BTUs measure the heat output of stovetop burners on gas ranges and cooktops. You may be surprised to hear that not all burners are created equal, with some offering higher BTUs and higher heat than others, even on the same stove. But hotter isn't always better, and you may need to use different burners for different types of dishes. Learn more about BTUs and how understanding them can help you be a better cook.
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What does BTU stand for?
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, and is used as a unit of heat energy. Strictly speaking, BTUs represent the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one pound of liquid water by one degree Fahrenheit. In practice, BTUs indicate how much heat something is able to produce. On ranges and cooktops, you'll see that gas burners are labeled with a BTU value while elements on electric ranges use wattage to measure how hot they can get.
What are BTUs, and what do BTUs measure?
BTUs measure heat energy and, on a gas range or cooktop, are a good way to quantify cooking power. The higher the BTUs, the higher the heat you can achieve with that burner and, often, the bigger the flame. Heat inside a gas oven is also measured in BTUs, with most ovens delivering around 16,000 total BTUs. Cooking appliances aren’t the only things in your home that use BTU ratings: your air conditioner or gas heater also probably use this unit of measurement.
HOW TO CHECK BTU INFORMATION
A gas range or cooktop’s BTU rating shouldn’t be hard to find. The owner’s manual is the place to look for an oven you already have. If you’re shopping for a new one, check the specification section of the product page online or the spec sheet posted near the appliance in-store. A sales associate should also be able to provide you with BTU information on any model you’re interested in.
Average number of BTUs for a gas stove
Burners on a residential gas range or cooktop will have somewhere from 500 BTUs all the way up to 18,000 BTUs. On a newer 4-burner range, expect one high BTU burner, one low and two mid-range BTU burners. Often, the higher BTU burners are in the front. On older ranges, there may be less variation, with all four burners being around 10,000 BTUs, enough for your average home cook.
Low: 500–2,000 BTUs. These are often called simmer burners and are good for low-heat cooking like simmering and braising. Because the BTU range is smaller, these burners also offer better control to help you avoid burning ingredients by managing the heat.
Middle: 2,000–10,000 BTUs. Mid-range BTUs are good for everyday cooking like sauteing and frying.
High: 12,000–18,000 BTUs. These high BTU burners are meant for high heat cooking like searing and stir-frying. Some commercial or professional-style ranges may go up to 25,000 BTUs, but you'll need to ensure your home has proper ventilation for these powerful burners. Check out the Power™ Burner by Maytag, which cranks out 18,000 BTUs of intense heat.
Flexible: 1,000–15,000 BTUs. Some stoves have a burner with an extra-wide range of BTUs or even stacked burners with two different BTUs for added flexibility, like the Power Simmer Dual Stack Burner by Maytag. Use these types of burners when switching quickly between high and low heat, like when you need to bring soup or stew to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
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