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Using and Maintaining a Korean Stove

There happens to be many foreigners coming to Korea, and most of them come to teach English.  Their schools supply them with an apartment, and there should be a Korean stove in the apartment. If there isn’t, they need to complain to their school and have them buy one for them. One stove I was given didn’t work, and I didn’t know how to fix it, so I had to call my school and get them to send someone to fix it for me.  At the time, I just didn’t know how to use a Korean stove, and now that I have been here for 13 years, I have learned more about them than just how to use them.

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When you cook, you have to find a little knob on small gas hose connecting to the stove. You turn it on before you cook and off after you cook.

In America, if we want to use a burner on our stoves, we just turn it on, but you can’t do that in Korea.  That was part of my problem, but only half of why I couldn’t get it to work. If your stove isn’t working, first check to see if the gas is on.  There is a little knob on a small hose connected to every gas stove in Korea that you must turn before you use the stove, and then turn it off after you use the stove. If you don’t turn it off, there could be a gas leak which is deadly.  Besides the knob you must turn, you can’t turn the burner on the same as we turn burners on in America or other countries. I didn’t know this in the beginning either, and that is the other reason I thought my stove wasn’t working. You have to turn the knob under the burner all the way on.  You can’t begin by turning it just a little or it won’t come on.  You turn it all the way on, and then you hold it until the flame begins and seems that it will stay, and then you can let go, and the flame stays there.  If you want to cook on a lower flame, after you get the high flame, then you can slowly turn it down to where you want it.

Most of the stoves they give foreigners are not new, and most of the ones they give foreigners also only have two burners.  It is hard to learn to cook with just two burners if you are a real cook like I am.  I like at least four burners, but I just can’t get that many in Korea.  I have learned to cook some on the stove, some in the microwave, and sometimes, I have baked in a toaster oven, but right now, I am lucky to have a confectioners oven someone brought me from the military base. It is very possible to bake homemade bread, cakes, pies, etc. in a toaster oven, and they are only 100,000 won, about $100.

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We bought a Korean gas stove with three burners. That space next to the stove is actually the only cabinet space I have to work on because the kitchen is so small. All Korean kitchens are more like kitchenettes in America.

From time to time, for one reason or another, we have to change apartments,  and the last time we changed apartments, the apartment we moved into didn’t have a stove. It wasn’t supplied by a school, and we pay the rent, so we couldn’t call our school and complain. We went to E-mart to buy a stove.  We got one with  three burners which was more expensive, but we like to cook.  Korean stoves are just the stove top with burners.  I was thrilled because we finally had three burners, and it was finally a bit easier to cook.

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Because of the lack of cabinet space, I have a tendency to put things on the back of the stove to thaw, and my daughter suggested something from the things I thawed must have gotten into the stove when it didn’t work.

However, slowly, it began breaking down.  First, the fire on the back burner seems to barely be there, but I adapted because that is what I do.  Eventually, the burner on the front right completely stopped.  I told my daughter I wanted to fix it, and she said it didn’t make any sense because we could end up leaving Korea, so just deal with it and cook with the burners we have.  She blamed it on me because we have no cabinet space, and I put things on the back of the stove to thaw.  She thought something from what I put there to thaw had probably melted and gotten into the stove.  I just adapted and felt bad because I didn’t want to cause any trouble. My daughter makes more money than I do now, and she is married, so I am not head of the house anymore. Actually, I don’t think any of us are because we do things and make decisions together.

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My son in law suggested we put batteries in before we call a repairman. This table cloth is not actually on a kitchen table because one wouldn’t fit in our kitchen. It is on a small desk  we keep against the only wall space in the kitchen that I use like a cabinet.

After that, the last burner began going out.  It only had 3/4 of a fire, and when I cooked, it smelled like gas.  It was really bothering me, and I insisted that we had to do something about it.  My daughter said to me, “But we don’t know anything about stove repairmen.” I insisted that we ask her Korean husband, and if didn’t know, we needed to have him ask his parents.  He said he thought we should try putting new batteries in it before we called a repairman.  I didn’t know that gas stoves had batteries in them.  I actually researched American gas stoves and gas stove parts on the internet, and from what I can see, American gas stoves don’t have batteries, but Korean gas stoves do.

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There is a little door hidden in the front of the stove where the batteries go.

We bought batteries.  We found the place to change the batteries in the front of the stove. My daughter told me she didn’t think it was going to work, but we decided it was worth trying.  After we put the batteries in, all three burners worked great!  Who would have thought of putting batteries into a gas stove!? –Not me. My daughter was so elated!

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We were thrilled when we tried it, and all the burners came on!

Afterward, my daughter said she really didn’t think it was my fault that the burner had gone out, but she was just grasping at possible reasons for the stove to go out. We now know that these Korean gas stoves need to have their batteries changed about every two years. We didn’t have to call any repairman. The first time I had problems with my stove and asked my school to send someone to repair it, I didn’t need a repairman either. I just didn’t know how to use the stove, and this time, we just didn’t know how to maintain it.

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