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I'm looking for an oven and wanted to know if there is any difference between a gas or electric oven when it comes to baking things like cakes, biscuits and scones?

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Aren't answers from Kev and papin totally opposite? So what's the truth? –  huynhjl Jul 11 '10 at 0:42
    
I had not realized how controversial this topic can be until I googled it. So I expanded my answer to reflect some of the issues and point out my inferences. –  papin Jul 21 '10 at 3:00

7 Answers 7

up vote 10 down vote accepted

For baking cakes and breads it is important to control the humidity in the oven. In early stages of baking one typically needs the humidity to remain in the baking chamber, which is hard to do with a gas oven. Two of the bakeries near my house use electric ovens with brick lined baking chambers; the other uses gas.

Expansion

Gas and electric ovens can be built to bake the same way if cost is not an issue. Most home gas ovens will circulate the combustion products (mainly water vapor and carbon dioxide) in the cooking chamber. As the flames burn, combustion products need to be vented out of the baking chamber. Electric ovens also need vents in the baking chamber to help maintain the pressure as the air inside expands.

Steam is essential in the initial stages of baking for good crust formation in breads and crack-free cake surfaces. The oven cavity can hold much more steam than released from the gas combustion and it is my inference that the steam content of an electric oven will be higher (I cannot find published steam measurements inside ovens). After the dough expansion, the vapor coming off of the dough or batter needs to removed quickly for browning and for the inside to cook well. The constant flow in a gas oven makes it better at that. In an electric oven a peep or two during the last baking stages will handle excess moisture.

Openings in gas and electric ovens

Two bakeries near my house use electric ovens, the other, which makes excellent French baguettes, uses a gas oven. The baker there has had both electric and gas ovens and he prefers the caramelization of the gas oven. But note that he can handle the moisture problem with the steam injector of his professional gas oven. He also noted that using gas ovens require skill as they have temperature and moisture quirks.

Recipes may be adapted to either gas or electric ovens. In the US the majority of recipes are designed for the electric oven (they're more popular).

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Electric ovens produce a very dry heat, which for some cooking processes may be preferable.

Gas as it burns gives off a certain amount of water vapour and doesn't dry out the ingredients as much and it may take slightly longer to get a golden brown finish.

There various schools of thought about this. One thing I have noticed is that many professional kitchens still employ gas over electricity, but this may be due to economics rather than for effect.

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The reason dual-fuel range/oven combination units are so popular is because (generally) a gas flame for the range is preferred, while the dry, even heat of an electric oven is preferred.

Also, though I cannot quote a particular source, the heat of an electric oven is supposed to be more consistent than gas, presumably because of the more easily controlled heating element.

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Most ovens cycle on/off, some more severe than others ... I always assume electric would be worse for precise control. Maybe consumer reports or someone similar has done testing of oven precision (or would that be accuracy?) –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 22:16
    
There's definitely some personal preference with regard to your cooking appliance, and I am sure it varies according to what you cook most. Consumer Reports may well have some great information about these, but while they might rate them on reliability, durability, and accuracy; they might not take into consideration the effects of higher or lower humidity and other factors that aren't directly an appliance quality issue. –  JYelton Jul 11 '10 at 16:44
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You are correct..the reason electric ovens are generally preferable over gas is that an electric element can maintain more of an even temperature than a gas element. When the gas element ignites it produces an sudden increase in temperature which is only maintained while its on. As it goes off, the oven cavity then begins to drop in temperature until the next ignition. Electric ovens can maintain a more even temperature. –  Darin Sehnert Jul 22 '10 at 3:25

Whichever oven you use accuracy is one of the most important feature for cooking - invest in an oven thermometer to make sure the thermostat is set correctly. To even the temperature in an oven (reducing fluctuations from cycling) put a pizza stone or thick unglazed tile on the bottom rack of your oven.

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First and foremost, add a pizza stone to your oven. You could even use unglazed tile from a hardware store. The extra mass will prevent oven temperature fluctuations.

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As a baker of 23 years i can tell you, with electric oven you have control over botom heat and top heat as you need for some products where a gas oven you dont have.

If you are making just bread great,however lots of other things need higher bottom heat than top such as sweet doughs so it will not be black on top! And if you are using Tins!

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I would say either, but do consider a convection oven.

The keys to baking are:

  • Accurate temperature.
  • Even heat.
  • Humidity.

A couple of links on convection ovens. http://www.finecooking.com/articles/convection-ovens.aspx http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convection_oven

There are a number of posts on the forum recommending the use of oven thermometers and also keeping a pizza stone in an oven. These recommendations help achieve the goals of accurate temps and even heat.

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