April 28


Why Do Stoves Have Different Size Burners?

By Robin Hatch

April 28, 2021

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 Do Stoves Have Different Size Burners?

When working with sources of heat that can reach temperatures hot enough to boil water and sear meat, you want to make sure 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. In terms of safety, the biggest issues come when small pots are used on large burners, and there are two problems with this scenario.

Gas Stove Burners

The first problem is that a small pot or pan on a large burner does not fully cover the flames or hot plate.  Gas stove burners often admit heat, and the top that they are cooking on can be interchangeable.

By exposing these areas of significant heat, 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.). 

Electric Stove

electric stove top

It’s common to see different size burners from an electric stove. This means that the burner radius is bigger and smaller by default.

Whoever installed the stove will wire the burners based on the dimensions of the burner they bought.

Smaller burners are often used for gravy, melting butter, and other small skillet tasks.

Larger burners are used to cook bigger meals such as pasta, chicken or any other gourmet meals.

It is a habit to just 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 And Time 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 make sure 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.

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

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 can end up doubling the time it takes to prepare your meal.

Stoves Have Different Amounts Of Heat

different amounts of heat stove top

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 amounts of energy. 

Medium burners can be referred to as 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 does not get 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. 

Use a smaller pot or pan if you need something to cook evenly without constantly stirring it.

This difference in heat distribution is much more apparent and problematic with gas stoves than with electric stoves. 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 be working 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 the 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. 


Read more about ways to improve your stove below.

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.

We’ve compiled a complete list of frequently asked kitchen questions for new and experienced homeowners.

Our team of experts answers these questions to help assist you through DIY projects and home repairs.

Robin Hatch

About the author

For over a decade, Robin has been a real estate agent, interior design specialist, and mother. Through her trials and tribulations, she wanted to create the perfect website to help you save money and make your home look beautiful.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}