Picture this, you’re the gourmet cook in your house. Lately, you just can’t seem to achieve that ultra-low temperature to hold your béarnaise sauce, melting chocolate is becoming more difficult and simmering grandma’s beloved gravy is a painstaking feat because as soon as you turn your back the bottom scorches.
While most ranges and cooktops now have improved simmer features, there is one that really stands out: the Thermador Professional Range ExtraLow® burner. Thermador claims that their ExtraLow® burner is the most controlled simmer system on the market now, with the ability to maintain temperatures as low as 100˚F.
Ultimately, this would give you the widest range of temperature control of any simmer feature in the industry. I started to wonder if this were really true, especially due to their patented star-shaped burner which delivers 56% more flame coverage and a reduced cold spot in the center.
So, how can they claim that their burner maintains the lowest temperature in the industry, yet with more flame coverage? I decided to put it to the test up against the Wolf's Dual Stack burner.
As stated above, Thermador ranges are well known in the industry for their star shaped pedestal burner. The burner is actually raised up on a pedestal for easy cleanup. The burner itself is star shaped which means more ports for gas to come through, hence more flame.
If you were to trace the periphery of the star, it would come out to approximately 16 ¾” which essentially translates to enhanced flame coverage (35 ports as opposed to the traditional 28 ports of a circular burner plate). The extra ports are what give Thermador burners the 56% more flame coverage.
Additionally, what makes Thermador’s ExtraLow® burner so exceptional is that it is an intermittent simmer burner. It cycles on and off with automatic reignition each time, so there is no need to manually light it to return the flame.
Pictured here is the ExtraLow® burner knob, designated by three lines and “XLO.” After the “simmer” option, each line represents a different amount of time that the burner will remain lit. The far left line indicates that the burner will remain on for 50 seconds and shut off for 10 seconds. The middle line indicates that the burner stays on for 30 seconds, off for 30 seconds.
Finally, the far right line indicates that the burner will only remain on for 10 seconds and shut off for 50 seconds. Because of the intermittent cycling, the burner has the ability to maintain ultra low temperatures, or what the industry considers to be a “true simmer.”
While Wolf’s dual-stacked burners have the traditional round burner plate (10 ¾ “ perimeter) with only 28 ports, they still matter when it comes to achieving a “true simmer;” it’s based on the configuration of the ports.
The dual-stacked sealed burners offer two levels of flame ports: the top level (left side picture) for intense heat at the highest setting; and the bottom level (right side picture) for maintaining a gentle simmer. With the bottom level, the flame does not surpass the burner plate.
A true testament to this is the ‘paper plate test’- place a paper plate over the burner on its lowest setting and melt chocolate chips…seeing is believing!! (However, I do not recommend doing this over a long period of time).
A simmer test was completed between both ranges using just plain simmering water, melting chocolate and holding béarnaise sauce.
On both ranges, the same amount of water was placed into two identical pots and each pot was held for exactly one hour on the lowest setting of each burner.
After one hour, the final temperature of the water simmering on the Wolf burner registered 122˚F. The final temperature of the water simmering on the Thermador burner registered 112˚F.
On both ranges, the same amount of chocolate was placed into two identical pots and each pot was held for exactly one hour on the lowest setting of each burner.
After sitting for one hour on the lowest simmer setting, the chocolate that was melted over the Wolf burner registered a final temperature of 167˚F which is considered extremely high for melting chocolate; the chocolate was also left with a slightly unpleasant bitter taste.
On the contrary, Thermador’s ExtraLow® burner produced more favorable results; the melted chocolate registered a final temp of 113˚F, a little on the high side, but not as hot as the Wolf, and with no unpleasant flavor.
Finally, the last temperature test featured béarnaise sauce, one of the hardest food items to hold successfully. Béarnaise sauce was held in two identical pots over the lowest simmer setting of each range for exactly 45 minutes. The final temperature of the béarnaise held on the Wolf range registered 142˚F, too high to hold a béarnaise sauce as indicated by the separation of the sauce (curdling).
The final temperature of the béarnaise sauce held on the Thermador range registered 102˚F, a more appropriate temperature to hold béarnaise sauce with no separation. The appliance industry’s idea of a “true simmer” can range from 100˚-140˚F; in the culinary industry, simmering refers to cooking food or liquid just below the boiling point, from 180˚-190˚F.
It really depends on the viscosity of whatever you may be simmering which is why temperatures may fluctuate; the denser the liquid, the more heat it can hold.
I am a big fan of Wolf products. Their dual stack burner simmer system is efficient enough to keep up with the demands of the home culinary connoisseur, but is not as low as Thermador. Generally speaking, their simmer system is more than efficient for everyday cooking and simmering soups.
If simmering delicate sauces or heat-sensitive items are in your gastronomic repertoire, then you may want to consider Thermador professional ranges for their ExtraLow® simmer system. It is more precise at controlling lower temperatures.
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Nicole Parmenter is our resident Chef at Yale Appliance + Lighting; she has multiple culinary degrees and is an appliance expert. Chef Nicole can teach you how to use your new appliances and give you tips, recipes and honest opinions on products.
Read more about Chef Nicole here.
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