COOKING TIME UP FOR STOVES
Updated: Mar 22
The one piece of kit us chefs always fret about is our stove or plain old cooker as we Irish would term it. This essential bit of equipment is central to all that happens in the industrial kitchen and traditionally it was literally the hearth of any home. Once man discovered he could make fire and meat was more digestible when cooked in an open pit then the human race went on to make cooking more easy as the millennia passed.
The open fireplace inside buildings then evolved into a range but was still the centrepiece for activity and attention. It provided heat, hot water, drying and cooking. The kitchen then got its own electric and gas stove away from the living room fire and the kitchen became a new and stylish hub of the home. The Aga stove is a style icon for any posh kitchen but it’s no use if it is just a pretty ornament and not used to its full potential.
Things are changing however and with space being a premium, home designers are wondering if all that area is actually required when we have modern appliances like combi microwaves, air fryers and slow cookers that can be whipped out of the cupboard and operated on a counter top to provide all the things a conventional oven can more or less do.
With so many meals bought readymade, eaten out or delivered to the house, the amount of use stoves and ovens actually now get is minimal. The cooker is becoming redundant except for the regular home cooks. Even when it is used it is only producing for individuals or smaller family units as its size is now too big for the reduced volume of catering that is required domestically.
The supermarket is also providing too many products already made or baked. This also brings in the energy efficiency of heating up a big oven space to cook a few baked potatoes that can be done much faster in more modern equipment. So is it the end of the oven and hob as we know it? The answer is probably.
For professional cooks the ideal stove has gas on the hob top for power, speed and control and electric conventional convection in the oven part for even distribution of heat. I have been lucky to cook in a couple of places on the Rolls Royce of stoves called the Bonnet island range from France developed two hundred years ago. All the very high end kitchens would have these as they are made to such a high spec and look as good as they are to work with. They cost a pretty fortune too, not much change for the top model from a couple of hundred grand these days. I had to purchase one for a client once upon a time.
This is not what I have at home myself I must add. I am happy with my old and very run of the mill domestic gas hob and electric oven that came with the house. A lot of chefs want an industrial stove at home but I do not see the point in this upheaval or expense.
Unless you are going to churn out food from home to teach or sell or have a very large family or running a guesthouse then a domestic stove does just the job you need. With the green energy revolution gas is on the way out so there goes the hob now being mostly converted to electric induction. This has happened a lot over the last twenty years with some jurisdictions banning gas feeds altogether for new builds. Health and safety has put an end to gas ovens already with the added risk of leaks and explosions. I actually had one explode on me one time.
It is simply a sign of the times that cooking and diet has had to evolve so the way we eat has changed beyond recognition. It follows then that what we use to make food has not escaped change. It is sad to see the demise of something that has been integral to the development of mankind start to go out of fashion.