GAS is installed in almost every house within a short radius of every town, and it is not an exaggeration to say that it is almost universally used for cooking purposes even in the most humble dwelling, because of the fact that it is always ready and does not depend on previous preparation, as for example making up a good fire to heat the oven long before it is required.
Failure to get a supply of gas is almost an unknown occurrence. By turning on a tap and applying a light a flame is obtained which can be regulated to such a degree that it is possible to hurry on the cooking or boiling, or delay the process by lowering the flame, and the alteration is plainly to be seen.
The cooking appliances vary in size, from a large gas cooker to a single gas ring, fitted beside a sitting-room stove in a cottage or fiat. By using a steamer a dinner of two courses can be cooked on this one ring, the same amount of gas being used as for a single saucepan. A gas ring is all that is necessary to place under a little portable oven. There are, in factf small gas stoves for baking and boiling that take up no more space than a suitcase.
A properly fitted gas cooker is a thing to be admired as well as welcomed in any kitchen. The most modern stoves are enamelled inside and out, and they can be washed easily. At the side of the latest stoves is a dial bearing letters or numbers indicating certain temperatures. The dial is set according to the temperature required to cook particular foods, the gas is lighted, and the oven warmed up for 15 minutes. As soon as the food is put in it may be left for a specified time, and it is unnecessary to touch the dial, turn a tap, or inspect the cooking – it is automatically controlled and there is no fear of the temperature altering while the cooking is in progress.
On the average cooker a number of things can be cooked at a time, so that it is possible to cut the cost of cooking to a minimum.
When the oven is being used for a joint, food in a casserole can be cooked at the same time. After the food is cooked and the oven still warm, bread can be baked for bread-crumbs, pies can be heated up, and plates and dishes made hot, or water heated in a basin in the oven ready for cleaning the inside of the oven when the meal is dished up.
Cleaning is a simple matter; the shelves draw out, their fittings fold back and leave the sides and back of the oven clear to be wiped quickly with a cloth dipped in hot water. The inside of the door also should be wiped. All this can be done in loss than five minutes while the oven is still warm. If allowed to remain the stains may be difficult to remove, or may become permanent.
Once or twice a week, the burners, griller, and other removable parts should be taken out and washed in hot soda-water or soap and water. If this is done systematically, the gas cooker will keep free from grease.
In all gas stoves, the upper part of the oven is hotter than the lower portion, although the burners are on a level with the bottom plate. By making use of both high and low temperature regions, food requiring different temperatures for cooking can be dealt with at the same time, i.e.. milk puddings would be placed below, and cakes or bread above.
It is a mistaken idea that food becomes injurious when it is cooked in an oven heated by gas, for this reason: any food being cooked gives off steam and does not absorb anything from the surrounding air. This fact has been thoroughly tested, and if any housewife doubts whether food will absorb any flavour from other foods cooked at the same time, she should cook a milk pudding at the same time as baked onions, fish or any food of distinctive odour.
When there is an unpleasant smell from a gas cooker it is probably due to the gas not being lighted properly, or to its having 1 fired back owing to too much air passing through the burner, when a yellow flame instead of a blue flame is visible. When this occurs, the tap should be turned off at once, the burner allowed to cool a little, and the gas relighted. If firmg back occurs again, close the air regulator a little to adjust the amount passing through, and always turn the gas on before the light is held over the burner – this is important.
Other causes of an iinpleasant smell from a cooker are a dirty burner, one clogged up with grease, and unclean bars on which food has been spilt and allowed to remain.
If after attention the unpleasant odour Btill persists, the stove should have expert inspection, or it will fail to give the best results – like a stove with the flues blocked up.
It is essential to have a gas cooker fitted with an outlet, which can be arranged through a hole in the wall or through a window or other convenient exit, according to the position of the stove. By this means the steam is exhausted from the oven and the smell of cooking is reduced to a minimum.
Another installation is a hood over the hot plate fixed behind and over the top of the stove. This hood encourages the steam and the fumes to be drawn up into this confined area and to pass out through the shaft provided, but such an arrangement is not necessary hi an ordinary household, only where there is a continuous and abundant amount of cooking to be done, making it impossible for the stove to be kept scrupulously clean .ffter use.
Food loses weight whether it is cooked in a gas oven or any other kind of oven, because the water in it evaporates; it is not due to the kind of heat.
Because gas can be regulated to the smallest degreo and is reliable, it is possible to cook food thoroughly, without wasting heat, and at the same time without robbing it of its natural nourishing food values.
The quarter oi an hour recommended for heating up the oven is a saving of gas in the long run, as a joint, for instance, put into a cold oven takes longer to cook and loses some of its essential juices. In a hot oven the outer tissues of meat become sealed at once and keep the juices from escaping.
Gas, like electricity, is economical if it is properly used.
How to light a burner
Turn the tap full on, not partly on, then apply a match, and when a blue flame appears, turn the tap so as to adjust the flame and keep it strictly within the radius of the saucepan or kettle. If it comes beyond, the gas is being wasted.
The only occasion when a burner should be turned full on is when a hot plate is put over to extend the heat and make a wider area over which to stand two or more pans, instead of using more burners. Such appliances are extras but they save gas.
As soon as the contents of a saucepan boil, the gas can be lowered by the simple turning of the tap.
Always remember that food will go on cooking for ten minutes or so after the gas has been turned out, so that anything in a saucepan or in the oven can be left to finish for that time before it is dished up. Therefore if the time is noted, the gas can be saved which might have been consumed if the burners had been left lighted.
When lighting the oven, do not turn the gas on before opening the door. Open the door first, light the match, then turn on the tap and hold the light just above the burner and carry it along until all the jets are alight. The flame should be about an inch long at first to heat the oven in 15 minutes, and can be regulated as desired afterwards.
The use of the grillcr, attached to all gas cookers, is a saving of gas, as food cooks quicker when grilled. The deflector must be red hot before the food is placed under the grill, and it is also advisable to make the grid in the pan hot before putting the food on it. The flames should not touch the food, but should be sufficient to maintain the heat so as to seal the meat and prevent the juices escaping. The gas should be kept turned up until both sides are sealed (the meat being turned over with a fork), then the gas must be lowered to finish the grilling. Gas has this advantage that it can be lowered or raised, and the effect watched.
When frying fish, it is possible to do it perfectly over a gas flame. The fat must be boiling – that is, it must be still with a blue vapour rising from it, which must not be confused with a blue smoke which indicates that the fat is burning. When hot fat bubbles, it denotes the presence of water. This is noticed sometimes after the fish is put in. Immediately raise the heat until the bubbling ceases, and always bring the fat to boiling point again before using it for more food.
When a cake is baked, if it is burnt underneath and has not browned on top, it is due to the fact that the oven has not been heated properly before putting in the cake, and the oven has been too hot during baking. The oven must always be made very hot for baking cakes, the heat being reduced after the cake is in. When the oven is once hot the temperature will be maintained with very little gas.
Start with the flame one inch high and reduce to a quarter of an inch high when the cakes are put in. They should be placed in the centre of the oven with the solid shelf immediately above.
It is wasteful to leave the oven empty when it is hot, as it is wasteful to keep a gas jet lighted without anything placed over it.
Cooking by gas is becoming increasingly popular. It is estimated that in some 10,000,000 individual homes in this country, no fewer than 7,000,000 use gas cookers, of which there are many types and sizes.