July 24, 2014

Mom Can Win New Appliances

Indianapolis-based appliance and electronics retailer hhgregg (NYSE:HGG) announced that it will be celebrating Mother’s Day by inviting customers to enter its Frigidaire kitchen appliance package giveaway. From April 26th-May 5th, one contestant will be selected daily to receive $100 hhgregg gift card and all contestants will be registered for the chance to win the grand prize; a kitchen appliance package that includes a refrigerator, range, dishwasher and microwave.

hhgregg’s Mother’s Day giveaway will also support the heart health of moms everywhere. For each Facebook “like” hhgregg receives during this time frame, the company will donate $1 to The American Heart Association’s “My Heart. My Life” fund, up to $20,000. A minimum of $10,000 will be donated.

“We wanted to honor mothers everywhere this year by not only hosting an exciting giveaway, but by giving back to the American Heart Association, a wonderful organization that promotes healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke,” said Jeff Pearson, Vice President of Marketing, hhgregg.

To register for the Mother’s Day Giveaway, please visit www.hhgregg.com/hhgives.

To “like” hhgregg on Facebook, and have $1 donated to The American Heart Association, please visit www.facebook.com/hhgreg

Newest Microwave Features

Microwave ovens have been around for over forty years during which most people used them for exciting tasks such as heating leftovers, warming coffee and making popcorn.  There were those adventurers that added to their cooking repertoire by preparing whole meals in the microwave.

But how to improve a product whose entire purpose is to be simple? Oven makers right now are betting on steam. Sharp has a $1,000 microwave that uses steam to cook more thoroughly, keep food moist without adding fat and help heat penetrate better (consumers fill a water reservoir attached to the oven). Whirlpool Corp. offers steam in a combination microwave-ventilation hood, starting at $349. It’s a space saver because it goes over a gas or electric range.

Steam microwaves are aimed at people who are in the market for an oven with special features, but not necessarily a microwave. “For anyone looking for a steam oven, it’s much cheaper than the other options,”  says Jason Hughes, associate director of product planning and development at Sharp Electronics, a unit of Sharp Corp., in Japan.   Conventional steam ovens cost upward of $2,000.

Now could be an opportune time to introduce new features. The number of meals Americans prepared at home using a microwave rose 9.5% to 47 billion meals last year, the first usage increase in decades, according to NPD Group.

Consumers are “actually doing a lot more meal preparation” in their microwaves, says Bob Schiffmann, president of R.F. Schiffmann Associates Inc., a New York consulting firm.

New-and-improved microwaves face big challenges. “Not every customer’s lifestyle is the same,” says Sue Bailey, director of major-appliance product management at Viking Range Corp., which has introduced a $1,275 microwave in a pull-out drawer that sits under the kitchen counter. Viking says it may come out with a steam device. “Some want steam, some just want things a little more quickly, and others just want a little more space” inside, Ms. Bailey says.

“It’s a product that still hasn’t been perfected after all these years,” says David Lockwood, director of consumer insights at Mintel International Group, whose research indicates 93% of households have a microwave oven. “It still doesn’t do everything people want it to do,” he says.

It may be simply a matter of sex appeal. Boxy, noisy, at times smelling bad, the microwave oven hasn’t inspired the kind of lust and romance that a trophy refrigerator or oven marketed as professional-grade commands from upscale homeowners.

The average microwave lasts only about eight or nine years, Mr. Lockwood says, and many consumers own microwaves that cost less than $90. “The average buyer still wants the cheapest possible solution,” he says.

You can read about the history of the microwave oven in our article “The Microwave Oven-a Brief  History”

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. 

Admit it – You Love Your Microwave

Microwaves are one of the great conveniences of life. They heat up our coffee and lunch at work, make popcorn for snacks and heat up leftovers for a quick dinner.  While most of us admit to using the microwave for these tasks, there are fewer who find they truly cook meals using them.

“Everyone says that all they use it for is defrosting, reheating and making popcorn,” Johanna Burkhard says at a recent Microwave Myth Debunking session put on by Panasonic at Toronto’s Calphalon Culinary Centre, “but when I tell them to write down everything they’ve put into it over a week, they surprise themselves.”

Burkhard should know. She wrote the book on it. Or rather, one of the books on microwave cooking, hers being 125 Best Microwave Oven Recipes. Other best-sellers include The Well-Filled Microwave Cookbook and Microwave Gourmet by Barbara Kafka, regarded as the bible on the subject.

Your may find that you mostly melt chocolate or steam some broccoli in your microwave but Burkhard shows that you can whip up several fast and nutritious dishes, including perfectly cooked asparagus with Gorgonzola and pine nuts, Mediterranean chicken, and an especially tasty one-dish meal of spicy ginger salmon with steamed vegetables.

Go ahead, try it:

JOHANNA BURKHARD’S SPICY GINGER SALMON WITH STEAMED VEGETABLES – 3 tbsp (45mL) orange juice – 4 tsp (20mL) soy sauce – 1 tbsp (15mL) rice vinegar – 1 tbsp (15mL) packed brown sugar – 1 tsp (5mL) cornstarch – 2 tsp (10mL) minced fresh ginger – 1 small clove garlic, minced – ½ tsp (2mL) chili paste or to taste – 2 centre-cut salmon fillets (5 ozs/150g each), skin removed – 1 cup (250mL) thinly sliced mushrooms – 2 cups (500mL) shredded Swiss chard or spinach – ½ red bell pepper, cut into 2″ (5cm) thin strips – 1 green onion, finely sliced

1. In a glass measure, blend orange juice, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Add ginger, garlic and chili paste. Microwave on high for 1 to 1½ minutes, stirring once, until sauce comes to a full boil and thickens. Sauce will be quite thick. 2. Place salmon in an 8″ (2L) glass baking dish, pour prepared sauce overtop, cover with microwave-safe plastic wrap and turn back one corner to vent. Microwave on medium (50% power) for 3½ to 5 minutes or until fish is just opaque.

3. Layer with mushrooms, Swiss chard, red pepper and green onion. Cover and cook at medium for 3 to 4 minutes or until Swiss chard is just wilted and pepper is tender-crisp.  (I suggest serving this with rice.) Makes 2 servings.

Whirlpool’s New SpeedCook Oven

Whirlpool’s New SpeedCook combines a microwave with a true convection oven and range hood.  The  SpeedCook appliance is a True Convection oven, a g2Max® SpeedCook oven, a  microwave and a steamer all in one. 

 Typically, microwave ovens operate on HIGH power only. For example, to achieve a 50% power level (“medium”) in a typical microwave oven, the microwave oven operates 50% of the time at HIGH power and 50% of the time OFF.  In contrast,  this microwave system delivers the selected power level continuously. This constant stream of microwave power helps to minimize overcooking of foods and messy food spatters.

The microwave system features the 6th SENSE™ cooking system. A humidity sensor in the microwave oven cavity detects moisture and humidity emitted from food as it heats. The sensor adjusts cooking times to various types and amounts of food. Sensor cooking takes the guesswork out of microwave cooking.

A 1,000-watt halogen bulb with a 500-watt quartz bulb to serve as the grill element for various cooking functions.  This allows browning which is not usually possible in a microwave.

The oven’s convection system is composed of a convection element, which heats in conjunction with the convection fan for true convection cooking. The system is embedded in the wall of the microwave oven cavity, behind the protective screen.

On the outside, a glass LCD screen makes programming simple and easily visible. You can choose from a handy 30-second cook option and many resets to cook different sorts of food. There are also speed cook, “keep warm,” and childproof options on the oven.  Other options include the option to turn off the turntable and instructions for using the oven to proof a loaf of bread.

This sounds like a real multipurpose appliance.  It retails starting at $919.

How to Buy a Microwave Oven

Whether you are looking for a basic model for heating up leftovers or one with options for baking and broiling, we have tips and information to make your decision easier.

Counter top ovens are the least expensive starting at as low as $25 and ranging in size from a compact 17″wide by 13′ deep to a larger 24″x20″.  Although these are meant to sit on the counter, some come with brackets for mounting under a cabinet.  Over-the-range models hang over the range (seems obvious!) which saves space and doubles as the vent over the oven.  Most are 30″wide.  o may require professional installation which will add to the cost.  These start at around $150.  Built-in microwaves come in many sizes to fit with various kitchen designs. They can be recessed almost flush with a wall or cabinet and placed at any height.  I have seen family rooms with kid level microwaves for heating up snacks.  Built-ins require professional installation.  Prices start at about $225

Some features to look for in your new microwave:

  • Shortcut keys: One touch preset buttons for defrosting and preparing microwave favorites like popcorn. Also, one-touch buttons for adding additional time or quick heating.
  • Removable turntable: Makes cleaning much easier
  • Sensor Technology:Measures food temperature ad automatically adjusts oven power to prevent over- or undercooking.
  • Steam element: A nice addition for vegetables or rice
  • Child safety lock: Password required for use

Another interesting option is the microwave-convection combination oven.  This oven uses an internal fan to heat food more evenly than a standard microwave.  It also has an additional heating element that allows you to roast, bake and brown like a conventional oven, just not quite as effectively.  These ovens are priced higher than standard microwaves.

One last tip before you head out to the store- bring along the largest dish you plan to use in your new microwave, that way you can be certain it will fit!

Basic Appliance Care and Safety

If you are lucky, you rarely need to pay much attention to the appliances that run, some of them 24 hours a day, in your home. But to keep everything trouble free, it’s good to follow some basic guidelines for care and safety when using or installing appliances in your home. Handymanclub.com offers some simples steps for use with your washer, dryer, refrigerator, ranges, cooktops, even your water heater.

Ventilation and combustion (dryers, water heaters, ranges and cooktops)
• Clean the clothes dryer’s lint filter before or after each load. Check behind the dryer for trapped lint. Clear lint from the exterior vent often. Lint buildup results in inefficiency and excessive wear and can even pose a fire hazard. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 15,500 fires each year are associated with clothes dryers.
• Use only metal ducting for gas dryers because they run hotter than electric machines. Rigid rather than accordion-pleated ducting is best for airflow.
• Never vent clothes dryers or water heaters into the house to supplement heating.

Plumbing (washers, refrigerators and water heaters)
• To prevent leaky or bursting waterlines, check washing machine hoses for signs of wear. Consider replacing rubber hoses with newer braided stainless steel hoses.
• Check the screens at either end of the water hoses and remove sediment that may have collected there. This is especially important after road construction or water-main work has been done in your area.
• Periodically check that the washing machine is soundly footed and level so the hoses and the drain hose do not come loose.
• If a dishwasher’s tub doesn’t empty after operation, detach the drain line from the household drain and clean any debris from the line.

Gas (dryers, ranges and water heaters)
• Never use an oven as a room heater — combustion pollutants resulting from fuel-burning appliances can cause illness or death. Have gas appliances serviced periodically to ensure they burn with the proper mix of air and fuel.
• Be sure all vented appliances are checked for backdrafting. (This is one reason that it’s important for a city building official to inspect newly installed vented appliances.)

Electric
• Diehard DIYers may bristle at this warning from the CPSC — nonetheless, it’s a lifesaver. Never attempt to repair a microwave oven — because they use high-voltage power, they can pose a risk of electrical shock even after they are disconnected from the power source.
• Use dedicated circuits for large appliances such as washers and dryers.
• Keep appliance cords away from hot surfaces.

Guidelines for Safe Microwave Use

Microwaves are so common a household appliance and have been in homes for so many years, most of us can’t remember a time when we weren’t “zapping” our food. Still, using an appliance daily, we can get careless with how we use it. These guidelines can help you “zap” safely.

Cookware, containers and wraps

Only use cookware that is specially labeled for use in the microwave oven. Never use cookware that has metal in its composition.

Use microwave-safe plastic wraps, wax paper, cooking bags, parchment paper, glass, ceramic containers and white microwave-safe paper towels.

Silicone products can handle heat, and work well. But check product labeling before using silicone bakeware.

Don’t use plastic storage containers such as margarine tubs, take-out containers, and other one-time use containers because they may contain polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, which becomes soft and pliable, possibly allowing chemicals to transfer to food.

Never use thin plastic storage bags, brown paper or plastic grocery bags, newspapers, or aluminum foil.

Do not let plastic wrap touch foods while cooking.

Reheating

A microwave does not always cook evenly. Minimize any cool or hot spots by occasionally stirring during the heating process.

If you don’t have a rotating plate in your microwave, stirring is even more important as microwaves cook from the center, out.

Place a plain white paper towel (not brands made with recycled or colored paper printed with dyes), a white paper plate or microwave-safe lid over the food. That helps hold in moisture and contains any bubbling over or popping, splashing food – and extra cleaning time.

Cooking

Never deep-fry food. The temperature can get too high, creating a flash point.

The microwave is perfect for baking those last-minute potatoes. Use a fork to poke holes in the potato before cooking. Bake an average-size potato about 10 minutes or until soft to the touch, turning halfway through. Finish up in the oven for a crispy skin.

Defrosting

Remove food from packaging before defrosting. Do not use foam trays and plastic wraps because they are not heat-stable. Melting or warping may cause harmful chemicals to migrate into food.

Plan on immediately cooking foods that you defrost in the microwave. Do not pre-defrost food; some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during defrosting, and may speed bacteria development.

Use these tips along with your own common sense for safe microwave cooking. Also, when in doubt, check the user’s manual that comes with every microwave.