July 25, 2014

Fire It Up Safely: CPSC Recommends Safety Check Before Grilling This Summer

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges consumers to check their grills and “fire it up safely” to prevent fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Before lighting the grill, do a safety check.

    Has your grill been recalled? Check SaferProducts.gov. If the grill has been recalled, contact the manufacturer and stop using it until you get a repair or replacement.

    Visually inspect the hoses on a gas grill for cracking, brittleness, holes and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing and that all connections are secure. Replace if necessary.

    Check for propane gas leaks. Open the gas supply valve fully and apply a soapy solution with a brush at the connection point. If bubbles appear, there is a leak. Try tightening the tank connection. If that does not stop the leak, close the gas valve and have the grill repaired by a qualified professional.

    Is the grill clean? Regularly cleaning the grill, as described in the owner’s manual, and also cleaning the grease trap, will reduce the risk of flare-ups and grease fires.

Once the safety check is complete, make sure to operate the grill as safely as possible.

    Use grills outside only in a well-ventilated area. Never use a grill indoors or in a garage, breezeway, carport, porch or under a surface that will burn. Gas and charcoal grills present a risk of fire and/or carbon monoxide poisoning that could result in injury or death. An estimated 3,800 gas or charcoal grill-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency departments in 2010. While almost all of the injuries were burns, a few of the charcoal grill injuries were related to carbon monoxide. There were an estimated average of eight CO-related deaths per year between 2005 and 2007 associated with charcoal grills that were used indoors or in enclosed spaces.

    Never leave a grill unattended. If a flare-up occurs, adjust the controls on the gas grill or spread out the coals on a charcoal grill to lower the temperature. If a grease fire occurs, turn off the gas grill and use baking soda and or a kitchen fire extinguisher to put out the fire.

    Keep the grill hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease.

    Keep children away from the grill area. The outside surface of a grill can get hot and burn when touched.

Getting Emotionally Attached to an Appliance

Some people have pets – dogs, cats, horses even iguanas and sometimes rocks – but Colleen Anderson seems to view her stove as almost a part of the family. She wrote about it for West Virginia Public Broadcasting:

In my twenties, I bought my first kitchen stove, used, from an elderly woman who advertised it in the classifieds. I loved the petite size of it: Twenty inches wide, with four gas burners and two narrow oven racks. It was perfectly adequate for any cooking project I could contemplate at that age.

And I loved its name, Vesta, so called for the Roman goddess of fire and the hearth, who inspired a cult of followers to take vows of chastity and live together in a temple. I was single and unattached at the time, so Vesta and I went to housekeeping together.

We’re still together. Like me, the stove is a bit the worse for wear. One of the metal burner grates is broken in half, and there are some rust spots on the oven and broiler door handles. And, at some point, about 20 years into our association, Vesta developed the mechanical equivalent of hardening of the arteries. Her pilot lights began to gum up.

The repair guy said, “You know, I could just turn those things off. You’ll have to light the burners with a match, but you’ll save gas.” So I keep a pack of kitchen matches nearby.

Like me, she’s still cookin’. I can’t begin to count the saucepans of oatmeal and pots of soup that have bubbled on those burners. The Vesta has turned out cookies and casseroles and, last Thanksgiving, a twenty-seven-pound turkey, although I did have to bend the handles of the roasting pan to get the oven door shut.

Lots of people name their cars and get attached to them, but I don’t think I know anyone else whose kitchen stove has become so dear that they think of it as animate. And, yet, when an appliance serves well and faithfully, without complaint, for so many years, shouldn’t it be rewarded with something like affection?

My Vesta has outlasted a marriage and at least seven vehicles. I can’t imagine buying a new stove. That would be like betraying her.

So here’s my plan: When the time comes to leave home and move into assisted living, I’ll take out a classified ad, “Small used cookstove for sale.” But I won’t sell it to just anybody. Not my Vesta. I want her to have a good home.

Is Steam the Thing? – Ovens

Here we have part three in our “Steam” series – Ovens.

Steam ovens harness the power of super heated steam to quickly cook foods without drying them out. Use a steam oven to create healthy flavorful meals while using less fat. Most steam ovens will allow you to adjust the humidity level inside the cooking chamber to create the right environment for the individual foods you’re cooking.

New steam ovens on the market offer conventional dry baking. Users also have the ability to defrost, warm up leftovers and even simulate a high heat grill to finish meats.

“It’s a way to make nutritional food that tastes like it came from a restaurant,” says Portfolio Kitchen & Home in Kansas City owner Geri Higgins. “You don’t have to add butter or sauce to it to make it more moist or flavorful.” The design center demonstrates its Gaggenau steam-convection combination oven and in-counter steamer.

The steamer and the oven are self-cleaning; condensation needs to be wiped up after cooking. For an integrated countertop steamer, a plumber hooks up water and drainage lines. Because calcium can sometimes clog water lines, many models contain water cartridges. Ovens come with detachable water reservoirs and don’t typically require plumbing.

On a recent day, Portfolio made asparagus (3 minutes) and salmon with lemon and herbs (10 minutes) in an in-counter steamer. The texture was moist but not water-logged.

Portfolio baked bread in a Gaggenau combination oven using dough from the grocery store. Steam is misted on the dough toward the beginning of the cycle to create a flaky brown crust on the exterior with the goal of retaining moisture inside.

Steam-combination ovens cook fast, too. A 14-pound turkey takes 90 minutes.

Some opt to reheat food with steam instead of using a microwave. Leftover pizza, for example, tastes like it’s fresh out of the oven.

“You’re starting to see steam ovens as a second oven above a conventional one,” Higgins says. “Instead of a microwave.”

Recall: LEM Products Food Dehydrators Due to Fire Hazard

Name of Product: Food dehydrators with digital timers

Units: About 3,500

Distributor: LEM Products, of Harrison, Ohio

Hazard: The screws that secure the motor to the back panel can come loose, causing the motor to fall on the heating element. This poses a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: LEM Products has received five reports of motors falling on the unit’s heating element resulting in smoke or fire contained in the unit. No injuries have been reported.

Description: This recall involves 5-tray and 10-tray LEM food dehydrators with serial numbers 2010 0701, 2010 0702, 2010 07021, 2010 0901, 2010 0902, 2010 1001 or 2010 1101. The dehydrators are gray and are made of plastic. The LEM logo is embossed on the top of the unit. The serial number is located on the label on the back panel. The last section of the UPC code found in the packaging reads “1009 1” for the 5-tray unit and “1010 7” for the 10-tray unit.

Sold at: Mass merchandisers and retailers nationwide and online at www.lemproducts.com from August 2010 through December 2010 for about $160.

Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled dehydrators and contact LEM Products to receive a free repair kit.

Consumer Contact: For more information, contact LEM Products toll-free at (877) 425-4509 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the website at www.lemproducts.com

Dacor Introduces the Distinctive 24″ Microwave and the Epicure 36″ Raised Ventilation System

Dacor has just introduced two new products – the Distinctive 24” Microwave and the Epicure 36” Raised Ventilation System.

Available in stainless steel, the Distinctive 24” Microwave is a classic combination of form and functionality, with an affordable price that has become a signature of the Distinctive Series. Equipped with state-of-the-art Sensor Technology the Distinctive Microwave takes the guesswork out of cooking by detecting the moisture and humidity level of the food inside and cooking it accordingly. A built-in electronic sensor automatically sets the time for cooking or reheating and then “senses” the vapor emitted from the food to determine the duration and power level needed to thoroughly cook the food.

In addition, the Menu Label is clearly displayed on the inside of the oven door, providing a functional list of automatic settings to assist in meal preparation and take the guesswork out of cooking. Users no longer have to worry that food is burning or remains cold in the center. The Distinctive Microwave also comes with pre-set options for recipes that can be made directly in the microwave. Complete with recipe cards so home chefs can prepare the ingredients, the Microwave display prompts users on the recipe’s next step. During the cooking process the microwave displays recipe instructions and pauses automatically to allow users to stir, season, or add ingredients as necessary. The Auto Start option allows users to program the oven to begin cooking at a pre-set time and power level. Food can be placed inside, and the menu used to set the appropriate time and power level.

Additional features of the 24” Distinctive Microwave:

Keep Warm – keeps hot foods heated up to 30 minutes after cooking is finished with no loss of quality

Four Defrost Options – quickly defrosts meats and poultry by weight. Specific programs for each category assure excellent, even results

Minute Plus – provides users one minute of high power cooking with a single touch

36” Epicure Ventilation System

An efficient, high-quality ventilation system is essential to improving air quality in the kitchen. Ventilation Systems not only eliminate kitchen odors, but also help to control the humidity in a kitchen, which inhibits the growth of bacteria. The 36” Epicure Ventilation System offers a stylish solution for homeowners who need a ventilation system but do not want the look of a large hood hanging from the ceiling. Designed in stainless steel, this innovative ventilation system is installed under the counter and remains out of view when not in use. When needed, the system rises 15” above the countertop to efficiently remove smoke and other cooking odors. When finished, the touch of a button lowers the system back into the surface of the counter for a clear, uncluttered countertop. The ventilation system’s slim profile makes it versatile and allows it to be installed behind an oven/cooktop combination.
Dacor specially designed the Epicure Ventilation System to compliment the Distinctive Cooktop and Distinctive Rangetop. The system has an infinite speed blower control and must be vented with a Remote Blower or In Line Blower, which reduce kitchen noise, or a Cabinet Blower. Powerful and efficient design allows Dacor blowers to easily remove the most persistent and dense kitchen pollutants – from heat and odor to steam and smoke.

The Distinctive 24” Microwave rolls out to authorized Dacor dealers in February 2011 with UMRP starting at $459 while the Epicure 36” Raised Ventilation System will be available to dealers in March 2011 and has a UMRP starting at $979.

Underwear in Your Dishwasher – Versatility Only Goes So Far

Washing baseball caps in the dishwasher is old news; I’m quite familiar with the idea of sanitizing kitchen sponges there too, and we’ve written here before about cooking lasagna in the dishwasher, but washing your underwear?

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz of the Chicago Tribune writes of her adventures with her dishwasher:

One recent evening, I ran a variety of non-kitchen items through a dishwasher cycle, including flip-flops, baseball caps, hairbrushes, makeup brushes, dish sponges and, the test of honor, underwear. The computer keyboard was a risk I was unwilling to take.

I also, separately, made dinner in the dishwasher, the goal being a simple meal of poached salmon, steamed asparagus and baked potato. I avoided the dishwasher lasagna Florentine, for which there is a recipe online, and which sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

The results, although not tragic, were unremarkable.

The baseball caps, two of which I placed on the bottom rack and two on the top, emerged after a normal wash cycle smelling far better than they had going in (thanks to the lemon-scented detergent), with no damage to fabric or shape. Some stains appeared to have faded, but were they immaculate? No. And they were soaking wet.

The plastic flip-flops, long smudged with dirt, still looked filthy when the cycle was over but were undamaged. The plastic hairbrush (hair removed) and an eyeshadow brush caked in Halloween makeup definitely looked cleaner, but not thoroughly. Perhaps the best outcome was for the dish sponges, which went in disgusting and came out looking and smelling almost new.
The two pairs of cotton underwear I draped over the prongs on the top rack had seen better days, poor things. My sopping wet skivvies, which had drooped down through the rack’s cracks like Dali’s melting clocks, were cleaner, but not perfectly, and the fabric looked as if it had been stretched out.

Perhaps the meal would be more triumphant.

Following a recipe for dishwasher salmon from Bob Blumer, author of “The Surreal Gourmet,” I greased the shiny side of a 12-inch square of heavy-duty aluminum foil with olive oil and placed two salmon fillets on top. I drizzled the salmon with freshly squeezed lime juice, added salt and pepper, then wrapped the aluminum foil tightly around the fillets, and wrapped another layer of foil around that. I prepared the asparagus the same way.

I had already run the potatoes through the dishwasher to clean them (a good time-saving trick). I wrapped them in aluminum foil, as well, hoping another cycle would soften them more. With everything on the top rack, I ran a normal cycle, high heat, no soap.

Dinner was meh. The salmon, while cooked, was a little rubbery and not flavorful. The potatoes weren’t cooked nearly enough. The asparagus, however, was steamed perfectly, to a crisp al dente, far better than the mushy spears I often end up with when I throw them in a pot.

Still, the meal was a colossal waste of water. Unless every other appliance in your kitchen has failed, leave your cooking to the stove.

Dish sponges, baseball caps, gardening tools and hard plastic toys are probably the best candidates for a dishwasher cleaning — the high heat sanitizes the items.

As for underwear, when times are desperate or it’s just too cold outside, I’d rather just hand-wash in Woolite — as my mom used to do.

The Microwave Oven- a Brief History

I remember my parents first microwave; my father insisted my mother needed this newfangled  appliance, and she was equally insistent that it would, and I quote, collect dust.  Fast forward 35 years or so, and she’s using her newest stainless steel model daily.

I was a kid when that first microwave appeared and never gave much thought to the technological progress it represented – how it came to be sitting there- ’til now, so…

Here’s a quick overview of the history of the microwave oven:
1945
Percy Spencer of Raytheon Co. discovers microwave heating after finding that microwave energy had melted a candy bar in his pocket.

1947

Raytheon produces its first microwave oven. It costs between $2,000 and $3,000, and is intended for commercial use.

1960′s

Companies are developing countertop microwaves, like this Litton model.

1970′s

Microwaves start to become widespread. Primary buyers are men, who purchase them as gifts for their wives. (My Dad probably thought he had thought of a unique gift.)

Early’80′s

Orville Redenbacher introduces its first room-temperature microwavable popcorn.
1987
Barbara Kafka’s “Microwave Gourmet,” a cookbook for those who want to do more than heat leftovers and make popcorn with their microwaves, hits shelves.
2009

Heinz introduces the Beanzawave. It is 7.4 inches tall and is said to be the world’s smallest microwave. 

Thermador Introduces New Steam and Convection Oven

The new Thermador Steam and Convection Oven is the industry’s first steam oven to combine three distinct cooking solutions – Steam, True Convection and Combination (Steam and Convection) – with 40 automatic food programs and nine advanced cooking modes.

The oven features 40 EasyCook food programs that automatically set temperature and humidity levels for specific foods to ensure maximum results.

Nine advanced cooking modes meet every cooking need.
o True Convection (85-450oF) – A fan on the back wall distributes the heat evenly throughout. For moist cakes, sponge cakes and braised meat.
o Steaming (95-210oF) – For vegetables, fish, sides and extracting fruit juice.
o Combination (250-450oF) – A blend of steam and convection modes. For fish, soufflés and baked goods.
o Reheat (210-360oF) – Cooked food is gently reheated. The inflow of steam keeps the food moist, and brings back the original flavor, texture and crispness.
o Proof (95-120oF) – Steam and convection modes are combined to keep the surface of bread dough from drying out. This special cooking mode enables the dough to rise much faster than at room temperature.
o Slow Cook (140-250oF) – Tenderizes all meat cuts and types, especially roast beef and leg of lamb.
o Defrost (95-140oF) – Steam and convection modes are combined. Humidity transfers heat to the food, maintaining its moisture and shape. Ideal for fruit, vegetables, meat and fish.
o Keep Warm (140-210oF) – Designed to keep food warm for up to one hour without drying it out.
o Dish Warm (85-160oF) – This mode prevents food in preheated ovenware from cooling as quickly. Perfect for ovenware and plates.

 Six Favorite settings allow automatic pre-programming for personal dishes and frequent recipes.
 The SteamClean feature steam-cleans the interior with a push of a button.

The Thermador Steam and Convection Oven will be available August 1, 2010 at high-end appliance retailers, for an MSRP ranging from $3,299 to $3,499.