Low temperature cooking: Wolf dual-stack burners

I bought a new gas cooktop, a Wolf Professional Gas Cooktop (CG365P/S). It has “dual stack burners” for low temperature control: in addition to the main burner there’s a lower second burner with smaller holes just below the main burner. Having tested it I’m skeptical how useful this feature this is.

The dual stack presents a question when cooking: do I use the main range or the low range? Where do the temperatures intersect? I tested it by putting on a pot of water and waiting for it to come to equilibrium. This is for the small burner, of which there are three. There’s also a medium and large burner. I tested with the Liquid Propane version of the cooktop; it may be natural gas is different.

160F: Main burner, full low
167F: Low burner, full high
142F: Low burner, full low

So there you have it; the lowest high setting is about the same temperature as the highest low setting. It’s more or less a continuous dial. There’s not a lot of range of temperatures on the low burner.

I should note 160F is really low for cooking. Well below boiling water, of course. Well below a simmer too, that’s about 200F. Here’s some reference temperatures. These might not compare exactly to the temperature I measured in the pot of water. (The temperature on a dry or lightly oiled surface is going to be different than the temperature in water.)

284F: Garlic burns
235F: Soft ball sugar for candy
212F: Boiling water
190F: Slow cooking in an Instant Pot on low
167F: Dual stack burner crossover
160F: Hard boiled egg
160F: Conservative food-safe temperature for some things
150F: Cheese fondue (max temperature)
143F: Soft boiled egg
140F: Safe temperature for holding hot food
132F: Medium rare sous vide steak
130F: Chocolate tempering
120F: Rare sous vide steak

You could sorta sous vide something with this burner! Or use it instead of a double boiler (as the marketing suggests). Honestly, it’s very rare I’d ever need to go below the 160F of the main burner. The only thing I cook this low regularly is French-style slow scrambled eggs (which are delicious but takes patience.)

What I really want is fine control over the temperature range. Gas cooktop manufacturers have started to understand this. While they still market themselves on max output (and hot can be good!) they often talk about low temperature performance, too.

That being said the knob on this cooktop is really not helpful for fine control. There’s a total of 60 degrees given to controlling high to low; on my last cooktop I had 270 degrees. There’s more like 90 degrees of control for the low range, but then there’s so little temperature variance there that’s unnecessary. It’s just a bad UI.

Knowing all this now I’m not sure I would have chosen the dual stack burners from Wolf. Maybe it’s more useful on the larger burners. They’re fine, but they aren’t as useful as I had hoped. Also no doubt they complicate the plumbing. The igniter mechanism is the weak system in these products but now there’s a complicated valve that could go wrong, too.

I should add the environmentally correct position these days is to not buy gas cooktops in the US. Burning gas puts out CO2 and contributes to global warming. It’s not the biggest source of CO2, at most 9% of a typical house, house and water heating are by far the bigger contributions. However gas stoves also put out a lot of NO2, a pollutant that’s not healthy to breathe. That’s a real problem although venting to the outside mostly takes care of it. (NO2 is not a greenhouse gas, although N2O is.) Induction is the new hotness and has excellent precise heat control.