If you’re any sort of online, you may have seen that the latest thing people suddenly have Very Hard Opinions about is gas stoves. Republicans are saying you’ll pry them from their cold dead hands, home cooks are fretting about switching to electric, and some Twitter trolls are facetiously claiming non-gas stoves are Anti-Asian. This all comes from the recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announcement that it would consider new health regulations around gas stoves, given numerous studies that point to gas stoves and heating as indoor pollutants that can raise the risk of childhood asthma.
Some cities and states are now banning the installation of gas stoves in new construction, and the government is offering tax credits to households that switch to induction. Refitting a home for a non-gas stove is still expensive and, if you don’t own your own place, sometimes impossible to do. But even if that’s not an issue, there are mixed feelings. Maybe you don’t want to give up cooking certain dishes, or are worried about a future ban that will force your hand. (Though the CPSC says this won’t happen.)
For those latter concerns, there’s a solution. If you’re moving to a place with an electric or induction stove, or considering getting one but worried about missing fire, or you already have an electric range but want to make a proper stir fry, just get a single gas burner for the times when you actually need flame.
The gas industry has done an amazing job of tapping into the emotional aspect of cooking. Cooking over a fire feels natural in many ways, and let’s face it, everything from roti to blistered shishitos to charring eggplants for baba ghanoush just will not work the same on an electric coil. For many people, firing up the grill outside will solve this problem, but some of us live in small apartments and experience winter so please check your privilege.
Restaurant supply stores sell butane ranges for under $20, which can sit nicely on your stovetop or just next to it, and work exactly the same as the burners on your stovetop. But unlike the gas stove, you don’t have to use it every time you cook, because most cooking doesn’t actually require fire. Heating up a pan to sear a steak or fry an egg doesn’t require fire, and boiling water actually happens faster on induction. And while a single gas burner does create similar health risks, choosing to use flame when it is truly necessary rather than having to use it every time you cook will significantly lower those risks.
About 38 percent of American households currently use gas stoves, and the gas industry has lobbied for lower efficiency requirements for gas stoves as compared to electric and induction, resulting in a massive cost difference. “They were able to basically keep this baseline, not-really-that-good stove on the market,” says Andrea Crooms, a public power organizer, “so you’re still able to go out and get a cheaper gas stove because they didn’t force the efficiency of it.” But if the day ever comes where you need or want to switch, a single burner will do what a gas stove does, only just when you need it.
While home cooks are certainly affected by gas stoves, it’s restaurant professionals who are at the most risk, being exposed to gas flames for hours at a time for work. We would all do well to fight for better ventilation requirements in both commercial and residential kitchens, both because of the methane risk and because of all these respiratory illnesses floating around.
To be clear, no one is taking away your gas stove. But if you want to plan for a future that is less reliant on natural gas, using a butane cartridge sparingly instead of having gas pumped into your home every day is a big step.