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chefg

Alinea Kitchen Design

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I have to say designing the Alinea kitchen has been one of the most exciting experiences thus far in the opening of this restaurant. I have been fortunate to have been “raised” in some of the best kitchens in the country. When I arrived at the French Laundry in August 1996 the “new kitchen” had just been completed. Often times you would hear the man talk about the good old days of cooking on a residential range with only one refrigerator and warped out sauté pans with wiggly handles. When I started about 50% of the custom stainless steel was in place. The walls smooth with tile and carpet on the floors. I recall the feeling of anxiety when working for fear that I would dirty up the kitchen, not a common concern for most cooks in commercial kitchens.

The French Laundry kitchen didn’t stop, it continued to evolve over the four years I was there. I vividly remember the addition of the custom fish/canapé stainless unit. Allowing the poissonier to keep his mise en place in beautiful 1/9 pan rails instead of the ice cube filled fish lugs. Each advancement in technology and ergonomics made the kitchen a more efficient and exacting machine.

When I returned to the Laundry this past July for the 10th anniversary I was shocked that it had metomorphisized once again. The butcher room was now a sea of custom stainless steel low boys, the pot sink area was expanded, the walk-in moved, and an office added to the corner of the kitchen. The kitchen as I left it in June of 2001 was beautiful and extremely functional, of course it is even more so now. It is the relentless pursuit of detail and concise thought that allows the French Laundry kitchen to be one of the best for cooks to execute their craft…..16 hours a day.

This was good motivation.

When it came time to design my kitchen I drew on experiences at Trio, TFL and other kitchens I was familiar with to define the positives and negatives of those designs. We were faced with a 21x 44' rectangle. This space would not allow for my original kitchen design idea of four islands postioned throughout the kitchen, but ultimately gave way for the current design which I think is actually better than the original. But most the important aspect in shaping the final design was the cuisine. Due to the nature of food that we produce a typical layout with common equipment standards and dimensions do not work. Here is where the team drew on our experiences from Trio. By looking at the techniques we utilized we came to several conclusions.

1. A conventional range was not our main heat source. We do need the flat tops and some open burners for applications such as braising and limited stock work. But our overall use of this piece of equipment is somewhat low. Given that we wanted four open burners and two flat tops with two ovens I began to source out a reliable unit. We settled on the Molteni G230.

g_230_eng.resized.jpg

2. Upon analyzing our other heat source needs we decided to place a large focus on induction. By utilizing portable induction burners we are allowed the flexibility to give as much power as needed to a specific station in the kitchen. Obviously induction’s radiant heat is very low, and this allows us to keep the temperature in the kitchen reasonable, yet the power is quite high. 31,000 BTU's of highly controlable heat. But the main reason for choosing this flexible source of heat is the fact that each chef typically employed at least four different cooking applications on a given night. This huge flux in technique and the realization that the menu would change entirely in 8 weeks time meant that we had to design a kitchen that could evolve on a nightly basis. And last, we are very specific with temperatures; induction makes it easier for us to hold a liquid at a predetermined temperature for long periods of time without fluctuation. They operate between 85 and 500 degrees farenheit. We did a great deal of research on the different producers of induction and favored Cooktek. The fact that they are the only U.S manufacturer of commercial induction cooking equipment and located in Chicago made the decision easier. Their innovative approach to induction may prove to be even more exciting as we are already talking about new product development in the future.

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3. a. The complexity of the presentations and a la minute plate-ups of the food require a great deal of surface area devoted to plating. This was one of the most critical factors in determining the basic shape of the kitchen. The size of some of today's popular plates, the amount detail in each composition, coupled with the fact that producing tasting menus vs. ala carte means sometimes large waves of same dish pick ups made it necessary for us to have over 44' of linear plating surface.

b. Virtually nothing goes vertical above the 36” counter top in the space. All food, plates, equipment, and dry good storage are contained by under counter units. There are a few exceptions such as the infrared salamanders, the three-door refrigerator, and the hood. This allows all the cooks a clear line of communication between each other and the front staff. It allows me an easy sight line to survey the entire kitchen’s progress with a quick glance.

Given these two points it seemed obvious that we needed to combine the two and create custom pieces that would fulfill both needs. Large spans of plating surfaces with all food and equipment storage below. As you can see we ended up with two 22’ long units. Each function as a pass and under counter storage.

The building is 21’ wide wall to wall. This allowed us just enough space to create two lines on each exterior wall with their passes forming a 60” corridor for the pick up of plates and finishing of dishes.

4. We decided to add a station to the kitchen. At Trio we had five including:

a. pastry

b. cold garde manger

c. hot garde manger

d. fish

e. meat

Now that we had more space, and the ability to give each station multiple heat

sources regardless of their location in the kitchen, we could spread the workload even further. We also realized it doesn’t make much sense to identify each station by classic French Bragade terms. A saucier did not solely cook meat with classic techniques and prepare various traditional stocks and sauces…in fact quite the opposite. This holds true with most of the stations, with the exception of pastry, but even they will have very unconventional techniques, menu placement and involvement in the kitchen systems. We will add a station that will be responsible for a large majority of the one-bite courses both sweet and savory.

5.Given the size constraints of the building we realized a walk-in would not be possible in the kitchen. If we were to have one it would be in the basement. Having experienced this at Trio we decided to design the kitchen without a walk-in, making up for the space in various lowboy locations and a three-door reach-in. I experienced the walk-in less environment when I worked at Charlie Trotter’s. It is certainly different, but as with most things if done properly it provides a very efficient environment. It works best in situations where fresh products are brought in daily for that days use. And prevents ordering in large quantities. It also provides us with very specific units to house different items. We will utilize the 3-door refrigerator to store the majority of the vegetables and herbs along with some staple mise en place, and items that cannot be made in very small quantities like stocks. Raw meat will have it’s own lowboys as well as fish, dairy, and all frozen products.

6. At Trio we found ourselves using the salamander a great deal. It is very useful for melting sugar, bringing on transparent qualities in things like fat and cheese, cooking items intensely on only one side, and it is a highly controllable non-direct heat source. Due to the air gap between the foodstuff and the heat elements the cook can control the degree of heat applied to the dish based on the technique he is using. It becomes a very versatile tool in the modern kitchen, so much so that we will install three Sodir infrared salamanders.

sem60.jpg

Again, this is to insure that all the cooks have access to all of the techniques in the kitchen. As I said before it is important for our cooks to be able to sauté, simmer, poach, fry, grill, salamander, and freeze at the same time and sometimes for the same dish.

We have a few unusual pieces of equipment in the kitchen; the most is probably a centrifuge. A few months ago Nick and I were driving home from a design meeting and ended up talking about signature dishes and menu repetition. Of course the black truffle explosion came up and he asked if I would have it on the menu at Alinea. I replied a firm no, but shortly thereafter said I would enjoy updating it. We threw around some tongue and cheek ideas like White Truffle Implosion, and Truffle Explosion 2005….I said it was a goal of mine to make a frozen ball with a liquid center….but then dismissed it as nearly impossible. Within a few minutes he said …”I got it…we need a centrifuge” His explanation was simple, place the desired liquid in a spherical mold and place on the centrifuge…place the whole thing in the freezer. Within days he had one in the test kitchen. I guess this is better suited for the kitchen lab topic that we will be starting in a few weeks…

We are working on a upload of the kitchen blueprints. When those post I plan on going into more detail about certian aspects of the design. Doing so now would be pointless as the viewer does not have a reference point.


Edited by chefg (log)

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chefg,

I can feel your excitement over this. Without getting into specific costs, what percentage of the build-out budget will be spent on the kitchen?

I'm also curious about the specific benefits of the Molteni unit, relative to similar products made by other manufacturers. What differentiates it?

=R=

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chefg,

My first reaction was surprise at the lack of gas as a cooking fuel. I was brought up in a "it has to be gas" world. The times they are a changing.

I'm curious about exhaust hoods. It appears the only one you need is for the range set up. Are hoods required for the salamanders?

You mentioned carpet in the French Laundry's kitchen. Will you be using carpet? How does the French Laundry / will you get that past the health inspectors?

Finally, any chance of a scanned sketch of the layout to help with the overall visualization?

Thanks,

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Chefg -

I love the fact your kitchen will be induction-heavy, but what about the cookwear? Since not every pot is induction friendly, do you have a plan in place for easy identification as to what exactly can be used where? How do you hope these details will play out in your mobile kitchen?

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chefg,

I can feel your excitement over this.  Without getting into specific costs, what percentage of the build-out budget will be spent on the kitchen?

I'm also curious about the specific benefits of the Molteni unit, relative to similar products made by other manufacturers.  What differentiates it?

=R=

The kitchen will consume roughly 20% of the budget. I think it is particularly important to look at these percentages with an open mind in reference to the final product. To try and access the stature of any build-out based on the rumored costs can be very misleading.

The kitchen is the vision of the Alinea team, and made reality by the architects at Rugo/Raff. We decided to bypass a “restaurant” or “kitchen designer”. The project seemed so personal to my vision that I felt it would be most efficiently conveyed by me to the architects. I am sure I will make a few mistakes along the way that would have been caught by someone like Tim Harrison. But I am also confident that given the cuisine that we produce the Alinea kitchen certainly does not fit into any template known. I feel we are getting a 30% kitchen build out for the price of a 20% build-out due to disciplined budgeting, a lot of homework, and a dedicated design team.

As far as the Molteni stove…..that decision was based mainly on references by peers and colleagues. I have cooked on several types on stoves in my career and had the opportunity to demo a Molteni at the Food Show in Chicago this past year. After looking at several brands…Bonnet, Montague, Diva de Provence……the reputation of Molteni, in combination with the available styles and price, ultimately seemed like a perfect match.

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chefg,

My first reaction was surprise at the lack of gas as a cooking fuel.  I was brought up in a "it has to be gas" world.  The times they are a changing.

I'm curious about exhaust hoods.  It appears the only one you need is for the range set up.  Are hoods required for the salamanders?

You mentioned carpet in the French Laundry's kitchen.  Will you be using carpet?  How does the French Laundry / will you get that past the health inspectors?

Finally, any chance of a scanned sketch of the layout to help with the overall visualization?

Thanks,

Holly:

Times are changing …but very slowly. I think if you surveyed most chefs cooking today the majority would dismiss induction as a preferred heat source. Four years ago I would have been one of those chefs…and maybe with good reason….induction technology is still in its infancy, as the benefits become more known, and popularity increases the perceived short comings of this heat source will evolve and it will become the primary source for most kitchens. They are equally as strong, in some cases more (BTU’s) and have much faster recovery times. They are also highly controllable, easily moved throughout the kitchen, and give off little heat into the environment of the kitchen. All of those factors and the ones I mention up-thread make these units the most suitable for our style of cooking.

Yes, we will use the black walk-off mats in our kitchen…or an equivalent. I think the health department would favor these types of mats vs. the common rubber mats with holes, they seem to be a collector of food and what not and very difficult to clean. Keep in mind the kitchen at the FL and Alinea is impeccably clean. At Trio, where we used the carpets as well, they were vacuumed several times a day. It was very rare for a large spill to soil the mats, but if it did happen they were removed and replaced with clean back ups, the soiled set aside to be professionally cleaned.

As I mentioned up-post a scanned blueprint of the kitchen is in the works for everyone to reference.

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Chefg -

I love the fact your kitchen will be induction-heavy, but what about the cookwear?  Since not every pot is induction friendly, do you have a plan in place for easy identification as to what exactly can be used where? How do you hope these details will play out in your mobile kitchen?

We will utilize mostly Sitram cookware which is quite induction friendly. Cooktek has supplied us with the results of their research on the efficiency of various brands.

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Thankyou Chefg. Very interesting.

Are you including water baths for sous-vide cooking?

What mixers do you plan, for example for bread dough?

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Chef, congratulations on your Molteni and the CookTeks. I used them at Ducasse in Paris and they worked hard but cleaned up beautifully.

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Chef G.

Thanks for jumping on the topic so quickly.

As an old school, educated years ago, kind of guy; we were always taught that for higher end establishments BOH to FOH space ratios were expected to be close to 1:1. As I see from your previous posts you are better than 1:2. The economics of this are simple, more seats for diners (revenue) to fewer total square feet (expenditure). My questions, coming from a traditonal, large brigade background is this efficiency a function of the style of cuisine and service or is this more a function of the flexability that you are designing into the space.

Thanks,

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As an old school, educated years ago, kind of guy; we were always taught that for higher end establishments BOH to FOH space ratios were expected to be close to 1:1. As I see from your previous posts you are better than 1:2. The economics of this are simple, more seats for diners (revenue) to fewer total square feet (expenditure). My questions, coming from a traditonal, large brigade background is this efficiency a function of the style of cuisine and service or is this more a function of the flexability that you are designing into the space

I will let ChefG comment on the efficiency of the kitchen. But it should be stated that the idea for the dining rooms from the very beginning was to make sure that tables had a great deal of space between them, thus ensuring a feeling of luxury for diners. There is nothing I hate more than going to a fine restaurant and then feeling like they have packed me in.

So where the gross sq. feet of FOH to BOH ratio may look like 2-1, in reality we could have squeezed the same number of tables into a smaller area and achieved the 1-1 ratio.

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Chefg,

Could you possibly elaborate just a little on the make and model of the centrifuge?

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chefg,

Are the portable Cooktek units neatly stackable or is there a manufacturer designed/standard footprint rack for efficient storage?

Also, given the uniqe nature of the equipment and serviceware you will be using, are you planning on implementing any innovations in the sanitation/dishwashing departments?

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Chefg,

Could you possibly elaborate just a little on the make and model of the centrifuge?

I am trying to find a pic online....either way I am sure you will see am image of it when the food lab topic is posted.

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chefg,

Are the portable Cooktek units neatly stackable or is there a manufacturer designed/standard footprint rack for efficient storage?

Also, given the uniqe nature of the equipment and serviceware you will be using, are you planning on implementing any innovations in the sanitation/dishwashing departments?

LBH--

The cooktek unit will stack on themselves but we have designed all undercounter storage to be very specific in storing various equipment. More on this when the scanned blueprints are available.

No. That is one of the limitations that we have willing placed upon ourselves...all service pieces created with Crucial Detail must be machine washable...all of the pieces posted thus far have been as well.


Edited by chefg (log)

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We feel the creative process demands an awareness of technology,and are excited to share some of the more unusual equipment that has made its way into our kitchen.

Upon looking for thermal circulators we established a relationship with a company in Niles, IL called Polyscience. They are a large producer of laboratory equipment. The owner, Philip Preston, an avid foodie and cook in his own right, was very excited about the opportunity to combine the two disciplines. As we toured the Polyscience plant I mentioned to Philip some of the ideas I had for techniques based on intense refrigeration. Up until this point I had no way of producing the concepts I had in my head. The equipment simply did not exist. Philip was intrigued by the ideas and mentioned that the systems to produce the desired results were not impossible; in fact in his world they were quite doable.

There have been various threads on cooking at low temperatures and sous vide cooking on eGullet so I will not reiterate all of the fine points. This subject was even approached here when a member commented on the images of us cooking en sous vide with a gas-fired stove as the heat source. At the time I mentioned the use of highly controllable thermo circulators was not necessary. It is not, but it sure is nice. The units that we tested are shown below. They performed well beyond my expectations and will definately be a part of the Alinea kitchen.

gallery_21344_267_1102556203.jpg

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One of the concepts that I mentioned to Philip was an anti-griddle. This flat surface would maintain temperatures of – 40 C. This concept started with my recollection of the “blini board” that was used every night at the French Laundry. Basically a pancake griddle that can be purchased at any department store. Our concept would be the inverse, we would create dual textures by freezing instead heating. A puree of mango would be folded with Golden Trout Roe and puddled onto the freezing surface. The intense temperature would freeze the first 1/16 of an inch within 30 seconds allowing us to flip the “blinis” and freeze the other side. The center would remain creamy.The first prototype of the anti-griddle is in production.

We hope to report on two more collaborations between Polyscience and Alinea in the near future -- and we should have a picture of the anti-griddle available by then.

Another piece of equipment that we are very excited about is a vaporizer that a friend of Alinea brought back from Germany. He had the good fortune to meet the inventor of the vaporizer and sit in on a demo. Knowing our use of controlled aromas in cuisine he immediately thought of us. Ironically we had been brainstorming on methods to control the containment and dispensing of aromas. This machine was the perfect solution for two reasons. It allowed us to use real ingredients for the aroma base as opposed to synthetic mediums, which was always important to us in the execution of the desired aroma. But more critically the aroma is contained indefinitely. Further, the ability to dispense it in a very controlled manner was finally possible. The machine allows the user to heat the ingredients from 130 C - 230 C. Plant material (cellulose) begins to burn when temperatures of 235 C or higher are achieved. This control lets us determine the best temperature for extraction without marring the aroma with burnt smell. The mediums are endless, this machine will even vaporize liquids, such as wine and even oils with amazing intensity.

gallery_21344_267_1102555920.jpg

As you can see the essence in captured in the clear bag.

gallery_21344_267_1102555966.jpg

Sous chef John Peters samples vaporized licorice

Now we can pump aroma into various things like overturned glasses, glass tubes, or pockets of food to enhance the experience. Before we were limited to producing aromas at the moment and we were never able to place aromas based off of real ingredients into different containers, allowing the guest to dispense the aroma at their will. We will go into the kitchen next week and develop various uses for the vaporizer for the opening Alinea menu.


Edited by chefg (log)

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

very interesting, curious about aplications

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

Do you have a more "specific" address, I tried what you gave in your quote, as well as googling and no luck.

Thanks

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it must be challenging to simultaneously discover new applications,

i think that chefg has answered this question with regards to quality over primacy being the issue

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for more information on ideas of the "anti-griddle" check out moveable feast dot com

refers to the adria conection placing a plancha over liquid nitrogen and "cooking" various products.

Do you have a more "specific" address, I tried what you gave in your quote, as well as googling and no luck.

Movable Feast, Diary of an Itinerant Chef

I think the relevant entries are in September.

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Being a bench scientist and foodie, many of these ideas resonate strongly with me. In lab I've made purees, pastes and foams, reduced liquids, "cooked" things at very precise precise temperatures, separated aromatic compounds, quick-frozen "meat" and various slurries, sliced tissue 1000 times thinner than any mandoline can do, and the list goes on. Biomedical science and cooking have many things in common, and it's exciting to see someone finally "get" that.

I just saw the Polysciences post by chefg, and it's right on; after seeing more discussion about sous vide ~ 1 month ago, I immediately thought of those waterbaths as the ultimate apparatus to carry it out. They are very precise and simple to use and upkeep.

There are lots of things we do in a real biomedical lab that can be adapted to a kitchen, as chefg is finding out, and it seems he's making those adaptations. From what I know of lab techniques and equipment, there's probably a lot more to come.

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      In addition to Heat-Time programmability, the KY-MK3500 also provides the ability to vary 9 of the unit’s default settings: (1) Decreasing the power level granularity from 20 to 10; (2) Changing the temperature display to Celsius; (3) Enabling a long cook time shutoff safety feature; (4) Enabling the main power auto shutoff feature; (5) Disabling the glowing circle; (6) Lowering or disabling the auditory beep signals’ volume; (7) Customizing the timer finish beep; (8) Customizing the Preheat notification beep; and (9) Customizing the interval for filter cleanings.
       
      D. Maintenance
       
      The KY-MK3500 has a plastic air intake filter which can be removed and cleaned. This is not dishwashable. This filter is merely a plastic grate with ¼” square holes, so it is questionable what exactly —besides greasy dust bunnies—will be filtered. Panasonic recommends the filter be cleaned once a week. Besides that, the Ceran surface and stainless housing clean just like other appliances.
       
      IV. Acceptable Cookware
       
      Panasonic claims the unit will accept cast iron, enameled iron, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum with two provisos. First, very thin aluminum and copper may “move” on the appliance. And second, thin aluminum pans may “deform”. Panasonic does not address carbon steel pans, but I verified that they do indeed work. They also warn of the obvious fact that glass and ceramics will not work.
       
      Buyers are also warned against using cookware of specific cookware bottom shapes: round, footed, thin, and domed. Trying to use these, Panasonic warns, may disable safety features and reduce or eliminate pan heating.
       
      As far as minimum pan diameter goes, Panasonic claims the KY-MK3500 needs 5” diameter in ferromagnetic pans, and 6” in copper or aluminum ones. My own tests have shown that in fact the unit will function with a cast iron fondue pot, the base of which is only 4 1/8” in diameter, and also works with a copper saucepan, the base of which is almost exactly 5” in diameter. Obviously, the field will be most active at the very edges of such small pans, but they do function.
       
      V. Evaluation in Use

      I can say that not only does the Panasonic KY-MK3500 “work” with copper and aluminum pans, but that it works very well with them. Thermally, thick gauge conductive material pans perform in close emulation of the same pans on gas, even though there are no combustion gasses flowing up and around the pan. I found this startling.
       
      Nevertheless, a searching comparison between copper and ferromagnetic pans on this unit isn’t as straightforward as one might expect. The Panasonic is capable of dumping a full 3500 watts into ferromagnetic pans, but is limited to 2400 watts for aluminum and copper. Despite copper’s and aluminum’s superiorities in conductivity, that extra 1100 watts is going to win every speed-boil race.
       
      I initially thought I could handicap such a race simply by using the temperature setting and comparing the times required to achieve a “preheat” in a pans of cold water. Alas, no—the Panasonic’s IR function signified the copper pan was preheated to 350F before the water even reached 70F! Obviously, the entire thermal system of cold food in a cold pan needs to come to equilibrium before the Panasonic’s temperature readout becomes meaningful.

      A. Temperature Settings
       
      Unfortunately, with every pan I tried, the temperature settings were wildly inaccurate for measuring the temperature of the food. I heated 2 liters of peanut oil in a variety of pots, disk-base, enameled cast iron enameled steel, and copper. I thought it might be useful to see how close to 350F and 375F the settings were for deep frying. The oil in a Le Creuset 5.5Q Dutch oven set to 350F never made it past 285F, and it took 40:00 to get there. I kept bumping up the setting until I found that the setting for 420F will hold the oil at 346F. A disk-based pot didn’t hit 365F until the temperature setting was boosted to 400F. The only pan which came remotely close to being true to the settings was a 2mm silvered copper oven, which heated its oil to 327F when the Panasonic was set for 350F, and 380F when set for 410F.
       
      The temperature function was a lot closer to true when simply preheating an empty pan. With a setting of 350F, all the shiny stainless pans heated to just a few degrees higher (about 353-357F) and held there. This is useful for judging the Leidenfrost Point (which is the heat at which you can oil your SS and have it cook relatively nonstick) and potentially for “seasoning” carbon steel, SS and aluminum, but not much else, since it doesn’t translate to actual food temperature. There’s also the issue of the temperature settings *starting* at 285F, so holding a lower temperature for, e.g., tempering chocolate or a sous vide bath, or even a simmer would be by-guess-by-golly just like any other hob—your only resort is lots of experience with lower *power* settings.
       
      With heat-tarnished copper, a 350F setting resulted in a wide swinging between 353F and 365F, which I attribute to the copper shedding heat far faster than the other constructions, once the circuit stops the power at temperature. Then, when the circuit cycles the power back on, the copper is so responsive that it quickly overshoots the setting. Aluminum, on the other hand, *undershot*, the 350F setting, registering a cycle of 332-340F.

      I conclude that the IR sensor is set for some particular emissivity, probably for that of stainless steel. If true, the Panasonic, even though it automatically switches frequencies, does not compensate for the different emissivities of copper and aluminum. And even if Panasonic added dedicated aluminum and copper IR sensors, there is enough difference between dirty and polished that the added cost would be wasted. Bottom line here: the temperature setting mode is of extremely low utility, and should not be trusted.
       
      B. Power Mode – Pan Material Comparisons
       
      Given the differences in power setting granularity and maximum power between the two frequencies, it is difficult to assess what X watts into the pot means in, say, a copper-versus-clad or –disk showdown. What is clear, however, is that Setting X under disk and clad seems “hotter” than the same setting under copper and aluminum.

      I will need to precisely calibrate the Panasonic for wattage anyway for the hyperconductivity project, so I will obtain a higher-powered watt meter to determine the wattage of every power setting for both frequencies. Until then, however, the only way I can fairly handicap a race is to apply a reduction figure to the ferromagnetic setting (2400W being 69% of 3500W). Given that we know the wattage at the maximum settings, we can infer that Setting 14 (actually 13.8) on the 20-step ferromagnetic range iis approximately the same heat output as the maximum setting (18) for copper/aluminum.

      The boil times for 4 liters of 50F water in 10” diameter pots shocked me. The 10” x 3mm tinned copper pot’s water reached 211F in 36:41. Not an especially fast time at 2400 watts. The 10” disk-based pressure cooker bottom? Well, it didn’t make it—it took an hour to get to 208F and then hung there. So that left me wondering if the Panasonic engineers simply decided that 2400 watts was enough for copper and aluminum. I have a theory why the copper pot boiled and the SS one didn’t under the same power, but getting into that’s for another time.

      C. Evenness Comparisons
       
      The wires which generate the induction field are wound in a circular pattern; when energized, they create a torus-shaped magnetic field. The wound coil is constructed with an empty hole at its center. As matters of physics, the magnetic field’s intensity drops off extremely fast as a function of the distance from the coil; a few millimeters above the Ceran, the field is so weak no meaningful heat will be generated. This means that most induction cooktops heat *only* the very bottom of pans, and in a distinct 2-dimensional “doughnut” shape.

      All of the above can result in a pan having a cooler central spot, a hotter ring directly over the coil, and a cooler periphery outside the coil. It is left to the cookware to try to even out these thermal discontinuities when cooking. Some materials and pan constructions are better at this than others: the successful constructions utilize more highly-conductive metals such as aluminum and copper, but unless the material is very thick, there can be a ring-shaped hotspot that can scorch food.
      Until the Panasonic arrived to market, hotspot comparisons between ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper pans depended largely on comparing induction’s flat, more discrete heat ring with gas’s more diffuse, 3-dimensional one. Dodgeball-style debate ensued, with few clear conclusions. But now, for the first time, equally-powered flat heat rings in two different frequencies allow us to directly compare evenness in ferromagnetic and aluminum/copper cookware.

      The simplest and easiest way to assess cookware evenness is the “scorchprint”, which does not require infrared or other advanced thermal imaging equipment. I’ve posted on how to conduct scorchprinting elsewhere, but basically a pan is evenly dusted with flour; heat is applied to the pan bottom. As the flour is toasted, any hotspots visually emerge, giving the viewer a useful general idea of evenness.
       
      I will later post the photos of scorchprints I made of 4 different pans run using the Panasonic KY-MK3500: (1) a Demeyere 28cm Proline 5* clad frypan; (2) a Fissler Original Profi disk-base 28cm frypan; a 6mm aluminum omelet pan; and (4) a 32cm x 3.2mm Dehillerin sauté. To make it a fair race, I heated all the pans at 2400W until they reached 450F, and then backed off the power setting to maintain 450F. I did this in order not to compromise my saute’s tin lining. As you will see, both the clad Demeyere and the disk-based Fissler did print the typical brown doughnut, with a cooler center and periphery. By far the most even was the thick, all-aluminum pan, which actually was even over its entirety—even including the walls. The copper sauté was also quite even, although its larger size and mass really dissipated heat; once 450F was dialed in, no more browning happened, even after 30 minutes.
       
      I conclude that the straightgauge pans were far more effective at shunting heat to their peripheries and walls (and also to some extent into the air) than the clad and disk-based pans. The latter accumulated their heat with most of it staying in the center of the pans. Eventually, even the “doughnut hole” blended into the scorch ring because the walls were not bleeding sufficient heat away from the floor. This was especially pronounced in the Fissler, the high wall and rim areas of which never exceeded 125F. The aluminum pan, in contrast varied less than 30F everywhere on the pan.

      D. Other Considerations

      The Panasonic’s fan noise at the cook’s position was noticeable at 63 dBA, higher than with the VMP’s 57 dBA. These levels are characterized as “normal conversation” and “quiet street”, respectively. Interestingly, I found two other, potentially more important differences. First, the Panasonic’s fan stays on, even after the unit is powered off, whereas the VMP’s fan shuts off immediately when the hob is turned off. Second, the Panasonic’s fan steps down from the louder speed to a much quieter (47 dBA, characterized as “quiet home”) level until the Ceran is cool to sustained touch, at which point it shuts off completely. I think the Panasonic’s ability to continue to vent and cool itself is a great feature, especially since a cook could leave a large, full, hot pan on the glass.

      The glowing circle is useless for gauging heat setting or intensity. And while it works to indicate a hot surface, it remains lit long after you can hold your hand in place dead center.
       
      VI. Summary and Lessons
       
      The Panasonic KY-MK3500 is a solid unit, well-conceived and rugged. It is extremely easy to use. It works well with both the common 24kHz frequency used with ferromagnetic cookware, and the 90kHz frequency chosen here for copper and aluminum. It effectively and automatically switches between the two.

      In my opinion, it points the way to expanding the worldwide induction appliance market to include dual frequencies. It also obviates the need to: (a) junk otherwise excellent cookware merely to have induction; and (b) retrofit designs to bond on ferromagnetic outer layers. In fact, in my opinion, my tests indicate that, in a dual-frequency world, adding ferromagnetic bottoms may well be a drag on pans’ performance.
       
      I also consider the Panasonic Met-All to be ground-breaking in what it can tell us about *pans*, because all metallic pans are now commensurable on induction. Clearly (to me anyway), watt-for-watt, the copper and aluminum pans performed better than did the clad and disk-based pans on this unit. Boil times were faster, there was less propensity to scorch, and the conductive-sidewall pans definitely added more heat to the pans’ contents. We may ultimately find that 90kHz fields save energy compared to 24kHz fields, much as copper and aluminum require less heat on gas and electric coil.
      In terms of heat transfer, the copper and aluminum pans came close to emulating the same pans on gas. And at 2400W/3500W it has the power of a full size appliance in a relatively small tabletop package.
       
      The Panasonic is far from perfect, however. It can’t really be considered portable. There are far too few temperature settings, and what few it has are not accurate or consistent in terms of judging pan contents and attaining the same temperature in different pans (and even the same pan unless clean). The luminous ring could easily have been made a useful indicator of intensity, but wasn’t. And it lacks things that should be obvious, including a through-the-glass “button” contact thermocouple, more power granularity, an analog-style control knob, and capacity to accept an external thermocouple probe for PID control.
       
      Most importantly for me, the Panasonic KY-MK3500 portends more good things to come. Retail price remains $1,700-$2,400, but I jumped on it at $611, and I’ve seen it elsewhere for as low as $1,200.
       
      The manual can be found here: ftp://ftp.panasonic.com/commercialfoo...
       
      Photo Credit:  Panasonic Corporation

    • By haresfur
      We have started into fixing the kitchen after starting planning several years ago - almost as long as the dishwasher has been dead and the oven barely functional. And don't get me started on the non-exhaust fan.
       
      Before the destruction but after removing all the crap:
       

       
       
       

       
      The fridge was replaced not too long ago and is staying where it is. We had to have its alcove expanded. Perhaps not the best ergonomic location but it fits. We aren't moving the other appliances or sink very far so are hoping the plumbing and electric are no big deal.
       
      End of first day. We caught a couple of things in time. The fume hood and cupboards over the cook-top were set too low. They were going to set the sink as an over-mount when we had bought and under-mount. Apparently it could be done either way but silly us for not making it clear that the sink described as an undermount should be under the counter top. We decide the cupboard to the right of the oven should open the other way so we can get in there when cooking. Our mistake but I hope we can keep the oil, salt, pepper, etc. there rather than cluttering up the counter. The cabinet guy insisted that the cook-top couldn't be centred over the oven. I still don't understand why but not a big deal. It will be easier to get around the island when someone else is cooking but harder to squeeze past into the pantry.
       
      It seems to me that the walls should have been re-done before the cabinets went up. I think this was easier on the cabinet guy who is doing most of the coordination but probably will be a pain for the plasterer. And we have some trim issues to work out.
       

       

       

       
      Day 2 fixing things, electrical work, and measuring for the countertops. Now we wait for them to be finished before much else can happen.
       

       
      Spock is not impressed.
       
       
    • By lindaj1
      Is there any recipe from the modernist universe or any other galaxy to make ketogenic (low carb) puff pastry and strudel type doughs?  Unusual ingredients OK.  There must be a way...
    • By haresfur
      I got to thinking after the disgusting job of separating globs of fat from sous vide short ribs and debating never doing them that way again. If the fat renders out in a braise, but not in the sous vide, what temperature would you need to turn the fat liquid to get rid of it? Is it below well-done or do you really have to cook the shit out of it? Is it just temperature or a time&temperature thing?
       
      Along those lines, what happens with marbled, tender cuts? where is the sweet spot between solid fat and something more palatable?
    • By &roid
      We’ve lived in our house for about twelve years and did a small extension not long after we moved in. With our growing family (son number two arrived this July) we wanted to get a bit more living space so started looking at options about a year ago. We have a late Victorian house with a separate dining room, as nice as this is it’s been a big waste of space - we probably used it two or three times a year. So the plan was to extend the kitchen to add a decent sized dining area and free up the dining room for something better. 
       
      The kitchen we had is under ten years old so we’ve decided to keep some parts of it, adding new worktops, a large rangetop and a breakfast cabinet with pocket doors to hide away the toaster and coffee machine. 
       
      We’re about halfway through the build at the moment so thought I’d post up some pictures of our progress. Hopefully we’ll be finished this side of Christmas... hopefully!
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