Sometimes our needs change. What worked for a long time, suddenly isn’t as convenient. For cooks, this often means changing tools to suit new limitations or new recipes. I’ve gathered some nifty new tools from my travels and thought I’d share.
Swing Door Ovens
Traditional drop-down oven doors can get in the way. Trying to pull Thanksgiving turkey out of the oven while bending over a hot oven door puts strain on your back. It’s even worse for those with mobility issues. Enter the side swing oven door, just like your microwave. For decades German ultra-premium manufacturer Gaggenau was the only manufacturer making side swing ovens. Several years ago Gaggenau was acquired by Bosch (along with Thermador, for those keeping score) and innovations have percolated between sister portfolios. These Bosch wall ovens are:
- Stainless steel
- 30” standard width
- Left or right hinge
- Full-extension telescopic racks
- Single (MSRP $2,899) or double (MSRP $4,499) oven
I’ve been using Gaggenau ovens for many years and swear by the side swing door. I’ve stopped awkwardly extending my reach over a hot oven door to access my dishes. The smooth-glide racks are a wonder. When cooks see my ovens for the first time they wonder why all oven doors aren’t like that.
I’m not sure if there would be a benefit to having a single side-swing oven below a cooktop, but a visit to a showroom may answer that question for you.
The addition of these Bosch ovens, while not cheap, takes the price-point down to a slightly more manageable level ($1-2,000 less than the Gaggenau). http://www.bosch-home.com/us
Why are the Gaggenau models so much more expensive? More bells and whistles. Gaggenau models have a built-in rotisserie, internal meat thermometer, and more baking modes that give more precise heating options (that unless you’re a baking pro, you’ll likely never use). You can even enter your own custom heat/time programs that allow you to set precise temperature changes throughout your recipe (e.g. programming in a rest phase after meat has reached desired temperature or proofing bread). http://www.gaggenau.com/us
Induction Cooktops – Spark up the Grill
For better or worse, electric cooktops are the only option is most high-rises. For those wanting the heat control of gas with nearly the speed of a microwave, there are electric induction cooktops. For those that don’t know, induction cooktops look just like typical glass-top electric cooktops but instead of heating coils, induction uses electromagnetism to heat the cookware directly which eliminates uneven cooking and makes them fast and precise. Because the electrical reaction that’s producing the heat is directly proportional to the electricity applied to it, the second you lower the heat, it’s lowered. No waiting for coils to cool off, it’s nearly instantaneous – from rolling boil to simmer at the snap of a finger. I’ve got an induction cooktop and it’s great. Induction is available as a separate cooktop or now as part of a range. Prices cover the spectrum from Kenmore’s $1,600 induction range to the 36” Wolf cooktop at $3,815.
The drawbacks of any electric cooktop are the inability to grill or griddle effectively. Bosch now sells a grill pan and griddle made especially for induction cooktops. While not inexpensive; list prices for the grill are $295 and $349 for the griddle, they are an option for those craving a grilled steak or a heap of pancakes! I’ve not purchased either of these yet (I’m leaning towards to grill), but when I do, I’ll let you know.
*Yes, induction requires pots that a magnet will stick to. If yours don’t, you will need new ones. Many manufacturers make complete sets at a variety of price points. We can thank the Europeans for this because while induction is relatively new in the USA, induction has been popular overseas for decades.
**Note: For those interested in induction cooktops, make sure to play with different manufacturers’ touch-screen interfaces. Some are more fiddly than others. For those wanting traditional knobs (like me), only two makers have a knobbed version, Viking and the Italian Bertazzoni.
Warming up stone counters
Quartz, granite and marble counters are de rigueur in today’s kitchens, but boy can they turn hot tomato soup to chilled gazpacho pretty quick! Did you know that several companies make counter heaters? They’re electric heating mats that are affixed to the underside of countertops…a little like radiant floor heating. By raising the temperature of the countertop by 20-25 degrees, they’ll definitely take the chill off the stone. While not chafing dish hot, will slow the cooling of dishes placed on it. Some companies offer stock sizes and some customize. One company that offers stock and custom sizes is Warmly Yours. Their Feelswarm countertop heaters even have a 7-day programmable controller that can handle 14 different heating events…say warm up for breakfast. While it’s best to install these heaters at the same time as your countertops, if you have access to the underside of the stone, you can mount them after installation (say a breakfast bar overhang) I’d also say that anyone with a stone top dining table could also use this product. These countertop heaters won’t add a lot to your electric bill with the maker saying they cost 5¢ a day to operate. www.warmlyyours.com
Don’t want a countertop microwave? Can’t reach an over-range one? Try a patented Sharp microwave drawer! Yes, you may have seen other manufacturers with drawer microwaves, but as Sharp owns the patent, they’re all basically Sharp with another maker’s sticker on them. Why pay for Viking when it’s the same thing? http://tinyurl.com/qb95amv
Find Your Pots, Pans and Lids
If your kitchen designer wasn’t smart enough to insist on pot drawers, this’ll be a help. Lower cabinets are just big boxes that sometimes have a shelf. Organizing and locating what you want means scrounging around on the floor. Now a company called Glideware has a patent-pending solution. These fully-extendable arms allow you to hang anything you want for easy access. You can even mount them into a closet to access brooms, mops or even your clothes! The hooks are completely adjustable. They can be retrofit into existing cabinets and closets or can be installed new. Each glide can support 100 pounds, meaning they’ll even hold cast iron. www.glideware.com
Regain Access to Your Upper Cabinets
Sometimes reaching the top shelf is difficult or impossible. Rev-a-Shelf has an answer. They make a pull-down shelving system that fits into 24” and 36” upper cabinets. The handle on the bottom glides the contents of the cabinet out and places them on your countertop. The gas-assisted lowering mechanism ensures a smooth motion while the lock keeps it firmly planted on the countertop while you get what you need. They’re available through Home Depot (24” is $217.97). http://www.rev-a-shelf.com
Nightlights for Night Errands
Here are two products that light the way for evening strolls. Nightlights take up a socket in your outlet. No more. SnapPower sells electrical outlet covers that have small LED lights embedded in one edge. The covers draw electric power from connectors behind the plate so installation is as easy as changing the plate. They also have a sensor that only lights them when it’s dark. (www.snappower.com)
OK, this one isn’t about kitchens, but we all know that turning on the bathroom light is one of life’s more jarring 3am moments – and it makes getting back to bed more difficult by messing up your night vision. Kohler wants to help you get back to sleep easier with their new Nightlight toilet seats. There are actually two lights in these seats. One is always lit (on a 7-hour cycle) and another for when the toilet seat is lifted. Both provide a glow rather than a blare of light. The seats are also soft-close, so you won’t accidently slam down the seat. They use 4 AA batteries that last “up to six months.” They’re available in a variety of colors and both elongated and round seats. List prices are around $70-120. www.kohler.com
Got a favorite device? Share in the Comments!
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