By David R Baker and Immanual John Milton | Bloomberg
The controversy erupting from mere talk of banning gas stoves has sparked a culture war that’s about more than politics— it’s about food. And it boils down to one question: Which cooks better, gas or electric?
For most home chefs forced to choose between gas ranges that heat quickly or electric-coil stoves that are inefficient and ugly, the answer is simple: gas. But there’s a third option: induction stoves, which heat with a tightly controlled magnetic field rather than a flame.
On this, even professional chefs are divided. California chef Andrew Gruel, who owns American Gravy Restaurant Group, says induction stoves are “just less efficient” than gas ranges. But Chef Rachelle Boucher, of the Building Decarbonization Coalition, says: “I can boil water or sear a steak or cook something twice as fast on induction.”
What they can agree on is that cooking is an emotional topic.
“When it comes to cultural topics that are close to our hearts and stomachs — mine are one and the same — people have some pretty big opinions,” Gruel said.
The issue raises some genuine cultural questions, too. For instance: Can authentic Chinese food be cooked without a flame or a wok? Can an electric stove produce the quick sear essential to certain cuisines?
Chef and and sustainable cooking consultant Christopher Galarza, who traces his ancestry to a tribe in the Amazon rainforest, says cooking his family’s recipes is a way of connecting with that heritage. “When folks say, ‘You’re trying to change how I cook,’ they think you’re trying to come after my heritage, my past.” But Galarza, who’s opened the country’s first all-electric campus kitchen, argues that traditional cooking doesn’t have to be done in traditional ways, such as over coals or wood.
The debate is front and center after a member of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission said this week that the government could prohibit gas stoves to curb indoor air pollution. Blowback from lawmakers was so severe that the agency’s head walked back the idea days later.
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