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The Kitchen Stove
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

The heartbeat of the kitchen often simmers on the kitchen stove?an appliance that can be as rugged as industrial stainless steel and as luxurious as a Rolls Royce. The fact is people are putting lots of money into their kitchens like they do luxury automobiles.

?Kitchens are becoming absolutely phenomenal works of art,? said Sharon Flatley, certified kitchen designer, ASID. ?But when we design a kitchen, no matter whether the owners cook every day or once a week or once a month, we need first to look at the function of the kitchen and make sure that we?re properly venting.? The secondary issue is aesthetics.

?What we?re finding is that we do everything from very, very contemporary design where the hood actually becomes the focal point or art object, almost, to very traditional design where the range is built into a brick hearth or a stone hearth and again becomes the focal point,? Flatley said. ?We have done several hood installations where the hood, itself, is a strange triangular shape or it?s a strange cone shape. It still has to be functional first, but then it?s aesthetically pleasing.?

By the way, Vent-a-Hood Company is located in Richardson, Texas and offers the ventilation product of choice because of a much superior motor and blower assembly and a ?squirrel cage? that?s removable for cleaning, according to Flatley. ?You can buy a Vent-a-Hood and cover it with wood; you can cover it with stone or brick; you can put stucco over it,? Flatley said. Essentially, you can create almost any custom shape over the venting system, which, by the way, is referred to as an up draft system, thus necessitating an overhead hood. Not so for the down draft system.

?Jenn Air was an innovator in the down draft system,? Flatley said. ?But what has happened?there is such a demand for opening up the space and having the cook being able to stand at the stove and look through and being able to talk to other people that the down draft system has become very popular. Other companies have developed their own down draft systems. Competition is a good thing: it not only makes more products available, but it also makes better products. So, you?ll see D?cor, GE and a lot of other manufacturers coming out with down draft systems.?

If the down draft system is not built into the stove, the stove will often have a pop-up vent. The pop-up vent is still a down draft system that comes up 8 to 9 inches off the countertop and captures steam and heat and some odors. But, then it drops back into the counter when not in use.

?The better quality products are less noisy,? said Flatley. ?But the reality is anytime you have a blower with a motor assembly, it will produce noise.? A remote blower is the least noisy because the blower assembly is located behind an exterior wall or up in the attic thus getting some of the noise out of the kitchen.

There are many different cooking methods, types of families, and combined family units where husband and wife both cook or extended family helps out in the kitchen. So, as many different cook tops and separate ovens are available as there are ranges, according to Flatley. Actually, the cook top and single oven can be separate units, or the cook top can come with a single oven installed underneath. More typically is the freestanding range, which combines the cook-top and the ovens, whether it?s a Viking, D?cor, Wolf, Dynasty, whatever.

?People are tending toward the bigger more commercial styles,? said Kitchen Source Lynley Colvin, Allied SID. People like the stainless finish and the very predominate display of knobs on the front. Although gas cook tops are more popular than electric, many units use duel fuel, which translates into an average of six gas burners, when space allows, and electric features in the oven. ?A lot (of cook tops) have attachments, like griddle attachments, wok attachments. And a lot have simmering attachments.?

People want large capacity ovens with self-cleaning features and two individual separate ovens, according to Flatley. For instance, Thermador, D?cor, and Viking offer a large oven and a smaller oven.

?The reason we?ll go to duel fuel is because people like the flexibility of the gas cook top, which has more infinite adjustments on the flame cook top,? Flatley said. ?But the electric oven, if you get a convection oven, bakes more evenly than a gas oven.? The fan in the back of a convection oven drives the heat rapidly from the heat source and disperses it in the cavity for even temperature throughout. In the standard oven, hot air moves naturally upward through the cooler air forming areas of varying temperature.

Built on a principle of radiant-heat exchange is the Aga cooker, a pricey item selling for about $15,000 for a 4-oven range. Swedish physicist and Nobel Prize winner, Gustaf Dalen first designed the Aga in 1915. In the 1920?s he devised the cast iron that stores and distributes heat. Then, in 1929 came out the first models of the cast-iron, gas-fueled, enamel-glazed cooking stove that has remained unchanged in style or design ever since.

Aga cast-iron burners radiate heat absorbed from a continuously lit pilot light, and insulated covers provide protection from the hot plates that are always set on boil or simmer. The 2-oven Aga and 4-oven Aga have constantly heated temperature ovens?roasting oven, baking oven, simmering oven, and warming oven. Today, iron castings are made exclusively in England, and authorized installers such as D & B Stoves and More of Texas ( fit the units into the home. Kitchen Source and Flatley Designs can help sort out the unusual features of the Aga, which includes a different method of cooking. Fortunately cookbooks are available.

In 1908, Albert Dupuy, a Frenchman, decided to build the best and most reliable range in the world; so appeared La Cornue, the first home built oven using the revolutionary principal of cooking with circulating hot air.

?They are absolutely gorgeous ranges,? said Flatley. Flatley remembers one homeowner who purchased a La Cornue range and then said that after she could no longer use the kitchen, her daughter wanted to have the range. Like the Aga, La Cornue is built to last up to 100 years?one of the reasons for commanding the hefty $10,000 to $28,000 price range. By comparison, many popular and very good ranges cost from $2,000 to $8,000.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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