The stove plays a central role in our homes. We cook with it and in some cases we draw heat from it. In its most basic role, and arguably the most important, we use it to sustain our families. As far as appliances in the kitchen, the stove is probably the most important and it can often be the one we spend the most money on. Because of that, we must understand what we want to use our stove for, how we want to power our stove, and the differences in types and styles of stoves so we can choose one that is best for our family.
Types of Stoves
The best place to begin choosing the most appropriate stove to fit your needs is to gain a thorough understanding of the most popular types of stoves.
These stoves typically come in two different styles: glass top and coils. A third style, induction stoves, has recently come on the market as well. The electric stove using heating coils was one of the original electric stoves designed and is historically considered the most traditional electric stove. Heating coils generate heat for individual burners and are extremely durable and easily replaceable if necessary. Smooth top stoves feature a ceramic or glass top that receives its heat through halogen lamps or coils. Induction stoves are the newest electric stoves, relying on electromagnetic induction for the creation of heat.
Natural Gas or Propane Stoves
Stoves heated with natural gas or propane provide nearly unlimited control over the amount of heat used while cooking food or preparing dishes. Heating is near instant and a high level of heat can be achieved quickly and sustained over a long period of time. These stoves are controlled by lighting the gas emitted when the stove is turned on. Proper ventilation is required with either natural gas or propane stoves.
Completely self sufficient, wood burning stoves rely on wood to heat the burners. They are wide-spread and regularly used by individuals who want complete freedom and independence from modern fuel options. In most of these stoves, dampers or shunts are used to regulate the airflow, which in turn allows control of the heat.
Another important element in determining which type of stove will be best in your home is to understand the power or fuel source of each specific stove. Adding or changing the primary source of fuel in your home can be extremely expensive and often cost prohibitive. Electricity is required for electric, glass top, and induction stoves. While gas is required for both propane and natural gas stoves, there is a difference. Propane is typically bought from retailer or propane dealer; natural gas is supplied from a central location or plant. Most homes must be prepared with gas lines in order to use a natural gas or propane stove as it can become very expensive to add gas lines to a home.
Uses of Each Type
Each variety of stove can definitely handle the basic task of cooking and preparing foods; however, the reality is, each style performs a little differently. Some cook hotter, some simmer better. Looking at how each stove handle specific tasks allows you to have better knowledge as you choose your stove.
Gas stoves have the best response time in reaching specific temperatures. They react immediately as the heat is increased or decreased. Electric stoves definitely have a slower response when it comes to temperature control; however, removing the pan for a moment as the dial is turned will allow the temperature to be reached more quickly. Wood stoves reply the slowest to reach a specific temperature.
Canning and Preserving
Gas stoves are typically the preferred stove for those who plan to do large amounts of canning and preserving of foods. They reach high temperatures more quickly, which allows the preservation process to begin sooner. Because gas stoves also respond quickly to temperature adjustments, it can be easier to maintain control of the temperatures while canning. However, electric stoves can be used for canning. They will take a little longer and will need to be checked more often. Specific water baths or pressure canners can be purchased for use on electric stoves, particularly for glass or ceramic tops. Specific tips should be used when canning on an electric stove. 
Because gas stoves allow excess heat to flow up and around the cookware, they typically take longer to boil a large pot of water. Electric stoves have the advantage in this area.
Electric stoves appear to handle lower temperature cooking better than their counter parts. These stoves allow for an easier, longer, more controlled simmer of any food that is being prepared. Gas stoves will certainly simmer food; they will simply need to be watched more closely.
Flat bottomed pans work best on electric stoves because of their heat transfer. This is especially true for glass or ceramic top stoves. Natural gas, propane, and wood stoves transfer heat much more evenly so almost any type of cookware will work for these stoves.
Key Features of Stoves
As one of the most used appliances in the house, we certainly want the stove that fits our family best. While cooking and preparing foods plays a huge role in that decision, other factors must be included as well.
Although many people choose to cook with gas stoves, they are considered more dangerous than electric ovens. Gas is combustible and if it is installed incorrectly or not maintained properly, the possibility exists for a small, or even sometimes large, explosion. Because it is gas, there is also the expulsion of carbon monoxide to contend with as well. Cooking with gas can also include the use of an open flame, which could be dangerous with young children. Both electric and gas stoves have been known to emit fumes and pollutants when they are being run in self-cleaning mode.
Gas stoves provide almost precise temperature control. Because of this, they are often the best choice for long-term cooking in a recipe, high-temperature cooking, and stir-frying. Electric stoves can be a wonderful choice for long simmers and cooking at lower temperatures. Cooking with wood stoves can be the most difficult in terms of temperature control; they are primarily controlled with the damper, or shunt, that directs airflow instead of traditional controls. The more modern wood stove cooktops include airtight stoves, which allow better control of temperatures. There also tends to be more differentiation in burner temperature when using a wood cook top versus gas or electric, with the wood stove being the most likely to have hot and cool spots.
Both electric and gas stoves usually offer self-cleaning possibilities for the actual oven portion. In terms of cook tops, electric ovens are often easier to clean, particularly the glass or ceramic topped stoves; however, they do require special cleansers, which can be frustrating for some.
Paths of the Future
As stoves are continually redesigned, and cooking requests are taken into account, modern technology allows from some unique turns. Hybrids are one the more recent examples of this. These dual-fuel stoves usually combine natural gas and electric options to cook foods. Most often, the range portion will use gas burners while the oven will be electrically controlled. As the newest kid on the stove block, these stoves usually have a higher price tag than their single fuel counterparts.
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