How to Cook Like a Chef on a No-Frills Electric Range

With a few simple strategies, you can nail every dish—even when your stove seems to work against you


a pot of boiling water on a hot electric smooth stovetop
A slow response time is no problem when you adjust your cooking habits accordingly.
Photo: Getty Images

As a former chef and the expert who’s covered ranges and cooktops for the past seven years at Consumer Reports, I’m often asked what I have in my own kitchen. It’s with a sigh, and a tinge of embarrassment, that I reluctantly reveal I have a 7-year-old electric smoothtop range.

Don’t get me wrong. Smoothtops are great. Compared with gas models, they can boil faster and broil hotter. Plus, the smooth cooking surface means fewer crevices to clean. I’ve even reported that CR’s tests often find better performance from electric ranges than gas stoves.


And yet my electric range leaves me longing for the days when I had gas both in professional settings and in my previous house. It’s not that I can’t still make great food—I can. But cooking on this model just feels far less natural than it did on a gas range, and without the benefits of induction:


An electric burner (or element) can feel sluggish one minute and burn your eggs the next. And because there’s a lag time before it responds to adjustments, even turning off the burner entirely may not be enough to stop the carnage.

Fortunately, over the years, I’ve developed a few workarounds. (If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, or watched any of the TV shows about restaurant life, you’ll know that chefs are constantly improvising—covering a pot with a spare frypan instead of a lid, using a dish towel as an oven mitt, and testing the temperature with their hand.)

Here are a few common complaints people have about electric ranges, along with my favorite tips for mimicking the results, and even maybe the feel, of cooking on gas. 

Problem: My Electric Range Takes Forever to Heat Up

Think of an electric burner as a high-speed rail train. They’re slow to get going, but once they’re moving, they’re really moving. And they’re equally sluggish when it’s time to slow down again. A gas burner is more like a regular car. It’s fairly peppy off the line, but it maxes out at a more modest speed. It can also stop quickly when needed.

On your range, that means a gas burner might be faster for quick, simple tasks, like heating a small pan to fry an egg, but electric is almost always faster for drawn-out jobs, like boiling a big pot of water. 

The fix: I often start to preheat my pan before pulling together other parts of my meal. That runs contrary to how I cook on gas, where I tend to get all my ingredients together before I start to cook. The extra few minutes of preheating means I don’t have to wait when I’m ready to sear or sauté.

I also default to the most powerful burner on my electric cooktop—right front on most ranges—because it packs a bigger punch and can heat faster. (Check the manual for the burner with the highest wattage.) Lastly, even if I’m cooking over medium or low heat, I usually begin by turning the burner to high for a minute or two, just to get the heat flowing, before I dial down the temperature to the level I need. 

Problem: I Can't Get the Burner to Cool Down Before My Food Burns

When I was first getting used to my electric range, I burned plenty of food. With gas, you can see a sauce is starting to scorch and simply turn the burner down, or turn it off entirely. With electric, it often takes a few minutes for the burner to fully adjust after you lower the heat, because even when the burner is no longer heating, the thick glass surface is still holding heat, and that heat needs to go somewhere. So it ends up transferring to your pan, causing you to burn things that wouldn’t have burned on a gas range. 

The fix: Be extra attentive. At the first sign of scorching or burning, don’t just turn down the heat, but move your pan off the burner entirely, either onto a cool burner or a trivet on your counter. Wait 1 to 2 minutes after turning down the heat before placing your pan back on the hot burner. And to avoid scorching, stir soups and sauces more frequently; when you need to turn up the heat, do it gradually, which ensures you won’t accidentally get the burner too hot, forcing you to again remove the pan from the heat entirely.

Problem: My Cookware Won’t Cook Evenly on My Electric Range

Gas and electric ranges transfer heat to the pan differently. On a gas range, the flame is always in contact with a good portion of the pan, so even if a pan bottom is a little warped or uneven, the flame heats cookware relatively evenly. But on an electric range, the cooktop surface is flat. If the bottom of your pan isn’t, your food won’t heat evenly.

If your cookware has warped over time—typically from being overheated or cleaned with cold water while still hot—even a subtle bulge may cause the pan to wobble on the cooktop and get hotter at the spot in direct contact with the burner. 

The fix: To start, treat your pans right. Most pans shouldn’t be heated on high heat for more than a few minutes. And never clean a hot pan with cold water—let the pan cool fully, then wash with warm water.

For high-heat cooking, cast iron is your best choice. It’s so solid that it’s virtually impossible to warp. Otherwise, look for pots and pans with a flat disc base—a feature often called out on the cookware packaging—because that flat disc will make solid contact with the cooktop for even heating; plus, it helps the pan resist warping. 

Problem: I Still Don’t Like My Electric Range

The tips above will help you get the best results from your electric range, but they’re not a cure-all. Keep in mind that gas ranges have their problems, too. They’re slower to boil, the broilers are rarely as good as the best electrics, and of most concern, CR’s own tests have found that gas ranges can produce potentially harmful levels of pollutants

The fix: Upgrade to induction. When my range kicks the bucket, no doubt I’ll be replacing it with an induction range. Induction ranges blend the rapid response of gas with speedy heating that easily eclipses gas or traditional electric options. Here are three top performers from our tests.


Paul Hope

Paul Hope is a senior multimedia content creator at Consumer Reports and a trained chef. He covers ranges, cooktops, and wall ovens, as well as grills, drills, outdoor power tools, decking, and wood stains. Before joining CR in 2016, he tested kitchen products at Good Housekeeping and covered tools and remodeling for This Old House magazine. You’ll typically find him in his old fixer-upper, engrossed in a DIY project or trying out a new recipe.

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