There’s something natural about cooking over an open flame. I’m not talking about a campfire (though now I’m dreaming about S’mores). I’m talking about a simple gas stove. I grew up cooking on stoves like this, I understand stoves like this. Something about the hum of the blue flame is comforting, and there’s no question about its impact on cooking. So when I moved into a new home a few months ago, I was introduced for the first time to the 1970s sci-fi world of glass-ceramic cooktops.
This was different. I like to think I have a cooking playbook. Maybe I play it a little fast and loose when it comes to measurements and spicing, but the familiar tangible flames of a gas range was a standard in my repertoire.
Thus, it was time to experiment.
My first outing with the new stove was simply hard-boiling some eggs. I turned on the stove to high, filled a pot with water, and let the two pieces do their thing. The electric cooktop glowed an angry red, as if to say, "Let’s begin." Simple enough. I turned away to grab some eggs, and when I looked back — the stove appeared off, as if to mock me. I checked the knobs, turned it on and off again, and waited. I heard an electric click (seemingly out of my control), and the glow returned.
The appliance seemed like a finicky beast, but I was determined to learn its ways. I realized it was an automatic setting to keep heating consistent and not create hot spots on the pot you’re currently working with. I was learning things. It was as though I’d cracked a bottle of wine with an old friend and she’d started spilling her secrets.
Have you ever moved in with a roommate that wasn’t a friend? There’s an adjustment period. Hopefully the two of you get along, and more than that, hopefully you can salvage a friendship. Learning to cook on a new range is kind of like that. You need to learn their habits, gauge whether or not your personalities mesh, and adjust your living situation accordingly. Luckily, my electric cooktop and I both love food, so we had a lot in common.
I graduated to more advanced fare, from crispy chicken thighs to giant pots of soup. To get comfortable with these new glowing burners, I had to really get a sense of what each setting looked like while cooking. If you’re making the switch like I did, try cooking an old standard. For me, I fiddled with the high, medium, and low settings while frying an egg. I had an inherent knowledge of what this feels like on a gas burner, but it took a few days to find that sweet spot between medium and high to capture that perfect fried egg (you know the one). I’d found that common bond with my stove, that shared experience that helped us grow thick as cooking thieves.
A few days later, it happened. That quirk that sticks out that makes you wonder whether or not you can stand living with this person. My husband had cooked a particularly sloppy breakfast, and the cooktop was coated in a thick layer of grime. It was the kind of mess that could hide in a gas stove situation, but it was on clear display as a centerpiece of my kitchen. The sheen of dried egg and sausage grease, sparkling and baking in the sun.
After adjusting my cleaning routine , I simply learned to keep my cooktop spotless, leaving the surface clean and clear to do its job efficiently..
So don’t be intimidated when it comes to switching up your core tools. They all provide the necessary heat to craft delicious food, it’s just a matter of experimenting to discover the kind of heat each setting delivers, and if you fail, try try again until you make a new friend.
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(Image credits: Gina Eykemans)