Not All Bandwagons are Created Equal

They said, “Ceramic or glass cook-tops are more efficient!” They said, “Glass cook-tops are easy to clean!” They said, “You’ll save loads of time in the kitchen!” They said ceramic cook-tops were the answer to our stressed out, busy lives!” Okay, maybe not that last one, but like many of you, we jumped on the ceramic stove-top bandwagon and bought one when our electric coil-top stove was beyond repair. We would have purchased a natural gas cook-top, but it wasn’t an option in our neighbourhood, so ceramic it was. I was so excited to get the new technology in our kitchen. I wondered what are we going to cook first? Just think how much time we are going to save.

It’s a good thing I saved time on cooking because, apparently, I needed it for cleaning. Out of all the rules of using a ceramic cook-top, and there are a lot of them, the one that says not to spill stuff on the glass when it is hot irks me the most. I don’t know about at your place, but at mine, dripping, or spilling over pots and pans happens all the time. Grease spatters from bacon and sausage; stews and pasta sauces end up spitting up onto the surface; numerous spoon drops; and food transfers that never go as cleanly as I’d like; and who knew that water could cause so much damage to a cook-top. Bottom line? If I am cooking, I am messing up my stove. Actually, I don’t know anyone who can cook without having something inadvertently landing on the cook-top. Possibly Martha Stewart, but she has people. I don’t have people and don’t have the time to invest that a ceramic cook-top requires.

I certainly did not want to invest in an overly dependent stove that requires more attention than the average Kardashian and more than I can devote. No one said that I had to purchase an expensive specially made ceramic cleaner that one would think would clean everything; it doesn’t. No one told me that a razor blade would come in handy in the cleaning process. No one said you had to use one cloth for wiping up the initial mess, another for applying the cleaner and one for buffing. I don’t give that much attention to my car, why would I for a stove?

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather be cooking than cleaning, and I would undoubtedly prefer cooking over worrying about if my pots and pans will damage my new cook-top. Which brings me to the pot rules. No, I don’t mean the regulations implemented by the Federal government concerning marijuana. These rules have to do with the pots and pans you, and I cook with.

First, and most egregious, “You must not use cast-iron skillets on the stove top.”

You mean the cast-iron skillet that is older than me and has been lovingly seasoned and passed down and still works as good as it did for previous generations? The only skillet I took camping that one time when we forgot our other pots and pans? From eggs to steaks, we cooked everything in that skillet that week, and nothing stuck. I love that skillet.

But… okay, if I must comply, no cast iron on the stove.

Second, “No glass or ceramic pots that have unfinished or rough bottoms.

That takes care of all my Corning ware passed down from my in-laws and my 6.7-litre cast-iron Creuset casserole pot. So what should I cook my risotto in, or what should I use to braise my stewing beef? What about my chicken pot pie? I think my stove is creating a pot and pan desert or wasteland. My choices are becoming a bit limited.

Okay, no Corning ware or fancy cast-iron casserole pots on the ceramic stove-top. Well, I guess I still have my other non-stick skillets and my tried and true metal pots.

Third, “Keep the bottoms of skillets and pots clean.”

Wait, what?

Apparently, a build-up of grease on pan bottoms can leave rings or mark up the cook-top. I’ve scrubbed the bottoms of my pans. My pans are clean, but they have years of wear on the undersides. Mostly a yellowish or brownish tint to the pots. This is problematic for a ceramic stove-top?

Okay, my old pots and pans are out.

I have a wok.

“Don’t cook with rounded bottom pots or pans.”

Oh, come on!

Results in a poor distribution of heat. Honestly, this rule, although irritating, feels the least invasive, because it is possibly valid for all types of stovetops. So, I guess cooking with a wok is out? But, I do have a wok ring, so maybe it is okay? I also have an electric frying pan, a Coleman stove and a Weber smoker barbecue–all nothing to do with the stove-top–no worries there, but these things defeat the purpose of buying a glass cook-top stove in the first place, and it is not very convenient to entirely forgo using a stove-top.

It does seem like a purchase of a new stove of this type requires an investment of new cookware as well. I am sorry, but I am not about to purchase new pots and pans when decades-old pots and pans have served me well. Besides, we all know that they don’t make things like they used to. I would like to report that my handy, loyal skillet and my other pots and pans have outlasted my 11-year-old ceramic top stove and will be staying as long as they will have me.

There are also other things of concern to the makers of ceramic or glass stove-tops like don’t drag your pots and pans across the surface to avoid scratches, and don’t place a heated domed lid (handle up) on your glass cook-top to avoid the risk of cracking or breaking the glass. Never put your utensils on the stove-top while cooking, and don’t spill sugary substances on a smooth surface cook-top to avoid discolouration, or worse having the sugary offender permanently stuck on your stove-top.

What does that mean “sugary substances?” No teriyaki sauce based foods; no fudge; no making of jams and what about sugar snap peas and cooking with bananas or fruit?  It feels a bit like Seinfeld’s soup Nazi, except the stove-top has control. You spill something, you panic to get it cleaned up before it becomes a permanent part of the stove-top. You risk burning yourself because if you wait until the burner cools, it’s too late; the proof that you’ve been cooking remains forever etched into your stove-top for all to enjoy. The upside would be that you would have a journal-esque stove-top. Let me explain… Remember when we made Christmas fudge? That’s here. (Me pointing to a blob of sugar from the 2016 spill.) And, remember when I was making that nutmeg fettuccine that one time and the water boiled over in the fall of 2014? That’s all here. (Me making a circular motion over a back burner with water stains around it.) Get the picture? No matter how diligent we tried to be, our 11-year-old stove with the fancy cook-top can never have that shiny new look to it again. We’d miss a spill or a drip here and there, or suddenly scratches would show up uninvited, as we wondered crestfallen, “How did that get there?”

To add to our defeated state of mind, the exorbitant cost of replacing ceramic cook-top burners when they die–and they will die–gave us a bit of sticker shock. For an idea, coil burners, depending on the size, run from about $25 to $40 each to replace. When replacing elements on a sexy, attractive smooth ceramic cook-top, prices can range from $100 (aftermarket) to a whopping $375 (name brand from the dealer and the highest I’ve seen so far). Should you need your glass or ceramic top replaced, depending on your model, things can go north of the $375 range quite quickly. Apparently, sexy equals costly.

All things considered, to save time and money, we decided to go back to an energy-efficient stove with coil ring burners. This type of range served us well in the past, without all the headaches of those time-sucking-obsessive-compulsive-finicky operational and cleaning needs that a ceramic cook-top requires. What I have learned from this is that not all bandwagons are created equal. The next time a shiny new thing comes out; as these things are wont to do, I will take a more measured and considered approach to whether or not I actually need the newer tech-laden gizmo.

If you are firmly fixed in the I love my ceramic or glass stove-top camp, then that is great. I love when things work out for people. If invited for supper, I will come over to your place and admire your stove from afar, but don’t expect me to clean it or cook on one at my home anytime soon.

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