The other day I heard on television that with more women joining the work force, neatness in housekeeping is declining. This may or may not be true, but certainly one place in the home that requires more time and effort in cleaning and tidying for most people is the kitchen. And if you're a busy cook, the cooktop could be a dreaded chore for cleaning up spills and grease stains.
Furthermore, if a dirty cooktop is ignored too long, the crevices will thicken with annoying burned crusts. To the rescue are two types of modern cooktops, one for gas-cooking units and another for electric units.
Although Europeans have been producing easy to clean gas cooktops for sometime, it's only now that one is being made in the United States. The Thermador gas cooktop with ThermaFlame (from $399) is being introduced by Thermador/Waste King as the ultimate addition to its gas cooktop line. The cooktop comes with a sealed burner and continuous surface design with no lift outs other than the slim grates. What a relief not to have the chore of removing drip pans or having to dig into the nooks and crannies underneath the burners to wipe up spills. The concept of a state-of-the-art gas cooktop came out of a consumer need, said John Lomacz, general sales manager of Thermador's California sales branch. "In 1982 we introduced the Europa line of electric cooktops with the hobtops (solid elements) with glass surface," he explained, "consumers absolutely love how they clean up. We wanted to bring that cleanability story to the versatile gas cooktop which . . . is still very popular." One plus point about gas stove-top cooking is that it allows total freedom in the choice of cookware as well as easily controllable heat.
Another very significant feature in the Thermador cooktop is its automatic flame re-ignition system called ThermaFlame. "You have confidence and peace of mind that if the gas blows out while cooking, the system senses the flame-out the second it occurs," Lomacz said. An exclusive offering from Thermador, the re-ignition feature automatically relights the burner in an instant, keeping it lit even at the lowest setting.
Cooks who use very low heat in melting chocolate and cheeses as well as for delicate sauces will like Thermador's small 5,000 BTUs gourmet burner at the front of the cooktop. Not possible with many gas stoves, an extremely low flame can be maintained with this burner. The cooktop also has an 11,000 BTU burner at the front, which produces intense high heat, that is perfect for wok cooking. Two medium-size burners with an output of 9,000 BTUs are placed at the rear.
The low-profile grates are made of stainless steel and nitrates, thus eliminating any chipping associated with porcelain grids. These multi-finger pan supports ensure against pans toppling over when they are placed off-center on the burner.
Models come in 30-inch and 36-inch wide sizes and are available with a space-saving retractable ventilation system located in the back. Another option available for the 36-inch size only is the electric griddle and grill that fits in the center. This feature is becoming popular as barbecuing or grill/broiling becomes an alternative to greasy frying. The inset is equipped with an aluminum grill that is placed directly on the coiled element for instant heating. Another design element in the ThermaFlame cooktop is its slim three-inch height, allowing for the placement of drawers underneath its porcelain-coated bottom.
The Thermador cooktops come in brushed chrome and enamel white, almond, avocado, coffee and golden wheat.
Since the European-inspired hobs or solid element cooktops were introduced a few years ago, other companies have been in pursuit of its success, creating revised versions. Again clean-up is the selling point. Since the hobs are permanently sealed to the cooktop, boil-overs or drips cannot flow under the elements. There are no drip pans or hard-to-get at burner box to clean.
One of the latest solid element cooktop models comes from KitchenAid, Inc., which offers its Electric Glass Surface Cooktop (from $480). Available in 30-inch and 36-inch sizes as well as a Model KECT305 to fit either a 33-inch or 36-inch cutout, the built-in component consists of four non-corrosive cast iron elements set on black glass. Easy to clean, but unavoidably subject to fingerprints, the sleek black glass is tempered for strength and durability.
Slower in Heating
Cast-iron elements share qualities of cast iron cookware--they're slightly slower to heat but they cook evenly and retain heat longer. If you can remember about the slow heating, you may save energy by turning off the unit a few minutes before food is ready, using the retained heat to finish cooking.
The KitchenAid electric glass cooktop has four removable control knobs with lighted power track guides leading to the corresponding heating elements for quick reference. To prevent overheating and preserve the life of the element as well as one's pots, there is a built-in thermal protector that automatically reduces power if the unit overheats. This sometimes happens when a pan is left to boil dry, or when using thin or uneven bottomed utensils.
The ThermaFlame from Thermador/Waste King is available at California Kitchens, Burbank; Snyder Diamond, Southern California; Fator's Appliance, Los Angeles; and Pacific Sales, Torrance.
The KitchenAid Electric Glass Surface Cooktop is available at Snyder Diamond , Southern California; Spero's, Los Angeles .
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