At Duerden’s, gas is our most popular cooking surface. It’s responsive, easy to use, and tends to be less costly than radiant electric. With gas burners, you’ll be able to control the heat with precision and ease.
Shopping for gas can be overwhelming, since there are many different styles, costs, and performance models. However, the most important factors to understand are power, shape of the flame, and controllability.
The total output of the flame is determined by the gas output and how effectively oxygen is able to get to the flame. It is measured in BTUs, which stands for British Thermal Units. A BTU is the energy required to heat a pound of 68ºF water one degree.
Your BTU measurement comes from the gas output multiplied by how many BTUs that much gas can generate. You should have at least one burner that’s above 10,000 BTUs, but you don’t want all of them to be that high – you’ll want to look for a good spectrum. The best in class is Wolf, which stretches from 300 to 20,000 BTUs on each burner.
However, your BTU won’t tell you the other half of the power equation: the amount of oxygen that can get to the flame. Basic burners have a series of holes called orifices that release the gas around the cap. Advanced burners have the orifices machined at staggered intervals to allow more oxygen to each tip of flame, and others will elevate the burner or provide it with extra ventilation. The most expensive burners are made of brass and each orifice is precision-machined for just the right spacing and angle.
The next important element in choosing a gas burner is the shape of the flame. Some gas flames shoot straight out, while others curl back into the center. Those that curl back are more efficient – they distribute the heat more evenly through the pan and the heat goes into the cooking instead of the room.
Some burners change the shape of the burner instead of the flame to accomplish this, and they work well. The GE Tri-Ring burner, which creates three concentric flame rings, and the Thermador star burner are examples of this.
The last critical element is the control throughout the entire temperature range. Control is affected by the valves, the diameter of the gas lines, the pressure regulators, and the placement of the burners.
A common cooking task is to bring something to a rolling boil, then reduce it to a gentle simmer. Entry level gas burners will have good high or a good low, but not both, and it will be difficult to transition from one to the other. More advanced burners offer low simmer by running two gas lines – one thinner and one thicker – to each burner. As you lower the heat, only the thin gas line is feeding the burner, which allows a very low flame that doesn’t blow out.
It’s hard to evaluate controllability by looking at a specification sheet, which is why we have so many live appliances for you to test out, so don’t be shy about trying different models and asking questions.
Now that you know what to look for in a gas burner, come on in to the showroom and test them out for yourself! If you’d like to learn more about other types of cooktops as well, check out our post on induction cooking.