Stove Basics: The Different Heat Settings

Author: Chef Sydney

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What is a Stove?

A stove is an appliance that uses heat to cook food.  Some stoves, called ranges, also have an oven on the bottom for baking.  Stoves usually have four or five burners with knobs that correspond to each burner.  Stoves can be either gas or electric, but some are wood burning.  Gas stoves contain burners that produce a real flame.  Gas stoves have heavy grates that sit over the burner so a pot or pan does not directly touch the flame.  Electric stoves are usually flat with circles that indicate where the burner is.

What are Stoves Used For?

Stoves are used to cook foods in different ways.  Depending on the temperature used, stoves can do a variety of things, such as sauté vegetables, fry chicken, simmer sauces, and boil water.

Learn About Stove Basics

Electric stove cooktop

What are the Different Levels of Heat?

  • Low Heat
  • Medium Heat
  • Medium-High Heat
  • High Heat

Low Heat: Low heat is the lowest heat setting on the knob of the stove.  Low heat is best used for low and slow cooking, like simmering sauces or soups or reducing the amount of liquid in the pan.  This heat setting is also best for poaching fish or eggs.

Medium Heat: Medium heat is around the middle of the knob of the stove.  Medium heat is a safe heat setting for cooking because it usually does not overcook food like higher heat settings.  Use medium heat to make foods like scrambled eggs, quesadillas, fried onions, and rice.

Medium-High Heat: Medium-high heat is between the middle and the highest setting on the knob of the stove.  This heat setting is commonly used for cooking meats, sauteing, searing, and pan-frying.  Medium-high heat is used to cook foods like french toast, omelets, homemade caramel sauce, and ground beef.

High Heat: High heat is the highest setting on the knob of the stove.  High heat is usually used for boiling liquids, such as boiling water for pasta or steaming vegetables. 

Recipes Using the Different Heat Settings


Prepare pasta by boiling water on high heat and salt in a stock pot. Add pasta and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Use a colander to drain the pasta water.

French Toast

Enjoy breakfast with french toast. Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat. Whisk egg, vanilla, milk, and cinnamon together. Dip bread slices in the egg mixture so that both sides are coated. Place the bread slices in the skillet and flip once the bottoms turn golden-brown. Remove the bread from the skillet when both sides are golden-brown. Serve with fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Cheese Quesadillas

Create an appetizer to share or a meal with a cheese quesadilla. Spread shredded cheddar cheese and pepper jack cheese over one half of a tortilla. Fold the tortilla over and place on a preheated nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook on each side for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese has fully melted.

Roasted Hazelnuts

Add a warm flavor to your hazelnuts by roasting them. Place hazelnuts in a preheated stainless steel skillet over medium heat. Roast for 5 to 10 minutes, until the hazelnuts turn golden-brown. Remove the hazelnuts from the heat and remove the skin if desired.

Marinara Sauce

Make a homemade marinara sauce that will taste delicious over any pasta. Simmer canned tomatoes, onions, tomato paste, garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and smoked paprika until the onions soften and the sauce thickens. Serve the sauce chunky or use a hand blender to puree until smooth.

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