Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tennessee-Made Five Star Ranges: For a Forever Home or Any Home?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 7:03 AM

I would be this excited about a Five Star range, too.
  • I would be this excited about a Five Star range, too.
In the most recent installment of her column in The City Paper, The Eating Life, Nicki Wood tells us the story of Brown Stove Works of Cleveland, Tenn., and their Five Star ranges. The other day, she and I were discussing them over lunch; I didn’t realize they are a rather "boutique" brand because it seemed to me that they were taking over Viking as the stove to have. And, heck, I remember when Viking ousted Jenn-Air as the stove to have.

As recounted in the story, Brown Stove Works introduced the Five Star 22 years ago; the product filled a niche between the basic home range and the bulky commercial ranges that were becoming status symbols in yuppie kitchens.

Five Star ranges soon began winning awards, and sales are good, even though Brown doesn't advertise much. "We’re just a really small, privately owned company without the resources to put into the big-budget advertising campaigns that some of our competitors do," company spokeswoman Jenny Cooper Rumble says. "We’d rather put those resources into building a quality product than a lot of advertising."

And they're considered something of a bargain, Nicki says in the story: "The fully loaded 48-inch model sells for up to $5,000 less than a comparable Viking. A basic 30-inch all-gas Five Star is priced about $1,400 lower than other brands, or around $3,500." She continues:

What do you get with a Five Star oven? The roomy gas oven is fired by a flame broiler below, and convection keeps it circulating. Five Star offers several configurations of burners and griddle/grills, the latter made by Lodge Manufacturing of South Pittsburg, Tenn. Continuous grates let heavy pans slide smoothly among burners and are perfect for heating huge pans that cover more than one burner. Racks let baked goods cool or hold warm food under hot lights to stay warm. Many parts of the range, including the oven door of some models, are removable for cleaning. The smaller parts clean up nicely in the dishwasher.

As for power, Five Star’s open burners deliver 15,000 British thermal units, and sealed burners offer up to 21,000 BTU, enough to blacken fish, stir-fry and roast peppers quickly.

How much BTU is enough is a discussion that rages in online threads, and usually it’s assumed that more is better. Viking (for instance) makes 30,000 BTU sealed burners, assuredly boiling water faster and keeping big batches of stir-fry from losing their crispness.

In practical terms, the BTU competition is fiercer at the low end: What you really want in a flame is low simmer, the grail of gas burners. At its introduction, Five Star was the only range offering a low simmer setting, about 350 to 400 BTU, Fowlkes said.

All in all, Five Star pretty well grants most wishes. An infrared broiler and a time-bake function might be nice, but then it would be a different product.

At my lunch with Nicki, our discussion turned to the topic of my own kitchen and appliances. I have had to replace the refrigerator and dishwasher, but the stove and microwave that were installed just before I moved in 2004 remain. I don’t love my stove; it’s a smooth-top electric Kenmore. I don’t hate it, either (the smooth top does add some much-needed counter space in a pinch).

But I can’t justify installing an appliance of Five Star magnitude in my tiny, half-a-postage-stamp kitchen. If and when I have the means to purchase a Five Star, it will be when we are settled into our "forever home." Though I don’t really have any desire to move, I’m fairly certain I won’t be spending my twilight years in our current house. Or that I’d get a good return on investment from putting a Five Star stove in it (particularly considering I’d have to have a gas line run to the kitchen).

What about you? Do you love your oven? What’s in your dream kitchen? And is your dream kitchen in your current home (or can it be)? I’m not sure where my dream kitchen is, exactly, but I know it’s got a 60-inch Five Star dual-fuel in all stainless steel in it.

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