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Star, Sealed, Open, Power....what's it all about with gas cook top burners!

There seems to be more shapes and sizes of gas burners for your new cook top than ever before. Cooking with gas is also seems to be more common and desired for cooking.

This article is my take on the burner discussion and hopefully allows you to make the best decision to suit you and your cooking needs.

First, what is all the hype about gas? 

I put it this way, the hottest electric element that I have seen in the market is a 3700 Watt Induction element although it is more common to see elements in the 3,000W range.

According to a single Watt is equivalent to 3.4 BTU (how gas appliances are rated). This means that the 3700W burner has an equivalent output of about 12,580 BTU. The more common 3000W range element is equivalent to about 10,200 BTU. 

A 10,000 BTU in a gas cooktop is considered wimpy, or underpowered. In the market today it is not unusual to see gas burner output in the 15,000 - 22,000+ range. Obviously a gas cooktop will offer a much higher available heat than it's electric counterpart.

The thing to remember however, is that it is the pan that cooks the food, not the fuel source. What I mean is that the heat generated by the burner has to be conducted by the pan to the food. Heat the pan, cook the food. So as much as BTU is a factor in heat production, how much of the pot surface can get heated, and its ability to conduct the heat, will make a difference on performance.

Hence the pitch on burner shape.

There is capped burners with slots or drilled openings

Slotted puck style burner  star sealed burner   drilled sealed

and then there are the open burners

open burner  open burner v2  

and sometimes they are split, or "dual"

dual burner  Thor dual

All of these designs are designed to deliver output (BTU's) and distribution of flame. Some burners you will note will try and increase the surface area the flame will reach on the bottom, like the star shaped burner, or those with flame output across the burner face. 

Dual burners are intended to function to create the opposite effect, that is step the BTU's down to a smaller burner for lower heat and when on full, both rings fire up.

This might suggest that a "puck", or rounded cap burner is not as efficient, but here is the caveat. If you recall, the pan/pot heats the food. If the pot is sized appropiately, the flames will wrap up the edge of the pot, heating more of the pot surface, hence the food. The big powerful restaurant burners, and similar "wok" kind of burners do it all in that they are high output and designed to cover the pot/pan.

At the end of the day in my opinion, most cook tops with a 12,000 BTU burner is hot enough for most cooking. When you want a fast boil, or searing stir fry, then the more powerful 15,000+ btu burners will do the trick. The other thing to be conscious of is the LOW output, unless everything you cook is on high. The ability of a burner to drop to a lower output, or to have atleast one burner with a lower output, increases the versatily of the cooktop.

Beyond the cooking performance of a burner, there is the maintenance, efficiency and cleanability of the design. Open burners are harder to clean up spills, aluminum is softer than brass, two piece burners can come apart (in a major slop) and some catch pans are easier to clean than other.

AND most important.....a good quality pan/pot that conducts heat well, and is properly sized for the burner.

There may be lots of options out there, but the upside is that there is a combination available to suits you best.

Good cooking!

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