Product 101 / By Charlotte Barnard / October 20, 2017
Commercial-Style Kitchens on High
Now you can have America’s-next-top-chef pro-style quality at home
When commercial appliances first appeared on the home kitchen scene some 20 years ago, they were the couture of cooking: beautiful, very expensive, and available only to a select few who could manage the price tag and installation. With the renaissance in home entertaining and the widespread popularity of cooking shows, manufacturers have answered the homeowners’ call for commercial style that can easily fit into a new or renovated kitchen. Looks still lead the way, with shimmering stainless steel and sturdy controls. Function has kept up, too, thanks to improvements in cooking, cooling, and cleaning, to justify that price tag. Sweeten, a free service matching renovating homeowners with vetted general contractors, surveys the landscape for appliances that add performance and value to your kitchen. Read on.
Make no mistake, if you want a commercial range, you really want commercial style. You will find ranges that provide the function you seek at a scale that fits into a home kitchen. You can have those coveted features such as cast-iron grates, stainless-steel surfaces, and quick-to-heat burners controlled by beefy knobs. The controls with the DCS collection from Fisher & Paykel are illuminated, a safety feature that adds an extra touch of glamour.
Some pro-style ranges offer the flexibility that the home cook requires such as dual fuel, for the immediacy and control of a gas cooktop that provides cooking power up to 25,000 BTUs, along with the precise performance of a true convection oven. Digital panels that help you program correct temperature and cooking times in the oven help also assure perfect results.
Some models have smaller oven cavities than their non-pro style counterparts, so check the size to make it can handle your Thanksgiving turkey. The self-cleaning feature may also need to be sacrificed if that’s important to you. You’ll make it up in adjustable grates, cooktop grills, and superior simmering capabilities with flames that go as low as 140 degrees. Some brands have unique features. Thermador’s burners, in the shape of the company’s star emblem, disperse the flame heat to more evenly heat the entire surface of a pot. Fisher & Paykel’s racking system allows the rack to extend as much as 75 percent outside the oven cavity, handy when removing a heavy dish, like a roast or a Dutch oven.
The first commercial fridges to capture the imagination came with glass doors. It was, and is, perfect for the professional kitchen, as many chefs working together simultaneously need to see what’s where as they open the door nonstop. For the home cook, True Refrigeration offers a stainless-framed glass door option reminiscent of that commercial version.
With or without the glass door, stainless steel tells the pro-style story, and manufacturers like True offer the material as an interior finish, too. New this year: black stainless steel for an extra touch of drama. Considering color? BlueStar states to have more than 750 color and finish combos to match its cooking products.
What’s going on behind those cool-looking doors is just as important to the home chef, who may shop once a week and wants all that food to stay fresh. Check out features with individual climate-controlled drawers, adjustable racking systems, and super-large shelves that will hold those entertainment platters and pizzas. Thermador has introduced removable bins on the fridge door that can be loaded with ingredients for meals during the week, then removed to the kitchen counter when it’s time to prep dinner.
Real commercial dishwashers, perhaps surprisingly, lack all the features that homeowners have come to depend on. They basically serve to wash and sanitize so you won’t find them with adjustable racking systems or garbage disposals. In fact, with a true pro version, you would have to thoroughly rinse the glasses and dishes before placing them in the washer.
If you want commercial style, on the other hand, start with stainless steel. This sparkling metal says the appliance means business, just like its cooking and cooling counterparts described above. Hefty, architectural handles complete the industrial or pro-style effect unless you prefer a look with controls hidden on the inside panel. Inside, you still want adaptability in the form of adjustable and even removable racks and baskets. As for function, there’s plenty from popular manufacturers to make you happy, including a range of wash cycles, a timer, super-quiet operation, and a childproof lock. But don’t stop there. Get a third rack from manufacturers such as Bosch and a built-in water softener from Jenn-Air.
The introduction of the pull-out faucet two decades ago forever changed our impression of this indispensable kitchen tool. Finally, with a minimum of effort (and splashing), you could spray the entire sink—as well as the inside of a pasta pot. Pro-style takes this advantage a step further, with single-handle operation, a higher-than-average arc, and a spray that can swivel 360 degrees, all to make this type of faucet a functional focal point. Look to plumbing experts like Isenberg, Kohler, and Grohe for more handy options, including foot control, for completely hands-free operation, like the pros enjoy. If you love sparkling water, Grohe also makes a pro-style faucet that puts fizz in your tap water when you want it.
Peek inside a commercial kitchen and you’re likely to see stainless steel on the counter surfaces, too. The sanitary, odor- and moisture-impervious benefits are obvious. However, dings and scratches become pretty obvious. If the patina of usage isn’t for you, check out natural or engineered stone. Professional chefs love it for the same reasons homeowners do: it can take heat without scorching, yet stays cool to the touch. Natural stones such as granite and marble will, nevertheless, show stains, so if you don’t want to risk marring the perfect surface, consider engineered stone like Dekton or Caesarstone, which claim to resist all liquids, including wine and juice.
Planning a kitchen involves loads of decisions as you work your way through all the choices for appliances and materials. Commercial style, while at the higher end of the budget spectrum, remains a classic, and a trend with staying power, if you take the time to find those products that sync with your individual cooking style.
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