On Monday, Bloomberg reported the Consumer Product Safety Commission would consider a ban on gas stoves, causing everyone from Republican politicians to cooks on Twitter to promptly lose their minds and begin insulting electric stoves. If you were among them, don’t panic: A gas stove ban is unlikely, especially in the immediate future.
Here’s the thing, though: Maybe we should ban gas stoves. A growing body of research suggests gas stoves can be dangerous to live and breathe around, while electric stoves aren’t. Plus, electric stoves are pretty great, actually, and wholly undeserving of their crappy reputation. Here are four reasons why.
Electric stoves don’t leak methane or nitrogen dioxide into your house
A huge benefit to electric stoves is that they don’t use gas and therefore can’t leak it into your house. More and more research shows that gas stoves do exactly this: In 2022, researchers from Stanford University found that gas stoves emit methane gas via “post-meter leaks and incomplete combustion.” They also found that gas stoves emit nitrogen oxides, particularly nitrogen dioxide or NO2, during use. It’s a small study—researchers tested methane emissions in 53 homes and nitrogen oxides emissions in 32 homes, all in California—but the results are worth considering in detail.
Methane isn’t just flammable; it’s an incredible potent greenhouse gas. The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates methane has caused about 30% of global warming since the pre-Industrial Revolution era, and it’s currently “proliferating faster than at any other time since record keeping began in the 1980s.” This is terrifying because methane works fast. It doesn’t stick around in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, but in the short term—about 20 years—it’s roughly 80 times better at trapping heat. Another worrying tidbit from the Stanford study: Although the highest levels were measured just after ignition, more than 75% of total emissions were measured while the stoves were turned off. Even when a gas stove is just sitting there, it may be leaking methane.
The other emissions the study measured, nitrogen oxides, pose more of an immediate risk to your family’s health. The EPA warns that breathing nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can irritate respiratory airways, causing coughing, wheezing, and/or difficulty breathing; with prolonged exposure, NO2 “may contribute to the development of asthma and potentially increase susceptibility to respiratory infections.” These effects are worse for young children and the elderly—which just so happen to be the demographics most likely to be at home a lot. The findings of the Stanford study suggest that just a few minutes of cooking without a range hood produces enough NO2 to exceed 100 parts per billion, a concentration that the EPA considers “unhealthy for sensitive groups.”
Good ventilation should eliminate most of the NO2 inhalation risk, but too many gas stoves are in small, poorly ventilated spaces, and not enough people use their range hood when cooking. Ventilation also doesn’t address the methane problem at all. On top of the potential combustion risk, if we’re trying to stop global warming, we shouldn’t be proliferating the single biggest immediate-term driver of rising global temperatures at all, let alone at the fastest rates since the 1980s—not when electric alternatives exist.
Electric stoves heat food faster
One of the weirdest criticisms of electric stoves I’ve seen in the past week is that they “don’t work.” This is just a baffling, untrue thing to say. If a stove’s function is to heat up food—which, I would argue, is exactly its function—electric stoves are straight-up better than gas. They get very hot very fast and heat your pans via direct contact; as long as there’s a pan on the burner, all that heat is going straight to your food. It’s an overall faster and more efficient way to cook than gas burners.
Of course, this can be a bit of a double-edged sword: Electric burners can get too hot in a hurry, and because many electric stoves also take a long time to cool down, they can be pretty annoying in the summer. But once you figure out how to control the heat, you’ll appreciate how quickly you can boil a huge pot of water for pasta or get a cast iron pan to the perfect seasoning temperature.
Electric stoves are easy to clean
I currently cook on a coiled electric range, and my favorite thing about it is how easy it is to clean. When I had a gas range, I would let things get DIRE before sucking it up and spending 45 minutes or more deep-cleaning the cooktop, burners, and grates. I still let things get pretty dire on my current stove, but I can undo weeks of neglect in literally 5 minutes or less; if I had a fancy flat-top or induction range, I imagine it would take even less time. Pro tip: When cleaning an electric range, you can and should use the burners to your advantage. Turning them on high and quickly off again heats up the surface just enough to make your cleaning solution even more effective. (Just be sure to use heat-safe cleaning products.)
Induction cooktops rule
If you mainly associate electric ranges with crappy coiled burners from rentals past, it’s time to rethink that. Electric cooktops have come a long way in the last decade or so, and even further in the 30 or 40 years since every landlord in the country bought the same coiled range for every one of their properties. One of the biggest positive changes has been an increase in the home availability of induction ranges, which are incredibly efficient and slick as hell to use. If you’re curious about induction and on a budget, I can recommend this $49.99 portable induction cooktop from Monoprice. It’s fun to play around with, and if you live alone and/or don’t cook much, it could easily become your main heat source for cooking.
There’s exactly one downside to replacing your gas stove with an electric model: If you lose power, you also lose your ability to prepare food. Personally, I think the benefits far outweigh that single drawback, especially since you can keep a small camp stove on hand for emergencies. The federal government agrees, and it’s actively encouraging Americans to replace their gas stoves via the Inflation Reduction Act. Depending on your income and the type of electric stove you’re after, you can get up to $840 to put towards the purchase of a new range. With so many benefits, there’s no reason to perpetuate the myth that electric stoves suck—they’re actually pretty great.