Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Future is NOW!

Hello Chickens! 

Now that we have chatted about how to prepare for making appliance decisions, I want to start telling you about the appliances we actually picked, because THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING FUN THING EVER!

Today, we are talking about some bonus heating appliances.  That is induction, steam, and warming.

Now for most, a rangetop or stove and wall ovens are the beginning, middle and end of heating appliances.  The good part about our kitchen is that the size of it also meant we could add in some extra pieces that would make life easier and make cooking more fun.  And while we are insanely excited about our imminent BlueStar gas rangetop, we are also very intrigued by the new innovations in induction heat.

We were first excited by the idea of incorporating induction into the kitchen when we ate at Troisgros in France.  A three-star Michelin restaurant, the chef, Michel Troisgros is a friend of a friend, and when we ate there, we got a tour of the kitchen and then some quality time chatting with Michel.  The kitchen is ALL induction, no gas cooktops anywhere.  His reasons were many.  One, in a restaurant kitchen, with so many people cooking all day every day, it was nice to not be creating such a hot environment.  Traditional gas or electric cooktops are literally generating heat, some of which transfers to the pots and pans, but a lot of it escapes into the room.  Ever notice that while your everyday dinner might not make your kitchen warm, on holidays and special occasions, when the oven and stove are on all day, the place becomes a sauna?  Imagine that ten time overs.  Induction heats faster than regular methods, you can literally bring a big pot of water to a boil in about 90 seconds with some models, so when you are cooking for over 100 people a night, speed is helpful.

After we got home, we started to look into induction more seriously.

Induction cooktops work by electrically generating a strong magnetic field, which turns your cooking vessel into a magnetic conductor, and heats it up rapidly.  So instead of gas or electric, which create heat which is then transferred to your pots and pans and then to the food inside, induction doesn’t create any heat at all, it sends out the magnetic current and your pots and pans become the heat source!  Very space-agey.  The only downside is that you have to make sure your pots and pans are made of the right materials for magnetic conduction, so our All Clad and Le Creuset will work really well, but it won’t work for copper, aluminum, or glass or pyrex.  One of the reasons induction heat is a secondary source for us is that we want total flexibility for all of our cooking applications, and for some stuff, gas will still be better.

But for speed?  Induction rocks.  I love that fast boil option, and I also like the idea that the cooktop itself never gets hot, so you don’t have to worry about burning yourself.  The kitchen had a peninsula built in, and we had debated putting in a smaller cooktop there, so that we could do quick appetizers or sauce plates without having our backs to our guests, and we decided it would be the perfect place to have an induction burner.

But which one?

We started to research, and there were a lot of options.  But then one jumped out at us.  Gaggenau.  

Gaggenau was one of the companies we explored when we were looking at gas cooktops and wall ovens, and they had not been the right fit, mostly due to some of our capacity needs…but we had really appreciated their function and styling, and knew that they had a terrific reputation.  I called the local Chicago contact, a charming man named Kais, to set up a meeting, and it turned out he had plans to be in New York the following week when Charming Suitor and I were also going to be there visiting friends, and he invited us to meet him at the NY showroom.

Game.  Changer. 

Kais was so wonderful.  First of all, the showroom was insane, rooms set up as full kitchens with the total range of all of their products, all live and working for testing.  Kais gave us a tour, talked with us about what we were thinking, and asked some questions about how we cook and live.  And then he recommended some products.

First and foremost?  He suggested their full surface induction cooktop.  Most cooktops have four or five “burners” much like an electric cooktop, circles of various sizes where you would put your pots or pans.  This is very useful when the cooktop is the only one in your kitchen.  But for us, since it was a secondary cooktop, the full surface would be much more flexible.  Essentially the whole thing is one burner, and it automatically adjusts to the shape and size of the pan you place on it!  So if you pull a big rectangular roasting pan out of the oven and want to make gravy in it?  Put it right on the cooktop and it will know to heat the whole bottom of the roasting pan!  No more making gravy over two burners with weird hot and cold spots.  You can put things as small as 3” (butter warming) and as large as 13”x 21” (gravy for Thanksgiving turkey!).  It will accommodate up to 4 different vessels at the same time, with timers for each different item, all done automatically and intuitively.  So cool!  CS and I were totally sold. 

Any size or shape pan works!

But then?  Kais took everything to the next level.  He asked if we did a lot of steaming.  Yeah, um remember the Artichoke thing?  That goes from May-September, and doesn’t even include the steaming veggies that happen on nearly a daily basis around here.  And entertaining?  My go-to is a side of simple steamed green veg, whatever else I’m serving.

This is where the in-counter steamer entered our lives.  Again, this is a total bonus appliance, there is nothing at all wrong with a pot with some water and a steamer basket.  But if you steam like we do, or if you are wanting to commit to easy healthy cooking, this thing is amazing.  You can steam cook on two different levels with no flavor transfer, so we could steam fish and asparagus at one time for a fast healthy dinner and neither would be affected by the other.  It plumbs right into our system, so no cumbersome draining problems.  You can steam with any liquid, so water is fine, but stock or wine work too!  And it has a wide range of temps, so you can steam cook something, then reduce the heat to keep it warm without overcooking.  I immediately loved the idea of installing both the induction cooktop and steamer in the peninsula, imagining a steamer full of dumplings in easy reach of guests to nibble on for entertaining, something I’ve always avoided because steamed dumplings are best really hot and they are hard to keep warm once you remove them from the steamer.  Not to mention how much easier it would make our lives day to day.

So. Many. Artichokes.

Really cool how you get two tiers of steaming capability!

Finally, Kais asked if we had thought about warming drawers, and we said we had, but that the company doing our ovens did not make them.  He took us over to look at the Gaggenau warming drawers, and we knew that they would be perfect.  A simple stainless panel would mesh well with the colored wall ovens, without clashing.   They have four different heat levels, so you can do everything from warming up your plates before dinner and proofing bread dough, to defrosting frozen meats, keeping hot dishes hot while you prep the rest of a meal, and even doing slow cooking!  You can also use it for warm beverages, which in this current weather, makes me dream of hot spiced cider and mulled wine, but also would be the perfect thing for a batch of hot chocolate!  They come in a 30” model, so they would fit easily below our ovens, and have a lot of capacity.

Kais got us so excited about their products, and it was no surprise that we went in to look at one thing, and left in love with three!  We were very grateful for the time and care he took in really finding items that matched perfectly with our needs.  It was a really fun experience, and when we left we felt like we were really fully informed about the products, and it was cool to be able to see them all in action!

So in the end, we went with the full surface induction cooktop, the in-counter steamer, and two warming drawers. 

Bonus appliances are exciting, but one of the places to be really careful and honest with yourself about the cooking and entertaining you plan on doing.  They are certainly not for everyone, and often lie outside the main budget.  If you are designing your kitchen and dream of one or more of these, but can’t do it right away?  See if you can design your cabinetry in such a way that will allow you to come back later and add them when finances allow.  You can rough in electrical and plumbing as needed for things you might be able to do down the line, and then just put in cabinets or drawers as placeholders until you can come back and add the things you love! 

Yours in Good Taste,

The Polymath

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