Stove Top Temperature Knobs

Taking a look at your stove top, you’ll notice each knob has a set of numbers or perhaps it says “Low” and “High.” Obviously a stove gets hot, but what temperature does each number represent? Does a “1” mean warm or hot?

Unlike a fridge, turning the knobs towards a higher number will indeed increase the temperature of the stove top. Each stove top is different though, and each model has a general range of temperatures for each number.

Stove Tops With Numbers

Let’s start with stove tops that have temperature knobs with numbers. Anytime a recipe calls for a pan on, say, the low setting, what numbers do you actually use? Is it one or two? It’s tough to determine due to how inconsistent each brand of stove is. And to make matters worse, some stoves range from one to nine, while others range from one to five. A stove’s one might be more like a two on another stove. It’s maddening!

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Thankfully, there’s at least a range of temperatures you’ll get for each setting. With that said, they too can vary from stove to stove. But first, let’s clear up the air on one key, consistent fact: the higher the number, the higher the temperature.

Heat Settings Between 1 and 3

This is where a low setting would range between. When a recipe calls for a low setting, then placing it between one and three should do the trick. Now, with that said, you should always start at one and work your way up until you get the results the recipe expects.

As for a stove that ranges between one through five, a low setting is between one and two.

Heat Settings Between 4 and 6

Some recipes where you’re cooking vegetables and such, you’ll be using a medium setting. Between four and six is what can be considered “medium.” However, as you push towards six, you’re stepping into medium-high. When a recipe wants medium-high, it specifies for medium-high. If it does not, set it to medium.

As for stoves that range between one and five, your medium setting sits right on three. In some cases, it might sit around two. Always start lower.

Heat Settings Between 7 and 9

Setting your stove between seven and nine is the kind of setting that’s consistent with the high setting. It’s going to definitely boil any oil you place on the burners and burn any kind of cheese you throw on it.

As for stoves that range between one and five, your high setting is between four and five, though a four can sometimes be considered medium-high.

Stove Tops Without Numbers

Then there’s stoves without numbers, instead, replaced with settings such as Low, Medium, High, and a few in between. Cookbooks usually use such settings when referring to the temperature of cooking food, including recipes from boxed dinners. But they too suffer from inconsistent temperatures across models.

With that said, there is a general range of temperatures for each setting. Bear in mind that your stove’s “simmer” setting might be another stove’s “low” setting. Instead, each temperature is based on how certain food is cooked.

Simmer Setting

If you want to melt cheese without burning it into a flaky crisp, you would set it to simmer. Simmer is ideal for, again, melting cheese, but it’s also the perfect setting when recipes call for sauce to be simmered. It’s also pretty ideal for heating up leftovers. If you had a tool to gauge the temperature, it would sit around 140 degrees Fahrenheit, give or take 10 degrees (60 degrees celsius).

In other words, a slow, very low setting that’s ideal for warmer food rather than straight out cooking it.

Low Setting

A low setting on a stove top can generally work for pan-cooking chick and other meats such as pork or lamb. Even so, it’s a temperature setting that can make onions sweat. But again, your particular stove can alter that rule of thumb. With that said, a low setting will net you a temperature of around 190 degrees Fahrenheit or 87 degrees celsius.

Medium Setting

On the other hand, if you want to cook onions—among other vegetables such as broccoli—then you would bump the stove temperature up to the medium setting. Considering your stove, it should be exuded a temperature between 210 and 300 degrees fahrenheit or 100 to 150 degrees celsius.

In some cases, a medium setting might act as a medium-high, while a low setting will be more like medium.

High Setting

Let’s say you throw a piece of cheese into a pan on a stove set to a high setting. Well, you’re going to melt that cheese fast and burn it to a crisp. A high setting is ideal for caramelizing various meats but also frying goods such as donuts, fries, and so on. You’ll be feeling the heat on this one with temperatures reaching 300 to 500 degrees fahrenheit or 150 to 260 degrees celsius.

Your Stove Top is Important in Your Kitchen!

It would certainly help if all stoves had expectations, but alas, that is not the case. At least each model does tend to hit right around the same temperatures, give or take 10 to 15 degrees. However, it just goes to show you that in order to know for sure, you have to toss on a piece of cheese or use butter to get an estimation on what your stove in particular considers “medium” and so on.

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Cookbooks Are All Over the Place

One of the most frustrating aspects that comes out of not having consistent temperature across all stoves is linked to cookbooks. Flip through a cookbook and chances are most of them will use “medium-high” or “low” or “high” when a recipe refers to a temperature to cook a particular meal at. Relative to what, exactly? One stove’s “low” could be another stove’s “medium.” What do you do then?

It takes trial and error, unfortunately. There’s another trick you can perform with butter. You can gauge temperatures based on how fast each setting melts butter. What you would consider a “low” setting is anything that melts butter slowly, maybe bubbles a bit, but ultimately takes so long to brown that you might fall asleep from boredom. What you would consider “medium” is butter melting quickly, definitely bubbling, and browning shortly after. As for a “high” setting, you would see butter melt very quickly, bubble to the point of flinging butter, and reaching smoke point, releasing a cloud of smoke into your house.

It isn’t the most clean of methods, nor does it give you exact temperatures, but it does give you a general idea of how hot your particular stove gets. If a meal calls for medium, always start with a low setting and work your way up. It’s a lot easier to salvage a meal that hasn’t been cooked thoroughly yet, than a meal that’s burnt to a crisp.