Consumer Report: Cooking for a Crowd

Many of us are staying closer to home for the holidays, which means our kitchen appliances are getting quite a workout this season.

If your guest list has outgrown your appliances, Consumer Reports' latest tests can help you get set up without spending top dollar.

A professional chef has no problem cooking for a crowd, and some new appliances are offering features to make that easier to do.

"Now is a good time to buy," says Sue Perry of Consumer Reports. "Sales are slumping, so a lot of appliance companies are rolling out lots of bargains."

Consumer Reports' tests of ranges show many once-pricey features are more common - like dual ovens, induction cooktops, and high-power burners.
"All come in handy when you're cooking for a lot of people and preparing a lot of dishes," Perry says.

Professionals have always known the benefits of bigger ranges.

In Consumer Reports' lab, this 36-inch G.E. Monogram has a built-in griddle and four high-power, natural gas burners that simmer superbly. It also has convection heating that can shave cooking time - all packaged with pro-style design.

But this range is a real wallet buster at $7500.

Instead, consider an oven that does double duty.

"Dual ovens are a great option," Perry says. "They let you cook your main entrée and bake a pie at the same time, at different temperatures."

Consumer Reports recommends the G.E. electric, 30-inch double oven for $1000. It has excellent oven capacity and rated very good in baking tests.

Want to spend even less?

Consider a high-tech hot plate, which can serve as both an extra burner for cooking and a food warmer at your buffet table.

This Waring Pro induction hot plate is a Consumer Reports best buy at $140. So cooking like a pro doesn't have to set you back a lot of money.

One thing that's interesting about induction cooking - it uses electromagnetic coils that heat more quickly and efficiently than conventional electric elements. That's because they heat the pan directly.

If you're going with induction cooking, be aware you need to use cookware that has a magnetic base, like cast iron pans.


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