Cooking food at a precise temperature on an electric stovetop is not as straightforward as using the oven. The settings for electric burners do not have the temperature in degrees next to them, and the settings may vary by manufacturer. There are tests to help you determine the correct settings for certain temperatures on your electric stovetop, however. You might have to perform several tests because heat transfer on the stovetop will depend on the cooking medium.
For dry cooking methods in a skillet, sprinkle an even layer of flour on the bottom of the pan. Turn the dial for the burner to medium. If after five minutes the flour in the pan looks golden brown, the burner has reached a temperature between 325 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. A lighter color corresponds to a lower temperature, and darker brown flour means the setting cooked at higher than 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Test again with a new batch of flour in a pan at the next lowest or highest burner setting, depending on the initial outcome.
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Test your electric stove burner using the same method used to determine the temperature from a charcoal grill. Hold your hand 2 inches above the pan you will cook in and count seconds slowly. A medium setting on a burner should produce enough heat to prompt you to pull your hand away after three seconds for a temperature between 325 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
For the most accurate reading of the temperature on your stove burner, use a frying thermometer. Water will never reach higher than 212 degrees Fahrenheit – the temperature at which it boils, but oil will heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a pot half-filled with oil over medium heat for five minutes to ensure the burner has reached its highest temperature. Insert a frying thermometer into the oil to get an accurate reading of the temperature and adjust the burner accordingly to reach 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can still test the temperature of oil without a thermometer, but the results will not be as accurate. Cut a 1-inch cube of bread and drop it into a pot of preheated oil over an electric burner set at medium. If the cube is golden brown after one minute, the oil is between 350 and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. If it browns too quickly, the oil is too hot, and the burner setting should be lowered. A cube that does not brown in one minute is in oil that is too cool. Turn the thermostat up and test again after five minutes with a second bread cube.