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Aging in Place at Home: The Definitive Guide Part 14


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Cooking

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Preparing a meal can be quite tiring, even for those who are able-bodied. Cooking requires the use of a variety of physical attributes: dexterity, stamina, vision, range of motion, and muscle tone. As aging wears away at these abilities, cooking becomes increasingly difficult, and even dangerous, for older adults.

Pots and pans are too heavy to lift. Conventional cooking utensils may be too challenging to grip and handle. Standing while cooking for a long period of time can be extremely physically draining. Unsteady hands and forgetfulness can also lead to unsafe situations while working in the kitchen.

Continue reading this section to learn about the many home modifications and kitchen tools that address the hurdles that impede safe, successful cooking.


Anti-fatigue mat


Purpose

Brings relief to a standing user’s back, legs, and feet by providing support and cushioning underfoot. Anti-fatigue mats reduce the muscle and joint strain that users would typically experience after being on their feet while cooking. Conserving energy in this way allows users to stay active throughout the rest of the day.


Must-have Features

Non-slip material – An anti-fatigue mat should be made of a non-slip material on both the top and the bottom. The mat should not slide on the floor and the user’s feet should not slip when standing on top of the mat.


No-curl, stay-flat edges – The edges of a mat can be a potential tripping hazard for users, so the mat must have no-curl, stay-flat edges. Make sure that the manufacturer specifically mentions these qualities about the mat edges.


Anti-fatigue mat with beveled edgesBeveled edges – To further reduce the risk of trips and falls, only purchase an anti-fatigue mat that has beveled edges.

Beveled edges make the transition from the floor to the mat more gradual and lessen the possibility of a foot getting caught on the mat’s edge.


Features to consider

Anti-fatigue mat on contrasting color floorContrasting color – Those with impaired vision should consider a mat of a contrasting color to the kitchen floor to assist with differentiating the mat from the floor.

A mat that blends in with the floor can make it more difficult for users to distinguish the transition from flooring to mat and increase the chances of tripping.


Features to avoid

Thick pile – Comfort is a key priority with anti-fatigue mats, obviously, but it is important that the mat is not so thick that a user’s feet could get snagged on an edge. Stay-flat and beveled edges help guard against such a scenario, but a particularly thick mat can negate from those preventive features.

The mat should provide much-needed comfort while also boasting a low profile.


What to know before buying

While no-curl, stay-flat edges certainly reduce the risk of tripping, it is important to consider a user’s unique physical abilities to determine if an anti-fatigue mat could cause more harm than good.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Slow cooker


Purpose

Saves users time and energy by cooking meals automatically without requiring any monitoring and by reducing the number of cookware to be cleaned after making a meal. This all translates to less time on one’s feet and less effort expended to make a healthy meal.


Must-have Features

Lightweight – A 4 quart slow cooker is an ideal balance between size and weight. 4 quarts is large enough to accommodate most meals, but much more manageable than the 7 or 8 quart sizes. While slow cookers that are smaller than 4 quarts are certainly the lightest option available, these models may be too small to make some meals. Furthermore, most recipes are intended for 4 to 6 quart slow cookers.

Anything smaller than 4 quarts or larger than 6 quarts will require more effort to adapt the recipe to the size of the slow cooker. A 6 quart slow cooker is always an option, but it is likely going to be too heavy for most users; stick with the 4 quart models.


Features to consider

Lead- and cadmium-free insert – All cookware must meet the F.D.A. standards concerning acceptable levels of extractable lead and cadmium. Most slow cookers have an earthenware insert with a glaze finish, which typically contains a small amount of lead and/or cadmium that is considered legally safe according to the F.D.A. guidelines. This lead and cadmium can potentially leach into the food in a slow cooker and, consequently, be ingested.

Those who are concerned about such possible contamination should not purchase any slow cooker that only states its compliance with F.D.A. guidelines concerning heavy metals since this likely means the insert does contain lead and/or cadmium. Instead, look for slow cookers with earthenware inserts that are completely free of lead and cadmium. Slow cookers with a glass or stainless steel insert are also safe.


Slow cooker with cool touch handles

Cool touch handles

Cool-to-touch exterior – A slow cooker uses electric coils inside of its base to heat the insert and cook the food within the insert. This heating element can cause the exterior of the slow cooker to become hot enough to result in burns if touched. To prevent accidental burns, some slow cookers include an insulated base that keeps the exterior surface cool to the touch.

There aren’t many slow cookers with this feature, so it may be difficult to find one that also has other features the user desires. In the event a slow cooker with a cool-to-touch exterior is not available, be sure to at least find a slow cooker with cool-to-touch handles. These handles allow users a safe place to hold the slow cooker for steadying or repositioning.


Programmable – Many slow cookers include an electronic timer that can be programmed so that the food is only cooked for a specific amount of time. This is great for users who may be forgetful or simply want the convenience of not having to keep in mind when the slow cooker must be turned off.

These programmable timers can be set to automatically switch the heat seating to warm once the cooking time has finished to keep the food warm until the user is ready to eat.

Outlet timerThose who already have a manual slow cooker can purchase an outlet timer switch and program the timer to shut power off to the slow cooker after a set amount of time.

Relying on a built-in or external timer to regulate the slow cooker is a great way to prevent burning the food or even starting a fire because of a memory lapse.


Dishwasher safe – Look for a slow cooker with a dishwasher safe insert and lid to expedite clean-up. It should be very easy to find a dishwasher safe model since the majority of manufacturers have made this a standard feature.

In the rare case that a dishwasher safe slow cooker isn’t available, then make sure that the insert isn’t too bulky to be washed in the sink. Also, keep in mind that these inserts can be heavy, so it may be more difficult to wash by hand than the average dirty dish.


What to know before buying

As with any other kitchen tool, some manual work is still necessary when using slow cookers. Food must be properly cleaned, prepared, cut, and seasoned before placing in the slow cooker. In some cases, meat must be browned on the stovetop prior to cooking in a slow cooker.

Cutting and mixing are two functions that are typically necessary to prepare a meal with a slow cooker. Consider some of the solutions listed below.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Light duty electric food processor


Purpose

Makes cooking less taxing by chopping, dicing, and mincing various fresh cooking ingredients at the push of a button. Minimizing food prep means users spend less time on their feet and conserve energy. Those with poor dexterity or arthritic hands can avoid some of the pain that comes with cooking by reducing the amount of manual cutting involved.


Must-have Features

Electric powered – The food processor should replace manual labor with automation as much as possible. Dicing and mincing are especially time-consuming and physically taxing. Users should minimize the effort put forth when cooking as much as possible.


Easy push-button operation – If operating the food processor requires significant hand strength, then its usefulness diminishes. Select a food processor that features a simple push-button that is easy for weak hands to depress.


Lightweight and small – The weight and size of a food processor is dependent on the motor inside. And the size of the motor directly correlates to its power. The key when shopping for a light duty electric food processor is to find a machine that gives the right amount of power without being too heavy.

Light duty food processorA machine that operates on 200 – 300 watts provides just enough power while only weighing around 2 – 3 pounds. Any more wattage can make the machine heavier than necessary. Any less wattage and the food processor may not be able to handle difficult tasks.

The light-duty motor also keeps the food processor small, so it takes up very little storage space. In fact, it could very likely be kept on the countertop to avoid any bending or reaching that may be required to retrieve it from within cabinetry.


Simple construction – All food processors are made up of four main parts: the motor base, the container, the container lid, and the blade(s). The way in which the manufacturer has designed each of these parts and engineered them to integrate together has a large impact on the durability of the food processor.

Find a machine that separates and seals all mechanical and electrical components. Food should never be able to find its way into the operating parts of the food processor.

Likewise, the chassis of the food processor that houses the mechanical and electrical parts should never need to be washed. The container and lid should not have multiple layers of material in which food and liquid could become trapped.

Basically, the food processor should be sealed off as much as possible.


B.P.A.-free – More and more manufacturers are moving toward using B.P.A.-free plastics. Finding a light duty food processor made of B.P.A.-free materials is fairly easy.


Features to consider

Dishwasher safe – For those with poor dexterity or less-than-steady hands, the prospect of cleaning a food processor blade may be of great concern. Being oddly-shaped and extremely sharp, the blade is especially risky to handle with wet, soapy hands. The preference for most is to simply wash the blade and the other food processor components in the dishwasher.

While there are some food processors that are dishwasher safe, there are just as many that are not. But hand washing a food processor doesn’t have to be dangerous.

After use, fill the container with hot, soapy water and replace the full assembly back onto the motor base. Then simply run the food processor until the machine cleans itself.

If any food is left on the blade, hold the dull top portion of the shaft and gently clean with a long-handled dish brush. A long-handled dish brush helps keep the cleaning hand out of harm’s way. Plus, the brush can also be used to remove any stuck-on food from the lid and container as well.

Finally, carefully rinse off any remaining soap and set the container, lid, and blade out to dry.


Features to avoid

Manual food processorManual powered – Avoid the food processors that require users to continuously operate a crank or lever. The electric powered light duty food processors are just as economical and reliable as the manual powered alternatives.

Do not exchange one form of labor for another; use an electric powered food processer and trade labor for automation.


Heavy and large – Sidestep food processors with oversized motors because they tend to be heavy and bulky. The extra power isn’t practical for chopping, dicing, and mincing and only adds unnecessary weight to the machine.

Furthermore, large food processors take up too much countertop space, so they typically must be kept in cabinetry where users are resigned to lugging the machine back and forth from storage. Opt for a lightweight, small food processor.


Over-engineered – For this application, food processors that boast plenty of bells and whistles should be passed over in favor of straightforward, reliable food processors. In fact, many times these add-on features can be the source of problems that otherwise would not have come up with simpler models.


What to know before buying

Some manual work is still involved in using food processors. Any outer shells or peels on foods must be removed by hand and large foods must be chopped into more manageable pieces. Making a few simple manual knife cuts is generally fairly easy, even for those with poor dexterity. Consider investing in a pair of cut-resistant gloves for protection while handling a knife. And one-handed users can chop up large pieces of food with the help of a cutting board that utilizes spikes to keep food stationary.

Users must be able to handle some minor prep work, but the more laborious tasks of chopping, dicing, and mincing can be left to the food processor.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Food slicer tools


Purpose

These tools expedite food cutting while cooking and provide relief to users who find that conventional knives are too time-consuming and cause too much strain on the hands and wrist. The time savings that these tools offer means less standing and, consequently, less stress on the user’s back and feet.


Features to consider

There are three different kinds of food slicing tools to consider:

Wired slicerWired slicer – A wired slicer is used to evenly cut soft foods such as hard-boiled eggs and kiwis. The fine wires allow the slicer to make a clean cut without crushing or smashing the food.

It is important that wired slicers are strictly used on soft foods because the wires may bend or come loose when used on harder foods.

Opt for a bladed slicer for slightly firmer foods and use a mandoline slicer for particularly hard foods. When in doubt if a particular piece of food is too strong for a wired slicer to cut, use one of the aforementioned alternative tools.


Bladed slicer – A bladed slicer operates in the same fashion as a wired slicer except that blades are used in lieu of wires. The blades provide the strength needed to cut into firmer foods like mushrooms and strawberries.

Bladed slicerTypically a bladed slicer will crush softer foods like hard-boiled eggs because there isn’t enough resistance to push the blades through the food. The bladed slicer can be useful for testing whether or not a certain food is too hard for a wired slicer. Generally, if the bladed slicer smashes the food, then it is soft enough for the wired slicer. This method of testing with the bladed slicer helps protect against using the wired slicer on a piece of food that’s too hard and possibly ruining the wires.

For even harder food such as onions and apples, use a mandoline slicer. Again, when uncertain about whether or not a bladed slicer is sufficient to cut a particular food, use a mandoline slicer first to avoid unintentionally damaging the bladed slicer.


Mandoline slicerMandoline slicer – A mandoline slicer is the most versatile cutting tool in this list. Mandolines can cut a variety of foods across a wide spectrum of sizes and textures.

Many mandolines also feature adjustable settings and multiple blades that allow the device to perform several kinds of cuts and cross-cuts at various thicknesses.

There are three features a mandoline slicer must have to make it worthy of purchase.

First, the mandoline must have a non-slip support stand. Many mandolines do not have a stand and must be held at an angle by the user. This makes moving food across the slicing deck very difficult and potentially dangerous. The feet and stand that prop the mandoline slicer up should have non-slip bottoms to keep the device firmly in place while in use.

Mandoline slicer with stand and non-slip feet

Models that lack this non-slip feature can easily slide around, which eliminates the resistance the tool needs to perform a cut.

Second, the mandoline absolutely must include a hand guard.

Mandoline slicer hand guardA hand guard protects the user from injury while using the device; never use a mandoline without a proper hand guard. The hand guard should feature spikes or prongs on the bottom to hold food in place and a comfortable grip on the top that the user can securely grasp.

Mandoline slicer adjustment knobThird, any adjustment knobs for the mandoline must be easy to operate regardless of hand strength. Making adjustments on some mandoline models is too difficult for users with weak hands; be sure to verify how easy it is to adjust the knobs before making a purchase.

One feature to seriously consider when shopping for a mandoline is dishwasher safe. Mandolines can certainly be washed by hand, but users must be extra vigilant when cleaning near the blades. In fact, it is recommended to use a long-handled dish brush when washing the mandoline to reduce the risk of injury.

The best option, though, is to find a mandoline that meets all the must-have criteria and can also be cleaned in the dishwasher.


What to know before buying

All of these slicing tools can definitely help save time, but cutting some foods may still require a certain amount of preparation. For example, inedible skin like that found on onions and kiwis must first be peeled before slicing. Also, large foods must be sized down to fit the particular slicing device, so some knife use is still necessary, albeit very minimal.

In general, most users can manage making a few large cuts with a knife, even those with markedly weak hands. One-handed users can chop up large pieces of food with the help of a cutting board that utilizes spikes to keep food stationary. For protection against accidents, consider wearing cut-resistant gloves while using a knife.

Although some minor prep work may be necessary, it is a far cry from the amount of labor involved if these slicing tools aren’t used at all.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Audible timer


Purpose

Provides aural and visual cues to alert users when certain cooking tasks are completed. Helps users guard against overcooking and undercooking food.


Must-have Features

Loud and distinct alarm – The most important factor in an audible timer is a loud alarm. Users must be able to hear the alarm not only above kitchen noises, but also above other background interferences such as the television and noise from outside. A distinct alarm allows users to easily distinguish the timer from other competing sounds.


Audible cooking timerLarge display – Second in priority only to a loud alarm is a large display that clearly shows the timer clock. A quick glance is all that users should need to read the display and know how much time is left.

Users are more likely to keep vigilant when cooking if the remaining time is prominently displayed.


Simple interface – Kitchen timers should have a simple interface that is easy for any user to operate. Generally, a timer only needs a button to set the length of time and a button to start and stop. Skip the timers with extraneous features and stick to a straightforward timer.


Flexible timer length – Find a timer that can be set for hours, not just minutes and seconds. Many kitchen timers have a max timer setting of 99 minutes and 99 seconds, but this will be inadequate for most users. So, be sure to find a timer that can set the number of hours in addition to minutes and seconds.


Features to consider

Audible cooking timer with standBuilt-in stand – Some kitchen timers include a built-in stand that can be used to prop up the timer. This can be very useful for keeping the timer in clear view, even when in another room. A built-in stand is a nice feature, but definitely not necessary.

As an alternative, users can simply lean the timer up against something to keep it upright and achieve the same effect.


Audible cooking timer with magnetBuilt-in magnetic back – Kitchen timers with a built-in magnetic back is second way to keep the timer in a visible, accessible location such as on a refrigerator or dishwasher.

Additionally, storing the timer on the front of an appliance can help clear up kitchen counter and drawer space.


What to know before buying

Tech-savvy users who own an I-pad or an I-pad Mini can utilize its timer feature in lieu of purchasing a separate, dedicated audible timer.


Audible timers are battery-powered, so users must be able to periodically change the batteries as needed.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Audible ingredient scale


Purpose

Audible ingredient scales announce the weight of the food out loud, which helps users with limited vision accurately weigh ingredients for cooking.


Must-have Features

Audible ingredient scale with prominent buttonsDistinct buttons – The buttons on an ingredient scale should be raised or tactile in some way so users with impaired eyesight can more easily differentiate the buttons from the scale.

Even those with capable vision will find that distinct buttons that actually depress is helpful for confirming that a button has been properly pushed.

Touch-screens and buttons under smooth glass are difficult to find and less user-friendly.


Simple interface – Operating an ingredient scale should be straightforward and should not require any significant learning or memorization on the user’s part. Users should have no problem turning the scale on, applying a tare weight, and converting units of measurement (if applicable).


Clear, loud voice – The ingredient scale’s audible voice should be clear and loud to ensure users can correctly hear the weight. Test different scales in stores or listen to recordings online before ordering.


Features to consider

Audible ingredient scale with large displayLarge display – A large display that shows the weight is a helpful feature to visually confirm the aural weight announcement for users who are able to do so.

Find an ingredient scale with a display that is placed prominently at the front, and make sure a bowl or plate on top of the scale does not block the display from view.


Units of measurement – Check to see that the food scale can supply the necessary units of measurement and convert from one type of unit to another.

The most basic scales only provide weight measurements in ounces and grams. Advanced scales can provide volume measurements in fluid ounces and milliliters in addition to weight measurements in ounces and grams.

Choose a scale that can provide the necessary measurement units based on the intended use.


Weight capacity – Most food scales can weigh up to 5000 grams or about 11 pounds. The next most common weight capacity for food scales is 3000 grams or a little over 6.5 pounds. Scales in this 3000 gram to 5000 gram range are sufficient for the needs of the vast majority of users.

Anything with a capacity greater than 5000 grams is fine, but keep in mind that as the weight capacity increases so also does the size and weight of the scale itself.

Avoid scales with a capacity lower than 3000 grams since these tend to be less durable than their more capable counterparts.


Features to avoid

Unbalanced base – Pressing buttons should not cause the scale to slide around or tip over. The base of the scale should be well-balanced enough to remain stationary during operation.

Avoid scales that have a raised front keypad that may cause tipping when buttons are pressed. Also, avoid scales that are particularly tall because they are more prone to skidding when pressing the buttons.


What to know before buying

Audible ingredient scales can measure to the nearest gram. Users who want an even more granular food scale that can measure to a tenth of a gram will not find this capability in an audible ingredient scale.


With so many electronic components in close proximity to the top of the scale, washing the scale without affecting these inner parts can be especially challenging. To prevent water from finding its way into the scale, circumvent the need to wash the scale by always placing a sheet of plastic wrap over the scale top before weighing food.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Audible cooking thermometer


Purpose

Makes measuring the temperature of foods while cooking easier for those with impaired vision by announcing the temperature out loud for the user to hear.


Must-have Features

Audible cooking thermometer with prominent buttonsDistinct buttons – The buttons on a cooking thermometer should be raised or tactile in some way so users with impaired eyesight can more easily differentiate the buttons.

Brightly colored buttons that are in great contrast to the surrounding color of the thermometer can also help users operate the thermometer.


Simple interface – The learning curve for correctly operating an audible cooking thermometer should be very short. The buttons should be intuitive and straightforward without the need to memorize lengthy steps to use the thermometer.

Audible cooking thermometer with simple interfaceTurning the thermometer on and off, adjusting between Fahrenheit and Celsius, announcing the temperature out loud, and turning on a screen backlight (if applicable) should all be just a button click away.


Clear, loud voice – The cooking thermometer’s audible voice should be clear and loud to ensure users can correctly hear the temperature. Test different thermometers in stores, read other online buyers’ reviewers, or listen to recordings online before ordering.


Features to consider

Audible cooking thermometer with backlit displayLarge, backlit display – A large, backlit display that shows the temperature is a helpful feature to visually confirm the aural temperature announcement for users who are able to do so.

A backlight that brightens the screen display makes the temperature reading more visible in dimly lit areas. A backlit screen is also helpful for users who simply need a higher contrast in general to read.


Preferred unit of measurement – Check to see that the food thermometer provides readings in the user’s preferred unit of measurement: Fahrenheit or Celsius. Most offer both temperature measurements and allow users to convert from one type of unit to the other.


Temperature range – Most food thermometers can read temperatures well beyond the range an average user needs. Even still, it is important not to overlook this feature and to verify that the temperature measurement range is acceptable based on the intended use.


What to know before buying

Cleaning the metal temperature probe must be done by hand. The handle base holds the electrical components of the thermometer and cannot get wet, so do not run the entire thermometer under water when washing. Scrub the metal probe with a soapy brush or scouring pad and then wipe dry with a paper towel.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Dispenser with a slide cutter


Purpose

Offers a safer and easier way to cut sheets of plastic wrap, parchment paper, and aluminum foil. Dispenser boxes with slide cutters get rid of the exposed metal teeth of conventional dispensers that can cut users’ fingers and hands. The slide cutter also saves users from the more forceful pulling and tearing that standard dispenser boxes require to rip off a sheet of the material.


Must-have Features

Dispenser with slide cutterSlide cutter – The slide cutter is what makes these dispenser boxes so special. No more serrated metal teeth on the outside of the boxes, and no more yanking on the plastic wrap, parchment paper, and aluminum foil to tear off a sheet.

All a user must do is pull out the desired length of material and run the slide cutter across the sheet to make a cut.


Non-slip bottom – The bottom of the dispenser should have non-skid feet to keep the box in place when in use.

Silicone trivetThis helps to prevent material from bunching up due to the box from moving while pulling out a sheet to be cut.

Silicone grip pads or trivets can be placed under the dispenser if the box doesn’t come with non-skid feet.


Dispenser box size – Verify that each dispenser box can accommodate the standard-sized rolls of their respective materials. It is important that the replacement rolls of material properly fit into the box so the dispenser works correctly.


Features to avoid

Wall- and under cabinet-mounted dispensers – While fixed dispensers may clear up storage space and be more accessible, they have two serious flaws that take them out of contention as a real option.

Wall-mounted dispenserFirst, the dispenser itself is often very cheaply made. The cutting teeth are often not sharp enough to make a clean cut. And the bodies of these dispensers are typically made of thin plastic that doesn’t hold up well to the force required to tear the material.

Second, mounted dispensers are not as long as standard-sized material rolls, so users must order the unique roll sizes that the dispenser manufacturers sell. It is common for these custom-sized rolls to have very cheap material and to be relatively expensive compared to conventional rolls.

Stick with the box dispensers with the side cutters.


What to know before buying

The stock plastic wrap, parchment paper, and aluminum foil that comes with these dispenser boxes are typically of poor quality, so plan ahead by purchasing nicer rolls to replace those that come pre-stocked in the dispensers. Make sure the replacement material rolls fit inside the box dispensers.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Electric can opener


Purpose

Eliminates almost all effort needed to open canned food. Electric can openers are really helpful to users who struggle with fine motor movements and experience wrist pain.


Must-have Features

Tall height – The electric can opener should be tall enough to accommodate the larger-sized cans that need to be opened. Generally, a standing electric can opener is kept on the countertop; if counter space is lacking, then verify that the can opener can be fit within an accessible cupboard.


Stable – Electric can openers should have a sturdy base that keeps them from tipping over when opening heavy cans.


Electric can opener with magnetic lid-lifterMagnetic lid-lifter – After the can is opened, the electric can opener should have a magnet that holds the cut lid top. This ensures that the user doesn’t have to pry the lid out of the can and risk slicing any fingers on the sharp lid edges.

Even still, users must exercise caution when removing the lid from the magnetic lid-lifter so as not to touch the sharp edges.

Those with unsteady hands may prefer to use a set of tongs or other kitchen utensil to safely grab and dispose of the lid.


Removable cutting portion for easy washing – In some cases, the cutting blades can get food on them and need to be cleaned. The best way to clean these blades is by scrubbing them with a soapy dish brush and then running them under a sink faucet or sprayer to remove the stuck food particles.

Electric can opener with removable cutting portionIf the cutting part of the electric can opener is fixed to the motor base, then it can be very difficult to wash the blades without getting the entire unit wet. And dry-scrubbing the blades just doesn’t provide the same results as a soapy-scrubbing with a post rinsing.

Therefore, find an electric can opener with a removable cutting portion that can be washed on its own when needed.


Features to avoid

Side-cutting – The side-cutting or “safety opener” models of electric can openers leave the edge of the lid smooth to avoid accidental nicks and cuts. Unfortunately, the unique cutting method of these “safety openers” can shred cans and cause metal shards to fall into the food, obviously posing a serious safety hazard.

Electric can opener with side-cutting bladeThe key to a shard-free opening is to ensure that the can opener only completes one full revolution and nothing more. After passing a previously cut portion, the blades continue to cut and take out chunks of the metal can.

For most users, trying to correctly time one revolution and nothing more or less can be difficult and annoying.

Simply put, the convenience of the side-cutting electric can opener is not worth the risk of unknowingly ingesting parts of metal cans.


One-touch can openerOne-touch – There are many one-touch electric can openers that are much smaller than other electric can openers and claim to be easier to use.

In reality, these one-touch openers offer unreliable performance and have a reputation for poor durability. It is not uncommon for one-touch openers to fail to open standard cans and to die soon after first-use.

Avoid these one-touch models.


What to know before buying

Always compare the dimensions of the electric can opener to the area where it will be kept to verify that there is adequate storage space.


When operating the electric can opener, make sure the magnetic lid-lifter is securely place in the middle of the top so the can doesn’t tilt and cause the blades to dip into the contents.

As long as the blades can be kept food-free there is no need to take the time to wash the cutting portion of the can opener.


Loosely cradle the can while operating the opener so that the can is properly supported; this is particularly important for heavier cans. Also, cradling the can puts the users in a good position to catch the can should it slip from the opener.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Jar and bottle opener


Purpose

A jar and bottle opener tool gives users superior leverage and grip to successfully twist off the lids of jars and bottles. Everyone can benefit from this tool, but particularly those who experience weakness in their fingers, hands and wrists.


Features to consider

One-handed, wedge-shaped – The one-handed jar and bottle opener tool must be fastened onto the bottom of a kitchen cabinet. Once installed, users simply place the jar or bottle to be opened into the wedged grip and twist.

One-handed jar openerWhat makes this tool so special is that for many users, only one hand will be required to open jars and bottles. And for those with smaller or weaker hands who cannot use the tool with one hand, they can use both hands to hold containers.

Some may not like the idea of mounting the tool underneath an upper cabinet, but it does at least save some storage space. Plus, there’s no need to go digging for the tool in a drawer or cabinet.

If the user has serious hand strength issues or only one functional hand, then opt for the one-handed opener.


Two-handed, wedge-shaped – The two-handed jar and bottle opener tool requires the user to hold the container with one hand and operate the tool with the other hand. Even though both hands are needed, the two-handed opener still significantly reduces the amount of effort the user must put forth.

Two-handed wedge-shaped jar openerThe advantage of the two-handed tool is that it is portable and can be hidden out of view when not needed. Obviously, the drawback is that since both hands are required, only one hand can be used to grip the container. So, users with poor dexterity and a weak grip cannot use the combined strength of both hands to hold and twist the container.

If the user has the function of both hands, then the two-handed opener is an alternative to the one-handed tool.


Features to avoid

Pre-shaped jar openerPre-shaped opener – Pre-shaped openers are less versatile than the wedge-shaped openers because they cannot accommodate as wide a spectrum of lid sizes.

Also, users must squeeze the handle to tighten the grip onto the lid with the pre-formed opener tool.

Weaker hands may have a hard time compressing the handle enough to operate a pre-shaped jar and bottle opening tool.


Automatic opener – Although automatic jar and bottle openers eliminate all of the manual participation that one-handed and two-handed openers require, automatic models have too many shortcomings to make them worth buying.

Automatic jar openerThe range of lid sizes and shapes that the automatic tools can open is limited, so users may find themselves in need of one of the more versatile manual tools to open jars and bottles beyond the capabilities of the automatic openers.

The two sets of mechanical jaws on an automatic opener can only accommodate a very slim margin of error. In fact, containers that are theoretically compatible with an automatic opener may not actually fit correctly within the jaws due to some oddity in the bottle neck or lid that blocks the jaws from establishing a strong grip.

Furthermore, the life-expectancy on automatic openers tends to be rather short. The mechanical parts simply are not made to last and have been known to fail early and without warning.

Finally, the automatic openers are much bulkier than their manual counterparts, so storage space may become more of an issue with the automatic models.

The collective drawbacks of automatic openers are too many to overlook; go with the manual openers instead.


Grip pads – Silicone or rubber grip pads do not reduce the effort enough to be of benefit for most users.

Grip padWith grip pads, users still have to grip the lid, hold the container, and forcefully twist. Opt for the one-handed or two-handed wedge-shaped opener tools.

While grip pads are not the best solution for opening containers, they do serve well as trivets to keep items on the kitchen counter from skidding.


What to know before buying

It can be tempting to try to hide the one-handed opening tool as far out of sight as possible, but remember to install it where it will be accessible. The tool cannot serve its purpose if it is so hidden that it is too far out of reach to use correctly.


Some of these openers utilize metal teeth to bite into container lids.

Jar and bottle opener with metal teethBe careful when operating openers with these metal teeth; do not place hands or fingers near the teeth and keep the tool in a place where it would be unlikely to accidentally get snagged.

Also, it’s important to know that these metal teeth can eventually shred away at a container lid, especially if a particular container is opened on a frequent basis.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Non-slip cutting board


Purpose

Offers a secure place for users to cut and prepare food when cooking. Cutting boards are soft enough that they do not quickly dull knives, yet firm enough that they provide a solid work surface. As opposed to countertops and tables, cutting boards cannot be damaged from knife blades. Also, cutting boards do not tip or slide around like plates or other makeshift platforms, making them a much safer option.


Must-have Features

Non-slip cutting boardNon-slip – It is absolutely essential that cutting boards stay in place when in use. An unstable cutting board is a major safety concern. Look for a cutting board with a rubberized bottom, non-slip silicone feet, suction cups, or some other type of non-slip feature.

Sometimes this feature isn’t available for wood or larger-sized cutting boards. In such cases, users can place silicone trivets under the cutting board to give it this non-slip quality.

Silicone trivetCutting boards that are already non-slip is preferred because it doesn’t require users to remember to take the extra step to place the board on a non-slip surface.


Features to consider

Stainless steel spikes – Stainless steel spikes secure food to the cutting board so the user does not need to hold food with one hand while making cuts.

Cutting board with spikesThis helps prevent accidental nicks and cuts to the hand that would otherwise be close to the line of fire when steadying food during cutting. This also allows those with the use of only one hand to cut and prepare food safely. Round foods can roll away while cutting and these spikes avoid any moving target situations.

Storing a cutting board outfitted with spikes can be tricky, so be sure to verify that there is a safe, accessible location where the board can go.

Also, if the cutting board is not dishwasher safe, then invest in a long-handled dish brush to make washing by hand easier and safer.


Cutting board with edge guardCorner edge guard – A corner edge guard helps keep food on the cutting board from falling off. The guard also acts as a second hand to hold items in place during food preparations that might otherwise cause the items to slide around such as spreading a topping on bread or stirring a whisk in a lightweight bowl.

Keep in mind that a tall edge guard will handle larger items better than a short edge guard, but its height may be more prone to get in the way when cutting.


Handle – A handle allows users to get a secure grip when lifting, carrying, and handwashing a cutting board.

Those who can only use one hand should opt for a cutting board with a handle because having a handle will make working with the cutting board much easier.


Dishwasher safe – A cutting board that is dishwasher safe can help save users the trouble of washing by hand. Cutting boards with spikes and a corner edge guard are trickier to wash by hand, so users are better off with a dishwasher safe board with these features.

Wood cutting boards are rarely dishwasher safe, but that doesn’t mean they should automatically be removed from consideration. Handwashing cutting boards, even those with spikes and edge guards, can be made safer and easier by using a long-handled dish brush.

Dishwasher safe is an important factor when selecting a cutting board, but it should come after other more important features have been chosen.


What to know before buying

Wood cutting boards must be hand washed and dried quickly to guard against warping. Plastic composite cutting boards can be washed in the dishwasher, but be careful because the heat of the dishwasher may cause warping.

When cleaning cutting boards in the dishwasher, place the cutting board as far away from the bottom heating element as possible. When cleaning cutting boards by hand, use a long-handled dish brush to provide scrubbing power and avoid spikes or guard edges that might cause scrapes and nicks.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Cut resistant gloves


Purpose

Cut resistant gloves help protect users’ hands from accidental nicks and cuts while working with a kitchen knife. Those with thin skin and unsteady hands should especially consider using cut resistant gloves when handling a knife. Cut resistant gloves encourage independence because they engender confidence in a person who otherwise may have been too fearful to prepare food with a knife.


Features to consider

Fiber gloves – One type of cut-resistant glove has a cloth-like texture that is typically made of some combination of fiberglass, synthetic fibers, and polyethylene.

Fiber cut resistant gloveBeing made of various fibers, this kind of glove can simply be thrown in the washing machine when it needs to be cleaned. When shopping for a set, make sure they are shrink-proof.

Also, the fiber material makes the gloves lightweight, which is helpful for users with weak hands. Fiber gloves are very affordable, so they are a good option for the cost-conscious buyer.

There’s really only one downside to fiber gloves, but some may find it to be too significant to overlook. Since these gloves are a fabric material, they easily harbor bacteria found on various foods, especially raw meat. Consequently, users may find themselves needing to machine wash fabric gloves fairly regularly.

One way to keep fabric gloves bacteria-free is by wearing food-grade disposable gloves on top of the cut-resistant gloves. Be careful when selecting the kind of disposable gloves to use because some are made of materials that are well-known for leaching harmful chemicals into food and causing allergic reactions, such as vinyl and latex.

As long as the disposable glove stays intact when handling food, the cut-resistant glove underneath should remain bacteria-free without any need for a washing. If the hassle of periodic washing or donning layers of gloves is too unappealing, then consider using chainmail gloves instead.


Chainmail cut resistant glovesChainmail gloves – The second kind of cut-resistant glove available is made of stainless steel chainmail mesh. The advantage that chainmail gloves have over fiber gloves is that they resist bacteria very well and can be washed in the sink or even the dishwasher.

Obviously, there’s no need to bother with wearing disposable gloves over chainmail gloves since they clean so easily.

Chainmail gloves also provide greater protection because they are more cut resistant than fiber gloves.

The weight of a chainmail glove is its only true drawback. For users with weak hands, chainmail gloves may be too heavy and make working with a knife extra burdensome.

Be sure to take the weight of the gloves into consideration before purchasing.


Features to avoid

Do not choose a glove that fails to pass any of the following cut-resistant standards: E.N. 388, I.S.O. 13999-1, or A.N.S.I. 105. These standards ensure that the glove provides adequate cut-resistance to keep users’ hands safe. Manufacturers and retailers typically include this information when selling these gloves.

In fact, sometimes the standards that a glove has passed is even printed or stamped on the glove itself. If this information is not readily available, then contact the manufacturer or retailer to inquire about what standards, if any, the glove passes.


What to know before buying

Choosing the correct size glove is important to its effectiveness. Users actually want a glove that is slightly loose because this helps increase the glove’s cut resistance.

A somewhat baggy glove makes it more difficult for a knife blade to grip onto the material and slice through the glove. A very tight-fitting glove, on the other hand, provides the firm surface a knife needs to bite and cut into the material.

While both of the cut-resistant glove options will likely still perform well even if they are a snug fit, using a roomier glove bolsters its cut-resistance. Bear in mind that a slightly oversized glove may negatively affect dexterity, so users with a particularly weak grip should be extra careful when choosing a glove size.

The goal is to strike the right balance in size so the glove provides adequate protection without inhibiting its usefulness. Look for a retailer with a good return policy or try to test the gloves first before making a purchase.


Wearing cut-resistant gloves does not guarantee that a user will not sustain a knife cut. Running a knife blade repeatedly across the same spot with enough pressure will eventually slash a hole in the glove. Chainmail tends to hold up much better in this scenario than fabric gloves, but it’s recommended to simply abstain from subjecting the glove to any sort of sawing motion.

Both fabric and chainmail gloves are susceptible to puncture. The tip of a knife and even its serrated edges can find their way through the fabric knitting and the metal mesh. The key to preventing this is to avoid using serrated knives and refrain from making any stabbing type motions with the knife.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Angled measuring cups


Purpose

Allows users to read ingredient measurements from above the cup without having to lean and bend to read the side of the measuring cup.

Angled measuring cup - side view
Angled measuring cup - top view


Must-have Features

B.P.A.-free – Most angled measuring cups are plastic, so it is very important to make sure that they are B.P.A.-free before purchasing a set.


Dishwasher safe – Normally being dishwasher safe is not a make-or-break feature for a certain product. In this case, though, it is imperative that the angled measuring cups be dishwasher safe. The angled piece within the cup can make cleaning by hand difficult because food residues can easily get trapped underneath its rim.

Since angled measuring cups are plastic, it is best to place them on the top rack of the dishwasher to prevent crazing and warping.


Features to consider

Microwave safe – It can be very convenient to simply pop the angled measuring cup in the microwave to quickly melt butter or boil water. Of course, if the measuring cups are not microwave safe, then whatever foods need to be microwaved can simply be transferred into a microwave safe dish. This dirties more dishes, but is a feasible workaround.

Being microwave safe isn’t a necessity, but it certainly is a nice feature to cut out some extra labor.


What to know before buying

Many consumers have found there to be a larger margin of error with angled measuring cups than with standard measuring cups.

Keep in mind that the convenience of not having to bend over to read the side of the cup may come at the price of some accuracy. Those who are preparing foods that have a very slim allowance for error should double-check the angled measurements by also reading the side of the cup.

The angled reading will serve well in most cases, but the side-reading is always available when a user wants to be especially vigilant.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Drawer cabinets


Purpose

Draw cabinets reduce the amount of bending, reaching, and contorting needed to access items stored in lower kitchen shelf cabinets. Drawer cabinets make better use of storage space than traditional shelf cabinets and even pull-out shelf cabinets. Pull-out shelf cabinets require two steps: opening the hinge door and then pulling out the shelf. Drawer cabinets, on the other hand, only require the single step of pulling out the drawer.

Pull out shelf cabinetry

Pull out shelf cabinetry

Drawer cabinetry

Drawer cabinetry

Drawer cabinets are the most efficient and user-friendly solution for lower cabinets.


Must-have Features

D-shaped cabinet pulls – The ideal cabinet hardware is D-shaped handles because they are the easiest to grasp and pull. Users can insert their hands palms in or palms out, whichever is most comfortable.

D-shaped cabinet pullPlus, users can simply insert their fingers and pull; there’s no need to pinch the handles, which can be a difficult hand shape to make for users with arthritic fingers and hands.


Features to consider

Soft-close slides – Drawer slides equipped with soft-close mechanisms help lengthen the life of the cabinets.

Slamming drawers shut puts stress on the slide hardware and bangs the back of the drawer face into the front of the cabinet base. Soft-close slide hardware extends the longevity of cabinet drawers by eliminating this kind of wear and tear.

Additionally, soft-close drawer slides are an attractive feature to buyers and can increase resale value when the home is sold.


Kitchen drawer organizerDrawer organizers – To best utilize the storage space in drawer cabinets, consider using organizer inserts to organize the contents of the drawers.

Specific organizers are available for arranging cookware, dishware, cooking utensils, eating utensils, knives, baking pans, and even spices. Items that are well-organized within drawer cabinets are easier to find quickly and reduce the amount of rummaging.


Features to avoid

Knob cabinet pulls – Knob cabinet handles can be difficult for users with impaired hands and fingers to grasp.

Knob cabinet hardwareCarpal tunnel, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions can make it painful for users to pinch their fingers and hold onto a small knob handle. Even those without a specific diagnosis may find that knob cabinet pulls are harder to grip.

When it comes to cabinet hardware, D-shaped cabinet pulls are the most user-friendly.


What to know before buying

It’s recommended to install the cabinet pulls up high on the drawer fronts, if possible, so that they are closer to the user’s reach. This placement is especially helpful for reducing how much the user must bend down to open the bottom drawers.


Before making any purchasing decisions, visit a nearby kitchen showroom to test various types of pulls and cabinets to determine what options best address the user’s needs.


Interior designers, cabinetry carpenters, and general contractors can all offer plenty of enlightening insights during the planning process. Consider hiring one of these professionals as a consultant to ensure that nothing is overlooked when configuring the changes that will be made to the existing kitchen.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Pull down shelving system for upper cabinets


Purpose

Lowers upper wall cabinets down closer within reach so users do not have to stretch and stand on a step stool to retrieve items. A pull down shelving system is particularly useful for wheelchair users and those with poor balance, a weak back, and a short stature.


Must-have Features

Through-front pull down shelving systemThrough-front pull down shelving system – Shelving systems that extend out and pull down through the front of the wall cabinet require the least amount of work to retrofit into existing cabinets.

As long as the current cabinets can accommodate the size of the pull down system, then installation is as easy as removing the existing shelves and mounting the pull down system in their place.


Features to avoid

Through-bottom pull down shelving systemThrough-bottom pull down shelving system – Avoid shelving systems that actually pull down through the bottom of the upper cabinets because they require more extensive renovation and are an inefficient use of space.

This kind of pull down shelving system requires users to cut through the bottom of the current cabinets, which permanently affects the appearance of the cabinets and makes them less suitable for resale. Furthermore, cutting through the cabinets heightens the severity of possible mistakes; one careless move with the saw could easily nick and gouge the cabinets.

Going to the lengths required to install through-bottom pull down shelves simply isn’t necessary since through-front pull down shelves are available.


What to know before buying and installing

The depth of the pull down shelves are shallower than upper cabinets, so make sure that the shelves can accommodate the items that the user intends to place on them.

Get the shelf depth measurement from the manufacturer or retailer and compare it to the depth of the items in the existing cabinets. Any items that are too deep will need to be moved to a new place since they cannot be stored on the shallower pull down shelves.


The mounting brackets and moving pistons take up space that could otherwise be used for storage, so understand that there will be a net loss in the amount of usable cabinet space. Furthermore, in an effort to make these shelving units as universal as possible, the depth of the shelves tend to be shallower than most upper cabinets; this also takes away from the storage space.

Pull down shelves with unused vetical spacePerhaps the biggest storage loss occurs if installing the pull down shelving system results in a significant amount of unused vertical space.

Depending on how the pull down shelves are installed, users can mitigate the amount of lost storage space; read the next section just below to learn more.

Even still, there will definitely be a reduction in storage space, so if the current cabinets are stocked completely full, then it is important to realize that some items will have to be moved.


Measure the inside height and width of the cabinet to verify that the pull down shelving system fits. In many instances the cabinet doors do not swing completely out of the way and the hinges are not completely flush with the inside cabinet width. If such is the case, then be sure to measure the effective clearance width between the doors and/or hinges.

Be on the lookout when measuring the height, too, because sometimes the inside frame of the cabinet has a lip at the top and bottom that shortens the effective clearance height. If the cabinet is larger than needed, then there will simply be excess room within the cabinet after the pull down shelving system is installed.

Whether or not that extra space in the cabinet can be used for storage depends on how the shelving system is mounted. The pull down shelving system can fasten to the sides of the cabinet, the bottom of the cabinet, or a combination of the two.

To make use of extra width inside the cabinet, the shelving system must be fastened to one side of the cabinet and/or at the bottom of the cabinet. This provides additional storage on one side of the shelving system.

Pull-down shelving system with extra width

The only way to utilize extra vertical space within a cabinet is by raising the shelving system off the cabinet bottom and mounting onto both sides of the cabinet. Raising the shelving system frees up space below for additional storage.

Pull-down shelving system with extra height

This requires that the cabinet width match the shelving system width. If the cabinet is just a little too wide for the shelving system to mount onto both sides, then consider having a carpenter add some blocking to bridge the gap.

When raising the shelving system, be sure to verify that the pull out handle is still within reach.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Raised wall oven


Purpose

Placing the oven at eye level eliminates the need to bend down to access the oven. Raising the oven also makes it easier for users to transfer food to and from the oven because the kitchen countertop is very close in height.

Ovens with stovetops require users to lift food up onto the countertop, which demands more core and back strength. Those who have a hard time bending down and raising back up should consider opting for an elevated wall oven instead of a stovetop oven.


Must-have Features

Fuel type compatibility – When it comes to selecting the fuel type for a wall oven, generally it is most convenient to replace like for like. That is, the new wall oven should use the same fuel type as the stovetop oven that it is replacing.

Swapping out ovens can require quite a bit of remodeling, though, so users may actually have the opportunity to reroute utility lines if a certain fuel type is preferred over the other.


Smooth glide oven rackSmooth-glide racks – Smooth-glide racks are equipped with ball bearings that allow users to roll them in and out of the oven as needed. To avoid having to reach arms’ length into a hot oven and risk being burn, find a wall oven with smooth-glide racks that extend completely out of the oven.

This safety and convenience feature is a must.


Straightforward interface – The wall oven must have a simple interface that users can operate easily.

The buttons and display should be intuitive so users can quickly pick up on how to work the oven.


Accessible height – It is very important that the wall oven is installed at a height that is comfortable and accessible for the user.

Plenty of factors influence the ideal height of a wall oven including a user’s flexibility, strength, balance, height, reach, and mobility aid, if applicable. Trying to account for all of these variables in a measured way is a very complicated process. Truly, the best way to determine the appropriate wall oven height is to have the user experiment with reaching and lifting heavy cookware at different heights to emulate a wall oven.

Use the kitchen counter, tables, chairs, and any other household surfaces to test a variety of heights. Stack books or wood blocks on test surfaces to try different heights. The ideal height minimizes how much a user must bend low and reach high.

Raised double ovensIf more than one person intends to regularly use the wall oven, then both of the users’ needs must be taken into consideration when determining the height. If the users vary greatly in their preferred heights, then a compromise must be made. This can be tricky to do, especially if one user’s needs directly compete with the needs of another user.

If there is no height that meets the needs of all the users, then consider installing a stacked double oven. The two different heights of a double oven may be able to address the needs of multiple users (more on double ovens below). Another option is to stick with a single oven and have the shorter user stand on a step-stool when accessing the oven.

Finally, it is valuable to think about users’ expected future needs. Will the user need a wheelchair down the road? Will the user’s diminishing range of motion eventually impact the ability to raise both arms higher than shoulder height?

It is too difficult to plan for all of the unknowns awaiting in all of future, so only look ahead to future needs if the prognosis is highly probable and soon-approaching. Bearing these projected needs in mind gives users direction when finalizing the wall oven height. Users may find it wise to slightly lower or raise the oven height based on upcoming changes in health and abilities.


Features to consider

Speed ovenSpeed wall oven – A speed oven basically functions as both a microwave and a convection oven, so it can reheat food and also help bake smaller dishes like casseroles.

Speed ovens are shorter than standard wall ovens, so they take up less cabinet space. And since speed ovens perform double-duty as a microwave too, they eliminate the need to have a separate microwave, which saves even more space.

Users who do not bake large meals in the oven and have a very small kitchen could very feasibly only have a speed oven and do away with all other microwaves and ovens.


Size – There are no industry standards for the width, height, and depth measurements of wall ovens, so be sure to confirm that the wall oven can fit in its intended space.

Also, consider the cubic feet capacity of the wall oven. The dimensions of the kitchen cabinet that houses the wall oven impacts the size, and thus, the capacity of the wall oven. Generally, 2 to 3 cubic feet is enough capcity for one to two people, 3 to 4 cubic feet is enough capacity for three to four people, and 4 or more cubic feet is enough capacity for four or more people.

Those who intend to use the oven to cook large meals such as turkey roasts should pay close attention to the interior dimensions of the oven to make sure it can accommodate oversized bakeware.


Side-swing oven doorSide-swing doors – Ovens with side-swing doors and French-doors give users better access into the oven and reduce the risk of users accidentally burning themselves on the inside of the hot oven door.

Be mindful of the floorplan of the kitchen when deciding where to place the wall oven.

French-door style ovens should have enough space on both sides of the oven to freely swing open. Ovens with side-swing doors should open in a direction that puts them the furthest out of the way of the user and any kitchen walking aisles.


Double oven – If multiple users require the oven to be at different heights, then a stacked double oven may be the best solution. The respective ovens may not exactly match the ideal height for each user, but the ovens should still be at usable heights that significantly reduce bending and reaching compared to sharing a conventional stovetop oven or a single wall oven.

Two separate wall ovens

Two ovens

Double ovens are sold as a set, so the position of the two ovens in relation to each other is fixed.

That is, the ovens can only be stacked vertically, the distance between the ovens cannot be customized, and the height of one oven dictates the height of the other.

For some, the preset heights of a double oven may work well; for others, the fixed position of the ovens may make at least one of the ovens inaccessible.

In the case of the latter, consider buying two single ovens to better customize their heights to meet the needs of multiple users.

Speed oven atop wall oven

Speed oven combo

If users like the stacked look but two full-sized ovens are too tall, then consider pairing a shorter speed wall oven with a standard wall oven.

This speed wall oven and conventional wall oven combination is available as a fixed double oven.

Or if more flexibility in adjusting the oven heights is needed, then the speed wall oven and the conventional wall oven can be purchased and installed separately.

Using two speed wall ovens is also an unconventional possibility for those who do not need a larger-sized wall oven.


Microwave-Wall Oven Combination Unit – Tall users may find that wall ovens with standard microwaves stacked on top are the ideal solution. If all users in the house are tall enough, then this combination may be all that’s needed.

The only problem with this set-up is that it is not very adaptable. Should one of the users need to access the oven or microwave while in a wheelchair, one or both of the appliances may be out of reach. While it isn’t recommended to try to plan for any and all possible future needs, some may find it prudent to employ a solution with more flexibility.

For example, placing the oven and microwave side-by-side at the lowest height without causing users to significantly bend may place the appliances within reach of wheelchair users.

Wall oven next to microwave

The appliances may not be quite as high as preferred, but they are still definitely accessible and better off than they were before relocating them. And should the need arise, the appliances won’t be too high for seated users. The advantage of planning like this helps guard against having to undertake another kitchen remodel as new needs arise in the future.


Features to avoid

Delayed-start – Many modern ovens have a delayed-start feature that lets users program the oven to run at a later time. Since leaving perishable food out for long periods can result in spoiling, the delayed-start feature is really only useful for scheduling the oven to pre-heat. This is most useful for users who may become so preoccupied that they forget to pre-heat the oven at the right time.

While delayed-start can be a helpful feature, its value is very limited. Therefore, do not use whether or not an oven has delayed-start capabilities when making a decision about which oven to purchase. It is fine if the oven that is best for a user also includes delayed-start; just don’t go out of the way to find an oven that specifically has this feature.


What to know before buying and installing

In many cases, replacing an existing conventional stovetop oven with a raised wall oven will require nothing less than a complete kitchen remodel. Basically, changing to a wall oven causes a domino-effect that eventually impacts the location and size of most, if not all, parts of the kitchen.

It’s important to understand the potential time and expense that could be involved in swapping out a conventional oven with a raised wall oven.


Consult with a kitchen designer or general contractor to determine the most economical and efficient way to introduce a wall oven into the existing kitchen. Be sure to clearly communicate current and possible future needs as well as timeline and budget constraints.


A double oven typically only has one fuel hookup, so both ovens are powered by the same utility line.

Two separate ovens require two separate utility lines, so it is important to decide on either a double oven or two separate ovens early in the planning process to account for any changes that must be made to the existing electrical and gas lines.


Wherever the oven is installed, it is important to have an adjacent countertop where food can be placed before lifting into the oven and where food can land after coming out of the oven. The countertop should be clear and have enough space to accommodate larger dishes.


Recommended supplementary products and home modifications


Accessible-height microwave


Purpose

Installing the microwave at a height that is appropriate for its users adds convenience and safety. A correctly-placed microwave does not expose users to the risk of handling hot plates of food above their heads. At the same time, a well-positioned microwave does not ask users to bend low and introduce possible injury to the back.


Must-have Features

Microwave quick keysStraightforward interface – Operating the microwave should be simple and intuitive. Quick-keys that consolidate multiple-button cook settings and times into one button are very handy, especially for those who have trouble tracking down the right buttons to press.

Pre-set keys are also helpful for taking the guesswork out of how long to run the microwave for common uses like popcorn, baked potatoes, defrosting, etc.

Most importantly, the user must feel comfortable and competent about safely operating the microwave.


Accessible height – As mentioned in the raised wall oven section, the best way to determine the appropriate height of an appliance for a user is through experimentation.

Using a large dish as a prop, try lifting and lowering the dish off of and onto the kitchen counter, tables, chairs, and any other household surfaces of various heights. Stack books or wood blocks on test surfaces to try different heights. The goal is to find a height that minimizes how much a user must bend low and reach high.

If more than one person intends to regularly use the microwave, then both of the users’ needs must be taken into consideration when determining the height. Meeting two opposing needs can be particularly challenging, though. Sometimes this may mean the shorter user must stand on a step-stool to access the microwave.

Another possible solution is to use a drawer microwave (see details below) that allows the taller user to simply lower the food into and lift the food out of the drawer and is still accessible to the shorter user.

The key is not to purchase a microwave blindly; thoroughly test different heights first to find out what works best.


Features to consider

Size – The microwave must be the right size to fit in its intended location. There must be adequate space on the countertop for standalone microwave models. The cabinet must be large enough to accommodate built-in microwaves like wall and drawer models.

Also, the interior capacity of the microwave should be spacious enough to fit the user’s plates, bowls, and other microwavable dishes.


Countertop microwaveCountertop – Countertop microwaves are standalone models that sit atop a kitchen surface such as a countertop or table. Although countertop microwaves take up working space, they are the easiest to introduce into a kitchen because they do not require any retrofitting. They also can be relocated should the user decide to move it somewhere different after its initial placement.

The height of the microwave on a standard kitchen countertop is generally very accessible for the majority of users. This flexibility makes countertop microwaves especially good for homes with multiple users of significantly different heights.


Built-in – With any built-in microwave, the first step is to measure for proper fit.

The existing cabinetry is likely deep and wide enough for the microwave; the challenge is having existing cabinetry that can house the microwave at the right height for the user. And even if such spot in the cabinetry exists, introducing the built-in microwave can still lead to an extensive kitchen renovation.

Built in microwaveNew electrical wiring may have to be installed to bring power to the microwave. Fishing the wiring into the cabinet cavity can be especially difficult and may even require cutting a pathway through some neighboring cabinets.

Furthermore, carving out a spot for a built-in microwave in an existing cabinet may lead to the user needing to recoup the lost storage space elsewhere. Doing so may result in a string of other unintended consequences that reparations the size of a complete kitchen remodel.

For those who can afford the money, time, and effort to undergo such a project, it is wise to consider other modifications that can be included in the renovation such as a raised wall oven, a pull-out pantry with drawers, a side-by-side refrigerator, a pull down shelving system for upper cabinets, drawer base cabinets, and an electric cooktop.

If the only part of the kitchen that is giving the user trouble is the microwave height, then consider introducing a countertop model to avoid taking on such a huge expense solely to remedy the microwave.


Drawer – Microwave drawers are built into the cabinetry and extend out on telescoping glides to open. Microwave drawers are typically installed under the kitchen counter, but they can truly be installed at any height.

Microwave drawerThe unique way microwave drawers open makes access different than other microwaves. Rather than reaching into the microwave horizontally, users reach into the microwave vertically. This change in access impacts the ideal height of the microwave for a user.

Generally, microwave drawers can be positioned lower than other microwaves because it is easier for users to reach directly from above. A conventional microwave placed under the counter may be too low for a user, but a microwave drawer installed under the counter may work just fine. Therefore, microwave drawers are particularly beneficial to households with multiple users of differing heights.

Microwave drawers are not without their shortcomings, though. The interior capacity of microwave drawers can be rather small, and the height can be especially short. Basically, taller dishes simply won’t fit. Be sure to take the interior dimensions into account before committing to a microwave drawer.

Microwave drawers do not have turntables, so they may not heat food as evenly as other microwaves. And unfortunately, there are no microwave drawer models with convection heating, so they cannot double as an oven.

Even still, if a microwave drawer and a wall oven can be placed at appropriate heights for the user, then there may not be a need for a double-duty benefits of a speed oven.


Speed oven – Speed ovens bring microwave and convection oven technologies together.

Speed ovenAs a result, speed ovens cook more completely by heating the inside of food with microwaves and browning the outside of food with convection hot air circulation.

Many speed ovens have a turntable at the bottom to help food heat evenly and a rack across the middle so two dishes can be cooked simultaneously. A speed oven definitely takes up the most space compared to other built-in microwave options, but this space is put to good use since this versatile appliance can also serve as a small secondary oven.


Microwave turn tableTurntable – Conventional built-in and countertop models typically include turntables that rotate dishes inside the microwave to help cook the food evenly. Speed ovens usually include this feature as well.

A turntable may help users avoid having to stir around food midway through heating since the dish rotates automatically.


Rack – Racks in the middle of the microwave allow users to heat two dishes at the same time. A rack like this is usually only available in speed cook microwave ovens.

Speed oven rack


What to know before buying and installing

As mentioned earlier, exchanging an existing conventional microwave with a built-in microwave can turn into a very involved remodel project. It’s important to understand the potential time and expense that could be involved in swapping out microwaves.


Those planning to retrofit their kitchens with a built-in microwave should engage a kitchen designer or general contractor who can come up with a plan to limit the scope and expense of the project.


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Pull out pantry shelves


Purpose

Pull out pantry shelves make items that are in the back of the pantry more accessible so users do not need to stretch and rummage to reach them.


Features to consider

Closet pantry with pull out shelvesThere are three types of pull out pantry shelves to consider:

Closet pantry – If the existing pantry is of the closet variety, then the fixed shelves can be replaced with pull out shelves.

This can actually be accomplished relatively quickly and inexpensively with the assistance of a carpenter.

Or a capable family member or friend with the right tools may even be able to build and install these pull out pantry shelves to help save money on labor costs.


Cabinet pantryCabinet pantry – If the existing pantry is already in a cabinet, then the shelves can be converted into pull out shelves.

Again, a carpenter or other tradesperson can complete this work or a handy family member or friend can likely install pull out shelving to avoid labor expenses.


Vertical drawer pantryVertical drawers – It is improbable that a user’s existing kitchen already has cabinets that can be converted into vertical pantry drawers, so in all likelihood installing these vertical drawers will require a major kitchen overhaul.

Users who plan to tackle a large kitchen remodel should consider using vertical drawers as the pantry because they are a very efficient use of narrow, deep cabinets.

Kitchens with a smaller footprint would benefit from vertical pantry drawers in particular since many times wide appliances eat up valuable space that otherwise could have been designated for the pantry.


What to know before installing

To operate a pantry’s pull out shelving, the closet or pantry door must be fully open so the front of the shelves do not bang into the back of the door. Users must be attentive when accessing pull out shelves so as not to damage any part of the pantry.


If more intensive changes must be made to the kitchen, then it may be wise to hire an experienced interior designer or general contractor to thoughtfully plan out the modifications that will best suit the users. They can offer helpful insights concerning how high each pantry shelf should be to best accommodate food items of various shapes and sizes.


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Side-by-side refrigerator


Purpose

Side-by-side refrigerators ensure that users of any height can access at least some of both the refrigerator and freezer sections. Top freezer refrigerators can prohibit freezer access to short-statured and wheelchair users. Bottom freezer refrigerators may require users to bend lower than they are physically capable to utilize the frozen section. A side-by-side refrigerator guarantees access for all.


Must-have Features

Straightforward interface – As with any major kitchen appliance, the user interface should be very simple to operate. Buttons should be easy to depress, icons should be intuitive, and displays should be clearly visible.


Refrigerator with bright lightsBright interior light – A refrigerator absolutely must have bright light that permeates entirely throughout the interior cabin.

The quality of the light should never interfere with users clearly seeing the contents of the refrigerator and finding what they need.


Features to consider

Size – Whether replacing an existing refrigerator or planning the refrigerator placement for a new kitchen layout, users must verify that the new side-by-side refrigerator fits in the intended space. Height, depth, and width all factor into whether or not a particular refrigerator will work in a defined spot.

Users should also make sure the storage capacity inside the refrigerator is adequate. Typically the larger the external dimensions of the refrigerator, the greater the interior storage capacity.


Counter-depth – Counter-depth refrigerators are shallower than conventional refrigerators. Standard refrigerators may protrude a few inches into a kitchen walking aisle; counter-depth refrigerators free up this space to make the area more accessible. Furthermore, counter-depth refrigerator shelves are easier to access since they aren’t as deep as other refrigerator types.

Counter depth refrigeratorWhile it is certainly a benefit not to have to stretch and reach into the back of the refrigerator, it comes at a cost: less storage space.

For this reason, manufacturers skew counter-depth refrigerators towards the wider end of the spectrum to recoup some of this lost storage. Most counter-depth refrigerators are 36 inches wide, whereas non-counter-depth refrigerators may be available in smaller widths like 30 to 33 inches.

Those who are replacing an existing refrigerator need to be vigilant when finding a counter-depth refrigerator that fits correctly.


Refrigerator with ice and water dispenserIn-door ice and water dispenser – A refrigerator that dispenses ice and water relieves users of the hassle of breaking up and scooping out ice by hand. There is no easier way to quickly fill up a glass of ice water.

To maximize the refrigerator’s freezer space, look for a dispenser system that is completely part of the door rather than one that has a dedicated ice box taking up room in the freezer.

Side-by-side refrigerator with in-door icemakerMany refrigerators also offer a water filtration system to remove heavy metals and other harmful water contaminants that may be present in tap water. In order to dispense water and ice, the refrigerator must be connected to a water supply line with a shut-off valve, so if no line exists behind the refrigerator then one must be added.

This can be an expensive and invasive process since the wall must be opened up and plumbing rerouted. So, the ends may not justify the means depending on the headache and cost.


Door ajar alarm – Refrigerators equipped with a friendly reminder jingle can be of great help to alert users when a door has been left open. Those who are more forgetful or easily distracted stand the most to benefit from this thoughtful feature.


Energy Star CertifiedENERGY STAR Certified – Energy-conscious users should look for refrigerators that are ENERGY STAR certified because these models are more energy-efficient than typical refrigerators.

Not only do ENERGY STAR certified refrigerators help the environment by consuming less energy, but they also help users save money on utility bills.


Features to avoid

Door-in-door compartments – In the not too distant past, refrigerator manufacturers introduced a door-in-door feature that allows users to access half of the door shelves without having to open the entire door.

Refrigerator with door-in-door storageThe goal was to make popular items easier to retrieve. In reality, the door-in-door compartments may actually complicate access for users who find it difficult to press the button that unlocks the outer door compartment.

Furthermore, these outer compartments have less insulation and are harder to refrigerate, so food stored here may not keep as cool as it should.

Skip the refrigerators with the door-in-door compartments.


Smart refrigerator – Another somewhat recent introduction is a smart refrigerator that usually comes equipped with a touch screen, Wi-Fi, web browsing, and a camera. While these add-on features may seem enticing, they are unquestionably superfluous and incredibly pricey.

These high-end features are also expensive to repair should one of them malfunction. Furthermore, less tech-savvy users may have trouble operating the smart features and eventually abandon them altogether. The refrigerator would still function normally, of course, but not utilizing the smart features to their fullest potential makes for a very expensive conventional refrigerator.

Smart refrigerators simply aren’t worth their price tag.


What to know before buying

Before deciding on a specific refrigerator, test out different models in big box stores and showrooms to experience their features firsthand. Open the doors, push the water and ice dispensers, reach inside, and see how bright they are inside.


Since both sections of side-by-side refrigerators span the height of the appliance, users of short and tall statures alike can be assured access to both the refrigerator and freezer sections. This also means, though, that the higher shelves may be out of reach for shorter users and lower shelves may be inaccessible for taller users.

Just keep in mind how much accessible, usable space a particular refrigerator model provides based on the user’s height, ability to bend, and reach length.


As with any other change in the kitchen that requires minor, or major, remodeling, meet with a design or remodeling professional to discuss plans and tap them for advice. A consultation fee may be costly, but it could also help prevent major oversights.


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Electric cooktop


Purpose

Electric cooktops are safer than gas cooktops because they do not use an open flame.

With the flame that gas cooktops emit, loose-hanging clothing and cooking grease can catch fire and put users at risk of being burned. Users can also accidentally leave gas stovetops running, which can cause flammable gas to fill the kitchen and house. And if enough gas is present, users can be poisoned from gas inhalation. Since olfactory function diminishes with age, some users may not easily detect the smell of gas spreading throughout the home.

With electric cooktops, these serious hazards can be avoided.


Must-have Features

Front controls – The buttons and knobs to control the stovetop must be in front of the heating elements.

Electric stove with fron controlsControls on the sides of back of the stovetop require users to reach over hot burners and cookware, putting arms and hands in harm’s way.

Finding a stovetop with controls positioned at the front should be fairly easy as many are now built that way.


Straightforward interface – Pick an electric cooktop with user-friendly buttons and knobs. Simple, commonsense controls are the best option so users aren’t confused about how to operate the cooktop.

To cut down on the time and effort required to learn a new appliance, users who have grown accustomed to the way the existing cooktop works should try to find a replacement that operates in a similar manner.


Hot surface indicator light – It is not always immediately visually evident when an electric cooktop surface is hot since there is no open flame.

Hot surface light indicatorAlthough electric stovetop burners glow red when applying heat, these burners often have limiters that turn the heat on and off automatically to maintain an even cooking temperature. When the limiter turns off the burner to regulate the heat, the burner no longer glows red.

Additionally, once the user manually turns off the stovetop, burners no longer glow red even though they may still be too hot to touch. Therefore, it is vitally important that the cooktop feature an indicator light that can clearly warn users which burners are still hot.

These hot surface indicator lights should stay on even after users have manually turned off all the stovetop burners and remain illuminated until the surface eventually cools.


Features to consider

Cooktop width – Cooktop widths range from as little as 12 inches to as much as 45 inches. Select a cooktop with a width that fits the kitchen and the user’s needs.

Those who cook frequently may like an oversized cooking surface while those who seldom use the stove may only need something small. The width of the stovetop dictates the size and number of burners. Consider the various sizes of the pots and pans with which the user cooks and make sure the burners are able to accommodate them.

Bear in mind that wider cooktops take away more countertop space, so avoid making the mistake of going too large.

Range hoodAlso, be sure that the ventilation is proportionate to the cooktop. So, if the existing cooktop is replaced with one that is much wider, then the existing exhaust hood may also need to be replaced. This obviously carries budgetary and timeline implications.


Induction – At first glance, a person cannot tell the difference between typical smooth surface stovetops and induction stovetops: both have ceramic glass tops with the burners sealed underneath. The difference between these two types of cooktops lies in how they heat the food.

Conventional electric stovetops use conduction to cook: electricity heats metal coils in the burner and then this thermal energy is transferred to the cookware through physical contact. The cookware conducts the heat from the burner.

Induction electric stovetops work differently. Electricity passes through metal coils in the burner to create a magnetic field through which magnetic energy is transferred to the cookware. This magnetic energy produces heat and cooks the food. As a result, the surface of the burner isn’t used to transfer thermal energy and, therefore, is not hot. For this reason, an induction stovetop is the safest way to cook.

Induction cooktopUpon turning on a burner, a user can actually touch the surface without being burned. The burners aren’t always safe to touch, though. After cooking for some time, the heat from the cookware can conduct back down onto the stovetop surface. Even still, the amount of heat that transfers back onto the surface of an induction stove is significantly less than the amount of heat on any other stovetop.

This allows induction cooktops to cool down much, much faster than other stoves. The less hot the surface and the faster the surface cools, the less likely users will accidentally sustain burns.

For the same reasons, induction stoves are easier to keep clean because foods and liquids are much less likely to burn onto and stain the surface. Induction stoves are also more efficient than other options because they apply heat immediately upon being turned on. Typical electric cooktops must first warm up and build up enough heat before they can go to work. This means users save time.

Furthermore, there is no waste with induction stovetops. Conventional cooktops heat the entire burner surface, whether or not the cookware covers the entire burner. Induction, on the other hand, only heats the cookware itself.

There are two major drawbacks to induction stovetops, though. First, induction cooktops are relatively expensive. It is not uncommon to find induction cooktops that go for two to three times the price of conventional electric stoves.

Second, induction stovetops only work with magnetic cookware, which basically amounts to magnetic stainless steel and cast iron. Cast iron cookware is typically very heavy and, therefore, is contraindicated. So, those who intend to use an induction cooktop must purchase magnetic stainless steel pots and pans if they do not already have such cookware.

This is an additional cost to take into account when considering whether or not an induction stovetop is suitable.


Smooth surface – Smooth surface electric cooktops have a single ceramic glass top with metal coil burners underneath.

Glass top stoveThe smooth surface allows users to conveniently slide cookware on and off burners. This helps prevent spills and burns that can occur when lifting heavy pots and pans full of food. The seamless, flat top also makes cleanup easier since food doesn’t get trapped in any crevices.

Smooth surface cooktops don’t boast the same level of safety as induction models, but they certainly are more economical.


Features to avoid

Coil burners – Induction and smooth surface cooktops are preferred to those with coil burners for a few reasons.

Coil burnerFirst, stoves with coil burners require users to lift pots and pans to move them rather than simply sliding them across a level cooking surface. Hoisting heavy cookware full of food can be difficult and dangerous for those with weak and unsteady hands.

Second, coil burners are elevated and, therefore, present more of a risk of accidental burns. The further away the burners are from users’ arms and hands, the better.

Third, cleaning stovetops with coil burners can be difficult because foods and liquids can find their way under the coils and even under the drip pans.

The one advantage that cooktops with coil burners have over other styles is that they are very affordable. Users should pass on coil burners, though, and stick to induction and smooth surface stoves for their safety and convenience features.


What to know before buying and installing

Users must be careful when cooking on induction and smooth surface stoves because the glass top is less durable than other cooktops with metal tops.

Cookware with a rough-textured may cause a scratch when slid across the stove surface. Also, the glass top can break if a heavy pot falls onto the stovetop.

As long as smooth-bottomed cookware is used, sliding pots and pans across the stovetop should be fine. And sliding avoids any unnecessary lifting that puts the stovetop in harm’s way should the user accidentally drop the cookware on the glass.

With the right equipment and proper care, smooth surface cooktops can last as long as any other stove.


If an existing cooktop is being replaced with a new cooktop of the same size, then it should be as simple as swapping one for another.

Bringing in a smaller stovetop will require more extensive remodeling since the countertop will need to be replaced as well. Replacing the current stovetop with a larger model will also mean an involved kitchen overhaul. The exhaust hood, countertop, and cabinets all will be affected by introducing a cooktop of a different size.

Additionally, if the existing stovetop is fueled by gas, then the gas line must be capped and a 240 volt outlet will likely need to be added to power the new electric stovetop.

Be sure to consider the expense, time, and interruptions that may be involved in changing out the cooktop with one of a different size.


Those who intend to undertake a more involved remodeling project should consult with an interior designer or general contractor to be thoughtful in the planning process and guard against oversights that could cause big problems later.


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Arm length oven mitts


Purpose

Oven mitts are indispensable for preventing burns while cooking in a kitchen. Most oven mitts only offer protection from the fingers to the wrist since this is the area where hot dishes are held in hand. When reaching inside of an oven, though, a user’s arms are exposed and at risk of being burned on the sides of the oven, the oven door, and the oven racks.

Arm length oven mitts provide superior protection from burns along users’ arms that conventional oven mitts cannot offer.


Must-have Features

Oven mitt with non-slip and textured gripNon-slip grip – A non-slip grip ensures users can safely transfer hot dishes in and out of the oven.

The fingers and palms of the oven mitts should be made of a heat-resistant, non-slip material like silicone or neoprene. Look for oven mitts with texturing on the fingers and palms to help users establish a strong grip.


Flexible – Oven mitts must be able to mold to users’ fingers and hands to allow for proper gripping. When bending wrists and moving arms, the oven mitt should stretch freely without restricting a user’s range of motion.

A flexible oven mitt improves functionality and promotes comfort since users do not have to move unnaturally.


B.P.A.-free – It is especially important to verify that oven mitts are B.P.A.-free since they are handling hot food. Heat causes B.P.A. to break down, at which point the B.P.A. can leach into food. Stick to oven mitts that are B.P.A.-free.


Features to consider

Fabric oven mitt with silicone gripFabric body – While the grip of the oven mitt should be silicone or neoprene, the main body portion can be made of a heat resistant fabric material. Generally, the fabric-bodied oven mitts are thicker and more of a snug fit than those with a silicone or neoprene body.

Unfortunately, oven mitts with fabric bodies are harder to keep clean because they can absorb smells, become soiled, and stain. Most fabric oven mitts are machine washable, though.


All silicone oven mittSilicone or neoprene body – Oven mitts that are entirely silicone or neoprene tend to be more flexible, but also have a looser fit than fabric-bodied oven mitts. Compared to fabric oven mitts, silicone and neoprene oven mitts are much more resistant to absorbing smells, becoming soiled, and staining.

Whatever foods or liquids get on the oven mitt can easily be wiped off by hand. Should the oven mitt ever become very dirty, most silicone and neoprene oven mitts are also machine washable.


Machine washable – Most oven mitts, regardless of material, can be cleaned in the washing machine and even the dishwasher. This is a great option for cleaning the oven mitt if food and smells have had time to set.


Features to avoid

Thick liner – The inside liner of oven mitts need to be thick enough to provide proper protection from heat, but they should not be so thick that they are difficult to use. This is particularly important for the fingers and palm areas of the oven mitt. If the liner is too thick, then users will have a hard time grasping anything.

Avoid bulky oven mitts that inhibit fine motor function.


What to know before buying

Silicone trivetIt is recommended to have a few non-slip, silicone trivets placed on the countertop to serve as a landing spot for hot dishes fresh out of the oven.

These trivets will help preserve the life of the countertop and prevent hot dishes from sliding onto the floor.


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Oven rack puller


Purpose

Oven rack pullers allow users to pull out oven racks to within reach without having to manually grab onto the racks with an oven mitt.

While any oven mitt protects users’ hands from heat, the bulkiness of oven mitts can make grasping small wire oven racks difficult. Pulling out oven racks makes it easier to place food dishes into the oven and avoids the risk of sustaining burns while reaching arm’s length inside of the oven.

Once the dish has been set in place, oven rack pullers can then be used to push the rack back into the oven. If a dish needs to be repositioned within the oven, the oven rack pullers can also be used to push and slide the dish without having to reach inside.


Must-have Features

Strong material and construction – Oven rack pullers must be made of a durable, heat-resistant material that can stand up to the stress of pushing and pull oven racks weighed down with heavy food dishes. Rigidity is important; the oven rack puller should not flex or bend when used to push the rack back into the oven. Oven rack pullers should be thick so they do not snap under pressure or break when dropped.

Wooden oven rack puller

The best oven rack pullers are made of wood.


Oven rack puller with notched frontNotched front – The front of the oven rack puller should feature a notch that is wide and deep enough to grip onto the user’s metal oven racks.

This notched front allows users to push racks back into the oven.


Slotted bottom – The bottom of the oven rack puller must have a slot that is angled enough to properly latch onto a user’s metal oven racks.

Oven rack puller with slotted bottomThis hook should be very close to the end of the oven rack puller so that the user’s hand remains as far away from the oven heat as possible.

Avoid oven rack pullers with slots that are further back along the handle as this places a user’s hand closer to the hot oven and racks.


Features to consider

Length – There is a balance to consider when deciding on the ideal length of an oven rack puller. The oven rack puller should keep users’ hands as far away from the oven as possible while not being so long that users with poor dexterity and weak hands are unable to effectively utilize the puller.

The longer the puller, the more hand strength needed for control. Generally, 12 to 14 inches is a good length; anything shorter puts hands too close to the oven and anything longer can be too awkward to use.

In addition to the overall length, look at where the bottom slot hook is placed. If the slot is further back along the handle, then a user’s hands will end up being that much closer to the oven racks. Keep this in mind when evaluating the length.


Features to avoid

Silicone – Although silicone is a heat-resistant material, oven rack pullers made of silicone can bend when used to push racks back into the oven.

Silicone oven rack puller

This is more than just a functionality issue: this is a safety issue. Should the silicone oven rack puller flex enough to cause it to slip and give way, the force could carry the user’s hand right into the hot oven and racks.

Do not use a silicone oven rack puller; use a rigid wooden one instead.


What to know before buying

Some users may not be able to push and pull oven racks singlehandedly. Consider using two oven rack pullers, one in each hand, to generate enough strength to move dishes and racks.

Two rack pullers also increase control, allowing users to reposition dishes with greater precision than can be done with only one rack puller.


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Pot boil over safeguard


Purpose

A pot boil over safeguard is a cooking utensil that reduces the likelihood of liquids boiling over the rim of a pot and spilling onto the stovetop.

Boil over preventers are small disks that are placed inside of a pot during cooking. The unique shape of the boil over safeguard allows it to disrupt the surface tension of the cooking liquid to delay, or even prevent, boil overs.

Additionally, as the boiling becomes more rapid, the boil over preventer may rattle against the inside of the pot and signal to users that the stovetop heat level should be dropped to avoid the pot from boiling over.


Must-have Features

Food-safe material – A boil over safeguard must be made of a F.D.A.-approve

Ceramic pot minder

Ceramic

d, food-safe material since it is placed in the same pot in which foods and liquids are cooked.

Verify with the manufacturer that the boil over preventer does not contain or release harmful substances. The product should be B.P.A.-free, P.V.C.-free, lead-free, latex-free, and free of phthalates.


Durable – Since the boil over safeguard can clang against cookware when the liquid has reached a rapid boil, make sure that the construction quality and material are strong enough to keep the boil over tool from breaking.


Features to avoid

Tempered glass boiling guard

Avoid glass

Tempered glass – Although tempered glass is food-safe, it does not offer the same durability as other materials such as ceramic. Tempered glass boil over preventers cannot withstand the rattling that occurs inside the pot and often break easily.

Avoid buying a boil over safeguard made of tempered glass.


What to know before buying

Boil over safeguards are not guaranteed to work in all cases, but they will delay boiling over at the very least. To increase effectiveness, multiple boil over preventers can be used in a single pot.


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