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Why Do Stoves Have Different Size Burners? Design Explained

When you wake up in the morning, you cook your eggs or pancakes on your stove. You probably use the big burner.

Then in the evening, the main dish gets cooked on the big burner while the side dishes are delegated to the smaller, less favorite burners. But indeed, there is a reason why stove manufacturers don’t just install four big burners. 

Stoves have different size burners as a safety consideration based on the varying size of pots and pans. Different size burners also provide options that allow homeowners to save energy and time. The other burners also offer different levels and distributions of heat for various cooking techniques.

This article provides several reasons why stoves have different size burners. Some of the reasons may surprise you and even change how you use your stove. 

How Many Burners Do Stoves Have?

Gas stoves typically have three different sizes of burners:

  • One small burner
  • Two medium burners
  • One large burner

On electric stoves, the burners are more often referred to as plates. There are usually only two sized plates on an electric stove:

  • Two large plates
  • Two small plates

Why Stoves Have Different Size Burners

Stove top burners

Safety Reasons

When working with sources of heat that can reach temperatures hot enough to boil water and sear meat, you want to ensure that everything is as safe as possible. Well, stove manufacturers have the same value for safety.

You can get pots and pans in a range of sizes. Regarding safety, the biggest issues come when small pots are used on large burners, and there are two problems with this scenario.

The first problem is that when a small pot or pan sits on a large burner, it does not fully cover the flames or the hot plate. 

By leaving these areas of significant heat exposed, you accidentally come into contact with them increase. This is especially true of the front burners and the burners you are using for active cooking (instead of simmering, etc.). 

The second problem comes when you need to touch the small pot or panhandles sitting on a sizeable hot burner. This is because, under these circumstances, the handles become super hot. 

It is a habit just to steady the pot with a hand on the handle while stirring your food. You also probably grab the handles to take the pot off the stove without thinking, especially if your food is burning or boiling.

So, safety is one of the reasons why you can’t have four large burners, even though a stove full of your favorites would be a dream come true.  

As a side note, when your handles are continually exposed, heat, as when small pots and pans are used on large burners, can damage them, causing them to break more easily. A pot with no handles is challenging and introduces new safety concerns. 

Energy Efficiency

Beyond the safety concerns, using small pots and pans on large burners can waste significant energy. The heat is going into the air and not the cookware.

Using excess energy used to be viewed as a privilege. However, we know the impact on our environment, and many people are conscientious about saving energy and using alternative fuel and energy sources where possible.

Stoves do not use alternative fuel, but we can ensure that we use the energy efficiently, starting with using size-appropriate burners for our small cooking pots and pans. 

Additionally, wasted energy equates to wasted money, so using the correct burner can be considered a budgeting technique and economically smart.

Time Efficiency

Whatever you cook in a small pot or pan on a large burning will cook quickly (but with wasted energy). However, if you try to cook something in a large pot or pan on a small burner, you will be there for a while. 

Trying to boil water on the small stove burner is incredibly frustrating and will completely throw off the timing of your meal, make you late, etc.

Burning food is also a waste of time. You have to start over or try and salvage the dish, both of which options can end up doubling the length of time it takes to prepare your meal.

Stoves Have Different Amounts Of Heat

The burners are not just different in size. They also produce different amounts of heat. With gas burners, this is obvious: smaller and fewer flames will have less heat. But smaller electric plates are also designed with lower BTUs (British Thermal Units). 

When you are cooking, you employ different techniques. Some things you need to sear, and others need to be gently simmered. Stovetops are specifically aimed at providing you with the best range of heat options possible.

Large burners are called power burners. These will be best used to sear meat and boil water because they produce high energy. 

Medium burners can be all-purpose burners, and they are ideal for cooking most foods using various techniques.  

The small burners are known as simmer burners. When the recipe says to let it simmer, try taking the dish off the big burner and putting it on the small one. Your food will be cooking and not simmering on the big burner.

Caramelizing onions or tempering chocolate is also ideally done using the simmer burner. 

On the big burners, heat is not distributed very well over the entire bottom of the pan or pot. The center will always be colder than the edges. This can make cooking food very difficult. 

Smaller burners, however, supply a smaller area, so the heat distribution is more even. 

If you need something to cook evenly without constantly stirring it, use a smaller pot or pan.

This difference in heat distribution is much more apparent and problematic with gas stoves than electric ones. The flames of a gas stover are arranged in a ring, leaving areas not directly connected with the fire. 

Different Size Burners

Not only do stove manufacturers put time and effort into giving you different sizes of burners that make your cooking experience safer, more efficient, and easier, but they also take the time to think about burner placement.

They look at what would be safest and what would be most convenient. 

When you are searing meat or cooking something quickly, you will be using the big burner. You will also work with that pot or pan almost constantly throughout the food’s cook time.

In this case, you do not want to lean over another dish and heat source whenever you need to add to or stir it.

As such, the big burners are located in front of the stove. 

In comparison, simmering takes a long time on the stove and needs very little attention, so the stove manufacturers put the small burner at the back. 


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Even though you will probably not change your mind about favoring one stovetop burner over another, it is interesting to know why stoves have different-sized burners. 

Different-size burners ensure safety, energy, and time efficiency, appropriate amounts of heat for the cooking processes, and the best heat distribution for the cooking technique. 

Now that you know why stove manufacturers don’t just use four of the same size burners, perhaps you may even attempt to try out the other non-favorite ones to improve your cooking skills or at least make cooking less frustrating.

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