Picking the right stove

Photo: istockphoto.com/Pamela Moore
So what makes a good stove a green stove? With all the information about green living and energy saving options, it makes sense to settle with a choice that is beneficial to both the environment and us. Assess your cooking style Before deciding on the kind of stove that is best suited to your needs, it's important to look at a few basic factors. Simple issues such as our cooking habits can deeply influence the choice of stove we wish to purchase. While many serious cooks prefer gas stoves for its instant response time, easy heat control functions and low operative costs, there are others who'd rather opt for the even heat distribution and lower initial costs of an electric range. Gas vs. Electric In recent years, technology has made it possible for both gas and electric cooking ranges to be almost at par with each other in terms of design, capabilities and price. When it comes to energy consumption, the gas stove requires less energy for stove top cooking. But when compared to baking or oven use, an electric stove proves the better option. The recent rise in gas prices has also made the electric stove more economical. Convention vs. convection While both convention and convection ovens use the heat generated either by a gas or an electric burner to cook food, each handles that heat differently. Traditional convention ovens lack the ability to evenly distribute heat inside so food may vary in cooking times as well as temperature, which makes them a less popular choice among professionals. Convection ovens are equipped with a fan at the back of the oven to ensure proper circulation and even distribution of heat, which in turn allows for quick and even cooking of the food. Due to better heat circulation, convection ovens are often considered a better choice for cooking -- especially roasting. Convection ovens also cook in half the time and with much lower temperatures, helping food to stay moist and not lose its nutrients by over cooking. Magnetic cookery The Induction oven is probably the most energy efficient since it uses far less heat to cook. Induction coils generate magnetic fields that makes the molecules move back and forth creating heat by friction and a warming reaction in steel-based pots or pans. Since the elements stay cooler these stoves are considered safer. They are also easier to clean. Cooking times are faster than with a traditional stove so less energy is used but these stoves are quite expensive and you may need to replace your cookware (copper, aluminium and glass can't be used). The electromagnetic fields may also have an adverse effect on pacemakers so it's recommended that anyone with a cardiac pacemaker keep a distance of at least 50 cm (19 inches) or more, making them not a practical choice. They are also only a stove-top replacement and aren't used for ovens. Look for the brand Whichever type you choose, make sure your stove has the international ENERGY STAR symbol. This symbol is awarded to manufacturers and retailers whose products meet the ENERGY STAR criteria for the energy-efficient product on the market. Can't afford a new stove? Here are some energy saving tips from the Ontario Ministry of Energy:
  • use lids on your pots to keep the heat in, which means you can use lower heat
  • use an electric kettle to boil water -- not the stove, which is less efficient
  • thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator before cooking
  • make sure any aluminium foil on the bottom of the oven isn't blocking any of the oven's circulation holes
  • turn off the oven just before finishing -- the oven will remain hot long enough to complete the job.
  • don't use a bigger pot than you need and match it to the right size element.
  • use smaller appliances for smaller cooking jobs (use the electric kettle or toaster oven).
  • Meenakshi Agarwal is a freelance food writer/cooking instructor who writes the popular Hooked on Heat website.