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Restaurant Equipment is Finding its Way into Outdoor Kitchens

The SalamanGrill uses an infrared broiler.

The SalamanGrill uses an infrared broiler.

Reproducing the stunning steaks found at Ruth’s Chris and Morton’s is no easy task, but consumers are increasingly willing to spend good money chasing incredible taste. In addition to an amazing piece of meat, the “secret” is in the preparation.

Brian Eskew, director of Marketing at Cerritos, Calif-based Twin Eagles says the trend toward “expanding culinary capabilities” has transcended the “foodie” culture and shows no sign of slowing. “People want to do more at home than just traditional backyard barbecuing,” he says. “We have three products of commercial origin that have had success at the consumer level. The first is a patented design called the SalamanGrill. It is a derivative of a Salamander.”

In commercial kitchens, Salamanders are used for multiple purposes such as broiling steaks or melting cheese on top. “It’s a unit that gives you an overhead, infrared burner,” explains Eskew. “There is no heat coming from the back, sides, or bottom. Some of the best steak houses in the world prepare their steaks in a Salamander using an infrared broiler, not on a grill or a flat-top griddle. We include a 10-inch pizza stone, so it’s perfect for pizzas. It’s a true commercial product that we have essentially repurposed for back yards.”

Products from Outdoor Gourmet/Fornetto allow users to get the restaurant experience at home.

Products from Outdoor Gourmet/Fornetto allow users to get the restaurant experience at home.

Rick Baker, brand manager, Outdoor Gourmet/Fornetto, believes the movement to purchase restaurant quality gear is largely spurred by wealthy homeowners who are paying $20K and up for so-called “high-end” installations.

“Consumers are asking for restaurant style cooking at home to get the same type of professional grade food that is prepared well and tastes great,” says Baker. “The only real way to accomplish this is by having an appliance that has all the features and benefits of a restaurant quality product that makes great food. For example, Wolf brand makes awesome restaurant quality commercial appliances.”

Consumers who choose to go this route usually end up dispelling some misconceptions along the way. Baker points out that many buyers, for example, automatically think stainless steel is better, when in fact the preferred professional material is cast iron. “Stainless only looks good the first day it is purchased,” he says. “Consumers wanting high end commercial grade products outside will almost always have cast iron as the main cooking surface. If you want the experience of cooking restaurant quality food at home, you need a restaurant quality appliance that has the oil management system and cast iron cooking surfaces.”

A grease and oil management system called “Grill Smart” (found exclusively in the Fervor line of grills), and cast iron cooking grates are used on the main and side burners.

The Artisan Fire Pizza Oven from Kalamazoo Gourmet.

The Artisan Fire Pizza Oven from Kalamazoo Gourmet.

“The cooking grates have been scientifically tested to allow just the right amount of oil and fat to enter the cooking chamber, while directing the rest of the oils away from the food,” explains Baker. “You get less flare ups and food that is healthier to eat…After all, consumers want food that taste good regardless of the price.  We promote this lifestyle and provide the product that gets the restaurant experience at home at an affordable price.”

Russ Faulk, vice president, Marketing and Product Development, Kalamazoo Gourmet, believes pop culture via The Food Network is a huge motivator for many customers. Celebrity chefs, he says, have made cooking the equivalent of a spectator sport, and all of it has increased demand for commercial-style ranges, refrigeration and specialty equipment that has “grown in popularity indoors over the last couple of decades, and now we are seeing it move outdoors.”

The Kalamazoo K750GT Gaucho Grill.

The Kalamazoo K750GT Gaucho Grill.

Kalamazoo focuses on professional performance with all of its products, but Faulk identifies the Gaucho as one that fits particularly well with the trend. “The Gaucho is an impressive, Argentinean-Style wood-fired grill,” he says. “It is the kind of grill you see in the back kitchen of restaurants that embrace artisan cooking, like Lincoln Tavern in Boston, or Green Street Smoked Meats in Chicago.

“Our pizza oven was created to bring Neapolitan pizzeria performance to the backyard,” he continues. “It cooks a pie in less than three minutes. The other products that come to mind are our beer dispensers. You can have two types of beer perfectly chilled and ready to pour. The designs dampen vibration to preserve freshness, and the tap towers are insulated and cooled so the beer is cold from the very beginning of each pour.”
Retailers who succeed in selling high-end professional equipment are usually accustomed to the “good, better, best” framework, but Faulk thinks retailers that do the best “are those who can demonstrate the product and really put it through its paces with gourmet cooking. It also helps to understand each client’s cooking aspirations and where their enthusiasm lies.”

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How to Keep Your Wood Stove Clean, Efficient, and Safe

by Karen Elder

As winter rolls in and the temperature drops across the U.S., it’s time for many to fire up their wood stoves. That means it’s also time to clean your wood stove, in every sense of the word. From a literal scrub of the glass-ceramic front to choosing cleaner-burning wood to using a modern woodstove with lower emissions, here’s a guide to getting your wood stove up and running.

A safer, cleaner wood stove
Fire is one of the most important technologies harnessed by humans, and for centuries, homeowners have used wood stoves as a primary heat source. Today there are about 12 million wood stoves in U.S. homes, and new technology makes these wood stoves cleaner and safer than ever. New EPA-certified wood stoves are 50 percent more efficient than the wood stoves of the past, and produce 70 percent less pollution.

WoodBurnThe glass-ceramic used in modern wood stoves can transfer heat more effectively from the fire to the room, is designed to withstand temperature fluctuations without breaking, and can stand up to extreme temperatures — SCHOTT ROBAX glass-ceramic can withstand temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood stoves that use ROBAX burn 26 percent hotter and use 43 percent less wood compared to open wood stove systems.
But technology can’t solve every problem, and one problem we’ve had since the discovery of fire is what it leaves behind in ash and soot. Even today, wood stoves need to be cleaned and maintained before every use. Proper maintenance and upkeep of your wood stove will keep it burning cleanly and safely, and ensure it remains a beautiful addition to your home for years to come.

The quick way to clean wood stove glass
Cleaning the glass-ceramic on your wood stove is simple. In fact, the byproduct of fire — ash — will aid in the cleaning process. Below is a quick four-step process on how to clean wood stove glass-ceramic.
1. Let your wood stove cool completely before cleaning. You should never clean a hot wood stove.
2. Insert a moist rag or newspaper into the white ash of the cooled stove.
3. Rub this damp ash onto the glass insert of your wood stove. Wood ash contains calcium carbonate, a liming agent, and is therefore a basic substance. As a mild abrasive with a high pH, the ash makes for a simple cleaning solution.
4. Wipe off with the moist towel, and polish with a clean, soft towel.
A number of commercial cleaning and care products are also available, and SCHOTT produces a Dry Wiper cleaning pad for cleaning ROBAX glass-ceramic without the use of chemicals or cleaning fluids. Note that chemical glass cleaners are not recommended for coated glass. You should also never use an abrasive cleaning product or scratch pad on wood stove glass.

Find the right wood for the best burn
Burning a clean fire in your wood stove starts with the wood. Softwoods like pine and spruce will work, but hardwoods like maple or oak will burn longer and produce less smoke. A wood-burning stove should be smoke free. If you see or smell smoke, you have a problem, so extinguish the fire and clean your stove using the steps above.

Below is a list of “best burn” practices from the EPA to ensure you choose the right wood and operate your wood stove safely.
1. Use only seasoned wood that has spent months drying outside. Seasoned wood is darker, is cracked at the ends, and will sound hollow.
2. Burn hot fires, and only open the door to your wood stove if adding logs or stoking the fire.
3. Regularly clean the ashes out of your wood stove to maintain proper airflow.
4. Install and regularly check the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Keep a fire extinguisher near your wood stove at all times.
Wood stoves are designed with the simple purpose of heating a home. Advances in technology have made wood stoves cleaner and safer than ever, but be proactive in cleaning and maintaining your stove. By regularly cleaning a wood stove and using some best-burn practices, more homeowners can efficiently, smartly, and safely heat their homes.

Karen Elder is marketing manager at SCHOTT North America.

This post originally appeared on the SCHOTT North America blog. Click the link below to access the original article.

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Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Woman by fireSniffles and flu are not the only afflictions of winter. Many people find that the dark and cold days can impact their mood. In fact, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects approximately 10 million Americans, and another 10 to 20 percent of the public may have mild SAD, according to Psychology Today.

Coupled with busy lives, the winter blues can put extra strain on one’s relationships and psyche. Luckily there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to help lead a happier, less stressful life during winter.

Healthy Habits
Feeling blue can be compounded by unhealthy habits. Limit alcohol and get plenty of rest to feel your best. Eat foods beneficial to brain health, such as those that contain omega 3 fatty acids.

Be sure to exercise daily, as physical activity can boost serotonin and dopamine levels in your brain. While the days may be shorter, try to take advantage of the sunlight each day with a brisk walk at lunch — remember to bundle up though, a winter cold is never fun!

fireplace_angleGet Cozy
One of the causes of winter blues is light deprivation. If you have a fireplace, counteract the shorter days by adding a fire to your daily routine.

Dinner, reading, relaxing, watching TV, and even working can seem more enjoyable by adding the light and warmth of a fire, say the statistics. Indeed, 89 percent of people say having a fire is extremely important, important or somewhat important to their wintertime quality of life, according to a recent survey jointly conducted by the American Institute of Stress (AIS) and Duraflame, which creates fire-related products, including fire logs and fire starters.

A fire can offer stress relief, creating an opportunity to gather friends and family in a relaxing ambiance. Whether you’re alone or with a group, consider making it a hassle-free experience by using a manufactured fire log, which produces robust, bright flames and burns significantly cleaner and more efficiently than a typical word fire.

fireplace_forwardTake a Breather
Consider setting aside more time each day to mentally and physically recuperate. Nearly 60 percent of people take an hour a day or less to wind down and relax, according to the AIS and Duraflame survey, and more probably should.

Try this quick stress relief exercise, “The Quieting Reflex,” recommended by Dr. Daniel L. Kirsch, president of AIS:
• Smile inwardly with your eyes and mouth, relaxing your facial muscles. Think of something heartwarming or amusing while you do this. This starts to counter stress immediately.
• Next think of the expression: “Alert Mind, Calm Body” to counter negative thoughts.
• Slowly take a deep breath while visualizing it as warm air coming in from pores, or holes opening up in the bottom of your feet and slowly moving up into your lungs.
• While you exhale, visualize a wave of warmth and relaxation slowly flowing through your body exiting through your feet, like the spreading warmth you feel when sitting by the fireplace. You can’t control the seasons, but by being proactive, you can get back to enjoying your winters.

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Blog_Daus_PhotoWe travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
Anaïs Nin

As an avid globetrotter, I agree with Nin’s statement. Journeys, both short and long, can transform lives in meaningful ways. Travel not only provides education about places and history, but connects us to other cultures and people, slows us down from our fast-paced lives, expands our awareness, and introduces us to greater diversity.

My wanderlust, over the past 40 years, has taken me to places such as the Grand Canal of Venice, the mountaintops of Machu Picchu, and the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. No destination, though, has inspired me quite as much as my recent trip through Morocco, which felt more like a sensory feast than a group tour with 13 other middle-aged U.S. women.

Blog_Morocco_4I felt as if I had been catapulted back nearly 1,000 years in time. In the ancient medinas of Fez and Marrakech, I found laden donkeys tromping through narrow, vaulted alleys; mountains of fragrant spices; brightly colored rugs and fabrics; snake charmers and fire eaters gesturing to passersby; and artisans painting meticulously designed ceramic bowls.

An unexpected bonus of my trip was the connection I discovered to the outdoor, hearth, and grill industries. Moroccans spend considerable time alfresco on rooftop terraces, in the tiled inner courtyards of riads, and even on patios similar to ours in the United States and Canada. Moroccan outdoor living is all about lounging, socializing, eating, and sun protection, as well as about using products and designs that tantalize the senses.

Blog_Morocco_2Every outdoor space is its own tranquil retreat. Vibrant colors (tangerine, turquoise, red, and pink) and soothing designs are incorporated into an endless array of products. Even tiled fireplace surrounds feature multiple colors. I was so enchanted by these products that I ended up buying a handtiled mosaic fountain for my backyard.

Outdoor grills for cooking kebabs and wood-fired ovens for baking flatbreads are very popular in Morocco. Tagines (conical terracotta lids that sit on flat bottoms) are everywhere. The two pieces sit on a base called a majmar, and an unglazed-clay brazier full of hot coals cooks the tagine’s contents slowly, creating the dish of the same name: an intoxicating aroma rising from tender, juicy chicken and lamb, delightfully seasoned and served on a bed of couscous.

Whether shopping in ancient markets (souks) or trendy, urban warehouse areas, customers are greeted by shopkeepers offering traditional mint tea and friendly conversation. It’s not uncommon, inside stores, to find product demonstrations (with artisans weaving rugs, painting ceramics, or tanning leather).

Blog_Morocco_3With such an invigorating shopping experience, it’s easy to spend an entire day weaving around mazelike markets. The most successful shops are those that create experiences for customers. This is also true of strong retailers in our industry who transform the boring experience of browsing into something that’s fun and exciting—whether that involves hiring friendly, engaged staff or holding cooking demonstrations.

I left Morocco feeling energized by the myriad ways to add beauty to interior and exterior spaces. The country’s love of outdoor living and its ancient (but creative) ways of combining fabrics, colors, and textures are an inspiration to our industry.

Carol Daus is the editor of Patio & Hearth Products Report. Carol can be reached via e-mail: