America's Gas Stove Freak-Out Is a Culture War, Not a Scientific Disagreement

It's not about the cooking, it's about the gas.

Yet another baby with gas stove and no exhaust hood
Yet another baby with gas stove and no exhaust hood.

Maria Moroz / Getty Images

Change is hard. That's one reason people aren't rushing to trade in their gas stoves. It seems particularly hard for men, even when they typically don't do much of the cooking: According to the Pew Research Center, women do more cooking and grocery shopping than men among U.S. couples.

It was ever thus. When the cook stove was introduced in the early 1800s, there was considerable resistance from men who worried about the change. Author Linda Peterat wrote about the cook stove revolution of the 1800s when the stove began to replace the open fire:

"In the early 1800s many patents were granted for cook stoves, beginning the rush to develop an efficient and functional cook stove that could gain wide acceptance. But there were numerous obstacles. There was considerable angst beginning in the mid 1800s about the impact of the stove on home life. Some people believed that the disagreeable odours, bad air and smoke from stoves were harmful to health, causing headaches, giddiness and stupor. Others, mainly men, sentimentalized the open fire of the old fireplaces, believing that adopting a cook stove would ruin domestic life and social intercourse that occurred in the glow of an open fire. Others believed the energy emanating from an open fire nurtured the human spirit."

Women, who did most of the cooking at the time, leaped at the opportunity. Cooking was dangerous for them and their children, who were sometimes tied up to keep them away while their mothers cooked.

Peterat continued:

"Women were eager to adopt the cook stove. They had long endured the hot, smoky and heavy labour of open hearth cooking and suffered 'hearth death' that up to the seventeenth century was a principal cause of death among women, second only to childbirth. Women also frequently burned holes in their aprons and skirts from the sparks of the open fires. The style of eating changed as a result of this technology. Meals prepared in open hearth cooking were often one-pot meals whereas stoves permitted many dishes to be cooked simultaneously."

I suspect some women today would appreciate the switch to induction today for the same reasons my wife does: There is no open flame so it is much cooler and more comfortable to cook, the pots and pans don't get covered in gook, and the cool stove cleans up in seconds. And, as we mentioned earlier, those nitrogen dioxide (NO2) fumes are not good for kids or adults.

There is no question that many people who cook with gas love it—this includes women—and if they have not tried induction stoves are probably loath to give it up. But that's not what's happening here; this is not a debate about health or cooking preferences. Instead, it is men like Rep. Jim Jordan who decided that gas stoves are up there with gods and guns.

Jordan represents Ohio, a state where between 71% and 90% of the population cooks on electric stoves.

Statista gas or electric


Gas infrastructure was expensive, and came to the big cities first, which is why Chicago, New York, and San Francisco got gas stoves and why Jordan and Sen. Ted Cruz are fighting for the rights of coastal elites and a few fancy trophy kitchens everywhere else. Most Americans don't cook on gas and don't know what the fuss is about.

percentages who cook
Trends in adjusted predicted mean time spent cooking by gender and education from 2003 to 2016.

Lindsey Smith Taillie

Most people who do the cooking but not the complaining are also not men. According to "Who's Cooking? Trends in U.S. Food Preparation," women do most of the shopping and cooking. More men are cooking than ever before, but the biggest increase was among college-educated White men.

Study author Lindsey Smith Taillie explained:

"It is unclear what accounts for this increase in U.S. males' home cooking, although one possibility is that the rise in popularity of food-related media has disproportionately influenced men. Others suggest that popular celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver have presented cooking as a masculine activity, potentially making it more appealing to males. At the same time, this masculinization seems to have arisen as part of 'foodie culture,' or the treatment of cooking as a form of leisure or entertainment rather than labor. Of course, having the time, money, and skill to cook as a luxury rather than a necessity is likely only possible for the middle- or upper-class. This could explain why the current study found increases in cooking only for middle- or higher-educated men, but no change for lower-educated men.

Between the geography and the demography, gas stove use likely skews Democrat.

Gas stove Act

U.S. Congress

This is why #GasBanGate is so silly. Yet it continues to reverberate across the U.S., as Republican congressmen propose bills to ban bans on gas stoves with the "Stop Trying to Obsessively Vilify Energy" Act. (That's the STOVE Act—get it?)

What caused this all wasn't the science; it's been known for decades. It's in the name of that act—it's not about the stove; it's about the fossil fuels. The cute acronym tells the story. 

It's being driven by rich White men who have probably never cooked a meal that wasn't on a barbecue and get their campaign funds from fossil fuel companies.

View Article Sources
  1. Peterat, Linda. "Cook Stove Revolution of the 1800s." BC Food History.

  2. Buchholz, Katharina. "Electric or Gas? What the U.S. Is Cooking On." Statista.

  3. Taillie, Lindsey Smith. "Who's cooking? Trends in US home food preparation by gender, education, and race/ethnicity from 2003 to 2016." Nutrition Journal, vol. 17, no. 41, 2018. doi:10.1186/s12937-018-0347-9