Food'n'drink Going green

Electric cooking

Trying out cooking with electricity instead of gas

Not a transport post

America seems to be turning the transition from gas to electric cooking into yet another culture war… as they often seem to do.

Given the multiple challenges of emissions and in-home pollution, perhaps the rest of the world will just get on with it.

I’m two-thirds of the way in moving my house off gas. Hot water and heating are both electric, and powered by solar – during daytime at least.

Cooking is the last part of the puzzle. I just need to get organised and do my kitchen renovation.

In preparation, I’ve tried a few things out.

Slow cooker

This one is easy. I’m not the world’s best cook, but pasta sauce and curry are regular meals, and both work well in the slow cooker, as do stews and chilli con carne.

The model I got (a Crockpot One Pot Slow Cooker) has a removable cooking pot that can go on the stove for searing the meat, then goes into the slow cooker. Neato, one less pot to wash.

I just need to be organised to start it cooking in time – but if I do, the results are excellent.

Portable induction cooktop

Induction stovetop

What about stovetop cooking? Given the aim is for the new kitchen to be all-electric, I thought I’d buy a portable induction stovetop to try it out. After looking at Choice reviews, I ended up with a Westinghouse 2000W model.

It heats up quickly. Unlike cooking with gas, where it’s about how much flame you want, on this unit you choose the temperature. It’s makes sense, but takes a little getting used to – and this unit only does 20 degree increments, where it seems like 10 might be better.

You can also set a timer and it switches off automatically when done.

Overall it seems to work well.

There are two catches. This model only has one hob (is hob the right word in this context?) but that won’t be an issue on a proper induction stove. I can work around that on a temporary basis.

The other is that some of my pans don’t work. One is a decades-old stainless steel saucepan – the last surviving from a set from when I moved out of home in 1993!

I’ve also got some newer, rather nice Scanpan pots and pans, none of which work. It’ll be a shame to lose them – but I can find a good home for them. And to be honest, I love shopping for kitchen stuff.

Air fryer

The wildcard entry is an air fryer – a Tefal Fry Delight – a freebie given to me by my sister, as she was upgrading.

It certainly handles frozen foods such as chips with no problems, faster than the oven, apparently less fatty, and certainly more reliably crispy. (This review of frozen chips is worth a read.)

As noted in this Age piece, capacity can be an issue. This one is fine for just me, but I can see why my sister (with her 6 person household) needs something bigger.

No gas

Between the air fryer, the portable induction stove and the slow cooker (and thanks to previously shifting my heating and hot water to electric), as long as I don’t use my oven, my gas usage has now fallen to zero.

For my latest gas bill, I used no gas at all for two months straight. I’m still getting stung with the supply charge of 52 cents per day.

Gas bill - no gas used in March/April

(I’m not sure why my gas use rose so much in late-2022.)

I haven’t been able to try an electric oven, but these are fairly widely used even in otherwise gas-powered kitchens, and friends like theirs.

So I’m calling electric cooking a success overall.

I think my next step is to get organised on the kitchen renovation – so it becomes permanent, and I can say goodbye to gas forever.

Is anybody else on this journey? Or resisting it?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

26 replies on “Electric cooking”

Of course stainless steel doesn’t work. The alloy doesn’t accept magnetic field induction. If it works, it’s not stainless steel but stainless iron.

Good move, Daniel.
Wednesday’s CPI release shows gas prices rose 36% in Melbourne in the year to MarchQ.
But presumably, at night time your heating comes from La Trobe Valley brown coal?

In day light hours he probably sells electricity to the grid, which has already contributed to green energy, so what he uses at night probably doesn’t matter.

Induction tops are very good and comparable to gas, but I wonder what the running cost is by comparison, since home cooking is typically done after sunset? Interested to know if you get piping hot water 24 hours a day like you do with gas?

Hot water, you really want a heat pump unit rather than resistance heater. You don’t even see it on the electronic meter graph. Induction portable units vary, there’s good ones that give you good control like this one
Nuwave Precision Induction Cooktop Gold

Or there’s the crap ones that Kogan sell that cycle full power on and off. And they overheat the IGBT easily, after which it flashes E5.

Still can’t find an answer as to whether heat pumps provide fully heated hot water whenever you want it 24 hours, but, assuming you do, looking at the pricing and operating costs, you do save operating costs with a heat pump

but a heat pump heater costs about 4x as much as an instantaneous gas unit. On these rough figures, it looks like it would take something approaching ten years for a heat pump to break even. When you’re my age, it’s not certain that you’re going to still be in the house ten years hence. I even had doubts about solar panels which, at my current estimate, will take 7 years to break even – even though, being at home most of the time, we get good use of them compared to families who are off at work and school all day.

Then there’s the capital cost of setting up these things before you even start to get the long-term savings. The average person may struggle to afford the initial outlay on a solar system, new stove and oven or heat pump, let alone a battery backup (and let alone an electric car!). There are a lot of affordability issues to resolve before we see much progress for people on average or low incomes with existing properties and I don’t believe subsidies are the answer, because it’s fundamentally unjust for taxpayers who can’t afford these things to subsidise people who can.

Heat pump hot water systems work just the same as a gas or electric storage hot water system – if correctly sized you won’t empty the tank, and run out of hot water.

I’ve had the misfortune of living with an instantaneous gas hot water system – they have a lag time between turning on the tap and the flame kicking in to heat the water, causing you to waste more water than waiting for a storage hot water system to “fill the pipes” so to speak. And when turning the tap off and on again frequently, such as when hand washing dishes, the delay means the system is hardly spending any time heating the water, leaving you with cold water, or to put even more water down the train.

Stainless steel does work so long as it’s ferrous grade – some is, some isn’t. Daniel’s old saucepan mustn’t be, but I’ve got a fairly new set that works on induction fine, as well as a couple of carbon steel pans that do as well. Cast iron is good too of course, but aluminium is a hard no.

Best for the kitchen reno. I moved to a house with an induction stove a couple of years ago and don’t think I could go back to gas now!

Friends and I use the term ‘burner’. We are all used measuring stoves by counting the burners. The term ‘a four burner induction hob’ is clear in its meaning. No worse than the floppy disc icon for ‘save’.

We have converted our cooking to electric, using a mix of appliances and a benchtop convection/toaster/grill oven, which is almost the same volume and a fraction of the price of a new inbuilt oven. When we get around to redoing our kitchen we’ll get all induction appliances, and maybe a steam oven.

Hot water was a no brainer – just choose electric.

Space heating is the tricky part, in Australia we have a lot of houses with gas fired ducted heating, and there’s no direct electric replacement, as yet. The only option right now appears to be heatpump units, which need to be one in every room, which is expensive and complicated to set-up – I strongly suspect that overseas there may be electric heating units, that could simply dropin to replace a gas ducted boiler, but the retailers here haven’t caught up to the changes rapidly coming industry, or they have stockpiles of these antiquated gas units that they’re trying to get rid of as quickly as possible.

If you are building a new house, the best heating and cooling option is actually : combined ground-source and air-source heat pump system, a single unit that can simultaneously heat / cool your floor slabs, heat your swimming pool and spa, heat your tap water, and anything else you need, is almost free to operate, but fairly expensive to install. You then add solar panels or wind to power your lights, TV, charge your car, etc.

I took the plunge back in 2017 to convert my gas hob to induction. I had previously in 2016 moved from gas hot water to solar vacuum tube electric boosted hot water in 2016. Have never looked back. I live in a townhouse with small kitchen space so the induction cooktop glass gives me more room to dump shopping, prepare food than the previous gas hob. I have found the cooking remarkably efficient. From a health point of view, there are less hazardous emissions, and gas appliances often have fugitive emissions even when not turned on. And it reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Eliminating the gas bill and service charge a definite benefit too.

We have moved to a new house (2 people) our heat pump has never run out. We had our grandchildren stay over during school holidays, no issues with hot water at all

Just read the article from The Age, and it is one of those “Only in America” things when something so basic and could benefit America gets turned into a “culture war”. It should be noted that this whole gas stoves that Americans are defending was “popular” because it was promoted by the gas industry, who I bet uses electric stoves themselves. When I move out, I will be happy to use electric as opposed to gas.

I wonder how long it will be before that Sky “News” program Outsiders turn moves to electric stoves into a “threat” to Australian “cuture”?

One thing we’ve been grateful for having both gas and electricity is that we still have cooking and hot water during blackouts, of which there have been several during the past year but never before for years. If the electricity supply is going to become unstable, a gas backup is a bit of insurance until the whole supply issue settles down.

We are most of the way through the transition. The gas cooker has been replaced with an induction cooktop with electric oven, the gas ducted heating has been replaced with a whole house Daikin split system. New ducts, but the same outlets in the ceiling, and can cool in summer as well as heating in the winter. The hot water (which is a gas boosted solar storage system) is our last gas appliance and prevents us from getting rid of the gas meter. We are certainly paying more for the service fee than for the gas we use now.
The biggest downside of the induction stove (apart from having to replace most of our saucepans) is that we can’t make jaffles any more.

It is hard to compare bimonthly gas bills with quarterly electricity bills, and we haven’t had the Daikin for 12 months yet, but my impression is that we are saving much more from the reduced gas bill than we are paying extra on the electricity. My guess is that we are saving about $1200 a year on gas, and paying about $700 a year more for electricity, but that may change if we adjust the thermostat upwards…

Our house is now all electric. The hot water gas instantaneous/solar system was quite old so I replaced it with a good quality heat pump. The gas cooktop was of the same vintage so was replaced it with an induction unit. Unfortunately it was a bit expensive! We had to upgrade the switchboard and run cabling outside along the house wall because the ceiling space is inaccessible. Fortunately most of our saucepans were suitable for induction. I then arranged to have the gas account closed and the meter removed. The house is heated by 2 reverse cycle aircon units plus small electric heaters. Would never go back to gas anything.

For the people saying that rooftop solar is renewable/green energy and sending it to the gird for storage will offset other use, that is only correct for the tiny minority of people who chose to pass on the “rebates”. Otherwise the government is happily selling on your renewable effort to other polluters so they can green themselves:
Almost all rooftop solar in Australia is actually the owners contracting to pollute for the life of their system.

@Kris, I definitely agree that reverse cycle units provide a different sort of heating to ducted. I suspect if both are well designed (eg with outlets in the right places) then either is acceptable to most people.

@Tony P, diversity in power sources makes some sense, though I’m struggling to think of the last time I had an electricity blackout in my area. Perhaps 15 years ago, for an hour or two? Gas had a long memorable outage in 1998 thanks to the Longford explosion, but I think that’s probably a once-off, I doubt we’ll see that happen again any time soon.

@Carmen, “Induction is slow” – No, it’s not. It’s demonstrably faster than gas.

We’re still stuck with gas central heating & cooking. The advice is generally to wait until appliances are due for replacement (until you get to the last appliance) – this is probably changing as the price of gas increases.

When we renovated about 7 years ago the price of a high quality heat pump was about the same as a gas-boosted solar – so glad we went for the heat pump. We have run out of hot water – once – when I think we had 2-3 (large) baths in one day. We have the heat pump timer set to come on between 10am-4pm – when the solar is producing and it’s a very rare say the solar doesn’t cover it. There is some argument now that if you have enough solar it’s “better” to just go with a standard electric resistive HWS on a timer – invest your money in solar rather than a more complicated HWS.

We still have gas ducted heating & I can’t see us ever fitting enough split systems to replace it – my plan is to replace the furnace with a heat pump unit & primarily use it for heating. We mostly use it for a blast in the morning to heat bathrooms & the general house, and the rooms without a split system (unfortunately a home office) are in use. the lounge split system is now the primary form of heating. Interestingly, our gas ducted heater fan uses about 400W of power – about the same as our lounge split-system once temperature is stable.

Cooking is more complicated. I’m completely colour blind and cannot see red LED displays – I haven’t looked for a while but I’m yet to find an induction cooktop I can actually control :-(

btw there is a very good facebook group – “My efficient electric home” (which I think Daniel has linked to before) – which has a wealth of related information.

We are about to buy an induction cooktop to replace gas. For the colour-blind people, we found there are several models with a full-colour touch screen, rather than just red LEDs. However, these were the top-shelf models ($8,000-$10,000). The manufacturers appear to be trying to make people think that a touch screen should only be on an expensive appliance (similar to car makers pretending it’s advanced technology and should be expensive) when it’s actually cheaper than fitting knobs and discrete controls. The sensibly priced models ($1000-$3000) are usually not touch screens. They’re still touch controls, so they would be a nightmare for blind people, but they are only a single colour. Some are white though, rather than red. Shop around.
We used two different induction cooktops in some holiday rentals in France last month, and both were perfectly easy to cook on. Better than gas, and definitely better than old-fashioned electric hotplates. The one problem was that one brand (DeDietrich) had a completely cryptic user interface; even after we read the manual we couldn’t get it to work predictably. Fortunately this doesn’t seem to be an issue in the Australian market – all the cooktops we’ve seen here have perfectly simple controls that make sense.
One surprise was that in a London apartment, we had a ceramic electric cooktop and it was quite good. I hadn’t used one before, and it was far better than electric hotplates. I was very impressed. Still not as good as induction though.

Hi Daniel, we have done the same… kitchen reno and a move to electric. I tried a small portable induction cooktop before we moved from the gas cooktop. As a cook, I love gas, and was unsure how it would go. I found that the portable unit was hard to control to a simmer as it pulsed on and off. After taking some pancake batter to a friends house and cooking up a desert to share we then decided on induction and now don’t think i could go back to gas. It takes time to get used to it, the only problem with induction is the heat doesnt go up the side of the pan and you have a hot spot in the middle. Good luck with it.

I’m not quite a refusenik of electrification, but I don’t think I’ll be giving up gas any time soon. I need to replace the stove at the London house and while it’s a tossup, I’m leaning towards gas for both the cooktop and the oven. Gas is significantly cheaper than electricity, kwhr for kWhr, in the UK, and that’s not likely to change any time soon. The government does at some point need to make a decision on whether we are going to keep the infrastructure for piped gas (and progressively blend in more biogas, synthetic methane and/or hydrogen) or get rid of it and go all electric, but it’s unhelpfully equivocating on that at the moment and trying to have a bet each way.
In terms of decarbonisation, gas for cooking is negligible compared with gas for heating and hot water, at least in this climate (although my summertime hot water is now supplied almost entirely by solar). And it doesn’t immediately strike me as a good idea to burn gas (for gas remains the marginal producer for power in the UK pretty much all the time – choose not to consume a unit of electricity and the result will be some gas not getting burned) to boil water to make steam to spin a turbine to generate power which we transmit through wires to my stove top where we heat up mostly water all over again, rather than just burning the gas there on the stove top. More work is needed to clean up grid electricity before going all-in on electrification can be the best route to decarbonisation.

I’m well on my journey to no-gas, so now I’m left to just the oven and gas cooktop. Over 90% of the time I’ve been using my Air Fryer since I bought it almost a year ago. I’m still on the gas cooktop even though I bought an IKEA portal induction cooktop that’s still sitting in the box (Unfortunately most of my pots and pans are non-steel).

I’m paying 60 cents daily supply charge just for keeping the gas which works out to be $219 a year, wow. The cooking seems to use a negligible amount of gas.

I haven’t used my gas heating in over 2 years now and have been rugging up in winter, and just relying mostly on evap in summer and the occasional reverse cycle in summer and winter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *