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.