This section is from the book "Mrs. Allen's Cook Book", by Mrs. Ida C. Bailey Allen. See also: The Conscious Cook: Delicious Meatless Recipes That Will Change the Way You Eat.
There are two styles of electric ranges: the cabinet type and the single oven type. In the former the oven is elevated to a comfortable working height; in the latter the oven is low, necessitating stooping. If there is plenty of room in the kitchen the cabinet range will prove the best selection, but when space is limited, as in small apartments, the single oven type can be used; moreover this type of range is somewhat less expensive.
There are two kinds of electric range units, or heaters, the open coil unit, or radiating type and the enclosed coil unit, or contact type.
In the former, the cooking units, or hot plates, or as they are sometimes called, lids, disc heaters, or elements, are exposed in such way that the time necessary to bring them to cooking heat is only about three and a half minutes. At the same time they are rather hard to clean and great care must be taken that foods do not boil over upon them or that grease is not spilled in the units, because it is difficult to clean them thoroughly without injury. In the second type of range, the heating units are enclosed, the top of the range being like that of the ordinary coal range in appearance, with discs, or lids, which may be lifted for cleaning as needs be. Because of this covering it takes a little longer to bring the units to the cooking point, approximately four and a half to five minutes. On the other hand, the solid top retains the heat and the amount of current needed to carry on the cooking is less than in the open coil unit, and therefore equalizes the extra time needed in bringing the units to cooking heat over the three minutes necessitated by the open coil units.
Notwithstanding extra care the open coil unit is liable to oxidize, or rust, necessitating an occasional renewal of units after four or five years' use. On the other hand, the enclosed coil unit cannot oxidize or rust so rapidly as the open coil, and therefore has longer life. Electric ranges equipped with the open coil units are less expensive than those of the enclosed coil units, so in the end, notwithstanding a possible renewal of units, if the open coil type is purchased, the cost will be approximately the same.
Every electric range should be provided with a broiler pan that fits the oven, preferably of enamel, for if the broiler pan does not fit in the oven cleats, the pan may be chipped and the oven dented, should the pan happen to be put in carelessly. In every oven there should be a shelf equipped with a baffle plate of sheet metal, placed directly over the bottom heat unit, to insure an even distribution of heat. In selecting an electric range the following points should be carefully noted -
The oven should have rounded corners and be adequately ventilated and equipped with a drop door.
The range should be of comfortable cooking height, the selection varying from thirty-one to thirty-five inches.
There should be no waste space.
The oven should be easy to clean and free from cracks.
There should be no parts left unfinished, because of the liability of rusting and the difficulty of cleaning.
The range should be finished complete in japan, with nickel trimming and white splashers, which act as danger signals for dirt.
The electric range needs as much care as a range of any other type. All water should be wiped off as soon as it is spilled. Grease should be immediately cleaned off, and there should be waged a constant war on rust. The oven should be refinished every six months with aluminized paint, which anyone can apply. This may be obtained from any hardware store, where full directions for its use will be given.
The electric range has several distinct advantages over the coal and gas types. It is absolutely accurate, and, when once established, the cooking time never varies. A loaf of bread that will bake in fifty minutes to-day will bake in exactly the same time to-morrow, provided the current is managed in the same way. In order to give the units time to come to cooking heat, it is necessary to think ahead a little more when using an electric range. It will take an oven from thirty to forty minutes to reach baking temperature, and because of this slowness, it is not possible to put many foods into the cold oven, as can be done in many gas ranges.
The oven which is insulated to retain heat makes possible many economies. , After once being heated, it can be kept hot with a small amount of current, just enough to supply the heat lost by radiation, and advantage can be taken of all the latent heat, even after the current is turned off, in the drying of bread crusts, parsley, celery tips, etc. It is an interesting fact that the shrinkage of meat in the electric oven is less than when either gas or coal is used, probably because the meat is seared over more quickly on account of the direct top heat, and therefore the juices are retained in greater amount. Also, the electric oven furnishes the cleanest heat, for because of the ventilator no fumes collect and there is, of course, no danger of tainting the food as there is with coal, or ordinary gas. Probably the point that appeals to most women about the electric range is that there is practically no heat coming from it, so that the kitchen does not become over-heated. This is true, not only with the oven, but with the top of the range with regard to the heat units. At the same time there is no dust, dirt, burned matches, and rare possibility of fire. Certainly there is no danger of the baby's being burned!
The cost of operation depends entirely upon the cooking rate for current in the city where the range is used. Careful figures show that the average family will consume approximately 125 killowatts per month. At the present writing over 3,500 central stations or electric light companies, are giving a cooking rate of five cents or less per killowatt hour to their customers. The cost of operation, as with any range, depends largely on the carefulness of the housewife. If care is taken to reduce the current when possible, to take advantage of latent heat, and to turn off the current as soon as the cooking is fin-ished, the cost of operating, when current sells for two cents per killowatt hour, will be aproximately the same as gas, when the latter sells for ninety cents per thousand cubic feet, or coal when the latter sells at from $7.50 to $9.00 per ton.
As with the gas or coal range, the utensils have considerable to do with the economical running of the electric range. Aluminum furnishes the quickest medium of transferring heat. A clover-leaf (or triple) utensil, whereby three foods can be prepared at one time, over one unit; an adequate steamer, flat-bottomed utensils and a goodly equipment of casseroles and oven dishes will be found great conveniences. Methods for steaming and for preparing meals in the oven are given in the chapter, the Short-Cut Preparation of Meals, and may be applied to the electric range as well as to that of any other type.
Some ranges are equipped with automatic cooking attachments for turning on and off the current. These have a certain appeal and work for a limited time, but they are liable to get out of order.
The average housewife is confused by the terms used by the "trade." A little study of the following definitions of terms frequently used in connection with the sale, operation and demonstration of the range will prevent confusion.
Unit. The name given to the electric heater used either in the oven or on the cooking top. It is sometimes called "the hot plate," "disc," "element," etc.
Switches. The controlling mediums by which the units are turned on or off.
Fuses. The protecting plugs located near the controlling switches. These are so constructed that any excess current or abnormal condition will cause them to cut off the current automatically. In other words, they are an automatic safeguard.
Main Switch. The heavy or large switch installed in the wire leading to the range.
Pilot Light. An indicating lamp that burns only when the current is on; usually placed at or near the main switch.
Socket. A term applied to a lamp socket, or outlet, on the side of the range, to which may be attached an electric iron, toaster, or any auxiliary apparatus.
Lead Wires. Two or three wires projecting from a part of the body of the range to which the main entrance wires are attached.
Service. A general term applied to meters, switches and wiring installed by the central station.
Killowatt Hoar. The number of watts (measures of current) consumed by an electric heater during an hour. All rates are figured on the killowatt hours consumed, just as gas is figured on the cubic foot.
Terminals. Equipment for connecting heating units to wires - terminals come in two forms and are called plugs or connections.