To Curse or Praise?

To Curse or Praise?

If you know me, you know I love to cook! But I’ve pretty much always lived with a kitchen layout that we couldn’t change too much or a “contractor designed” kitchen (ie – designed by someone who doesn’t cook). But I’ve always drawn the line on one thing: I WILL NOT have a glass-top electric range!

Guess what? Our Newport townhouse has both a contractor-designed kitchen AND a glass-top range! What’s a wannabe chef to do?

We’ve done a pretty good job of making our kitchen flow and have a good work area, except for the one corner to the right of the fridge where you have to jam yourself in sideways to get to the coffee maker.

It’s an odd sort of design that might have seemed like a good idea to someone – there is room for a breakfast table in the kitchen, in front of a nice big window. There’s a small breakfast bar and also a small dining room – but all of those are in the same open space. Do Susan and I really need three sit-and-eat areas in one room?

The answer is no, so that’s why we put in a large 3×6 foot stainless restaurant prep table and a HUGE restaurant-grade chrome shelving unit – turning it more into a commercial style kitchen that still has plenty of seating.

So that brings me back to the glass-top range. Back when we’d go to North Captiva Island every year for vacation, every rental we stayed in had these glass top ranges, and I was horrible at cooking with them – I’d burn things left and right. I hated them!

Susan and I have both had some okay cooktops over the years, but none have been better than the bright orange Blue Star range we had in Monmouth. It was a huge, burly steel and cast iron range that could churn out some amazing BTUs – what a joy to cook on (I miss that range)!

Our beloved Blue Star range.

So here I am – alone in the kitchen with my nemesis – a four-burner glass-top range.

But, like most things – with some patience and some adjustments, you can make almost anything work. So after ten months, I’ve figured this range out (and it did take some time!) and I honestly don’t mind it – and in some areas, it’s downright awesome.

So the reason every vacation rental has these is that they are easy to clean, even if you spill stuff on them. That is true – a little vinegar in a spray bottle and most messes clean right up. For a stubborn mess, just add some baking soda for a fun-fizz-fest and it’ll come clean.

The real trick is understanding how the burners work – and that’s much, much slower than a gas range or even an electric coil range. And we use very heavy-weight (because of the thermal mass) cookware – so that takes even more time.

The lesson is – plan ahead and take your time when changing temperatures. You need to preheat slowly, and I’ve learned just how much to preheat a pan to have it in the “ready stage” to it can react when I want it to get hot. And you can’t cool stuff down quickly – but you can easily slide a pan off the heat for a quick cool down.

And the big burners get HOT – gloriously hot! We got a nice thick Calphalon flat bottom wok and it’ll stir-fry like a champ (back in the UP, we could NEVER get our JennAir hot enough to stir fry). It’s also good for frying in peanut oil – more than hot enough and easy to clean up the spatters.

So when we build or buy our next place, will I get a glass-top range? Hell no! We’ll get another Blue Star! But… I have learned how to make this work for us and to feel confident using as a tool to craft some seriously yummy food – and it’s so much easier to clean up my wine sloshes when I’m feeling extra exuberant while cooking!

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