The Evolution of Gas Stoves
While many may have predicted that the successful application of electricity for cooking purposes would lead to the steady decline and eventual disappearance of gas stoves, nothing could have been further from the truth. In practice, they have been found in our homes and eating places since just before the middle of the 19th century and they appear destined to continue attracting sales for the foreseeable future.
They first became available commercially with the opening, in 1836, of a factory in the north of England. Its patented product was developed from experiments performed earlier by one James Sharp. Initially, their design was fairly basic and it was not until around 1910 that manufacturers hit on the idea of enamelling them so they would be easier for their owners to clean. These new gas stoves were a huge advance on the wood and coal burning units of earlier times and, slowly at first, due to many companies restricting the supply of gas to the evening for lighting purposes, consumers began to welcome them into their kitchens. Their design and performance took a big leap forward with the launch of a high-end model, in 1922, by the prestigious Swedish manufacturer AGA – a specialist in applications for industrial gasses. Their popularity gained a further much-needed boost, a year later, with the invention of the oven thermostat.
While the competition from electric cookers continued to be fierce, many people preferred the instantaneous control that was a feature unique to gas stoves at that time. Users claimed, quite correctly, that the ability to adjust their burners up or down to meet their cooking requirements with just the turn of a tap, and without the lengthy lag time characteristic of an electric hob, greatly reduced the risk of burning their food. They also cited the lack of any necessary warm-up time when first switching on the hob as another advantage over the electric rivals.
Since then, both types of cookers have undergone a number of impressive developments and, for a variety of reasons, each has managed to retain its popularity amongst the 21st century’s consumers. In some countries, gas stoves may be more economical from an operational viewpoint because their fuel costs less than electricity. However, in regions with hydroelectric schemes, the reverse may be true. Nevertheless, both consume fossil fuels either directly or indirectly, thereby adding to the planet’s burgeoning carbon footprint. Most manufacturers have sought to address these problems, at least in part, with hybrid cookers that combine the use of a gas-fired hob with an electric oven.
That said, a new type of cooking process that leverages the property known as electromagnetic induction promises a means with which to limit both the running costs and environmental impact, as well as providing some other valuable advantages. The principle behind these new induction hobs is elegant in its simplicity and applies the findings of the English scientist, Michael Faraday, whose work led to the invention of the electric motor and the early form of electrical generator known as the dynamo.
Unlike the glowing elements and flames of electric and gas stoves, a rotating magnetic field only induces heat in the metal cookware. Electricity consumption is, therefore, minimal and the ceramic glass hobs remain cool, preventing spillages from becoming encrusted.