Now we’re cooking with gas, baby! All you need to know about the temperature of the flame from your gas stove’s burner.
The temperature of the flame coming from your stove’s burner depends on two factors: the type of gas the stove is hooked up to and the mixture of air and fuel flowing into the burner. At maximum efficiency, natural gas burns at 3,596°F (1,980°C) and propane burns at a slightly lower 3,578°F (1,970°C).
Alas, much of the heat of the flame goes to heating the burner grate and warming your kitchen. It is estimated that gas stoves transfer heat at a 40% efficiency, which means that 60% of the thermal energy of the flame is wasted.
The thermal energy that does get transferred to your pan or pot heats it up, causing the braises and stews in your pots to boil, and the thick-cut steaks and pork chops in your pans to sizzle.
How Much Heat Should I Use?
Despite lore to the contrary, you seldom need to cook over high heat. It’s mostly for boiling sauces, braises, soups, and stews with the goal to evaporate the moisture that they contain and thus thicken them.
Once you’re there, you will want to reduce the flame to low or medium for a gentle simmer.
Medium-high heat should only be used for searing thick cuts of meat and sautéing thin cuts of meat or sliced vegetables.
When you sear, you heat your skillet, add just enough cooking oil to coat the surface, then slap your steak, chops, or fillets and leave them to brown for 1-2 minutes per side without interruption. A crispy, golden brown crust forms on the surface. You then lower the heat to medium to cook the meat through or slide the skillet in a 375-400°F (190-205°C) oven.
As a cooking method, sautéing involves cutting food into thin strips so that it cooks through quickly. You throw the food in a preheated pan that’s greased with a small amount of cooking oil and then fry them through, tossing and flipping them as you do.
This is ideal for poultry, seafood, and veg like mushrooms.
You will do most of your cooking over medium heat. This involves dry heat cooking methods such as pan-frying, shallow-frying, and deep-frying; and wet heat cooking methods such as simmering.
Pan-frying is done with 1-2 tablespoons of cooking oil; shallow-frying by adding so much oil that ½ of the food is swimming in it; and deep-frying is by completely submerging the pieces of food, usually breaded or battered, in the hot oil.
Low heat, which, similar to high heat, you will not be using as often, is for poaching eggs and simmering sauces without burning them.
What’s the Best Cookware for Gas Cooking?
You’re read and heard this piece of advice from cookbook authors and TV chefs time and time again, and for good reason: “Pull out a cast iron skillet with a heavy bottom and thick walls, then get it nice and hot.”
Cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens are excellent cookware for a gas stove because they heat slowly but evenly. Once a cast iron vessel is hot, it transfers heat uniformly to the food and holds that heat for a long time, even if you put a cold batch of food items in it or adjust the heat dial.
Carbon steel, which has a similar structure as cast iron and also needs to be seasoned, is a good alternatives for lightweight skillets that are easier to lift and maneuver. If you don’t want to deal with the hassle of seasoning your cookware (and keeping it that way), opt for stainless steel.
Ceramic and non-stick pans and pots keep your food from sticking, but have less desirable behavior compared to cast iron, carbon steel, and stainless steel, especially when cooking on gas.
Propane or Natural Gas Stove?
While it’s true that propane and natural gas are both odorless and colorless fossil fuels that burn at a similar temperature, propane stoves are much more energy-efficient than their natural-gas counterparts.
One cubic foot of propane yields 2,520 British Thermal Units (BTUs). In comparison, one cubic foot of natural gas yields a meager 1,012 BTUs. Simply put, propane stoves heat your pans and pots faster and consume less fuel compared to natural gas stoves.
Of course, convenience also plays a role in comparing propane and natural gas stoves: as a fuel, propane is delivered to the home in tanks, whereas natural gas flows readily through pipelines.
Natural gas, therefore, can be a boon for the homeowner who, for one reason or another, cannot rely on electricity and does not want to fuss with tanks. With natural gas, there is no need to schedule—and have to plan their day around—a delivery.
A stove that runs on propane can be converted to run on gas (and vice versa). That said, what kind of gas to hook your home up to is one of those decisions that’s best done before you move into it.
Appliance conversion is an expensive, time-consuming process that requires the replacement of burners, gas orifices, and pressure regulators, to name a few. Also, it must be perfumed by a qualified gas technician lest you want to void the stove’s warranty or your home’s insurance.
What Color Should the Flame Be?
When cooking on gas, the color of the flame is important.
If the air-fuel ratio of the mixture flowing into your burner is just right, the flame should be a bright, icy blue, accentuated by small eyes of a slightly darker hue around the opening of each burner port where the heat is most intense.
A red, orange, or yellow flame are an indicator of an issue, and it is recommended that you call your local gas technician to have your stove checked and regulated. (You do not want to wait on this, as a malfunctioning stove may lead to the buildup of poisonous carbon monoxide in the air that you and your family breathe.)