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.
When it is necessary to heat the kitchen during the cold months by means of the coal range, the best possible purchase is a combination coal and gas range. These come equipped for either natural or artificial gas. However, as it is somewhat easier to cook with gas, it is a good plan to select a combination range that consists of a gas stove with a coal heater attachment. This can be run on a hod of coal for a day and a night, and can be equipped with a water-front. This coal attachment is approximately the size of a laundry stove, and can be used for boiling clothes, heating flatirons, cooking vegetables, and carrying on the various cooking processes which are adapted to the top of the stove. The gas equipment can be used for all quick work, baking, and during the summer when the saving of heat is an item. This type of range is usually equipped with a gas kindler, which insures the quick ignition of coal.
The combination range, which burns both natural gas and coal, is frequently equipped with a general oven, which can be used with either fuel. Care, however, must be taken in selecting a range of this type to be sure that it will give adequate service. This type is especially good for use in severe weather when natural gas fluctuates.
No matter what kind of a range is being selected, it should be of good cooking height, so that the housewife will not have to bend over unduly while doing her work. Gas and electric ranges, which are of the newer school, can be found in many makes of the right height, but coal ranges, unfortunately, are more usually made low, probably because they always have been! In selecting a gas range, purchase one that has a high oven and drop oven doors, the oven preferably being finished with aluminized paint. There are two or three types of ranges on the market which have a direct heat action, so that the food can be put into a cold oven, thereby effecting considerable gas saving. Most of the better ranges come equipped with self-lighters, but if this is not provided with the range, it can be put on for $2.50 extra. There should be no waste space, no excess trimming to clean, and the burners should be of a type that are easily cleaned.
Like the coal range, it needs daily attention. All food that is spilled should be cleaned off at once, the oven kept clean, the airholes free, while the zinc plate underneath the top burners needs daily attention, If the range is rubbed off occasionally with a suitable oil, it will not rust, or "liquid veneer" may be rubbed on weekly to keep it clean and shiny. Blacking and stove enamel are not satisfactory for use on the gas range. The oven will not rust if the door is left open while the oven is cooling. If a solid top is provided, it should be of polished steel for sanitary reasons. Combination gas ranges and fire-less cookers are on the market; some of them give excellent service, but care should be taken to select one of undoubted repute, as the cheaper type is not always dependable.
Operating the Gas Stove. The amount of the gas bill depends upon the thoughtfulness and common sense of the cook and the brains of the woman who plans the meals. Gas, rightly used, is the most cleanly and economical of fuels; when used without intelligence, it is one of the most expensive.
The oven should not be lighted until the food is nearly ready to be put into it, - eight minutes with two burners is usually sufficient to make it very hot, five or six will give a medium heat. When roasting meat, the economical housewife will plan to cook her potatoes and pudding in the same oven, or better still will roast her meat in the broiler, - and have all the oven space for other foods. Or if she is to have a broiled steak for dinner, she will take advantage of the hot oven above to cook a shortcake or bake her biscuits. Vegetables are delicious when baked and can often be cooked at the same time with the pie or cake or baked apples. In other words, she will take advantage of all the heat, not allowing any to be wasted.
When "boiling" meat, as it is usually termed, the kettle should be placed over the "simmerer" or small burner, where it will remain at the right temperature and cook slowly - if potatoes are boiling, advantage can be taken of the steam, a colander set over the kettle and some other vegetables or dessert cooked by the steam that is usually wasted.
If the family is small, it will be found a great economy to purchase a set of triple utensils (three separate parts which fit together), which can be put over one gas burner. By this means three articles can be cooked at once by the same amount of heat, - a saving of labor and fuel. A steam cooker of square design can be obtained with several shelves. In one of these, with the use of one burner to heat the water, can be cooked a pot roast, vegetables, potatoes, pudding and brown bread for a family of six, all at the same time!
Double boilers and all kettles should be shallow, with broad bottom, so that the foods may be quickly heated. A standard toaster should be purchased, so that it will not be necessary to heat the broiling oven to make a slice of toast, and a sheet iron plate, to set over a burner, will be found a great convenience in heating flat-irons as well as cooking. By using such a plate the heat is diffused over a wider space, and instead of keeping two irons hot, three or four can be heated on it by the same amount of gas.
For the housekeeper using a gas plate, a perforated iron disc, with cover fitting over it, furnishes an adequate oven for a small family. A pan of biscuits, baked apples or potatoes, and the finishing of an omelet are among its possibilities.