by Janice Henshaw
I’m getting ready to move! That means it’s a great time to go through my “stuff” and donate what I don’t use anymore to the recycling depot. Like the “must have” food processor that sits and collects dust. The next – and much more fun – step is to shop for some new or slightly used items to outfit my kitchen.
If I find I need to upgrade the stove, the workhorse of our kitchens, I have to consider what best fits into my cooking style. Mine leans toward being fast and efficient; in other words, I would rather be swimming than cooking!
For input on kitchen treasures, I asked Muffet, owner of muffet & louisa in Sidney, to describe a couple of her favourites. “I usually wait a while to see how wonderful they really are before I pick them up; they have to be well made, functional and durable.” Muffet says a good 8″ chef’s knife can replace a whole lot of cutting and chopping gadgets, so that will save a fair amount of cupboard space.
Her other suggestion is a carbon steel frying pan that is “easy to season and very satisfying to use.” We can make our own “non-stick” surface without using a chemically enhanced pan that eventually breaks down. Another plus is that we can use this frying pan on any heat source – even a barbecue or campfire.
How about toasters, one that toasts my homemade sourdough bread and chewy bagels on its first try? There seems to be no golden toast temperature setting on my current bargain toaster; the toast goes from uncooked to “burnt to a crisp” as soon as I turn my back. The Dualit series 2-Slice Toaster looks like a real treasure, rated #1 by Best Reviews Guide. It’s a bit dear in price, but replacement parts are available if anything goes wrong. It has a “peek and pop” function, so you can check on your toast as it cooks, and extra-wide slots and a defrost function ensure a better “crunch.”
Other treasures I would enjoy include a pizza stone, a cold-water beverage faucet with a water-chiller setup, and an instant hot-water tap for tea. A built-in Miele coffeemaker for an afternoon latte would be sweet too!
What about the clean-up issue?
My favourite option would be flipping the linen napkin off my lap and retiring to a cozy couch while the dishes magically disappear. But, since my new rustic cottage in the woods won’t have a dishwasher, option number two is to wash dishes by hand.
Montecillo dish soap and counter spray are two refillable plant-based cleaners made in Sechelt. Fragranced with essential oils such as Italian lemon, sea salt and juniper, or avocado and cucumber, they sound good enough to eat. But in this era of ill-advised laundry pod challenges, I feel compelled to say that you should not, in fact, try to eat them!
Moving on to stoves, there are a few necessary features: an easy-clean, durable, non-scratching surface and elements that adjust finely from a perfect simmer to a rapid boil, and I’d ideally like it to operate in an environmentally friendly way.
According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), an induction or ceramic glass cooktop is more energy-efficient than conventional coil-type burners.
Gas stoves are very popular for some cooks but because they heat food by an open flame, they are among the least efficient stoves for energy consumption. A free-standing gas range can vary in price from a rock bottom $700 up to a wild and crazy $30,000! Upper-end stoves have a sleek finish, are WiFi-enabled and include high-quality components, two ovens, a warming drawer, eight burners and sealed units. Be warned: these stoves can’t prep food, prepare or serve dinner! I use a gas cooktop and don’t like lifting the heavy grates to clean if there is a boil-over issue, or having to retrieve the bits and pieces that jump out of the frying pan and down into the vent screen. Also, there have been too many instances of nearly burned fingers!
Gas stoves are convenient in rural areas that are subject to extended power outages. Still, I don’t love the greenhouse gas emissions, and I wonder how it affects indoor air quality.
Other options to consider are electric ranges that heat food more efficiently. Features include sleek designs, seamless, easy-clean surfaces, controls front or back, and “speed boosts” for when you are in a rush. A hidden bake element on some models helps keep the bottom of the oven clean. Electric stoves are safer than gas; there are no gas leaks and no tanks to fill up. Many electric stoves feature an automatic shutoff which is a great safety feature. NRCan notes that better oven insulation and tighter fitting doors have made electric ranges as energy efficient as current technology allows. Prices for a decent stove can range from $1,100 to $15,000.
Electric induction stoves are energy efficient because they heat food by electromagnets that heat the cookware directly, not the surface beneath. They can boil water 50% faster than a conventional stove. This type of stove is safer due to its cool surface and is prized by home cooks for its speed and power. However, magnetic cookware is required, or the food won’t cook. In some reviews, people have commented that the pots create a buzzing or clicking sound on the stove, so that may be an irritant to some cooks who are sound sensitive. Although most ranges generally require 30 to 40 amps of power, an electric induction stove may require 40 to 50 amps. Prices range from $1,500 up to $15,000.
Air fryer ranges have been on the market for the last year or so; you can choose gas, electric or induction. They work by circulating air at high speeds using convection fans. Hello, sweet potato fries and crisp veggies! A spokesman for Coast Appliances said that I could purchase a good quality model for around $1,100. But if I don’t need a new oven, I can still air-fry! All it takes is a light coating of oil on the potatoes or veggies and a metal basket or tray to suspend them in the oven. The convection fan will turn them golden brown and crunchy.
That’s it for stoves and kitchen treasures! All those fun decisions on what to give away and what treasures to buy must wait though because I intend on enjoying every moment of these final glorious days of summer and hopefully an equally wonderful fall. I hope you do too!