About 58 percent of Americans use electric stoves for cooking, according to the California Energy Commission. Electric stoves are commonly divided into two types: smoothtops and coil tops.
Smoothtop electric stoves have a ceramic surface with heating elements underneath the range. Coil top stoves have an exposed heating element.
Electric stoves may be further divided based on their method of heating into halogen, radiant, induction and solid disk elements. Induction electric stoves are the most expensive models and are generally only necessary if you are a serious cook.
Gas stoves also usually have four burners, although some may have an additional center burner. The burners may be sealed or unsealed, and the stove may or may not have a pilot light.
Surfaces may be made of porcelain-enamel, stainless steel and tempered-glass. Burner heat capacity is measured in British thermal units (BTUs) per hour.
The higher the BTU, the more heat generated. Some models come equipped with automatic reigniting burners, which relight if the gas flame is extinguished.
Culinary Pros and Cons
Electric stoves are usually cheaper than gas stoves and offer a wider range of products and prices, according to the Home Depot. Coil elements heat up very quickly while smoothtop elements are very easy to clean and maintain.
Gas stoves are often preferred for culinary use since they have a large range of heats and often provide better temperature control. Although electric stoves heat up faster than gas stoves, some cooks find that gas ranges can decrease heat levels more effectively than electric models.
If you are looking for maximum energy efficiency, gas stoves are generally preferable to electric models. According to the California Energy Commission, gas stoves with an electronic ignition (as opposed to a pilot light) cost less than half as much as electric stoves.
However, the upfront costs tend to be much higher. Regardless of which type you choose, maximize the efficiency of your stove with regular cleaning and maintenance.