Thursday, February 11, 2010

Charlene's Kitchen in Philadelphia: Kitchen Appliances

In a departure from Akitcheninbrooklyn's normal recipe and restaurant related content, I thought I'd write a piece about some of the home cook's most important tools -- the stove and the oven. Inspired by my recent move into a new, i.e. new construction, home I wanted to share my experiences using an induction cooktop and electric oven.

My new kitchen (which I love!) includes the LG ceramic-glass induction cooktop. Prior to purchasing the home, I had no idea what an induction cooktop was, so for those of you who have never heard of it, my briefest explanation is that it uses magnets to efficiently heat metal pots and pans. To quote directly, bold emphasis and all, from my user's guide: "An induction coil is beneath the ceramic glass cooking surface. This generates magnetic fields, which act directly on the base of the pots and pans as compared to methods that first heat the ceramic glass. This means that the base of the pan is immediately heated up, saving time and energy." This method of cooking was completely foreign to me, having always used a gas range with heavy burners to help conduct heat. But after using it the first time I realized how much faster pans and their contents heat up. After my first big cooking mess, I also realized how much faster it is to clean up. No burners to scrub, just glass to wipe down. The only caveat: pots and pans must be magnetic. Imagine my horror, then, when I unpacked my box of hand-me-down pots and pans (and much adored double-burner griddle) and discovered that they were all aluminum. Drat! Guess I had to splurge on that 10-piece set of All-Clad d5 cookware, lest I starve or take up microwave dining. (I could have bought used cookware, but the beautiful shine of new ones was irresistible. Cast iron also works, and I happily added a pair of 6-inch cast iron fry pans and a cute Le Creuset 2.75-quart pot to my shelves.)

Several weeks into using my new induction cooktop with my new, amazing All-Clad pots and pans, I have to say that I love both. Looking back on my gas range days, I never really knew what a rolling boil was. Now I get it. And an evenly heated pan, with evenly browned food? Got it. Some of the adjustments I have had to make include not letting butter or oil heat up for too long (they easily burn or smoke) and learning how to cook with numbers, rather than a flame, as a guide. I've also had to place renewed importance on mise en place, as the induction cooktop is very efficient and once it starts cooking there are few occasions to wait and finish preparing ingredients.

For additional information about induction cooking, visit Epicurious or watch this 2 1/2 minute Fagor-sponsored YouTube clip.

The second appliance I've been learning to use is my electric convection built-in oven, also by LG. This oven is chock-full 'o features, such as
  • touch pad controls
  • settings for bake, roast, convection bake, crisp convection, proof/warm, healthy roast, and more
  • a recipe bank that includes pre-programmed temperatures and cooking times (i.e. put your ingredients in a pan and press start)
  • timed bake to prevent overcooking
  • a brilliant blue interior

My partner's favorite feature is the meat probe, visible in the photo above. A handy device, indeed, all you do is insert the probe into your meat, place the meat in the oven, plug the other end of the probe into the socket on the side of the oven wall, then set the oven to cook at x-degrees until y-temperature registers on the probe. When y-temp is reached, the oven turns off and, voilá, your roast is cooked to the perfect internal temperature! It's cool, and it works. I might miss the days of poking around chicken breasts/thighs and looking for signs of doneness, but probably not. However, I am a more hands-on kind of cook and I probably won't use many of the pre-programmed features because they would take the fun out of cooking.

While roasting in this oven has been a pleasure, baking has been a different story. Breads and muffins have been satisfactory, but cookies have consistently baked up less-than-brown at the edges and underdone in the middle. I've experimented with different cookie sheets. I've tried increasing the temperature. I've even increased the baking time to almost twice as long as they should be in there. After several disappointing attempts, I finally purchased a thermometer to measure the actual temperature in the oven. Low and behold, it was heating 15 degrees cooler than I set it to. After a simple temperature adjustment it seems to be running more accurately. Perhaps now is a good time to test another batch of cookies...

If readers have any feedback or tips on induction cooking or baking with an electric oven, Akitcheninbrooklyn would be happy to read your comments!

1 comment:

  1. I am very jealous of your kitchen and particularly your induction cook top. I have been fortunate enough to use induction before and it immediately changed my mind about the absolute necessity of a gas stove in any house I rent/buy. I'm still vehemently anti-electric, but I love the induction. It is more accurate, responsive and consistent than anything else I've ever cooked with and boiling a pot of water in 60-90 seconds is just plain exciting. Hopefully I will own one myself soon. Fortunately, I already have the pots and pans to go with it (except that sweet Le Creuset.


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