Burning Question: Which Burner Is Best?

by Kevin Burton

You may have heard, a social media debate is, uh, simmering. Which stovetop burner is the best to use? Which one is your favorite?

Oh great, another way to divide Americans.

And, it appears I am on the outside looking in, again.

As with the arrangement of letters on a typewriter keyboard, there is a lot of science behind the size and arrangement of stovetop burners, reports http://www.mediafloss.com.

“The ergonomics of stovetop design is a real and surprisingly complicated field,” according to the website.

The website’s casual parenthetical aside on the topic has me concerned.

“It’s one of the strange quirks of adulthood that we tend to have a favorite and least favorite burner. (Anybody out there use the back left? Yeah, we didn’t think so, ) reads their article.

Hello, yoo-hoo, I use the back left burner, all the time. What is so wrong about that?

Geez, I hate to be on the wrong side of a website called “mental floss.” Never thought at this late date that I could get even less confident about cooking.

I shudder to think what will become of me in a divided culinary culture. Right cookers, left cookers, front cookers, and all of them looking down on back-left cookers like me.

But back to the science. Each burner has a purpose depending on the meal you’re cooking and it’s placed there for a reason.

“The largest burner is called a power burner and it’s specifically designed for searing meats and boiling water quickly,” the website states. “The medium-sized burners are all-purpose or standard burners. And the smallest burner, which is known as a simmer burner, is designed for low-flame cooking.”

“On many stovetops the simmer burner is placed in the back while the power burner sits up front. There is a safety reason for this.”

When you’re cooking you don’t want to reach over an open flame. Items that are simmering require less attention, so that burner is placed in the back.

“Think of the arrangement as mealtime triage,” the website says.

“The four-burner stove problem is an outstanding issue in ergonomic design,” complain researchers in the journal Ergonomics.

According to mental floss, most ergonomics studies focus less on the arrangement of the burners, more on where the control knobs should be and which knob should control which burner.

Ever put a pan on an electric stove and turned the knob, only to realize ten minutes later that you have twisted the wrong knob?

A possible back-left cooking defense for me occurs to me now. It will cost me a confession though.

That “perfectly good” stove that I didn’t want to replace a few years ago? It wasn’t perfectly good. It was “good” though.

Here I am defining “good” as one of the four burners would work all the time, two of the others part of the time.

The one that worked all of the time? You guessed it, back left.

Here’s another stove surprise courtesy of mental floss.

“You know that drawer underneath your oven? It’s not there for storing stray pots, pans and cookie sheets.”

“Depending on the model that might be a warming drawer…a place to keep cooked meals warm before suppertime.”

As part of my extensive investigative research for this post I have determined that the four burners on my General Electric gas stove are all the same size! There probably aren’t more than two or three days in a month when I don’t cook something on the stovetop. Yet I am now just noticing this.

This whole discussion has given me a brilliant idea. And this is how I will avoid slinking away from this topic with back-left-cooker stigma.

How about “quarantine museum tours?” What do you think? Tours of areas in your house, in plain sight (such as my burners), that you don’t really look at critically, therefore don’t really see.

We could have a kitchen tour, living room tour, bedroom and bathroom tours, a garage tour!

We’ll schedule the man cave tour last, as we’ll likely need certain shots for that and those will have to be scheduled off site.

It’s entirely possible my wife will turn this opportunity for a much-needed new form of recreation into an occasion for cleaning. I can see that happening, but it’s a chance I am prepared to take.

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