Friday, September 11, 2009

Moving, Bluestar range, and Kobe Hood

I've been in a blogging comma for so long, I forgot how to blog. People who can blog about the craziness in their life (like opening restaurants, giving births, writing books) fascinate me. Those are the real writers. But my ability to write completely leaves me in such situations and getting back into it is hard. But now that we have moved, got the new kitchen ready for classes and Sammy started new daycare, I don't have any excuses for blog laziness.

You might vaguely remember a series of agonizing posts I wrote in the spring about choosing a range. I ended up choosing Bluestar and thought I'll give you an update on how it's working out so far. Does this $3,000 dragon cook better than my $300 Kenmore at the old place? Is it as big of a maintenance nightmare some people on gardenweb seem to indicate?

First, let's get one thing straight. A good range doesn't make a good cook. Every dish I've made so far tasted the same as it did on a Kenmore. However, bluestar does have some advantages and some disadvantages over a normal range you can buy at Sears.

Advantages (in order in which they matter to me):
  • I can fit 2 good size pans front to back.
  • The grates are sturdy and don't move.
  • The broiler is super powerful.
  • Water comes to a boil much faster.
  • Large skillets cook a bit more evenly.
  • The simmer burner can go super low.
  • The oven is larger.
  • Grease splatters don't show on cast iron grates.

Getting the range set up and working is a hassle! Let's start with the fact that I got a gas range even though I ordered a propane one. It's hard to say who screwed up, my contractor or Bluestar, but there was a lot of finger pointing. A Vesco technician came over to convert it and said that everything is adjusted and working fine. At the time of his visit my kitchen looked like ground zero (the contractor had to cut granite to fit in the range and install the ductwork for the hood). With all the craziness, I didn't notice that 3 of the 4 burners couldn't be reduced past medium-high heat. Luckily, Jason figured out how to adjust them by reading the manual. You have to take the knobs off and turn the screw inside them with a tiny screwdriver. After the adjustment, the burners have a great range of high to low.

As soon as I set the first skillet with oil on the range, I realized that the grates weren't level. When we disassembled the top, it turned out that a few screws were missing, which put grate supports out of alignment. Luckily, the installers left us some screws and we managed to fix the problem. My question was why were we left to deal with all this? This is not a complaint against bluestar as much as against my installer.

One of the burners sometimes makes a roaring noise when it comes on. That's not a biggie. I can turn it off and back on and the noise goes away. The oven does that too sometimes and it is a major biggie since the oven cycles off and on. Sometimes it makes that noise not when I turn it on initially, but later on when it cycles back on. This means that I need to be around to turn it off and back on. As you can imagine I don't really feel like baby-sitting my oven, especially when making 3 hour long braises.

I called bluestar and they suspect it's air shutter adjustment, which they don't cover under warranty (surprise, surprise!) They said that it's always perfect when it ships, but often gets messed up during shipping and it's my installer who should be responsible for this. My installer hasn't even returned my call yet. Vesco came out today and adjusted the air shutter slightly, but they suspect the propane pressure might be too weak at times and now I am waiting for the propane company to come over.

In other words, we are still working out the kinks.

Now a few words about the infamous infrared broiler. After I figured out how to tame this dragon, I do love its power, but it took me 6 fish fillets to get used to it. If you set the rack at the highest position, everything is burnt. If you set the rack a notch lower (which is almost the middle of the oven), it doesn't brown. I finally figured out that for most fish dishes top rack is the best setting, but you have to check them every 20-30 seconds and move the pan around a little to make sure they are browning evenly.

My only pet peeve with the broiler is that it turns off when the oven reaches 500F, so you can't use the broiler right after using the oven. That's a bit of a pain since I sometimes need the broiler right after the oven and vice versa.

All in all, I love cooking on a bluestar and believe it's the best deal as far as professional style ranges for the home go. But I still think that the cost and the installation hassle is not worth it for most cooks.

Although I am still a bit ambivalent about the range, the hood is something I am in love with and think it was worth every penny. I got a Kobe Island Hood that was on the cheap side as far as island hoods go. I was a little worried about how it will perform, but so far it's been fantastic: sucks up all the smoke and does so very quietly. No more fire alarms, and I can easily talk over it in class. The oil cups are surprisingly easy to clean, but they rarely get any oil in them because it gets sucked in so well. The user interface leaves much to be desired, but that's a small price to pay for good functionality.


Katerina said...

The broiler turns off when the oven reaches 500F? That is totally annoying and bizarre, I have never heard of such a thing.

Welcome back, I made another batch of your pate brisee this weekend. Best pastry ever.

jo said...

Katerina, all broilers do that now. it was a safety feature installed several years ago to 'save us from ourselves'. We have true convec Vikings at work and they do the same.

Helen said...

Hi Jo,

I don't think *all* broilers do that now. I tried a friend's Kenmore elite broiler, preheating it for 20 minutes and then running for another 10 and it never shut off. I am sure the oven reached 500 during this time. But I wouldn't be surprised if all infra-red broilers do that. They are so powerful that if you forgot about them by accident, bad things might happen.

Do you have any suggestions for broiling fish to brown the top and then finishing it in the oven? I end up with a very cool oven by the end of broiling time since it's so short.


Unknown said...

Congrats on your move! The stove looks great.

I'm sorry (but utterly unsurprised) to hear about your installer troubles. The only people who ever gave a flying donkey about the results of their work for us have been personal friends and/or hobbyists. I'm reluctant to declare professional pride dead, but signs of life are few and far between.

Incidentally, I came across this today and thought you might find it interesting (it's in two parts)

Christine said...

Welcome back! The kitchen looks amazing, kinks notwithstanding. :)

Anonymous said...

If you leave the oven door open a crack, the broiler will come on in a hot oven and stay on longer. Another tip for broiling is to use the second rack position (from the top) but place an overturned sheet pan or roasting pan on the rack to raise the surface up. You will end up at a height in between the top and second rack. Perfect for broiling many things.

Cyn said...

I'm glad to see you posting again.
It's nice that you seem to be moved and settled in. The aggravation with the range, however, ... oh, well, hopefully it will be forgotten once the kinks are worked out.

Helen said...

Hi guys,

I totally forgot how fun it is to get comments :) Thanks so much all of you for writing.

Diana: the fish killing links are fascinating! I'd be so curious to try fish killed in the japanese way. I wonder if they do it with large fish like tuna too? I haven't heard that, so maybe it's only for little fish. i wonder where can one get fish killed this way in the boston area...

Anonymous: I have contemplated leaving the oven door opened. Bluestar gives a strong warning against that and since range is in a peninsula, the cabinets come really close to it. It would probably not be a wise move on my part to mess with Bluestar's warning or I'll end up with cooked cabinets ;) The upside down pan to control the distance from the broiler is a fabulous idea!


jmisgro said...

I want your stove!! haha
Every stove we have bought we have had to convert it from gas to propane. I think that is the way it is.

Unknown said...

Helen -

It is good to see you seem to be doing well. I still think back fondly on being your cooking partner at the CIA.

I stumbled on your site again while searching for how to address the get engine sound coming from my new BlueStar range. It was installed on the 11th as a replacement for the Viking I had fought with for the last 8 years. It sounds like I had a better installation experience than you had. Oddly enough, the extent of my process was having the Propane company hook up the gas, check the gas pressure and then help me slide it into the slot. The stove came with all the leveling screws for the burners and all the burners set to proper ranges (it came already set up for propane).

The one problem I have experienced is the jet engine sound from the oven. Have you figured out how to adjust that yet other than by turning the oven off and then back on again?

- Mark

Helen said...

Mark! So good to hear from you :)

I guess I am not the only one with the jet engine sound. The propane company came today and spent 2 hours here. The bluestar repair company blamed it on them saying the propane pressure was probably too low (of course, their pressure meter was broken, so it was just their guess). The propane company measured it and it was 12 water columns. Bluestar recommends 10-11, so the pressure was not the problem. The propane guy was nice enough to disassemble the whole oven. He tried adjusting air shutter and it was doing better. But when he left, I got the jet engine noise again on the third cycle of the oven :(

I can't tell you how frustrating this is. The bills from these two companies will probably run me on the order of $300-400 and I still have the problem.

Let me know if you figure out what it is.

Have fun cooking when Bluestar works.


Jean Z. said...

Welcome back. Thanks for posting the photo of your new kitchen. I love to see where people make all their fascinating dishes. Can't wait to see what you create there!

Barbara said...

So happy to see you back...I have missed your posts! I have been following your Bluestar saga and am thrilled to learn more. I still want one, even after your difficulties. When (if) I get one, I am going to ask Bluestar *specifically* why they do not want the oven door open during broiling. Sometimes companies make up *rules* just to cover some remote Henny Penny the Sky is Falling! I'm the kind that would try it while carefully observing the effect. Does it really heat up the cabinet faces so much they begin to burn? Do flames shoot out the open door? Does the broiler start sucking light from the room? You know, simple questions like that ;) (My mom said I was always running with scissors as a child.) Kitchen looks beautiful too.

Joanne said...

Well congrats on your move and enjoy your new range. You decided on the model now it will just take some getting used to. All kinks will get worked out eventually.

Jeff said...

Helen, I had the same jet engine noise from my oven. It only started after the 2nd or 3rd cycle. I had two service techs set the air shuttle adjustment according to the installation manual, they followed the service manual and it worked fine while they were here but did it again after they left. Very Frustrating!!! This time I did it myself. I followed the manual instructions and everything was working fine. I turned the oven off to and put the bottom tray back in the oven and turned the oven on and the noise was back. I then adjusted the air shuttle (closed the gap a little more) with the bottom tray in the oven. Problem solved, no more noise! I called Blue Star Tech Support to tell them what I had done, just to make sure that was ok to do and they said it was ok. Hope this helps. It may be a good idea to have a service tech do this for you, you are playing with fire.

Helen said...

Thanks Jeff,

My jet engine noise problem is solved. Bluestar sent a little brace that holds the gas pipe in place. I have since had about 10 more service calls for various problems. the most persistent one is the oven door, so the bluestar tech and I see each other quite often. if you search my blog for "bluestar", you'll get all my posts.


Pro Style Range said...

Most broilers do this now I think it is some type of saftey mechanism that the manufacturers use for safety reasons.. Why? I'm not really sure.

Jim said...

My Glendora, CA kitchen design allows only a 30 inch range. Right now I have a GE Profile Gas Range and it pretty much meets any expectations I have. The oven max's out at 450f. The middle griddle burner is next to useless. I would upgrade to a gas range which has full extension, roll out oven racks and five usable burners.
I checked out the GE Monogram Gas Range which costs about the same as a slightly used Toyota.
Any recommendations are welcome.