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Good Cheap Hotplate!

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I was going to post that title yesterday with a question mark instead of that bang, but took a break and went shopping. Yesterday morning our POS Bosch gas cooktop got pried from it 12-year nest and carted off to a shop to have all its control-knob mechanisms either cleaned or rebuilt. I have a large number of cooking devices, but I had NO backup cooktop, so I went a little crazy doing an online search. The coolest-looking one I found, and about the cheapest, was a Deni two-burner available for from $60 with free shipping or $29 plus shipping, the big problem being that the earliest I could get it would be Thursday … and I require eggs for my Sunday breakfast. Well, I had to pick something up at Bat Breath & Beyond anyway, so when we got there I inquired about hotplates. Nice fellow showed me the ONE they carry, a swell induction job, single plate, for $70. I told him I needed two plates for about half that; he suggested Penney or Sears. There is a Sears close by there, so we dropped in for a look … and there was the Deni! Two, actually, one with a single plate and the two-plate I'd wanted. With tax it was right at $40.

Now, we ripped out a working electric cooktop to put in the gas one shortly after we bought the house, because I'm addicted to cooking over gas and hated every electric stove I've used. I was therefore a little dubious about how me and my new buddy were going to get along. Well, last night I pan-braised about two pounds of black kale, and that was stress-free, perhaps even easier than over gas. This morning, I found that my coffee water came to its required bare boil a little more slowly, but also held that level better without falling suddenly into seething mode, and my over-easy eggs were VERY easy indeed.

The secret is that the technology has changed, and for the better: instead of rheostat controls changing the current flowing to the elements, there is simply a thermocouple switching the current on and off, but the elements are buried in an iron plate to minimize the fluctuation of the plate's temperature. This not only cuts the amount of juice needed at lower temperatures, it also makes the appliance itself simpler and cheaper to make. This is one case where I'm glad that I didn't do my usual thing and go looking in thrift stores for a working antique! But when the Bosch thing comes home from the vet next week, I'm facing a dilemma: where to put my new baby? Well, there's a grounded outlet on the back patio; maybe in addition to grilling the occasional dinner, I can cook the occasional breakfast al fresco too!

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  1. Enjoyable read as always. $40 for a two elements hot plate. That is pretty cheap.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

      Sears and Target both have it on their online stores, but only Sears has it in a real store. Or that was the only one we found it in. It's a brand of Keystone Mfg. Co. in Buffalo NY, made in China of course. On the deni.com site the list price is $69.99; in Sears the tag price is about $28 for single-plate, $38 double. One-year warranty.

      1. re: Will Owen

        For other readers, I am listing the unit (which I think) you bought:

        http://www.sears.com/deni-table-top-b...

    2. Interesting -- I'm glad that works for you. For cooking fragrant things like onions, I have that type of hot plate out on my porch , and I can't stand it. Can't get a constant temp to save my soul (and yes, it does have the iron plate). That cycling on-and-off drives me nuts. I've yet to be able to do something as simple as browning onions successfully.

      So you're saying the old versions have rheostats instead? If so, it's time for me to check out the thrift stores.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Steve Green

        I have not tried any serious frying, only the braising (sauté and long slow simmer) and those eggs. The eggs were in iron too - a small skillet, and covered - which may have kept the temperature steadier. I will be trying some onion-browning this week, and will see if I have problems similar to yours.

        My problem with rheostats is that the old-fashioned plate uses about the same amount of juice however low or high it's set, which is why gas is usually more economical. The thermostatic control evens the playing field. If that turns out to cause some problems it'll be too bad, but not enough to make me give this thing to Goodwill.

        1. re: Will Owen

          Thanks for the response, Will. I'm not worried about the economic aspects of gas vs electric. We live in a condo where the stove hood vents right back into the kitchen rather than outside (brilliant design, huh?), so we want to be able to cook onions outside, rather than have them smell up the house for days afterwards. It's especially an issue in summer here in Vegas, where you can't really open the windows to air out.

          I've searched far and wide, trying to find a hot plate that doesn't cycle on and off. Even the commercial ones do, according to the people at the restaurant supply stores.

          1. re: Steve Green

            Well, Steve, after almost a week with this I think your problem could be that the plate on yours is insufficiently thick. If I get something to a simmer on mine and turn it off, what's in the pot can keep on going to a full boil. And I had no problem cooking about two cups of onion and peppers in my oval iron pot yesterday, though just to the pale yellow stage as I was making a fish stew. It's slower than gas, for sure, and I'll be happy to get my cooktop back, crappy as it is, but one problem I'm NOT having is any noticeable fluctuation of temperature.

      2. Something to keep in mind, the electric connection limits the total wattage available. Splitting it between two burners might not be the best choice for everyone.

        Myself, I have two separate hot plates that run full power.

        1. Hey Will,

          Here if you have not read this:

          http://www.chow.com/food-news/129073/...

          7 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Not a terrible digest, but not totally accurate either; the kale was sautéed on high heat (which was the point I was trying to make) before being left to simmer on a low-medium setting. This reads like the work of a PR person trying to do journalism, a thing that is becoming much too common.

            1. re: Will Owen

              I know.... but hey at least people who are interested enough will read your inputs -- here.

              <This reads like the work of a PR person trying to do journalism, a thing that is becoming much too common.>

              I have no idea what a PR person doing journalism is like. All I know is that the person who wrote the article has a different take than I have reading our exchanges. :)

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                PR people are taught to look for the "bullet points" and render the narrative equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation. Journalists transcribing a shorter version of one or more written pieces are supposed to convey meaningful facts and an accurate reading of the writers' points of view. This is more work, because it takes much more careful reading and entails an obligation to keep one's own conclusions out of it. That is why what we write here cannot be considered journalism, even though we have some journalists posting.

                Very personal case in point: I posted an item saying that I had recently eaten a burger at a new restaurant that I had decided was the best burger I'd eaten in Los Angeles County up to that point. A few days later a large vinyl banner was hung on the front of the restaurant, proclaiming " 'Best burger in L.A.!' – Will Owen, Chowhound" Kerfuffel ensued. I alerted the mods, posted a semi-disclaimer, was frankly annoyed that our operating overlords did not hand out any cease-and-desist orders, and more or less recently found a local burger (at Abricott, in Pasadena) that I considered superior in many ways and wrote as much. But the damn sign is still up. Just PR people doing PR.

                1. re: Will Owen

                  < few days later a large vinyl banner was hung on the front of the restaurant, proclaiming " 'Best burger in L.A.!' – Will Owen, Chowhound" Kerfuffel ensued.>

                  Really? Wow. Please tell me that Will Owen is not your real name. :)

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I'm afraid it has been for a very long time. Just before I turned 40 a woman I knew told me I was too old to be called Willy, and that she would call me Will. She didn't stick around but the name did.

                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Nothing wrong with your name of course, I just thought that having your real name posted on a banner in front of a restaurant seems awkward. At least if it was a alias like mine, it won't be as bad.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        It is awful, and embarrassing. Partly a product of my age, and the differences between the world I grew up in and this one. Names, addresses and phone numbers were openly displayed in public; nobody had unlisted numbers, and would have been considered some kind of weird crank if they had. But by the same token if I had written a letter to the local paper extolling the food at a local restaurant and the owner wanted to put up a banner quoting me, he would have been very careful to get my permission first.

          2. Hi, Will:

            This is a positive step... perhaps backward. With the exception of the thermocouple, I think what we are considering here is to an AGA what the Max Burton has become to the $$$ 220V/50-amp induction cooktops. Now if they will please add the insulated cover to allow instant-on and a little constructive heat "loss"...

            Aloha,
            Kaleo