APPLIANCES Ranges and cooktops. Most pro cooks recommend the instant response of gas for surface cooking and suggest ranges or cooktops with high-output burners. That used to mean a commercial unit. But true commercial ranges are made for restaurants, not homes. As a result, they are dangerous and, in many locales, illegal. Commercially adapted ranges, which have been developed over the last dozen years, have most of the advantages of restaurant ranges with few of the disadvantages. These high-output units, with their 15,000- to 18,000-Btu burners, start at $2,000 to $2,500 for an entry-level 30-in. unit. Most don't require a 1-in. gas line or structural changes to support their weight as commercial stoves do. They're also scaled to residential cabinets so they don't protrude into the room, are insulated to avoid getting too hot on the outside and often come with broilers and self-cleaning ovens. If you're shopping for a commercially adapted range or cooktop, look for sealed burners, porcelain-coated cast-iron grates and an ignition that relights the burners if the flame goes out, suggests Weimer. Check that ranges have an anti-tipping device, a safety feature that helps to keep these heavy units from falling over. Also be sure controls are easy to reach and visible even with pots on the grates, and that the unit includes a prop stick to hold the cooktop up for cleaning. Finally, don't pay for features you don't need, such as a simmer setting. "Nearly all gas burners can be adjusted to that level by eye," Weimer says. Ovens. Most avid bakers prefer separate, even-heat double electric ovens. If that describes you - and you have the space - be sure one of the ovens is equipped with a broiler that provides at least 3,000 watts of cooking power. Also look for racks that pull all the way out and lock in place for safe, easy access to the oven. On the inside, a dark interior shows less baked-on grime, while a porcelain interior is easier to clean. Dishwasher. Where you put the dishwasher in a kitchen that produces a lot of dirty dishes and pots is more important than the brand you buy. The best place depends on layout. Two good options are flanking a single sink and in between dual sinks. Choose a dishwasher with sturdy compression springs in the door. Also look for tough, lightweight nylon or graphite racks with cushioned tips that protect glassware and cookware. Weimer recommends choosing a model with a rack design that provides the largest, most flexible interior space and is configured for your belongings, including odd-shaped pieces. And because you probably wash a greater variety of cookware and crockery, look for a dishwasher with cycles designed specifically for the items you clean. Examples include a pot-scrubbing cycle and a delicate or fragile cycle for china and glassware. An inline heater, which raises water temperature above 120°F, cuts grease and baked-on food while saving energy by allowing you to set your household water heater at a lower temperature. Refrigerator. The refrigerator you choose should be sized and configured according to how you cook and how often you shop. "Many serious cooks think they need built-in refrigeration," Weimer says, "but these units are both costlier and shallower than freestanding models. And they often don't accommodate large items, like a turkey." According to award-winning kitchen designer Ernie R. Sanchez, owner of The Design Principle in Sacramento, California, you should tailor your refrigerator to your particular needs. How large is your family? Do you frequently cook or entertain for two or more? How often do you shop? Many avid cooks shop every day and don't need or want a huge refrigerator. If that's how you shop, Sanchez advises that you opt for a smaller refrigerator - 14 to 17 cu. ft., for example, versus 22 cu. ft. - to gain a few more feet of countertop. Arlene Sarappo, a Ridgewood, New Jersey based professional cooking teacher and cooking-school administrator, opted for a refrigerator with no freezer because she shops every day and cooks for many people. She uses a small bar refrigerator to make ice and store ice cream and the few frozen items she keeps on hand. Multiple undercounter refrigerators are another possibility - although an expensive one. Sub-Zero and U-line are among the companies that make these units. Finally, whichever appliance you're buying, bring a few of your largest pots, plates, platters and trays to the showroom. Then make sure the refrigerator, sink, oven or dishwasher you're considering can accommodate them.
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