your plumbing and central heating throughout the year.
On the downside, apart from (arguably) running costs, these types of cookers constantly give off heat, which in this country may be a benefit much of the time, but can lead to an unpleasantly warm kitchen during the Summer. Another issue is that if you want to change the temperature of one of the ovens or hot plates for example, then with some models you’ll need to give the cooker as much as 24 hours notice beforehand.