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Published: Tuesday, 5/17/2011

Eeny, meeny, miny ... stove

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

I stand before you a martyr of the Internet.

And as the Internet giveth, so does it taketh away.

Allow me to explaineth.

As the proud owner of a new house, though not yet an occupant, I am now in the market for a new stove. The house actually has a perfectly good electric stove, but I am a long-standing member of Team Gas. I have cooked on several electric stoves over the years, including my first few apartments, but it’s something I prefer not to do. And frankly, you’d prefer not to eat some of the food I’ve cooked on them.

I have been to appliance stores from Toledo to Ann Arbor, looking for the perfect stove. I have looked at places both cheap and expensive, I have examined stoves that have been scratched and dented and stoves that are gleaming monoliths so beautiful you wouldn’t want to cook on them for fear of sullying them with a spill.

All of which has told me exactly nothing. You only can learn so much about a stove by looking at it. The only way to really know whether a stove is right for you is to cook on it. And for many good reasons, appliance stores are not hooked up with natural gas lines to let you take one out for a test drive.

So the search continues on the Internet. The first thing we did was to check out a major consumer-reporting magazine, which gave its highest recommendation to the well-known brand we are using now in a rental house. Our particular stove-top has one of those ultra-hot burners that boils a big pot of water in about 10 minutes and then evaporates it all in another three minutes. It has two fairly hot burners for regular high-heat cooking, and a small burner that is meant for simmering.

The horsepower-loving geek side of me loves the superhot burner which, in a pinch, also can be used for some spot welding. But the cook side of me sees that the simmer burner is way too hot to simmer anything. I do a lot of simmering, and to keep the food from scorching and burning I have to put a different grate on top of the regular grate and balance the pan on top of that. This, as you can imagine, is not ideal.

Because my job entails a fair amount of cooking, I have allowed myself to indulge in the fantasy of buying one of those professional-style stoves: sleek, stainless steel, and quite literally the cost of a pretty good used car. These stoves essentially do the same thing as an ordinary stove, but they look so much better doing it. In fact, when you look up consumer reviews on the Internet, just about everyone who has one of those stoves talks about how great it looks -- but not necessarily how great it cooks.

And that is why I am now spending so much of my spare time on the Internet. I’m looking at appliance porn. I look up the Web sites of those stoves that make home cooks catch their breaths, the Vikings, Thermadors, Dacors, Blue Stars, AGAs, and Wolfs. And then I look at the regular stoves, too, the GEs, Kenmores, and Whirlpools.

Each time I see something I like, I catch my breath, my heart pounds, and then I run to other sites to see what ordinary users say about them. And every time, I wind up deflated and depressed. The companies don’t service their stoves. The hinges are flimsy and the oven doors break. The electronic ignitions stop working. The ovens get hot and the knobs melt.

The knobs melt? That can’t be good.

I know that people who have had negative experiences always are more vocal than those whose experiences are positive, and I know that for every three unfavorable reviews there could be 300 customers who are happy. But how can you be sure the negative views aren’t truly representative?

Before the Internet, we were blissful in our ignorance. When buying a stove, a little ignorance can be a good thing.

Contact Daniel Neman at dneman@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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