I have an electric stove with the gears 1-6. When I want to, for instance, boil some water I always put it on gear 6 and then leave it like that until the water is close to a boil, and then I reduce it to gear 5.

However, today it crossed my mind: Does it actually heat up the water quicker when I put it on the highest gear? Or does the gear simply represent a temperature and then it will always heat up as quickly as possible until it reaches that temperature?

In other words, will it take the same amount of time to bring the water to a boil regardless if I pick the 5th or 6th gear?

  • 2
    Love your analogy/metaphor(?) of "gears" on the stove: watch out for "reverse".
    – Lorel C.
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:16
  • 3
    @LorelC. Yeah, that's for freezing :P Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 19:29
  • I do not think this question is clear. “Does it actually heat up the water quicker?” is not the same as “does the gear simply represent a temperature and then it will always heat up as quickly as possible until it reaches that temperature?” (assuming “it” is the heating element). The temperature of the heating element is not the temperature of the water. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 23:17
  • I want to edit the question body to match the question title, but some of the answers and comments refer to the question about speed of heating water even though that is not at all the question in the title. Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 23:21

2 Answers 2


Yes, it will bring you to a boil the quickest.

Many heating systems we encounter in everyday life have thermoregulation, and it is counterproductive to run them at full blast at the beginning. For example, an AC unit will "know" on its own to run all the time until it reaches the target temperature, and then start turning on and off as needed to sustain it.

Stoves are different. They don't have any temperature feedback, and all you regulate for them is the total output of energy fed into the hob. It doesn't matter if their lower levels are solved by going off part of the time, or heating constantly but with less energy. They are not even supposed to reach a constant temperature, and for any given stove mark, the final temperature in your pan will be quite different depending on factors such as the pan material and the amount of food you are heating. Some fancy new stoves try incorporating a sensor below the plate, but the one I have used was so far off that I found it useless and cooked in "constant energy" mode with it.

So yes, whatever the technology of your stove, your water will boil quickest if you use it on the highest setting.

  • I had a quick look at the circuit diagrams of a couple of induction stoves. These depend on feedback from the item on the glass, there is feedback between the setting and the temperature... Induction stoves go high until the temperature condition is met, or if the item is removed from the stove.
    – Adrian Hum
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 2:13
  • 1
    @AdrianHum I've had induction stoves, and that's not for the normal heating mode, it's a safety feature. They heat up slowly at low power and quickly at high power just like normal ones. But they also sense when the temperature has gotten dangerously high (they assume a forgotten pan, but it can happen if you want to fry something for longer time) and turn off then, and refuse to be turned on again until they have cooled off. And yes, they do turn off when the pan has been away from the stove for more than a few seconds, but then you can turn them on again.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 6:38
  • I am having an objection to this answer. If it is so, how come my stove turns off sometimes even when at max? Commented May 18 at 11:39

It may depend of the manufacturer. On every electric stove I have used, the heating element operates similar to a microwave oven. The control technique is called ‘pulse width control’. This means the element is either on or off, and the percent time that it is on is set by the control knob. For example, a 10 could mean the element is on 100% of the time, and a 5 could mean that it is one for 30 seconds and off for 30 seconds. In your case, I would assume that the 6 setting would keep the element on the most (maybe not 100% of the time), and by turning it down to 5 would increase the amount of time that the element is off.

The more the element is on, the more heat it is putting into the pot, and the faster the water will boil.

  • Are you confusing the stove top (which has continuous power) with the oven, which acts like you describe?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 22:13
  • 4
    Nope, this is indeed the way every electric stove element I'm familiar with works - time proportional control. Unlike the oven (where a thermostat is involved) the surface elements are simply on for part of a "time unit" and off for the other part of it, but the time unit is short enough such that the thermal mass of the element makes it appear to be "continuous" - but it's not. As such, 30 seconds is unlikely, but on for 3 and off for 3 might be a good guess for 50%.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:18
  • This does not answer will it take the same amount of time to bring the water to a boil (yet)
    – user34961
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 9:18
  • Added what I thought was the obvious conclusion. Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 10:19

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