Kitchen Remodelingpart of materialism by Philip Greenspun, updated February 2008
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"Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word cake. I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert."
-- Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook, Marty Smith
I called up one of the super yuppie appliance stores in Boston and said "I've got this old stove from the 1970s. My friend Ted tells me I have to have a Viking stove. Do you sell them?" Sure they did, said an elegant-sounding woman, for about $5000. "How is it better than a $300 GE?" I asked. She replied, "It is less reliable than the GE, harder to clean, and it throws off a tremendous amount of waste heat. So while it does heat up your food, it also heats up your kitchen and then you need a huge exhaust hood to take all the waste heat away."
|A brand-new $3000 Viking 6-burner cooktop finally did enter my life, at a beach house. It shipped without grease filters for the pop-up hood. Getting the filters as replacement parts took months. The Viking griddle was an impressive attachment, except that it was just a bit too long to fit on the stove with the hood extended. So you couldn't fry anything smoky on the griddle. What was ultimately the main difference between the Viking range at the beach and the GE range in Cambridge? The GE burners light when you turn them on. In five years no GE burner has ever failed to light. With the Viking, there was always a moment of anxiety. Maybe this time it would light. Maybe not. The burners would appear spotlessly clean but they'd not light until you pulled off the grates, pulled out the burner, and ran a toothpick through each little hole. Cleaning the burners in the dishwasher might have helped... had the burners been dishwasher-safe.|
"Maybe what you want is a Thermador," she continued, sensing my lack of enthusiasm about the Viking. "They make a stove that looks sort of like the Viking but actually it works almost as well as the GE. It only costs about $3000."
Then I went over to talk to Al Junior at Hugo's in Melrose ((781) 665-5310; email@example.com; they will ship appliances anywhere in the US). They are in a decaying building on Main Street but they have all the latest and greatest stuff on display and their prices are about 10% lower than Home Depot's, not to mention the Newbury Street yuppie stores. The Thermador looked beautiful, like it had been carved from a solid block of stainless steel. "What's the BTU range on these burners?" I asked. "This Thermador goes from 600 BTUs up to 12,000 BTUs," he responded. "How do the GEs over there compare?" I asked. "The GE burners go from 600 BTUs up to 12,000 BTUs."
My other big problem was that my kitchen was too small for a microwave. I had a beautiful Sharp microwave/convection oven and ended up putting it on top of the fridge. Being six feet tall, I could reach all the controls but it turns out to be tough to get pots out of the microwave without spilling hot liquid on one's arms.
There are two solutions to this in the appliance world. The GE solution is a regular gas range with gas oven and burners. On top of this, you get a matching microwave/convection oven/hood. This replaces the old hood and puts a microwave oven at a reasonable height for most cooks. The Thermador solution is a unit that looks like a standard gas range. However, the oven is actually electric. It can work as a microwave, convection, or regular oven. It seems that really skilled cooks don't like regular ovens anymore. They all want to do convection like commercial chefs.
Of course, the correct approach is built-in everything. You let a contractor tear your kitchen apart, develop a personal crisis and disappear for six months while you're eating at McDonald's, then come back and put it all together again. You've now eaten enough french fries so that the blood cells are lining up one by one to get through your aorta, but your kitchen looks great. You have a cooktop sprouting randomly from a counter somewhere. In another location you have an oven or two. All of these things are integrated so well with the cabinetry that they are tough to find.
What did I do? I was very tempted to buy a $2500 Dacor range. This is the brand that designers of expensive kitchens seem to like the best. Like all the yuppie stoves, it is made out of beautiful stainless steel that will last forever. Dacor would tell you that they've rethought the cooktop to make it easier to simultaneously use several enormous pots. The biggest difference, though, seems to be in the oven. GE tells you not to completely cover an oven rack in aluminum foil because it will inhibit convection inside the oven and lead to uneven cooking. Standard consumer ovens only come with two or three racks because if you fill them up with too many cookie sheets, the heat is too uneven to be useful. Dacor has redone the airflow so that you can cook 96 cookies at once on 6 racks.
So why didn't I buy the Dacor? Because I weigh 200 lbs. The last thing I need is 96 cookies. Also, if you have all four 15,000 BTU burners of a Dacor going at once, the 300 CFM airflow of an over-the-range microwave/hood isn't really enough. You need a 600 CFM commercial-style hood. Finally, the lowest setting on a Dacor is over 1000 BTUs, too high for someone like me who cooks small portions.
I got the top-of-the-line GE Profile white-on-white freestanding gas range (JBGP79WEV) and a matching microwave/hood. Though I trust Al Junior's opinion more than Consumer Reports, it is worth noting that this is the range that CR top rated in March 1996. The range turned out to be half an inch wider than my old Caloric so Rick Young had to move one of my cabinets. It took him about three hours to chop 8 inches off the cabinet above the range to accomodate the microwave. Then Bobby Donlon had to run a new outlet into the cabinet. The total installation must have cost about $400.
Was it worth it? My heart swells with pride now every time I walk through my kitchen and see these massive gleaming white tools. The GE cooktop is by far the best I've ever used. Every burner lights instantly. The knobs are perfectly calibrated so that you can turn them all the way down to the lowest setting without the gas flickering out. When friends come over, I flick on the oven and choose 350. Then we sit and watch the LED display of the actual oven temperature rise from 100 to 350. Once the oven is preheated, it beeps.
Do I think the GE range engineers are geniuses? Yes. Is this way better than any computer product my MIT friends have ever built? Absolutely. Is it the perfect range? No.
The GE Profile range already has a tall backsplash with an LED display. What really should be there is an LCD color screen. The back of the range should have a 10base-T outlet that I can plug into my home hub. Then I should be able to browse recipe Web sites from my stove top. Once I've found the desired recipe, I would press "start cooking." A dialog box would appear: "Preheat oven to 375?" After I'd confirmed that, the recipe steps would unfold before me on the LCD. If the range wasn't working properly, GE Tech Support would TELNET into my range and figure out what was wrong.
Anyway, despite the range's deficiencies in the TCP/IP department, it is definitely too good for the Revere Ware pots acquired in 1979 by the penniless MIT undergraduate that the author was at the time...
My friend Christopher said that the happiest day of his life was a 40% off sale at Lechmere on Cuisinart cookware. He bought about $1400 of the stuff for $900. That was six years ago. It still looks new to me. Cuisinart is made as a sandwich of stainless - copper - stainless and hence is dishwasher-safe. Also, the handles stay reasonably cool.
My friend Eero swears by All-Clad and has his favorite shop in Greenwich Village where you can buy it wicked cheap. If you want to decorate with your pots, All-Clad makes a Cop-R-Chef line with a beautiful copper exterior, sadly dishwasher-unsafe, though.
All three of these brands are easy to find in most stores. If you want to play hard-core professional French chef, then you apparently need to spend $200+ for a copper saucepan (e.g., Bourgeat). The copper conducts heat really fast and evenly but doesn't retain it. So when you turn the flame down on the stove, the pan cools down quickly. You should also get restaurant-sized Chaudier 5000 pots (stainless with an aluminum pad on the bottom; dishwasher-safe). You can buy this stuff painlessly at Professional Cutlery Direct (1-800-859-6994 works better than their Web site IMHO).
I haven't figured out which is truly the best brand yet. One thing that is absolutely critical is for cookware to retain its shape. This is true even for gas cooking. Cheap pans may cook quite well when new but if they get distorted from use and age, they will heat unevenly.
Caloric range. Heat-distorted Revere Ware. Falling-apart Copco tea kettle.
GE Profile range. Cuisinart pots and stainless tea kettle (every woman who has ever visited my house has said "oh, what a beautiful kettle"). Calphalon omelette pan.
I'm too lazy to sharpen my knives religiously, so I think the most interesting thing happening in the knife world is the Kyocera ceramic knife. These allegedly stay sharp for years. I haven't tried them yet, myself, though. Professional Cutlery Direct sells them at relatively low prices ($50-250). The last time I ordered a knife from them, they gift-wrapped it and shipped in a day or two. Another interesting Japanese knife is the steel-handled Global, which has a much lighter feel than European and American knives.
In 1996, I bought a Whirlpool 980 for $500. Whirlpool was the most reliable brand of dishwasher, according to the statistics gathered by Consumer Reports from its readers. KitchenAid is curiously not as reliable, though Whirlpool and KitchenAid are part of the same company. A top-of-the-line KitchenAid would have been much quieter, though probably not as quiet as the European units.
After more than 10 years, the Whirlpool wasn't washing quite as well as it had when new and some of the trim on the front panel was coming loose. No longe a poor graduate student, I decided it was time to live the yuppie dream and made an impulse buy of a top-of-the-line Bosch dishwasher from Sozio, an appliance dealer on my way home from Hanscom Field. On February 18, 2007, I shelled out $1408. After a couple of months of weekly phone calls, they finally said that they had a unit to deliver and install. How did it compare to the Whirlpool?
The Bosch is much quieter. It is so quiet that if you don't look at the front panel, you might have a hard time telling that it is running. Even if you look at the front panel, you can't tell, because Bosch cleverly put all of the controls and the display of minutes remaining on the top edge of the door, designed to be concealed by the countertop. They realized that nobody would be able to tell if the dishwasher was running so they added an LED at the bottom of the unit that shines on the floor when a cycle is operating.
The main downside of the Bosch is that it doesn't clean dishes or silverware. It also had a horrible smell when opened, which abated with time, but it still never smells as clean as the Whirlpool. The Bosch warranty service guy came over, wearing clothes that didn't look like ones you'd want to get dirty. He never ran or tested the dishwasher itself, just looked at the drain hose and said that it was installed improperly. He sketched a new design for the drain hose and insisted that I have Sozio reinstall the dishwasher. The new design was geometrically almost identical to the existing one.
The Sozio guys came back. They actually ran the dishwasher, noting that it drained fine and nothing flowed back into the machine. They opened the dishwasher while it was running and noted the feebleness of the spray and the fact that the bottom arm wasn't moving. "Usually when you open one of these, you get sprayed with water," they pointed out. We were high and dry in front of the running open dishwasher. I called the Sozio office and asked if a top-of-the-line Bosch shouldn't be able to wash dishes better than an ancient mid-priced Whirlpool. "Certainly not," Vanessa said, "they don't make appliances like they used to."
After a few weeks, we managed to get the Bosch warranty service folks to come back. The new service guy said "There is nothing wrong with your hose; your hot water isn't hot enough." I pointed out that the hot water had been plenty hot for the Whirlpool, that were it any hotter, it would burn people in the bathroom, and that didn't dishwashers have built-in water heaters in any case? After a few more weeks, a third Bosch guy came back. He said "The hose is okay. The water temperature is okay. The dishwasher is working as well as it can; you have to rinse every plate, fork, and knife before you put it in [i.e., take whatever numbers Bosch publishes for water consumption and multiply by 3 for all of the pre-rinsing in the sink]." I showed him a pan in which I had scrambled some eggs with butter, then placed face-down, right over the big sprayer arm. The Whirlpool would have cleaned this trivially. The Bosch had left nearly all of the egg stuck on the pan. "You have to wash pots and pans by hand," he pointed out.
Trying to figure out what my options were with the Bosch, I posted to my Weblog and attracted some interesting comments. The most useful suggestion turned out to be using "Cascade Complete" powdered detergent, which improved performance considerably (albeit probably still not as good as a $300 American dishwasher). I called the Bosch customer service folks to see if there was anything more that they could do. They promised to have a supervisor call me back. Nobody ever did call back.
[In the summer of 2006, we rented a fancy house in Lincoln, Massachusetts with two almost-new Fisher and Paykel dishwasher-in-a-drawers. They looked cool, just like regular drawers in the kitchen! And they worked just like regular drawers in a kitchen. If you put a dirty dish in the Fisher and Paykel, then ran the "machine", it would come out just as dirty. Vastly inferior to the $200 off-brand American dishwasher that a slumlord would install.]
Five months after moving in, I knew that the washer had failed because of the screaming from downstairs. The machine was filling itself from the newly replaced filler hoses. No leaks there. I'd obeyed Rule 1. Unfortunately the tub or the pump had sprung a leak and all of the water was draining out onto the floor. The machine would have kept filling itself for hours or days if I hadn't shut it off.
So I called Al Junior at (617) 665-5310. I noted that the Consumer Reports reliability statistics show Whirlpool/KitchenAid to be the most reliable brand. "GE Profile. Not the top of the line washer because the controls are harder to figure out. Not the top of the line dryers because they have a super sized drum and stick out three extra inches in the back and you probably don't have room for it in your laundry closet. You don't need it anyway because the 6 cubic foot drum is big enough to handle all the clothes from the washer."
The idea of getting a presumably more reliable Kitchenaid appealed to me, but the models I liked cost $400 more than the GE Profile pair. And the GE's are entirely serviceable from the front. The GE Profile 3120T washer that I bought was only $450 so I could just buy a whole new one for the difference in price (I paid $369 for the DPXQ473ET dryer).
Al's brother and a big quiet guy showed up the next day. They cut a hole in the side of the dryer for my unusual vent location, noted that I really ought to have the vent cleaned after 15 years, and drove away less than 24 hours after the flood. Not too painful... And, oh yes, the machines are much quieter than the old ones, just as GE claimed. The washer spins the clothes back and forth for awhile to balance the load before the real spin cycle. If that doesn't work, it has all kinds of fancy suspension tricks to handle loads that are not balanceable.
Note for EuroYupps: You can get a European washing machine that costs twice as much and will only wash half as many clothes. Such a deal. Also, you have to bend way over to put clothes in and you can't reopen them to stick in a forgotten sock. On the plus side, they hardly use any water, are gentle on the clothes, and have dials marked with actual temperatures rather than a million idiot modes (e.g., "delicate permanent press colors"). Frigidaire and Maytag make front-loading machines designed specifically for the American market with larger capacities. They cost more than twice as much as the standard top-loading machines.
(from my Sierra Mountains series)
Nice article though after reading it I feel a little queasy.I just bought all new appliances for my kitchen. A Viking range w/600cfm hood,a Bosch dishwasher w/stainless steel front panel,and a Frigidaire 22 cu.ft. stainless steel refrigerator. I don't consider myself a yuppie in fact I'm a house painter by trade. I do like quality appliances and equipment and so far haven't gone wrong buying better-than-average models.
I'll let you know if they pan out(no pun)
-- Tim Connolly, September 25, 1997
I can certainly appreciate the satisfaction of knowing in one's heart of hearts that one is, and will always be, a scum-sucking yuppie materialist. I understand that moment of private joy when one not only admits the fact, but embraces it.
However, I suffered long and hard for the right to call myself a scum-sucking yuppie materialist. Admittance to this brotherhood does not come so easily my friend! In light of the fact that you appear to have gone through no agonizing search for the perfect lot of granite for the counter tops ('oh no, far too much grey in this slab...'), I'd have to say that you are merely a yuppie materialist. Spend 3 months debating the pros and cons of Franke vs. Blanco stainless sinks before finally, and hesitantly making a commitment and then we'll talk.
-- Tery R, a TRUE Scum-Sucking Yuppie Materialist --, October 2, 1997
Calphalon sucks. The anodized aluminum grey interior makes it difficult to determine the actual color of cream sauces; it also has a tendency to stick. I will give a nod to All-Clad LTD (on sale, of course). Huge stockpots should be the cheap stainless steel ones from the hardware store. It is worth having a couple of cast iron frypans; they are matchless for sauteing vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, potatoes, and hellaciously inexpensive and durable. In general, whatever is heavier is better.
Henckels and Wusthof are the Mercedes and BMW of knives. A knife is a certain amount of weight will do some of the work for you (i.e., gravity will help your meat cleaver hack through those pesky chicken leg joints). Whatever you choose, you want a drop-forged piece of steel with a full tang. You'll want a sharpening steel to maintain the sharp edge, but twice a year you'll want to take your knives to some old guy with a funny accent to have them sharpened on a grinding belt.
Kyocera ceramic knives chip. Right now, they make better semiconductor packaging parts and 35mm camera bodies.
Concerning baking pans, I really frown on dark and nonstick pans. Dark pans overbrown their contents; nonstick pans tend to scratch easy (most of them are dark colored anyhow because manufacturers of such goods know that naturally white colored Teflon tends to discolor from heat). Buy really, really cheap aluminum baking sheets and use parchment paper instead.
I usually buy most of my mundane kitchen tools at the local neighborhood hardware store. I usually buy a bunch of cheap generic airtight reusable plastic containers (I make my own stocks and sauces).
-- Y. Dobon, October 27, 1997
Take a good look at your heating system. I have a haunting suspicion that your prior owner may have fallen for the 'gas line' during his rebuilding days and switched your building to gas. If so, you may want to rethink that choice. Indoor air pollutants put off by inefficient gas appliances accumulate quickly in heavily insulated New England homes and can cause health problems...or large unexpected conflagrations that roast your chestnuts. Add the equivalent unit costs up between gas and heating oil and you'll find that oil has been consistently lower than gas for more than the last decade--something all the gas proponents are loathe to admit. If you're an environmental nut, you'll also find that this nonsense regarding clean-burning natural gas ignores the fact that Methane is four times more potent a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide by-product of heating oil. Ask your utility supplier, Boston Gas, when they intend to plug up all their network pipeline leaks that release up to 4% of their methane gas transmissions into the atmosphere or when they intend to improve the average gas furnace's efficiency so that it can even compare with a standard oil furnace . In addition, the heating oil market is already a free-entry competitive market while your local gas distribution company is trying desperately to hold on to its large commercial users in the developing deregulation of its market. If your distribution company loses its big customers (an I suspect they will) rates for the residential customer will only go up. Many of the larger full service heating oil companies will offer fixed price heating oil contracts that will allow you to budget your entire heating season before the first click of the thermostat.The New England Fuel Institute (NEFI, they're in the book) can give you a list of member dealers with solid reputations in your area. Good Luck.
-- C.J. Downey, December 17, 1997
When we were in the market for a washer, we went with a European-type horizontal model (the make escapes me at the moment). The hard facts: It uses less than 20% of the energy of a comparable top-loading US-style washer. That's $7-10 per month on my utility bill. It saves 50% on water, compared to a top-loader of the same capacity. Nice feature here in Southern California and will surely have a better appeal over the years... Capacity is the same as any regular top-loader. As Phil points out, it is much gentler on the clothes. So much so that my T-shirts actually retain their shape. Never thought that possible! Clothes come out far cleaner than what any of the Kenmores and Maytags we've used were able to yield. Admittedly, we spent $700 rather than $400. Not considering the water savings and less wear on clothes, we'll break even in under 4 years. Add to this the feel-good factor of saving precious resources and you have a real winner.
-- Christoph Weber, December 29, 1997
-- jason elsworth, September 10, 1998
Sabatier knives? Allow me to paraphrase Homer Simpson: "uhhhhmmmm....Sabatier knives....." My good buddy, Gordon, went to Lee Valley Tools here in Ottawa (possibly the best place to buy anything hard, sharp, or useful in the world--or at least in Canada) and bought a dozen Sabatier knives that were made in the 1920s. That's right. Lee Valley found a boatload of the things in France and offered them for sale. Mine is the l'enfer model. It has a non-stainless, ultra-high carbon blade about 10 inches long and a very rudimentary, unfinished rosewood handle that is simply riveted onto the tang. This knife has served as my primary cutting tool for two years and has not lost one iota of its sharpness. The blade was obviously designed for cooks, as it is perfectly shaped for anything except fine paring. My knife block is full of other knives: all sorts of expensive German and American steelware. But the Sabatier is the only one that gets any use. If the ones they make now (assuming they do) are remotely as good as mine, then I'd have to say they are tops. I realize it's a little weird to get all worked up over one's cooking utensils; but I'm a pretty serious cook, and my Sabatier knife is an invaluable partner.
-- Hugh Macaulay, October 8, 1998
When I was growing up, I never admired my mother's seemingly random collection of kitchen knives. Stained blades on mismatched handles, all with a well-used look to them. One year I decided that it might be good to buy a replacement set for her as a Christmas gift. Fortunately, I went over to the house and actually looked at them first, and discovered that what I had thought was garage-sale crap was actually a comprehensive, painstakingly acquired collection of Sabatier knives.
Instead of buying an expensive wooden block of big-name knives that were no better than the ones she had been using for thirty years, I made a trip over to the David Boye Knife Gallery, and bought one of their decorative and extremely functional handmade chef knives and a lovely laminated cutting/serving board. She calls me every once in a while to hint that she'd like to see more gifts of this type.
Boye knives strike many people as "too pretty to use", especially the engraved models with fancy handles, but they are the most functional kitchen tools I've ever encountered. I made the mistake of picking up a 10-inch chef knife in the shop one day, and couldn't leave without buying it. It just felt right in my hand, and I use it every day, sometimes finding excuses to cook just so I can cut something with it.
Their plainest knives are still quite handsome, and you can often save a hundred dollars or so by picking up a second (cosmetic flaws only), but if you really want to live, they'll make custom matching sets with original engravings, for a heartbreaking fee (they made a set for nature artist Bev Doolittle that is simply gorgeous).
On the subject of sharpening, the most practical tool for most people is one of the various ceramic-rod systems, which are about as foolproof as tools can be; set up the unit on the counter, hold the blade edge-down, and make light strokes down the rod. In a few minutes you'll have a hair-scaring edge. My favorite tool of this type is the Spyderco Tri-Angle Sharpmaker, which will sharpen just about anything.
In general, steels should only be used to touch up an existing edge, although there are now some diamond-coated steels that sharpen as well. One decent source for sharp ening supplies is the A. G. Russell catalog. I've dealt with A. G. a lot over the years, and he personally stands by every product he sells.
-- J Greely, October 13, 1998
I'll second Sean Yamamoto's recommendation for J.A. Henckel knives. They come in several flavors. The most expensive and most comfortable (at least of the varieties available at my local yuppie kitchen store) are the Vier Sterne (literally "four star"). Each knife will set you back $40-80 but you will soon forget the cost because you will be busy hand washing them. Just talking about them makes me want to go find something to cut... My only complaint is that the money-saving box sets don't come with an especially useful selection of tools. If you have to have a non-stick pan (and I do) you can't go wrong with T-Fal. As long as you don't abuse the surface you will be unable to stick anything to the pan. There's rarely cause to abuse one: you can clean off anything with a damp washcloth.
-- Ben Jackson, October 21, 1998
I got the Miele dishwasher three years ago. I bought it because it was quiet. Having lived with its gentle ways for some time now, I can tell you that I made the right choice. My friends turn on their dishwashers and then stand in the kitchen bellowing at each other to be heard over the din.
Short term I had some buyer's remorse since I spent twice as much as the US dishwashers cost. Long term, I don't miss the money and the dishes sparkle like they were polished.
-- Ray Paseur, January 5, 1999
While I enjoy your cooments, I have a few other product suggestions. The best pans, as per Consumer Reports, are a Scandanavian non-stick called ScanPan 2000. They have a ceramic-titanium non-stick coating that is incredibly durable. You can use metal utensils with these pans! I have had mine for 2-3 years and they look and perform the same as when they were new. I purchased them by mail from Cookware and More in Flemington, NJ. They are an outlet that sells "seconds." I have not been able to find any cosmetic flaws. The prices are 40% below retail. They also carry All Clad.
I prefer Sabatier cutlery. They are fully forged knives,unlike Henkel, well balanced, and good performing knives.
While your comments on ranges are thought provoking, I am still strongly considering a Dacor dual fuel range. The build quality and features apperar to justify the price differential. There is a reason why the 30" ranges weigh 300 pounds.
One last thought. Don't bother with any vent hood that does not vent outside. The odors/smoke will not be effectively removed from the kitchen. Try a vented hood with the motor on the exterior of the house.
-- Dave N, February 6, 1999
Despite really enjoying www.photo.net - both it's tech stuff and lifestyle stuff and reader comments, I am a bit blown away by the kitchen page and especially the reader responses.
I think all the very expensive cooking gear is, well, dumb. Buy some really really expensive ski gear and go skiing instead if you want to display your purchasing power. You can wreck the gear on wipeouts and in replacing it demonstrate even further your magnificence. This approach may have the side effect of limiting the percentage of the population that thinks spending thousands of dollars on an oven is useful or a reasonable subject of debate.
May I recommend Goat's Eye at Sunshine Village? Very very very very steep...
-- Eric Merth, February 14, 1999
I find it very very funny that Miele is considered expensive yuppie stuff in the US.
Here in Denmark they are among the more expensive ones, but about as unstylish as possible, it's what the farmers buy when they have earned enough money. Oh and every slum laundromat uses Miele equipment.
-- Kristian Elof Sxrensen, February 17, 1999
I'd like to second the comment on the silliness of buying expensive kitchen equipment. When I was in high school and college, I occasionally worked as a prep cook in various restaurants. None would spend more than 25$ on a knife. All were sharp, and worked pretty well. Now that I'm married, I have seen the allure of a stylish kitchen, but still...
-- Noah Clements, February 26, 1999
GE, GE, GE -- they are everywhere. Even you have the same GE range! My mother-in-law, my neighbors, and I all have that range. My mortgage is held by GE Capital; so is my auto lease. When I watch TV, I watch NBC -- owned by GE. I ride to work on electric trains powered by GE motors, past the scenic Hudson river, polluted by GE PCBs.
There, I feel better now ...
-- Frank Wortner, March 17, 1999
Greetings, I enjoyed your comments and the other responses. I am not a yuppie because I am too poor. I do however know my kitchen stuff. I was disappointed that you did not discuss toasters. Permit me to say that if you do not have a toaster that operates on a timer then you are a miserable failure. Go out and buy yourself a Dualit. They are about 10x more expensive than crap toasters but that only makes them about $300. Even a sad wannabe like me can have one of them and they really lift a kitchen. Furthermore, I was shocked that you did not consider Le Crueset cast iron cookware. What is wrong with you?
Ranges are my passion and I respect your research, but you have to go beyond this common sense thing. I would not presume to dispute your findings on the Viking but they are totally irrelevent. You should have bought one anyway. Of course the Viking is not really the ultimate. The Aga claims this prize. Cast iron goddess that weighs more than a Winnebago. "Basic" Two oven model has a baking and a simmering oven. There are two very large hot plates that can take several pots each (one boiling plate and one simmering plate). All plates and ovens are heated by one burner which is left running all the time (ie 24 hours a day seven days a week, forever). Want to cook something? Open a door and put it in... They also have a 4 oven model which features a warming oven and a medium temperature oven. It will also provide you with your hot water. They are great for cold climates but alas only someone as twisted as me and with a lot more $ would attempt to install one (they are not installed they are built into your kitchen - if you live above the ground floor be prepared for additional reconstruction costs) in a climate like the one I live in down here in Australia. You can get them in the US - I have seen the website.
-- James Hamilton, May 3, 1999
i am a fan of sabatier au carbon (carbon steel) knives. in general i prefere a carbon steel knife. they will rust and do require slightly more maintainance than a stainless knife. what you get out of the deal for the extra work is a knife that will maintain an edge and is fairly easy to sharpen when it does get dull. a sabatier is a forged knife , which means that it was heated and hammered into shape. this process effects the charecteristics of the metal and its edge holding ability.the reason that sabatier is superior is the shape and balance of the knife. get one you wont be disapointed. also a futher note on stainless blades: the adatives that cause a blade not to rust are primarily chromium and nickle.these metals bring their own set of characteristics to the alloy; usually it means that the resulting metal is more brittle. how that affects you is that on a microscopic level the cutting edge actually breaks off leaving a trully dull knife.with most carbon steels the edge is more flexible so that the edge ,on a microscopic level,simplly rolls up and can be retouched with a steel. it does not have to be reground on a stone so the blade should last longer as well.
-- jack craft, May 11, 1999
This is fun reading but it surprises me that people will argue the merits of various design, materials and construction of knives but say nothing about what really matters, technique and practice. A $200 knife will not help you mince celery any better than a $20 one if you know nothing about technique and don't practice (cook) alot. Knives like camera bodies and lenses are tools to get you to an end point (a cooked meal). Yes, doing it with the best makes it easier and more satisfying but I've doing okay with the same general purpose Chinese cleaver made of carbon steel (yes it can rust) that I sharpen and hone frequently (dressed on a steel prior to each use) for the past 30 years.
-- p.soohoo --, May 18, 1999
Does the oven really display actual oven temperature? I heard that in fact these displays are bogus: they ramp up to the requested temperature and then display the requested temperature even if you leave the oven door wide open. The actual oven temperature isn't involved in the process.
Is expensive cooking gear dumb? Well, it depends on whether or not you cook. It's frustrating to cook with poor tools. I used to use a cheap 1 qt sauce pan. It was almost impossible to cook anything in that pan without scorching. How much of my life do I want to devote to scrubbing scorched food off my pans? This scorching problem is not merely an indication of my incompetence. I tried making candy in my cheap pans using maple syrup. The procedure: boil syrup without disturbing it until it reaches a certain temperature. The result: in the cheap pans, the syrup burns long before reaching the target temperature. In better pans: it works fine. There's no skill involved, so clearly the equipment is at fault.
You CAN cook with bad tools (as long as you don't try to make candy). But if you're going to cook, you'll save yourself time and trouble by getting decent tools. With a new 1 qt saucepan I find that even if I screw up stuff doesn't scorch on the pan---the pan is a lot more forgiving. Decent tools tend to be expensive, at least compared to the price of the bad stuff that most people use, but everyone shopping for kitchen equipment should visit a commercial restaurant supply store. They have (non-yuppie) stuff that works and is relatively inexpensive.
All the big name knives are good. You need to find the knife that is right for you by trying out different knives. I personally don't like the shape of French knives (like Sabatier).
All-Clad pans don't have a pouring lip, so it's hard to pour anything out of them. Teflon coated pans are disposable, so it doesn't make sense to spend a lot on them.
-- Adrian Mariano, July 7, 1999
P. Soohoo, the purpose of this page has nothing to do with how technique and learning the craft of kitchen skills will make you a better chef. This page is part of a series of articles about materialism. If you want to learn to be a good cook, you read "Pauli" (Der Lehrbuch der Kuche) and rattle pots and pans in your kitchen for a few years, but in any case, "how to become a good cook" is way beyond the scope of this article.
Top notch chefs usually have some decent kitchen gear, much like the fact that pro photographers carry F5/EOS-1n/Hasselblad/Sinar. Certainly, these guys aren't great chefs because they own great equipment. They're just tools.
-- S. Y., July 10, 1999
I just want to cast my vote for Sabatier cutlery. The ones you want are the "Commercial Sabatier" and they're not easy to find, but be persistent. Henckels 4-Star handles are poorly finished and have sharp seams that can be very uncomfortable in the hand. I bought an 8" chef's knife because I couldn't find a Sabatier at the time. I hated it. If I'm going to spend $100 on a knife, I'd sure as heck better be happy with it. I returned it and eventually did manage to find a Sabatier. The Sabatier handles are as smooth as a baby's bottom and I love the balance of them. Other than my paring knives, the 6" chef's knife is the one I find myself using most. It's an incredible tool - don't know what I did before I had it.
I just dug around and found some web sources for them, which I had been meaning to do since they're really tough to find in stores. Here are some that look promising:
A Kitchen Emporium looks like they carry the full line.
A Cooks Wares also carries them they've got some great "try me" specials, including the 6" chef's knife for $39.99, which is a super price. I might just buy another one!
-- Karen M, July 22, 1999
I find myself split between throwing myself into complete yuppiedom and staying in the "earthy" thriftiness mode. Thriftiness (and genetics) won out. If you want a name brand like GE or semi-brand name like Thomas-Broyhill, look for factory warehouses! JC Penny has a warehouse 15 minutes from my home, where we saved $200 on GE dryer. It had a horizontal scratch on it's side. We spent $150 on a beautiful cherry stained dining room table (retail $750) at the Wicks Furniture outlet because it had faint scratches on it's table top that were invisible unless you were eye level with it. No matter what you're buying, and no matter where you are, there's a deal to be had.
-- Carolyn Lam, August 6, 1999
Okay, I agree that this is definitely a discussion of yuppie-dom. I mean, who would ever spend a quarter of a million dollars for a condo so you can eat lunch to the grand washer/dryer symphony in B-flat major? Geez, I thought that's what they make houses for. With basements. In the suburbs. To hide the washer and dryer. And the car.
Anyway, I feel the need to add my two bits about pans. Right now my favorite pans are my cast-iron Wagners. Not too expensive. A little work to maintain, and very heavy. But, when seasoned and used regularly, they're a non-stick pan that can be used with other steel utensils. The absolute best over gas heat. They're dishwasher safe. And they're a sound part of any home security system. I like the few pyrex pots I've used, too. But anything's better than aluminum near my food -- even Calphalon, which is at least hard-anodized.
I've never heard of Sabatier knives. But now I guess I know what to look for. I'm not Yuppie scum (yet -- but everyone needs to aspire to something), but I derive great pleasure from using the right tools for the job.
-- Bill Eichin, August 26, 1999
Being a professional chef, I'll throw in my two cents and vote for Henkels knives. I absolutely recommend the Henkel's Twinstar line it has a bonded edge that doesn't need sharpening and comes with a life-time warranty. I've had an 8" Twinstar chef's knive for 3 years, use it everyday and it is still sharp plus the handle is extremely comfortable. The rest of my knives are Four Star, from paring to a 10" chef's. My only Professional handled knive is a 12" chef's, Henkels doesn't make it in any other line. As for cookware at work I use plain old Wearever saute pans ( 8 and 10" aluminum ) for general cooking and All-Clad pans for reduction sauces and soups. If you have ever tried to sear a piece of meat in a stainless steel pan then you know why they make Calphalon. The All-Clads are useless when it comes to cooking any kind of meat. The meat seizes onto the pan no matter how seasoned the pan is. At home I use primarily Calphalon, both anodized and commercial non-stick. It works the best for me. As for knowing the color of a cream sauce, I've made so many I know what the end result will be.
-- Dave Mitchell, August 30, 1999
SHAME! SHAME! SHAME!
I don't believe it - what kind of world is this when a 2 year old site dedicated to kitchens fails to mention VICTORINOX - the best knives in the world. My best advice is for you all to run out and find one now and you will never look back. I have several of the same little number which I use to prepare and consume(together with fork) a 3 course meal (the cutlery tray dishwasher doesn't fill up as quickly)- nothing they can't do and they don't get blunt. Mine are years old but I know you can still buy them - for anyone in Australia they are at the King of Knives shops. For the totally uninitiated VICTORINOX are the people who make those nifty little Swiss army knives with all the gadgets which enable you to do everything from cutting up firewood(almost) to picking your teeth. The only reason yuppie scum (myself realising that I shall never be in the yuppie scum category because the kids keep me too poor and even when they leave they'll still be there in the form of the debt I've incurred trying to bring them up to be yuppie scum) may not appreciate these knives is the price - they're under $10!
Now as for pots and pans............ well thats another story.
-- barbara ryan, September 10, 1999
Amazing-I've spent a fair amount of time poking around this site reading about equipment and Phillip's adventures in life. However when I was checking out Kitchen remodeling sites and I came upon this I had to see what was here. I am impressed a true renaisense man. Phillip with Photo.net really can answer all my questions about cameras,art,appliances and how do you get women to take thier clothes off and be photographed EATING. Wow. Now that I'm done worshipping at the alter of Greenspun. Kitchens are a lot like anything else either you can do it or you can't. Make good food that is. Like everything else good equipment helps but with out a clue it doesn't matter what sort of yuppie you aspire to become.Knives seem to be important to this discussion and I'll add that I own several german ones they were somewhat expensive to me anyway and I sharpen them with a thing you drag them through. All in all I cut food very nicely thank you. Phillip I'm glad to know you read Consumers Reports and that you bought GE I am as well. I look foward to walking into my kitchen and getting that same thrill but now I will think of you as well. This is not a bad thing really. To finish I will say that I'm a pro photographer whose wife has a photo lab and that if what I read is correct we are all yuppies at heart. I find this oddly comforting. I also cook for large crowds of family nearly every week. They all consider me the chef. I do this on a crappy Kenmore electric range that hasn't let me down in over 10 years. Most of it is timing and spices anyway. I also use a crappy gas grill that took me 2 years to season now food tastes wonderful from the retched thing. One day I'll have the money to go first class ( god and stock market willing ) but untill then Don't sweat the small stuff and learn to use what you have. My wife made me write the last part.
Best of luck Chuck
-- chuck robertson, January 6, 2000
Great article in general; I learned a lot. But when it comes to knives, well, I'm a ceramic convert.
I'm a single mom who cooks a lot (my son says I should open a restaurant called McMom's -- but that's another story). Did I mention I cook a lot? A LOT. We're poor, but eat like Emperors. ;-) Problem is, I got tired of having to sharpen my knives every week. So two years ago, a good friend (who got tired of hearing me kvetch about the sharpening) brought me Kyocera's six inch ceramic chef's knife.
Well, I fell in love. It's lightweight, won't discolor or interact with acid foods, and has the sharpest edge I've ever had the pleasure to use. I don't toss it into the wall, but I don't baby it, either. It gets put into the dishwasher occasionally, and dropped on the counter, and used over and over and over. Bought a smaller paring knife last year, and despite a block full of knives, use these two daily.
The larger knife could use a sharpen after two full years of daily use -- and Kyocera does it for free -- but I can't bear the thought of being without them for the week or two it would take to get to San Diego and back. So... now that the prices have dropped, I've come to the only logical conclusion for this particular situation: buy the even sharper, even more durable hot-forged BLACK chef's knife, and send the older two off when it arrives. Happy cooking!
-- Barbara Wellesley, May 3, 2000
Knives made of carbon steel, like Sabatier, which oxidise to black and must be greased after use, have softer blades and sharpen to a finer edge than stainless steel. But, since carbon steel is porous, the knives stain easily. As a result, carbon steel is rarely used in commercial kitchens. Stainless steel is more suitable for most users.
On the German Wusthof knives, they were originally handmade but are now mass-produced, perhaps detrimental to craftsmanship. Alternatively, the German Krugers are boutique, handmade knives that are also fully forged and notable for their balance and easy-to-grip handles.
-- Ek Pon Tay, June 20, 2000
As a plumbing contractor I will have to say that ease of installation is one of my main concerns. The yuppie brands are usually the most difficult to install and service. I would avoid a Viking anyway. They are nice and pretty and you can cook with them, but in the long run you will be happier purchasing the GE or comparable brand and giving the remainder of the 5 grand to a street bum, uh, er, indigent person. I have repaired a few of the German brands and after seeing the interior of them cannot see much of a difference between them and the better domestic brands. Some of the impeller parts in the pumps are even substandard. Personally, I have a Maytag washer and dryer set that is 35 years old and it looks like they will outlast me. I bought a Maytag dishwasher several years ago from Whole Earth Access, (now defunct), for half price because of a scratch on the handle. It has the grinder in it and we love the thing. It was the best they made at the time and the full retail price was worse than all of the others but after having it I will have to say that I would buy it again at full retail if I had too. A few years later we bought a new Maytag Fridge to replace the old GE. Again we got one with a scratch, but the concern was for the best energy efficiency at the size we needed. The only fridge with better ratings was the Sunspot, and they did not have one in the 22 cu. ft. size. The expense of a new Sunspot ($2,200), was a bit of a put off as well. So Maytag. This April, while my wife and kids were off for a week in Southern California, I picked up a new Maytag gas range. I got it from the Sears warehouse store, naturally, and ran the new gas lines and a new 110v power line to it while they were gone. It does show the actual oven temp, has all of the bells and whistles of the other brands and, the bonus of matching the rest of the kitchen appliances, well, not the bread machine. Naturally the day she got back my wife informed my that she wanted a divorce, so maybe you guys should avoid the Maytag after all. For knives and pans I will have to say that the hand made and forged knives and pans that my mother had inherited from her mother and grandmother far out do any of the knives you can purchase today. Twice a year she would take them to the guy down the street and get them sharpened, but they were incomparable. The old cast-iron cookware, well, those who have them know. My younger brother, the head chef at, a to be unnamed ancient blueblood resort, inherited them and uses nothing else at home. At the resort they use all of the biggest and best-named euro-garbage, but he will happily smirk when they come up in conversation. My favorite knife is a gift from my wife. It was hand made by an ancient Argentine gaucho who made knives as a hobby when he was younger and for a living when he retired. It has a fancy silver handle that looks like something out of an Earl Flynn movie, but the blade is wonderful. It will slice a tomato by gravity and, and… You can get the point so I will stop bragging. The gentleman with the warnings about natural gas and oil is correct. That is from the Plumber. For home heating, if you need it, oil is the better, safer choice. For cooking, water heating, and drying clothes though, gas is better. Gas fires and explosions are in the news all the time though. Be sure to vent outside and install a carbon-monoxide detector. Electrical is the safest at the point of use, but has it’s own tradeoffs, pollution from the generating plants, house electrical fires… If you rent, you will have to suffer with what you are offered. If you own you probably can’t afford a major change. To be honest, if any of these modes of energy transformation are installed and maintained properly you will have no worries.
-- Jim Pilcher, June 27, 2000
While on a trip, I actually got lost in Melrose and couldn't figure out how to get back to Revere.
Anyway, we went whole hog on the kitchen in a sybaritic excess of materialism. We got the Bosch, the big refrigerator, ripped out all the cabinets and put in all custom ... not a piece of laminate to be found. We did NOT argue about one of those big cooktops, only how big it should be. 48" of Viking rangetop (separate ovens) tipping the scales at a shade over 200 pounds of sparkling stainless and cast iron. Oh, you have to include some serious ventilation with this lineup. The downdraft (900cfm) is a geek's dream (my wife just tolerates it) ... gently rising and falling at the touch of a button. The only thing that would make it better is a remote control!
To set this off correctly, you need the splashes of granite and tile along with glistening stainless steel sinks by Franke and faucets by Grohe.
This kind of negative cash flow might explain why I'm tooling around in an old minivan instead of an NSX.
-- Rob Wong, September 26, 2000
The Best knives are cheap ones. You don't have to worry about taking care of them. You can toss them in the dishwasher without worrying. They will sharpen to a razor edge with a sharpening steel. They are easily replaceable and never seem to dissappear like the expensive ones. Yes I DO have a full set of Wustoff trident knives and...big whoop! My favorites are none of them but some nameless brand with a white handle. I think you clowns that are so anally retentive about kitchen knives are missing the whole point. You're stuck on the having and not the doing. Is it supposed to be elegant and just so OR so much fun and a great thing to use? Last, but not least, I don't drive a mini van either...I drive a Mercedes...Sorry
-- Karen Aznak, November 15, 2000
I too have obsessed over the perfect kitchen for both function and atmosphere; however, I am one step ahead of you in my choice of pans. A few years ago, I purchased several Calphalon pans because I wanted the best and was told that they were, in fact, the best. I liked them fine but was not overly impressed. I tried several other recommended pans, also. But I have now found the PERFECT cookware and I am thrilled with my new tools - CORDON BLEU! Not only do you get pans with great, solid weight, you also get even cooking, quicker cooking, and fast cleanup. They are dishwasher safe. And the stainless steel looks great hanging in my new kitchen. Interested? Contact me and I will connect you to the last cookware you will ever have to purchase (and ever want to)!
-- Kelli Blackburn, April 14, 2001
As a followup to John's comment with the corrected www.cutlery.com link... There are quite a number of different Sabatier's. We dropped "Sabatier USA" which is made by a number of factories and have focussed on Thiers-Issard which makes the four-star elephant brand of Sabatier, what I consider to be the ultimate in French craftsmanship.
Terri Alpert, Founder and CEO, Professional Cutlery Direct, "for the chef's essential tools", INC 500 1999 & 2000
-- Terri Alpert, October 6, 2001
I am not a professional chef, but I do enjoy cooking, and both my fiance and my father are in fact chefs by trade. I find that I am MUCH pickier about my cookware than they are! But we all use various good stuff - it is just that all of it is good stuff. My dad and my man run to the Henckels and the Boker ceramic paring knife, while I like the Henckels, the Wusthof and the Sabatier. We use All-Clad and Calphalon and Analon, but my father and I enjoy cast-iron skillets (and yes, Le Creuset, but it doesn't have to be) just as much. I recently tried Sitram and was pleasantly surprised. As for appliances, I got a fabulous deal on a Garland (Canada-made) real commercial range, 6 burners... it meant retrofitting the kitchen in our 1890's row house to accommodate a commercial range (things like tactile heat and hood), and the commercial ranges aren't convection ovens, but I could not be happier.
-- Lera Lowe, November 7, 2001
Fisher & Paykel make what I consider to be the ultimate dishwasher, at least for bachelors. It is actually a pair of drawers that combine the functions of dishwashing and dish storage. In other words, a double buffer for your dishes.
You take the clean dishes out of one of the drawers, use them, and put them in the other drawer. When it's full (or just before you've run out of clean dishes), you start the (quiet, efficient) washing process. Now the clean drawer is the dirty drawer and vice versa (a handy LED tells you which is which).
-- Frank Schmitt, March 14, 2002
Why not just go for a La Cornue range and forget about the rest of this so called "high end" stuff. These start at around 25K and will really demonstrate your wealth and taste. http://www.lacornue.com/ Just a wicker storage basket to go in their custom cabinet goes for about $800, to give you a better idea! When I win the lottery...
-- Henry Dorn, May 28, 2002
For knives as good as any made in Germany, check out US-made Cutco. They've been around forever. They also carry an absolutely unlimited lifetime guarantee of satisfaction. Note that this is even more comprehensive than a warranty.
-- Jeff Wells, October 28, 2002
While I am completely impressed with CutCo's ability to manufacture knives with absolutely unbelievable cutting prowess, I have to point out that nobody, NOBODY I know who has used CutCo knives has NOT injured himself in some fashion with them. My good friend swears by them, has cut himself at least 5 times with them (including the latest, a horrific through-the-palm experience that required nerve surgery to restore most of the function to his ring finger), and still won't give them up for anything. Be very afraid of these knives. The combination of wicked sharpness, nastily serrated edge, a pointed tip that is seemingly made to impale flesh, and an odd masochistic addictive effect on the user adds up to a thoroughly efficient cutting device that will never, ever be allowed in my kitchen.
-- Kevin Quinn, October 29, 2002
Carbon Steel Knives? A hard-core yuppie choice would be Dehillerin, which can only be had from their store in Paris.
-- Gabriel Altman, October 31, 2002
The knife chat, expensive vs. cheap, French vs. German, all silly, the proper concern is about the edge. The solution, Tormec, (the proper yuppie rendering at about $400) or Mikita, or even Delta, wet grinders. The Tormec inludes a (leather covered) honing wheel. With only a little practice you can make almost any steel scary sharp, and touching up the mashed edges from running the knife into your Viking shouldn't consume more than a hour or so a year. Ours sits in the living room, with gismos to sharpen jointer an planer blades, lath tools, plane blades, surgical implements. You need tolerant mate for that trick.
-- bruce perry, November 18, 2002
I do not retract my glowing praise of my high-carbon, unstainless French chef's knife. It sharpens like nothing else (soft steel) and has a blade shape that is useful.
However, I've since my last post been seduced into the Global cult. The Japanese-made Global knives are very nice. Unlike the German heavies, they sharpen with relative ease. They are also light and perfectly balanced. All of my old Sabatiers, Wusthofs, etc. are in retirement. In my kitchen, a ten-inch Global chef's knife, an unbranded fillet knive and a Global paring knife do everything.
-- Hugh Macaulay, August 6, 2003
I am enjoying using my new Kirkland Signature 18/10 Stainless Copper Bonded 5-Ply Base Professional Cookware. It's beautiful flared rim makes easier pouring and the set includes useful covered saucepan and stockpot sizes. I cook on a gas range at lower temperatures because the conductivity is excellent. My only criticisms are that the included 5.5 quart saute pan is really large and heavy so is not used very often in cooking for two and the insides require a little polishing with Bar-Keeper's Friend after use to stay shiny. The price is so reasonable I don't think the set qualifies for Yuppie status (Is that still relevant these days?) In fact, the $200 cost of the 13-piece set is about the price of one or two pots in the All-Clad and Viking Copper-Bonded lines. I have used All-Clad Master Chef in the past and will always keep those on the back shelf but I got tired of the aluminum marking up my white ceramic sink - more Bar-Keeper's Friend! I also keep an inexpensive set of WearEver non-stick frying pans handy for use every day and just replace them when the coating wears out. I would never buy expensive non-stick pans because the coatings degrade so quickly. Regarding built-in dishwashers, shopping for one right now has been quite an eye-opener. It seems that a very quiet, reliable, high quality, water/energy saving dishwasher with the features I like may not exist on this planet!
-- Jamie Calhoun, September 12, 2003
The information about the Viking range scares me since I just purchased and Viking dual fuel range and hood system. I am having issues with the VEV900 exterior mount ventilator though. I purchased what I though to be a ventilator which would mount on an outside 8' wall but when the contractor went to install the ducts found they were cutting right through the top plate. Since the top plate is a structural requirement I can't install the ventilator as hoped. We are now struggling to find viable options for installing what I have sitting in my new kitchen. The customer service I have received from Viking has been less than helpful - they don't have any ideas. BUT it does look professional! DON'T purchase the VEV900 to mount on an exterior wall if you have 8' wall. There are no instructions for installing without reframing the wall.
-- Amy ***, October 4, 2003
here's a link to the La Cornue ranges! They're something else... one day i'll have one.
-- anne satterfield, October 22, 2003
Gotta agree with Rob's Wong's comment about cheap knives. I took the advice of my pro-foodie friend years ago and have avoided being stuck on brand names of knives, cookware sets etc. One brand name will never have the best individual knife, skillet, stockpot, etc.
I have a small set of Henkels, but I have several others. I bought a yard sale carbon steel fillet knife for a buck--it's perfectly flexible and can fillet a large fish tail to gill in a few seconds and I've used it on hundreds of fish. I also found a yard sale Ginzu (the cheesy 70's knife that really does slice bread, ripe tomatoes and nails). My favorite knife is actually a Negrito machete (that's a South Pacific tribe, not a brand name) made from a recycled automotive leaf spring. It is razor sharp... can slam, slash, cut and pry anything, and will last long after the asteroid hits Earth.
My stainless cookware is great for soups but I also cook asian style with cheap teflon cookware (also in a traditional wok and bamboo steamers if I want to impress company). Pancakes come out best in old school cast iron skillets--you get the idea.
-- surfer dude, March 24, 2004
Like Kristian from Denmark (see her comments in the middle of the page), I find it funny too that Miele is considered expensive yuppie stuff in the US. In Belgium, they have a very, very good reputation, but are not very stylish. Well engineered German appliances! Just like in Denmark, a lot of Laundromats use Miele equipment because they are very long-lasting and reliable indeed.
-- Eva Philbin, June 29, 2004
I have had a Miele dishwasher, and Miele washer dryer for six years. They are remarkably reliable, and I have had no trouble with the one serrvice call I needed. They are ideal for small spaces: the dryer needs no outside venting, and the washer and dishwasher heat their own water, eliminating the need for a hot water line. (My friend has his washer and dryer under the counter in his kitchen.) This makes them extremely environmentally friendly. The washer has the second-best energy efficiency rating. These components are not that much more than the new top-of-the-line GE/KitchenAid considering the energy and water savings.
-- Bill Deegan, September 7, 2004
I bought a Bosch dishwasher recently (about $800). It works much better than the old GE one which had hard water deposits and the design doesn't allowed it to be cleaned easily. In contrast, the Bosch has a removable strainer (not typical in American cheap dishwashers, but is featured in Reader's Digest repair guide) that should make maintenance easy if needed. SO far, the dishes have never been cleaner. Other plusses are the quiet operation and energy savings.
-- Frank Snow, September 27, 2004
I love, love, love my Viking gas Cooktop. I wouldn't have GE on a bet. My Miele oven I would discard, it cooks unevenly, BUT the covection is great. Bosch replaced my ultra-quiet dishwasher with a better model after a year at no charge when it had an unusual defect. They replaced it and installed it withinn 5 days. I would always purchase Bosch. European dishwashers get rid of food-laden water and wash with clean water. American dishwashers use the same water, ugh! Love my kyocera ceramic knives BUT they do lack weight. The cookware I use is Marviel copper. It gives me the reputation of being a much better cook than I am because nothing burns. I do use a cheap teflon pan for eggs, though, so easy to clean.
-- Morgana Wyze, January 17, 2005
Just in the process of putting a kitchen together. No one brand of cookware. Farberware, all clad, cuisinart, calphalon, etc. I pick cookware for specific needs. Knives are Wushstof, Kyocera, Sabatier, Global..specific tools. Double ovens G.E. Profile, one oven conventional the other convection... Wolf 48" range top, four burner with 22x22" French top and Wolf hood with replacement air. Whirlpool dishwasher, Sears 1HP disposal... 4 X 6 ft. John Boos butcher block island. Bottom line is that I fit all brands into what I needed. Shopped for the best at the least cost. The refrigerator is just something that keeps food cold: they either work or they don't. It's very hard to stay with one brand to buy for everything. Some manufacturers do a much better job in their specific areas. If I had to stay with one brand to do everything it would be G.E. Profile. They seem to do a pretty fair job at most things...
-- al schafer, January 25, 2005
I just bought a new Chef Knife by Victorinox that is made in Switzerland. I'd totally recommend the Victorinox Knives as they make the best knives I ever used. You can take a look at the Victorinox Chef Knives at: http://www.kitchenniche.ca/knives-and-cutlery-chef-knives-c-97_129.html . They offer free shipping for orders over $83.00. They also have a lot of other Victorinox Knives and lots of other useful kitchen products. You can find them at http://www.kitchenniche.ca
-- Roman Koller, September 29, 2005
As a professional chef I find this thread really interesting. One product I like a lot is Peugeot salt and pepper mills. They're a bit more expensive, but well worth it in the long run (as can be said most kitchen tools). I've got 2 sets...a classic 'Paris' style, and I just picked up some modern stainless ones this year, the Peugeot 'Tresses' mills.
ps. Had the same experience with a Viking by the way!
-- Dave Thomson, June 18, 2007
Consumer Reports consistently regards Viking and other "showroom" ranges to be not only less reliable, but sort of mediocre in cooking ability. They look at evenness of heat, ability to regulate temps, etc., but my main interest is in getting enough fire to sear fish for 6 without the pan cooling so far that the fish turns to mush before it's done. Even in that regard, the Viking falls short: 15,000 btu vs. 18,000 for newer GE ranges. I know that heat isn't everything, and btu doesn't even accurately describe heat (just gas consumption), but I'm surprised that Viking doesn't at least try to win the specs war, just because it is important for perceptions. That tells me that they don't want to open up a discussion about performance at all, instead focusing on the "Professional" cachet. (Real professional stoves go from 24-32,000 btu, btw.)
When I upgrade, I'm going to look closely at Blue Star, which seems to be one of the ranges of choice for people who are really into cooking. I'll probably also look into how much hassle it would be to upgrade my gas line and insulation to get a pro stove, which are actually cheaper than any of these (not counting infrastructure upgrades!). But it's likely that I'm going to settle for a GE for the reliability, simplicity, and best-of-home class heat, and maybe add a separate countertop wok burner for when I really need some fire.
-- Allen Matsumoto, May 29, 2008
I found a caloric stove nearly identical to that on the craigslist free section. stainless panels and heavy duty construction. Sure the indicator paint is coming off, but it's a sturdy machine. The previous owner had no problems with it, but was updating the look of his kitchen and the wife wanted it gone Immediately.
My tenant and I Love this charming, solid Caloric stove. It's got accurate, broad-ranging, solid flame level adjusters, no problems with ignition, and History!
-- Bob Barker, June 24, 2012