Typically you are stuck with either a gas or electric stove top on which to cook. I will talk a little about both but will mainly deal with the electric one today.
Let's start with gas as it is much easier to control while you cook. By control, I mean adjust the temperature quickly during the cooking process. When you turn on a gas burner, the flame can be adjusted from barely there to going up the sides of the pan. The difficulty with gas is getting accustomed to the flame and how much of it you need to reach a particular temperature for cooking. Recipes will call for medium heat. How much flame will give you medium heat? Each burner is a little different in its setting, much less each stove top. We'll talk more on gas burners in another blog.
For this one, I mainly want to talk about electric burners. The opposite is true for electric burners when it comes to adjusting temperature quickly. The electric burner holds it's heat for a much longer time then its gas counterpart. So when a recipe tells you to bring something to a boil and then reduce the to simmer, the heat of the burner does not drop quickly. Because of this, you need to pay a little more attention to your cooking process. There are times when I will move the pan slightly off the burner to get the temperature down quicker.
I guess what I'm trying to tell you is that you need to get to know and understand your equipment. Learn how to make it work for you and what you are doing. The control dial for each burner usually look identical even if the burner size may be different. I'll use my electric stove top as an example. Each dial is a circle and it has words and numbers going around it. It also has a line or something that shows you where the dial is turned to for the heat you desire. Thinking of this dial as a clock, my dial's line is at straight up 12 o'clock and it says "OFF" above the dial. Going counter-clock wise around the dial, the next is the word "LO" for low temperature. It is followed by the word "SIM" which is for "simmer". My dial then starts with the number "2" and continues with "3" and then "4" before reaching the straight down 6 o'clock. There the word "MED" for "medium" heat is used. We then continue around with the numbers "6", "7" and "8" until we finally reach the word "HI" for "high" heat.
If you would turn the dial to 9 o'clock, which is between the numbers 2 and 3, you would be at medium-low heat. I already mentioned that straight down 6 o;clock would give you medium heat. If you go to 3 o'clock, which is between the numbers 7 and 8, you would have medium-high heat.
I would have to say that LO, SIM, 5, 6, 7 and HI are the settings used most when I cook. Again, it goes back to knowing your piece of equipment and all it's idiosyncrasies. Play with your settings a little and learn what works best for you and your cooking process.
The topic for tomorrow will be steaming foods and steam burns. We will do a simple recipe of steaming fresh vegetables too.