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Commercial grade appliances

Picture a gas range with enough instant heat to sear your steak. And at the same time its simmer cycle is so gentle you can create a perfect pinot noir reduction.

Or maybe you'd like a refrigerator with sophisticated, individually tailored temperature and humidity controls that can keep varied foods fresh longer.

Or how about a warming drawer that won't continue to cook your dinner but will still keep it warm enough to ward off bacteria. Result: dinner tastes the same as when it was prepared two hours earlier.

They're called commercial grade or professional style appliances. Or, as some of us would say, toys for the kitchen. They're turning up in more and more Rogue Valley homes. Carl Humphries, co-owner of West Coast Appliance Furniture in Central Point, says he'd had customers spend $50,000 or even more on appliances for custom kitchens or remodels. West Coast stocks many of the upper grade appliances, as do Appliance Depot and Larson's Home Furnishings in Medford.

Want a better gas range? Look for one with lowest possible simmer, also a high BTU performance, like 17,000, says Dana Fish, co-owner of Appliance Depot. BTUs (British Thermal Units) indicate the speed and intensity of a range's heating elements. The idea is to cook your food perfectly.

Professional refrigerators, which can operate from a 110 electrical outlet, contain compartments that can be programmed for varying temperatures. An elevator shelf feature allows you to adjust storage space without having to move anything. While most models are stainless steel, exteriors can also be fashioned to look like cabinetry.

Commercial double ovens are popular because they can have separate timers, meat thermometers, are self-cleaning and can bake, roast or broil more rapidly than a standard model. Some can function as both convection ovens and microwaves.

And then there are dish drawers -- like a double dishwasher. You can put delicate crystal in one drawer and heavily soiled pots in the other, then customize the wash in each. They're so quiet you can even run them while your company is still there.

Other kitchen "toys" can include coffeemakers that produce lattes, wine storage units and an icemaker that will produce 30 pounds a day.

Now the big question: do you really need any of these?

It depends on your passion for cooking, says Denise Marshall, who operates The Last Bite cooking school out of her Eagle Point home. Many of her students admire her commercial cooktop but would never buy one. "Although they enjoy eating and trying new recipes, they're basic cooks -- pretty much cooking to feed the family," she says.

But on the other hand, if you love to entertain -- maybe show off a bit -- and are really into trying new ingredients, new combinations, and exploring international cuisines, commercial grade could be the way to go.

If you can afford only one commercial grade appliance, make it your range or cooktop, says Marshall. "This is the 'tool' that cooks the food and makes it palatable for eating. The instant heat of a gas burner cannot be matched by any other heat source out there."

One concern here is that many Rogue Valley homes, especially older ones, are all-electric. You'd have to arrange for a gas line. If you already have a gas line into your kitchen, it should be adequate for adding a commercial grade range, says Kerry Shroy of Avista Utilities, "but if there were concerns, the installer should be able to determine if the piping is adequate for what is being added."