cooking · HOW TO · Ranges

How to buy a stove/range – shopping tips

Whether you call it a stove or a range, you’re going to want to keep these considerations in mind when shopping for a new … oh I give up.

black-electric-range

Though freestanding ranges are the most commonly used, slide-in ranges are growing in popularity. Featuring unfinished sides and controls on the front, this style lends a more built-in look, great for islands, and featuring decorative backsplashes. Professional ranges mimic the performance and appearance of a true commercial range.

pro-style-range

Pro-style ranges use the most durable components and achieve high temperatures for rapid boiling as well as extremely low temperatures for delicate and precise simmering.

Larger models (36”, 48” or 60” wide) can include built-in griddles and grills. Their ovens offer convection and high-temperature broiling. Convection ovens use airflow for even heat distribution and consistent baking, even with multiple racks. When cooking meats, convection fans sear the skin to retain moisture.

wolf-range

Gas vs. electric

Professional and aspiring chefs usually prefer gas due to a common misconception of all-around superior performance; In most cases electric ranges boil liquid just as quickly and frequently, electric burners reach extremely low temperatures for delicate and precise simmering. But the heat-retention qualities of electric coils and ceramic surfaces cannot range from high to low heat instantaneously as gas cooktops can. But glass surfaces of electric ranges are the easiest to clean and maintain.

When it comes to ovens, electric responds quicker to temperature changes, providing less heat variance overall for more consistent baking results. However, gas ovens provide more “moist heat,” which is better for meats and vegetables. For cooks who want the best of both worlds, the dual-fuel range has the flexibility and control of gas burners on the cooktop with the accuracy and precision of an electric oven.

Induction range burners use magnets to directly heat cookware and leaving the surface cool to the touch, combining an unmatched degree of safety with high power and the responsiveness of gas.

‘HOT’ features to consider

  • Warming Drawer – functions as a keep-warm area.
  • Second Oven – additional cavity functions as a separate oven. Perfect for cooking short items such as pizzas, pies, casseroles, etc.

slide-in-double-oven-range

  • Split Oven Racks – can be partially removed as needed for cooking multiple dishes simultaneously.

    split-rack
    Split racks accommodate simultaneous baking of tall dishes.
Appliance Design · Dryer · Innovative Features · laundry · Washer

The laundry pair that’s got your back…literally

It’s the reason I was set up with my now-fiance: height. He’s tall, I was told. But I digress…

I’m not the only one who thinks height matters. GE just got taller.

GE’s newest laundry innovation acknowledges that only 60% of consumers buy the washer dryer pedestals recommended to front-load laundry owners to prevent uncomfortable bending and hunching when loading and unloading.

white laundry pedestal

The RightHeight washer and dryer’s built-in risers raise the machines 7 inches off the ground, making it just under 4 feet tall. A traditional laundry pedestal will raise the top of the machine to about 4-½ feet tall, which GE argues limits the function of the top of the machine to storage space instead of a folding surface, as illustrated below:

laundry-pedestal
*Disclaimer* Laundry-doing man & well-behaved child sold separately.

There are a lot of other features that are worth considering, but my favorite is single-item wash, promoted like this:

“Ditch the environmental guilt with this uniquely designed cycle that offers great wash performance for single items.”

In my house it’d be more like:

“Stop feeling like a failure for never getting around to the laundry and just wash outfits on demand!”

Perhaps most importantly, the RightHeight washer and dryer come in fun colors that either match a beautiful, trendy laundry room or grant respite from a hideous basement dungeon area like mine. Introduce some tall and handsome to your dark laundry room 😉

Best · Dishwashers

Best Bosch dishwasher features review

The appliance that hands down gives our customers the most headaches are their dishwashers. They don’t clean, they’re loud, they don’t always fit my big dishes or enough of them at a time.

Note: if this sounds familiar, it might be time to stop making excuses and start making plans for buying a dishwasher.

Certainly there a lot of cool features that dishwasher-makers are coming out with, but I have to give props to a brand that focuses on being the best in those three areas that cause the greatest heartache. Bosch dishwashers are the quietest in their class and are often recognized for their cleaning power. And the newest generation of Bosch dishwashers tweaked the design to free up even more space for dirty dishes.

Dishwashers should actually clean your dishes

It’s a novel concept: a dishwasher that washes your dirty dishes so well that you don’t wash them yourself before loading. It’s a bad habit that many can’t shake, but being the past owner of a bad dishwasher myself, I can empathize.

When I visited the Bosch training facility last year, my favorite room was the small, enclosed dishwasher room. Cozy on purpose to amplify every sound a dishwasher makes.

bosch dishwashers
This room was small, so you could really hear the difference a decibel makes.

We put every imaginable mess on plates that you’d usually soak or rinse off before handing them over to the dishwasher.

But they came out clean every time — by no accident of course. This is how they are designed and tested. But it was especially fun to witness this process. And to not be the one having to load and unload the dishes.

Is this thing on?

Our best Bosch dishwasher in terms of sales registers at 47 dBA, a sound level between hand washing and typing. (FYI, the quietest Bosch dishwasher is 38 dBA, which is scientifically equivalent to a tree falling in the woods when no one is around.) Translation: they’re super quiet.

They achieve this stunningly silent operation through a combination of insulation, water jet trajectory design, and quiet-focused mechanics.

Some Bosch dishwashers are so confusingly silent, engineers added InfoLight to beam a small red orb onto the floor beneath to indicate that it was, in fact, running. TimeLight goes a step further to beam the time remaining. Unnecessary? Probably. Cool? You betcha.

Nice rack

We’ve all experienced the anxiety of “will it fit?” And I’m not just talking about your skinny jeans in January.

Bosch’s RackMatic design totally gets that the tallest stemware is a favorite for allowing the largest “just one glass of wine” pour. And the tallest cookware (roasting pans, cookie sheets, frying pans) are the ones we least like to tackle by hand.

The unique V-shape of Bosch’s rack means never having to handwash.  Simply by lower or raise the RackMatic rack to accommodate all the awkwardly shaped wine glasses and pans you want.

That sounds expensive

It’s not that bad. We bundled together the best-selling Bosch dishwasher (on sale for $599) with all its kitchen counterparts and then cut the price by 25% ($3699)…while supplies last.

bosch kitchen set

And actually, a kitchen full of high-efficiency, German engineered appliances sounds very quiet.

Freezer · HOW TO · Refrigerator · Wine storage

HOW TO: buy a refrigerator

Buying a refrigerator can be a difficult decision, considering all the sizes, styles and prices available. But most importantly (after making sure it fits), the refrigerator you choose should reflect the way your family uses your kitchen and accesses fresh or frozen food.

stainless-steel-refrigerator

Top-freezer refrigerators position the freezer at eye level while the refrigerator compartment offers wide shelves, making it easy to store large trays of food and allow access to items in the back of the refrigerator.

side by side black refrigerator

Side-by-side refrigerators feature the freezer on the left and the refrigerator on the right. Side-by-sides require less door swing clearance, perfect for kitchen layouts with narrow walkways or an island.

stainless-bottom-freezer-refrigerator

Bottom freezer refrigerators are today’s most popular refrigerator style. The refrigerator is opened nine to 10 times more often than the freezer, so it’s convenient to locate the refrigerator at waist or chest level.

four door french door refrigerator

French door refrigerators, the industry’s fastest growing style, is like a bottom-freezer but with French doors (side-by-side) opening from the center. The symmetrical styling allows easier installation with less door clearance to impede a walkway or island. Wide refrigerator shelves easily store large party trays.

samsung french door refrigeratorSome models, like the one pictured above, come with a fourth drawer. Depending on the model, the fourth drawer is a second refrigerator compartment or a second freezer compartment. However, as is the case with the Samsung refrigerator pictured to the right, sometimes the fourth drawer offers more temperature options (think chilling wine versus storing meats) than you’d probably select with your main fresh food compartment.

‘Cool’ features to consider

• A Dual-Compressor System cools the refrigerator and freezer separately. This preserves food substantially longer, better retaining the food’s natural internal moisture.

• Chilling Drawers brings air directly from the freezer into a sealed refrigerator compartment to, for instance, cool a warm beverage to ice cold in 15 minutes!

• Hidden Hinge extends door heights to cover hinges and create a more built-in look.

• Gallon Storage Door Bins hold large milk and juice jugs in the door to free up precious shelf space.

Cabinet-depth models provide a sleek and seamless appearance. The shallow 24” depth aligns with surrounding cabinetry, again, offering a more “built-in” look.

Tip: A common mistake when buying a new refrigerator is not properly measuring the maximum height, depth and width of the space it will fit into. There is no “standard” in refrigerator. However, if your opening is 36” wide and 70” high, you will have a wide selection of models to choose from. As a rule of thumb, you should allow 1” of clearance on each side of the refrigerator for breathing room.

Dishwashers · HOW TO

Tips for buying a dishwasher

Sizes & styles

Though dishwashers are relatively standard in size at 24” wide, you may have less than 34” in height if, say, new flooring was laid on top of old flooring. Or your countertops are slightly lower for handicap accessibility.

In these cases, you will need to seek out a “short tub” or ADA compliant dishwasher. An increasing number of dishwashers now offer hidden controls along the top of the door instead of front controls for a more seamless appearance. For a truly integrated appearance, several manufacturers offer models with an unfinished door, able to accept a custom wood panel.

Frigidaire's OrbitClean alternating arm action  focuses four times more water and detergent in a  concentrated area while rotating around the interior.
Frigidaire’s OrbitClean alternating arm action focuses four times more water and detergent in a
concentrated area while rotating around the interior.

Basic models offer just one or two spray arms, but most dishwashers have a spray arm on the bottom, in the middle, and at the top of the dishwasher tub. These spray arms typically have a direct feed of water as opposed to the indirect tower design of the past.

European-style models (i.e. Bosch, ASKO, Miele, Electrolux, etc.) use a slightly different approach to cleaning. These models feature high wash temperatures (30-40 degrees more than comparable models) and increased water pressure. The increased water temperature and water pressure creates a more effective wash cycle, able to cut through even the toughest baked-on grease.

miele-cutlery-tray

Traditionally, silverware baskets are located front and center in the lower rack, but some models feature a long basket on the side of the lower rack, which often can be split into sub baskets and relocated or removed. Some high-end dishwashers offer a flat, dedicated silverware tray at the top of the dishwasher that frees up more space in main racks.

dcs-tall-dishdrawerFor flexible use options, consider dish drawer dishwashers, which can be purchased as single drawer (using half the water and electricity of a standard dishwasher) or double units (each drawer runs independently for convenient flexibility). Drawers also reduce bending for those with back or knee problems.

Features to consider

  • Anti-Leak Safety – shields hardwood floors from damage in the case of an internal leak. Water will be contained within the pan, shielding hardwood floors from damage. A sensor within the safety pan may also shut down the dishwasher to prevent further damage.
  • Internal Water Softener – ensures soft water is used, which reduce fogging and etching to glassware and improves cleaning power of detergent
  • Stainless steel interiors are less likely to absorb odors or stains than plastic interiors and results in a quicker overall dry time through condensation
  • Third racks may be adjusted and nearly removable to use otherwise-wasted space. Sometimes used as a glassware rack for the frequent entertainer.
  • Hard food disposers typically grind up food particles and flush them out, but European-style models’ high wash temperatures and increased water pressure emulsify food waste that is washed away at the end of the cycle. Not using a disposer means less energy consumption and fewer moving parts, resulting in fewer breakdowns and quieter operation. A food trap prevents more durable items, such as chicken bones, from entering into the mechanics of the unit.

Star-Sapphire_time

  • LED electronic read-outs – show the time remaining in a cycle. Wash times are longer today than they were in the past to make up for today’s more eco-friendly but less-potent detergent. A normal wash used to be 45- 60 minutes, but is now between 90-135 minutes, depending on the model.
Budget-wise · Dishwashers · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · Refrigerator · Washer · Window air conditioner

5 appliance myths that waste your time & money

washing-machineMYTH: Cold water won’t properly wash your clothes

FACT: Modern washers are designed to clean in cold water and 90 percent of a washer’s energy goes toward the water heating. So by washing with hot water, you’re pouring money down the drain.

MYTH: You must rinse your dishes before they run in the dishwasher

FACT: Dishwashers and detergent clean best when starting with dirty dishes. The detergent needs food to activate and many dishwashers use sensors to determine the “turbidity” level of the water so if the dishwasher thinks the dishes are already clean, it will run shorter and colder.

Today, an Energy Star dishwasher uses only 4 gallons of water or less, and some estimates say you’ll use 20 gallons of water from your faucet pre-rinsing dishes. So it’s better to run the dishes through 4 times than to put them in rinsed.

MYTH: More soap = more clean

FACT: Just because dishwashers and washers now require less water to clean properly doesn’t mean that everyone has gotten the message to reduce our detergent use in conjunction. Too much dishwasher detergent can leave a white film on dishes and too much laundry detergent can cause oversudsing in the washer, reducing the performance and lifespan of a washer not too mention leaving soap residue on your clothes that didn’t properly rinse out.

MYTH: Using an old refrigerator as a second beverage refrigerator is a money-saving idea

fridge-cost

FACT: The electricity to power an old refrigerator over several years will cost more than an energy efficient replacement…and then some! Energy Star’s website cleverly offers a Refrigerator Retirement Savings calculator.

I plugged in what I consider some common figures and found that the cost to a homeowner of a 20 year old top-freezer fridge (probably 18 cu ft) would be $620 over 5 years. A new Energy Star model costs about $40/year to run vs. $125/yr PLUS many local utilities will actually pay you $35 or more to let them come haul away your second refrigerator.

MYTH: Buying a more powerful A/C will cool down your space faster

FACT: The A/C will just cycle off more frequently when it reaches the temperature in the room, reducing efficiency, lifespan and causing uncomfortable temperature fluctuations. Buy a window air conditioner or room air conditioner that’s just right for your space.

MYTH: When the oven’s preheating chime sounds, it’s fully reached temperature

FACT: Some preheat chimes are on a timer so it shouldn’t be trusted for finicky bakers, who should test the temperature with a thermometer. For your everyday pizzas and casseroles, you’d be fine however.

MYTH: You don’t need to turn on your ventilation until there’s smoke

FACT: You should start running your ventilation 10 minutes before you start cooking to create an airflow and leave it running 5 minutes after you’re done for best results.

Appliance Design · Innovative Features · Kitchen Design

Colored appliances that trump stainless steel

In recent years, stainless steel appliances gained ubiquity in kitchens throughout Minnesota. Heck, I’ve switched out all of my outdated, white appliances from the last millennium to a stainless steel refrigerator, range and dishwasher.

But despite — or perhaps because of — stainless steel’s popularity, not everyone is looking to replace colored appliances with stainless.

In fact, some publications hint that white is the new stainless, bolstered by manufacturers’ efforts to modernize a color recently associated with outmoded kitchens.

Whichever camp you fall into, here’s a selection of neutrally colored appliances that no one will call mundane.

GE Slate

GE Slate looks similar to stainless steel, but is darker and more matte. Not only is it a visually a departure, but hey, fewer fingerprints to clean off!

geslatekitchenset
GE’s new Slate finish

Because I appreciate using a thesaurus to cure writer’s block as much as GE’s writers apparently do, I’ll re-publish the official copywriting about Slate:

Welcome GE’s new fashion-forward finish, Slate: a color that is just as stylish and sophisticated as stainless steel but with a strong, earthy feel. Sophisticated, modern with a twist of verve, and a dose of stunning. It’s a timeless new finish that beautifully blends in, to help you truly stand out.

I don’t know about you, but that sure inspires some design FOMO in me. My kitchen certainly lacks earthy, twisted verve. To Warner Stellian I go!

Jenn-Air Oiled Bronze

Personally, the first time I saw Oiled Bronze in a showroom, I thought that someone ironically paneled the fridge using plywood found on 1970’s basement walls. But in the right application, as you’ll see below, it’s truly something.

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Jenn-Air’s Oil Rubbed finish, featured in the hood, ovens and refrigerator.

GE Artistry

GE Artistry Series Black
GE Artistry Series in Black

Though they look like a throwback, GE Artistry appliances were designed for the millennials, specifically first-time home buyers. GE said it felt this modern generation (my generation) would appreciate the reinvented retro look and the “entry-level” price tag of mid $2000s.

geartistrywhitekitchen
GE Artistry also comes in white with stainless steel accents.

Whirlpool Ice Collection

WhirlpoolIceBlackAppliances
Whirlpool Ice Collection in Black

Whirlpool modernized its colors from textured white or textured black that was so bumpy, you could cover imperfections with glorified nail polish known as “touch-up paint.” Whirlpool Ice Collection however, is impeccably sleek.

From Whirlpool: “Our contemporary form flows into modern colors elegantly energized with metallic finishes and subtle textures.” So, supposedly the handles are energized but I think they just mean “shiny.” Oooh pretty! Whirlpool Ice comes in White Ice, Black Ice appliances and yes, Stainless.

whirlpool-ice-white
Whirlpool Ice Collection in White