Gas stoves, long loved by cooks, have begun to seem like pariahs in the kitchen in recent weeks.
With environmental and health risks coming to light, cities including New York and Berkeley, California, are banning them in new buildings, and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul this week proposed what would be the first such statewide measure.
Although the debate over gas stoves is far from settled, the bans, driven in part by a possible link to childhood asthma and negative health effects, and by the damaging impacts of fossil fuels on the climate, have everyone from home cooks to restaurant chefs and now real estate developers rethinking the source of the heat produced in their ovens and stoves.
There may be more incentive to do so: Electricity is now the nation’s most common energy source for cooking, according to the US Energy Information Administration, the federal agency for energy statistics. A sweeping health, weather and tax bill signed into law in August allocates more than $4 billion for consumer rebates on high-efficiency appliances, including stoves, adding to the push to find alternatives to gas.
So what’s an eco-conscious foodie on a budget to do?
These are the most popular alternatives.
Induction uses magnetic waves to heat and is fast and precise, but not all pans are compatible with it. Only magnetic pans made of materials such as cast iron and stainless steel can be used on induction cooktops. Although they tend to be more expensive than other options, induction cooktops can be portable and heat up and cool down quickly.
Relying on heat transfer between a hot coil, usually placed under a smooth glass surface, and cookware, electric cooktops are a bit more readily available and affordable than induction cooktops.
Electrical and induction appliances can be powered by renewable energy sources such as wind and sun.
Consider price, safety, and other factors.
Induction cook appliances offer “a world of difference in how they work and all the benefits that come with it,” said Rachelle Boucher, owner of Kitchens to Life, a California-based consulting firm that helps cooks convert their kitchens to electric power.
She said induction cooktops were also safer, without the risk of fire from an open flame, like those on gas stoves.
Induction cooking transfers heat much more efficiently than cooking with gas, according to Energy Star, an energy efficiency certification program administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. Cookware is the heat source, heating from within, which means induction surfaces are cooler to the touch and safer for both adults and children to use.
“There is a myth that people say gas is more powerful, gas is more controllable,” Ms Boucher said. “Not at all.”
She said electric stovetops, which use a coil that directly touches cookware or is placed under glass, tend to be slightly less responsive than their induction counterparts.
But both induction and electric cooktops are generally easier to clean than gas cooktops.
However, gas stoves tend to cost less, and switching to an alternative is likely to require a visit from an electrician and possibly a plumber as well.
For chefs, gas is still king.
Commercial kitchens rely primarily on gas cooking, said Bryan Voltaggio, a Maryland-based chef who owns a restaurant called Thacher & Rye.
His restaurant experiments with induction burners for recipes that are very sensitive to temperature, like custard and caramel. These tools, even single burner ones, can cost thousands of dollars.
Mr. Voltaggio, who cooks on an induction cooktop at home, said he preferred induction for its precision, easy temperature manipulation, and quick cleanup of the flat surface.
Ms Boucher said that while certain techniques, such as charring directly over an open flame, aren’t possible with electric or induction cooktops, there are workarounds, such as using a cast-iron skillet over high heat.
Others are not so convinced. Eric Tran, chef and owner of Falansai Vietnamese restaurant in Brooklyn, said gas was the “only way” for some techniques used in Asian cooking, such as cooking with woks.
“It heats up instantly and flames form around the surface as it cooks,” Mr. Tran said. “It all comes down to efficiency and power.”
He said he was concerned about the durability of the delicate glass and ceramic surfaces used with electric and induction cooktops when it comes to working in a busy commercial kitchen environment.
Jesse Sandlin, chef and owner of Sally O’s and the Dive in Baltimore, said she would hesitate to switch to gas because of demand for electricity and the cost of installing new power lines.
How new real estate approaches alternatives.
Real estate agents in New York City and California’s Bay Area said prospective homeowners they worked with still opted for gas stoves.
In New York City, a ban on new gas hookups for buildings under seven stories goes into effect in December 2023. Developers have until 2027 for taller buildings. For now, building owners and landlords are “watching from afar as the transition could be costly,” said Nick Helmuth, a Soho-based real estate agent at Corcoran Group.
And in homes that sell for higher prices, it’s “almost non-existent” to have an electric stove, Helmuth said. In his experience thus far, “gas stoves are always more coveted.”
In 2019, Berkeley became the first city in the United States to ban gas connections in most new homes and buildings. Since then, dozens of California cities, including Sacramento and San Francisco, have followed suit.
Andrew Pitarre, a real estate agent for Compass in Oakland, said that while customers seemed intrigued by induction cooktops, the vast majority still preferred gas over electric cooking. New development in the area, which he said was sparse, typically features high-end induction cooktops.
At first, “a frown instantly appears on their faces when there is no gas,” Pitarre said of the customers. “But when they learn about the benefits of induction, it eases their worry, for most people.”
A few tips for transitioning from cooking to gas.
Ms. Boucher said plug-in portable induction cooktops can be an inexpensive way to try out the cooking method without committing to buying a full range or slide-in cooktop.
Those who don’t wish to change their stoves, or the die-hard gas stove fans among us, can rest easy for at least a little longer: for now, the gas bans passed across the country point only to new developments.
And despite discussions of a possible set of new federal restrictions and passionate debates On the merits of cooking with gas alternatives, Richard Trumka Jr., Product Safety Officer, emphasized that any federal action taken would only apply to new stoves.
The commission “doesn’t come for anybody’s gas stoves,” he said.
McKenna Oxenden contributed reporting.