Electric VS Gas: Which Oven Bakes Best?August 23, 2015
Lots of girls fall into two sorts of camps whenever certain preferences are discussed. Bags or shoes, sleek and straight tresses or voluminous and curly locks, sanitary pads or- well, you get the picture.
And then there are those of us who here at Pepper who fall into a tiff over a different kind of debate entirely (but hey, we do still agonize over girly decisions on occasion): whether to use a gas or an electric oven.
So, if you’re about to buy your first oven and are wavering between getting one that functions on either gas or electricity, you may want to check out what we have to say on the matter:
Okay, electric ovens can be expensive. We got ours for an upwards of Php30,000 (and this was back in the mid 90s). Apart from the acquisition cost, using an electric oven can also cause your monthly bills to spike quite a bit. However, if you’ll only be using it, say, weekly, to bake cookies or brownies that take a maximum of 20-30 minutes to finish, your electricity bill should be just fine. But if you’re like me and you also use the oven to roast nine pound turkeys complete with stuffing for at least four hours on end, then perhaps you can cancel out your cable subscription (there’s always torrenting anyway) to help pay for the succeeding energy cost.
Nowadays, you can get electric and gas ovens for the same price. So it’s the operating costs of each oven that would spell the difference between them. And that’s where the gas oven wins. I’ve been able to bake close to 500 cookies and almost a hundred cakes on one tank of gas (that’s been used for cooking meals, too). And while people complain about gas prices rising, electricity is even more expensive.
Evenness of Cooking
From my experience, electric ovens do really well in this department. An oven that is powered by electricity usually maintains an even temperature throughout the baking process since it doesn’t depend on gas ignition as a heat source. As a result, the oven’s temperature usually doesn’t drop in the interim between succeeding gas ignitions. This is particularly crucial if you are baking something that can be sensitive to fluctuations in temperature, like a soufflé for instance. I’ve made cream puffs with tremendous success using my electric oven since the constant high temperature during the initial baking stage really ensures that the blobs of dough rise up gloriously.
Gas ovens are notorious for having hot spots, i.e. certain pockets of the oven that are hotter than the others. The bottom of gas ovens is also warmer because the heat comes from the base of the oven, so whatever is in your lower layer will always cook faster than the top. Turning on the fan, if your oven has one, will help. But if it doesn’t, then you just need take the time to know your oven’s hot spots to know to avoid them (by using this trick), and to rotate pans throughout the cooking process. With a little patience, your gas oven’s quirks should have little to no impact to your end product.
As with the previous item, I’ve had no problems with my electric oven when it comes to this criterion. I find that my electric oven generally functions at the level of heat that I want it to whenever I check its temperature with an oven thermometer. However, even electric ovens can get de-calibrated for various reasons, such as how old they are or whether they get a regular cleaning, so it’s still important to use an oven thermometer from time to time.
My oven control is a dial, and there’s an exact spot between three and four that will get me to 350 degrees. Factors such as ambient temperature can also change where that spot could be. I save myself the stress and rely instead on an oven thermometer, so that even if I forget how far away from number four 375 degrees Fahrenheit is or if my oven gets de-calibrated for some reason, I will still be baking at the right temperature.
Electric ovens tend to have less humidity than gas ones since there’s no water vapor from the gas ignitions, and perhaps because the cavity of an electric oven is more closed off than that of a gas oven’s. This is great if you’re using the oven to make stuff like peanut brittle where you need as little moisture as possible, but it has made it necessary for me to cover roasted meat dishes with foil before putting them in. Otherwise, the meat tends to dry out quickly and the skin can burn into a bitter, black crisp long before the whole lot is cooked thoroughly.
I’ve mostly only used my oven for things that thrive in the slightly more humid environment of a gas oven: cakes, cookies, lasagnas, and meats submerged in a broth or thick marinade. My gas oven has a fan, so when I do need a drier oven environment to crisp things up, then I just turn it on. Any moisture is expelled faster via the oven’s vents.
Ease of Use
I find it very easy to use my electric oven since it’s equipped with a preheating indicator that lights up once it’s reached the temperature that I’ve set it to (which can be a godsend if you’re too lazy to bother checking with a thermometer). I also find that it heats up pretty fast, so I don’t need to wait too long to put cake batter or cookie sheets in if I happen to forget preheating it. The one thing that I do find a bit bothersome is that it can be difficult to adjust the temperature of the oven halfway through the baking process. I’ve had a couple of incidents where I had to take out an unfinished batch of cookies to stop them from burning since they were cooking a bit too fast. Other than that, though, it’s largely been pretty smooth sailing.
I’ve gotten used to my gas oven even if it can be tricky to light, especially as my spark igniter has conked out already. And as combustible gas is involved, I take extra care as I don’t want to burn off my eyebrows or, God forbid, more than that. But I have my routine down pat, and I could do it with my eyes closed. Well not really, but you get what I mean. Once it’s lit, the oven gets to temperature quickly. Gas ovens sometimes get blown out when the doors are slammed too forcefully, so if you’re as heavy-handed as I am, you need to take care when closing that door after rotating your pans. If your spark igniter works and you have the deft hands of a surgeon, then working with a gas oven would be a piece of cake (ha!). Just make sure to rotate that cake while it’s baking.
The Final Verdict
Personal preferences are formed by one’s experiences, personality, and, to no small extent, luck. One faulty spark igniter could turn someone off gas ovens forever, while a dry roast could make one swear off an electric one. You could choose to buy one type of oven because it’s the one you grew up using, you could even have different results from a different unit of the same model of oven. So gas or electric, no type of oven could be definitively said to be better than the other. If you study your oven well enough and make the necessary and usually minor adjustments to get the results you want (a foil tent here, a cup of water there) then there’s no reason for you not to get as good a result than if you used the type of oven you didn’t choose to buy.