Gas stoves, long beloved by cooks, have begun to seem like kitchen pariahs in recent weeks.
With environmental and health risks coming to light, cities including New York and Berkeley, Calif., are banning them in new buildings, and Governor Kathy Hochul of New York this week proposed what would be the first such statewide measure.
Though the debate around gas stoves is far from settled, the bans — driven in part by a possible link to childhood asthma and negative health effects, and by fossil fuels’ harmful impacts on the climate — have everyone from home cooks to restaurant chefs and now real estate developers reconsidering the source of the heat produced in their ovens and stoves.
There may be more incentives to do so: Electricity is now the most common energy source nationwide for cooking, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the federal energy statistics agency. An expansive health, climate and tax bill signed into law in August allocates more than $4 billion for consumer rebates on high-efficiency electric appliances, including stoves, which adds to the momentum around finding alternatives to gas.
So what is an environmentally conscious, budget-minded foodie to do?
Here are the most popular alternatives.
Induction uses magnetic waves for heating and is speedy 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 ranges. Though they tend to be more expensive than other options, induction cooktops can be portable, and they heat and cool down quickly.
Electric stoves, which rely on heat transfer between a hot coil — typically placed underneath a smooth glass surface and cookware — are slightly more easily available and affordable than induction cooking appliances.
Electric and induction appliances can be powered by renewable energy sources like wind and the sun.
Consider price, safety and other factors.
Induction cooking appliances offer “a world of difference in how they function and all the benefits they have,” said Rachelle Boucher, the owner of Kitchens to Life, a California-based consulting company that helps cooks convert their kitchens to electric power.
She said the induction appliances were also safer, without the fire risk of an open flame, such as the ones on gas stoves.
Induction cooking transfers heat far more efficiently than cooking with gas, according to Energy Star, an energy efficiency certification program run by the Environmental Protection Agency. The cookware is the source of heat, heating from within, which means induction surfaces are cooler to the touch and safer for use by both adults and children.
“There’s a myth that people say, that gas is more powerful, gas is more controllable,” Ms. Boucher said. “Not at all.”
She said that electric stoves, using a coil that either directly touches cookware or is placed underneath glass, tend to be a little less responsive than their induction counterparts.
But both induction and electric stoves are generally easier to clean than gas stoves.
However, gas stoves tend to cost less, and switching over to an alternative is likely to require a visit from an electrician, and potentially 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 highly temperature-sensitive, such as custards and caramel. These tools, even single burners, can cost thousands of dollars.
Mr. Voltaggio, who cooks with an induction stove at home, said he preferred induction for its precision, easy temperature manipulation, and the flat surface’s quick cleaning.
Ms. Boucher said that while certain techniques, such as charring directly over an open flame, aren’t possible with electric or induction stoves, there were workarounds, such as using a cast-iron pan at a high heat.
Others aren’t so convinced. Eric Tran, the chef and owner of the Vietnamese restaurant Falansai in Brooklyn, said that gas was the “only way” for some techniques used in Asian cooking, such as cooking with woks.
“It heats up instantaneously and flames are shaped around the surface as you’re cooking,” Mr. Tran said. “It 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 setting.
Jesse Sandlin, the chef and owner at Sally O’s and the Dive in Baltimore, said she would be hesitant to switch over from gas because of the electricity demands and the expense of installing new electrical lines.
How new real estate is approaching alternatives.
Real estate agents in New York City and California’s Bay Area said that 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, landlords and building owners are “watching from afar, as the transition could be costly,” said Nick Helmuth, a Soho-based real estate agent at the Corcoran Group.
And in homes selling at the higher price points, it’s “almost nonexistent” to have electric cooking, Mr. 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 hookups in most new homes and buildings. Dozens of cities in California, including Sacramento and San Francisco, have since followed suit.
Andrew Pitarre, an Oakland-based real estate agent for Compass, said that while clients seemed intrigued by induction stoves, the vast majority still preferred gas over electric cooking. New development in the area, which he said was scarce, typically features the higher-end induction surfaces.
At first, “a frown instantly sets on their face when there’s no gas,” Mr. Pitarre said of clients. “But when they learn about the benefits of induction, it alleviates their concern, for most people.”
Some tips for making the transition from gas cooking.
Ms. Boucher said that portable, plug-in induction cooktops can be a low-stakes way to test out the cooking method without committing to purchasing a stove top or full slide-in range.
Those who have no desire to swap their stoves, or the die-hard gas stove fans among us, can rest easy for at least a little while longer: For now, gas bans passed around the country target only new development.
And despite discussions of a possible set of new federal restrictions and impassioned debates about the merits of cooking with gas alternatives, Richard Trumka Jr., a product safety official, emphasized that any federal action taken would only apply to new stoves.
The commission “isn’t coming for anyone’s gas stoves,” he said.
McKenna Oxenden contributed reporting.