What temperatures do low-medium-high on the stove correspond to


I'm quite suspicious that my electric stove runs hot. Recipes that suggest medium-high on my stove are incredibly, incredibly hot and you can feel 'high' radiating heat from across the kitchen.

As such, I've semi-recently purchased an IR thermometer – what pan surface temperature should low, medium-low,medium,medium-high, and high approximately register as?

Best Answer

They don't correspond to a temperature, they correspond to a rate of heat input.

The elements in your oven are connected to a thermostat with regulates their temperature, they are really constant heat/fixed temperature devices, like the heat in your home. The oven turns the elements on and off to regulate temperature, but the elements are only ever ON or OFF.

The stovetop elements, by contrast, are variable heat/variable temperature. There is no thermostat, but the elements can be variably adjusted between MAX and OFF. For every setting the temperature will just keep getting hotter and hotter (unless something is removing the heat, like cooking food) - the higher settings will just get hotter faster.

The important thing to know (for an electric range) is the wattage of the elements - most 8" elements are ~2500W, and most 6" elements are ~1500W. But there is a lot of variability. Additionally, if you are living in a home with 240V power but have recently lived in an apartment (which likely had 208V power, but 240V elements installed in the oven, even if you didn't realize it), your heater elements will seem much hotter than before. It is also possible that the oven maker or previous owner installed higher wattage elements (perhaps by installing elements intended for a 208V service in a home with 240V service, which would have the effect of "turbocharging" them a bit).

Temperature measured with an IR thermometer may not be useful for you to determine if your oven is hotter than usual, since an empty pan on Low will still reach 400+ degrees (it will just get there slower).

What might be more useful is to find out what setting people do certain cooking tasks at, and see if that is different than what works on your oven. You can also remove the elements and find the voltage/wattage stamped on the bottom - let us know what those values are and we may be able to tell you if they are abnormally high.

Personally, I sweat onions on 4/10, fry an egg at 6/10, simmer soup at 2/10, and maintain 1 gallon water at a consistent, but not vigorous boil at 8/10.