Category: Kitchen


So, You Want to… Install a Range Hood

The range hood is responsible for capturing food odors and grease that fly around during meal prep. If you're in the market for a new hood, here's some info on selection and installation to help you make sure that your new appliance will be up for the job.

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Range Hood Installation - Under-Cabinet Hood

Photo: istockphoto.com

Whether integrated underneath the cabinets or suspended as a focal point over a kitchen island, the range hood is the unsung hero in the kitchen, rarely appreciated for the crucial role it performs by eliminating the airborne grease, smells, and heat produced during meal prep. If you’re getting ready to upgrade old appliances like dishwashers and refrigerators as part of a kitchen renovation, don’t forget the range hood—it deserves consideration too. You may have a general idea of what you’d like in a new range hood, but you’ll probably still be overwhelmed by the wide spectrum of prices and options available today. Selecting and installing a range hood involves more than just picking out a style that complements your existing range. To find a model that fits your kitchen space and cooking style, keep the following particulars in mind.

Range Hood Installation

Photo: istockphoto.com

DUCTLESS VS. DUCTED
Range hoods use fans to draw up grease and steam, along with food odors and excess heat, but not all hoods perform the task equally well. The difference between average and effective largely depends on the type of ventilation available: ductless or ducted.

• Ductless models do not vent to the outside of your house. The fan on a ductless range hood draws in air and circulates it through a charcoal filter, which traps grease and some odors, but it’s usually not as effective as an exterior-vented model. The less expensive of the two styles, ductless range hoods can cost as little as $50, and go up from there to several hundred dollars.

• Ducted range hoods are more effective than their ductless counterparts, and they, too, have a wide price range. Ducted range hoods draw in cooking air, then whisk it outside your home via a wall vent or upward through the ceiling joists and roof. More affordable options start under $100, but homeowners who want a high-efficiency or designer ducted hood could pay well over $1,000.

The option for ductless or ducted also applies to the popular and space-efficient microwave-hood combinations. Homeowners shopping for a new combination unit often (mistakenly) focus primarily on the features offered by the microwave. But it’s also important to weigh a unit’s ventilation capabilities to make sure you’re selecting one that’s sufficiently effective and efficient for your needs.

FAN MOTOR PLACEMENT FOR PEACE AND QUIET
Some range hoods sound like airplanes getting ready to take off, while others are virtually silent—it largely depends on the location of the fan motor. Read the packaging carefully, or research online before purchasing, to determine where the unit’s blower is located.

When the blower is built right into the hood, you can clearly hear it when it’s running. The stronger the fan, typically, the louder the noise, although some higher-end models are designed to minimize sound.

If you want a quieter stovetop-cooking experience, look for a range hood that comes with a remote blower. You’ll still turn on the fan the same way, via a switch on the hood, but the fan will be farther away from your range—often either midway in a duct or on the top of the roof, thereby buffering the noise. A remote blower is just one of many bells and whistles that will add to the cost of a range hood. But if your kitchen is open to the living or dining area, or if guests always seem to congregate in your kitchen, the desire to cook and converse without having to yell over a fan may be worth the extra dollars.

 

Range Hood Installation - Microwave-Hood Combination

Photo: istockphoto.com

INSTALLATION CONSIDERATIONS
If you’re a handy do-it-yourselfer, it’s relatively simple to switch out an existing range hood with a newer model. Moving a range hood’s location during a kitchen renovation or installing one for the first time, however, will require some accommodations.

Size: The standard width of a range hood is 30 inches (matching the width of a standard range), although wider wall-mounted and suspended island models are also available for custom kitchen designs.

Placement: For microwave-hood combinations, the bottom of the cabinet above the range should be at least 30 inches above the cooking surface to leave room for the installation. Fortunately, many contractors install this cabinet configuration in new homes for just that reason. The 30-inch distance is also the preferred upper-cabinet height for a range hood without a microwave, although individual models may have different requirements; once you’ve picked a keeper, read and follow the manufacturer’s recommended height specifications.

Power supply: If you’ve chosen a combination model, you must have an electrical outlet in the cabinet above the unit in order to power the fan motor and microwave. While it’s not required by building code, many new-home contractors will go ahead and install that designated outlet on a separate 15 or 20 amp circuit with enough juice to run a microwave. If you’re installing a hood for the first time and there’s no nearby outlet, an electrician must install one near the location before you can proceed. The specs on your unit will indicate its power needs. Not all simple range hoods draw enough power to necessitate a designated outlet, but microwave-hood combinations should have their own circuit.

Assembly. Both single hoods and microwave-hood combination units come with templates that mark exactly where to predrill or cut holes for screws, a power supply, and vent. The template will also show you where to attach the bracket that supports a hood combo on an exterior wall. If you are installing an outside-venting range hood, but you’re not mounting it on an exterior wall, the model you select should have the option of upward venting, as you’ll have to run the ducting through the ceiling.

 

Range Hood Installation - Wall-Mounted Range Hood

Photo: istockphoto.com

MAINTENANCE MATTERS
Once you’ve installed your range hood, keep your investment fully functioning for its expected lifespan by giving it regular attention and using degreasing cleaners. Because range hood fans draw up grease and steam, prevent a sticky buildup from forming by spraying the underside of the hood with kitchen cleaner and wiping it down as frequently as you would any other surface in your cooking space.

If you cook a lot, it’s also a good idea to wash the exhaust fan filter at least once a month—otherwise, its holes may become so clogged with grease that it will no longer work effectively. Simply slide or pop out the stainless steel filter, place it in the sink, and scrub it using hot water, baking soda, and a degreasing dish soap. Some filters (check the manufacturer’s instructions) can be put directly into the dishwasher for even easier cleaning.


New Engineered Countertops Fuse Beauty and Brawn for a No-Compromise Kitchen

Who says you can’t have it both ways? DuPont’s latest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertops combine form and function to achieve crave-worthy kitchens.

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No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Concrete Carrara

Photo: dupont.com

In most families, the kitchen is the heart of home life. It’s a space for so much more than meal prep—its countertops host casual family breakfasts, pinch-hit as desks for homework, and proffer refreshments when guests come over. These varied uses call for surfaces that can withstand food stains, scratches from sliding dishes, and dents from metal cookware—while still providing that touch of style that enlivens a kitchen’s decor. While many conventional countertop materials sacrifice form for function, or vice versa, Corian® solid surface and Zodiaq® quartz countertops from DuPont boast everlasting durability and striking visual appeal so homeowners can show off their design and culinary chops. Find out how the inspired colors of new countertop collections from Corian and Zodiaq can help you achieve high-performance and high-art counters even in a high-traffic kitchen.

No Compromise Counters - Zodiaq Provence

Photo: dupont.com

Alluring Durability
More than just pretty surfaces, countertops fashioned from Corian solid surface or Zodiaq quartz are also rugged and robust. Both materials feature a nonporous, nontoxic, and heat-resistant composite that repels food and liquid stains, mold, mildew, and bacteria—all unwelcome in the cook space. Thanks to the natural minerals and acrylic polymer of Corian solid surface, and the smooth but tough luster of Zodiaq pure quartz, these countertops need only a regular once-over with a cloth and nonabrasive cleaner to stay spotless.

Fortunately for the busy homeowner, the dynamic duo of countertops is as easy to maintain as it is to clean. Engineered with quartz crystals, Zodiaq countertops are scratch resistant, providing home chefs with peace of mind as they race through food prep multiple times a day. Corian’s collections smartly utilize matte finishes in the lighter colors, and for bolder surfaces, DeepColor technology offers greater depth of color and pattern—all of which diminish any superficial blemishes to a barely-there status while intensifying the vibrant hue of the countertops. Beyond that, “minor scratches can be easily buffed out, creating a constant ‘brand-new’ appearance,” says Katie Congress, North American Marketing Manager for Corian and Zodiaq. The result: Hardworking surfaces that look good for years to come.

Eye-Catching and On-Trend Color Schemes
The newest collections of Corian and Zodiaq countertop designs and colors are a response to a growing trend in residential kitchen design: inspiration from nature. With the new White, Blue, Earth Tone, and Gray collections, homeowners can get the best of both worlds—the raw beauty of natural materials without any of the fussy maintenance that granite and other stone kitchen surfaces demand.

“There has been an increased desire for the look of natural stone,” Congress says, “so the new colors of both Corian and Zodiaq include aesthetics that mimic the natural stone look.” New styles, such as Provence and Concrete Carrara from Zodiaq as well as Sand Storm from Corian, even go so far as to imitate the speckles, flecks, and swirls of favorite from-the-earth materials.

Similarly, color schemes pulled from foliage, forest trails, and majestic mountain passes are gaining traction, appearing in sprawling statement surfaces throughout the kitchen and bathroom. This natural inspiration is evident in earthy collections like Corian Deep Terrain and Zodiaq Evergreen. Even the Gray collection has gotten into the act, with new warm, cool, light, and dark takes on the go-to neutral that has become so popular in the last few years, according to Congress.

Along with their shared nod to nature, the 16 unique new Corian and Zodiaq hues are also unified by their broad appeal to homeowners of all design sensibilities, from traditional to contemporary. “Crisp whites offer that both timeless and modern look, while blues, softened yellows and golds, and greens inspire joy in people,” Congress says. “New darker gray tones convey a touch of prestige and authority, elevating any interior.”

Turning the spotlight onto the kitchen, any number of the private collection colors look striking on an island or countertop. Congress notes that Zodiaq Concrete Carrara, Onyx Carrara, and Blue Carrara all showcase natural stone-like movement that makes a stunning contrast to the backgrounds. And for homeowners who wind up with two favorites, there really is no need to settle on a single choice: “Material combinations are very popular right now, and solid surface and quartz make a great combination,” she explains. “Try a Zodiaq island with a Corian counter, or a Zodiaq counter with a Corian backsplash.”

For even more possibilities, download the Design Horizons Trend Guide, and reach out to a DuPont representative to discuss how Corian and Zodiaq can elevate your kitchen countertops to dazzling new heights.

No Compromise Counters - Corian Deep Titanium

Photo: dupont.com

This article has been brought to you by DuPont. Its facts and opinions are those of BobVila.com.


Genius! The Free Kitchen Hack for Every Squeeze Bottle

Nothing ruins a barbecue faster than warm, watered-down ketchup or mustard dribbling all over your food. Stop struggling with half-empty squeeze bottles with the fix you already have in your fridge!

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Food Hack - DIY Condiment Caddy

Photo: youtube.com via Alton Brown

Alton Brown, the Food Network chef behind Good Eats, is a man who loves his mustard. He’s penned more than a dozen recipes that feature the all-American condiment, including his signature homemade mustard, a pork chop brine, and a honey salad dressing. But even a professional like Brown knows the struggle of getting sauce out of a half-empty squeeze bottle. It’s a dance everyone is familiar with: Hot dog in hand, with a heart full of hope, you give the bottle a few shakes and a firm squeeze—only to watch a slow stream of condiment water dribble over your food. Yuck!

Food Hack - DIY Condiment Caddy from Alton Brown

Photo: youtube.com via Alton Brown

With his hot dog getting cold, Brown looked in his fridge for a fix to prevent spoiling any future sandwiches. Inside he found an egg carton, and a simple, satisfying epiphany! After picking out the last few eggs, he cut off the lid of the container. Then, he put the bottom half of the carton inside the door, where it fit perfectly in the top shelf. With gravity on his side, he turned the bottles upside-down in the fridge—this time corralled in the once egg-holding grooves that also happen to perfectly fit the cap ends. That one simple flip (steadied with the help of an inventive caddy) makes sure that condensation is no longer the first thing that comes out the next time you squeeze your favorite cookout condiments.

Sure, this may be a first-world problem. But wrestling with a bottle of mustard, ketchup, or mayo while the rest of the family is partying on the patio is a bummer at any gathering. Lucky for us, Brown has shared a solution that’s as good in the refrigerator as it is on a picnic table outdoors. So why not cut up this quick fix—and cut out the hassle—so you can get back to the barbecue?

FOR MORE: Alton Brown on YouTube


Solved! What to Do When Your Freezer Isn’t Freezing

Don’t lose your cool, even if your freezer has. Try these troubleshooting tips instead.

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Freezer Not Freezing

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Q: I’ve noticed that my freezer isn’t working as well as it used to. Is there any possibility of a quick fix instead of a big repair bill?

A: The good news is, there’s a high probability that your issue can be both quickly diagnosed and easily fixed. Because a typical refrigerator/freezer lasts 10 to 15 years before needing replacement, first consider your freezer’s age. If your appliance is well within that time frame and you’ve taken good care of it in general, you’re likely dealing with something simple, such as obstructed airflow, frost buildup, damaged gaskets, or dusty coils.

Freezer Not Freezing - Freezer

Photo: istockphoto.com

Clear the shelves. First, check to make sure you’re allowing enough air to circulate throughout your freezer. This may sound elementary, but a freezer that’s packed to the gills might be causing an airflow blockage, particularly if the evaporator fan is covered by a tub of ice cream or bag of vegetables. Rearranging or removing a few items may be all that’s needed to cool things down again.

Break the ice. If your freezer isn’t overflowing and you have a manual-defrost model, take note of the amount of frost on the interior walls—the buildup could be affecting your unit’s efficiency. If you notice a great deal of those telltale ice crystals, or if it’s been more than a year since you last defrosted the freezer, a simple defrosting will probably do the trick, letting your vents and coils breathe again and continue to do their jobs. If you have an auto-defrost unit, thick layers of ice could be a solid indication that a part or two may need to be replaced by a professional in the near future.

Check the seals. Another quick diagnostic involves checking your freezer’s gaskets (door seals) using the “dollar bill test.” Open the door, place a dollar bill flat against the seal, and close the door again. If you can easily pull out the cash, your seals are too loose. If, however, pulling the bill out requires a good deal of effort, the seals are probably fine. Be sure to test several sections of the gasket for good measure, and before you test them, wipe down any spills or debris that could be preventing them from locking together correctly.

Clean the coils. Last but not least, dirty coils may be the culprit. If you’ve cleared out, defrosted, and seal-tested your freezer and all seems well, try pulling the unit away from the wall and vacuuming the coils with the crevice or brush attachment. As dirty coils can restrict airflow, a quick cleaning may be just the ticket to chill things out again.

If none of these tips bring your ice cubes and frozen snacks back to their rock-solid consistency, it’s possible you have a larger issue on your hands and a repair call might be in order. Most likely, though, a bit of maintenance can return your unit to its optimal condition.


All You Need to Know About Stainless Steel Countertops

If you’re a serious cook, you should seriously consider all the possibilities stainless steel countertops have to offer in a hardworking kitchen.

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Stainless Steel Counters - Modern Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Southampton, NY

Fancy yourself an at-home chef with serious skills? Then you may be interested in upgrading your cooking space to one that embodies your enthusiasm. The quickest way to bring a professional vibe to your home’s meal prep zone is by incorporating a restaurant-kitchen hallmark: stainless steel countertops. Once primarily found in restaurants and commercial kitchens, this material has gained recent popularity with residential homeowners who have similar (albeit on a smaller-scale) needs: a durable, stain-resistant, and heat-tolerant worktop—with a contemporary flair to boot.

Stainless Steel Counters - Matching Stainless Steel Appliances

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

The sleek, modern appearance of stainless steel complements both traditional and modern kitchens. While some worry that a metal worktop may look too austere, certain areas of customization can soften the appearance.

Edge profiles. The square edge is the most popular style, with other options including a bullnose, beveled, or unwrapped edge.

Finish options. As you’d find when shopping for faucet fixtures, stainless steel countertops come in a variety of alternative finishes: satin, mirror polish, brushed metal, and antique matte. If fingerprints or smudges are a concern, choose a brushed finish for its smooth, soft look which more easily hides evidence of sticky fingers.

Square feet. Avoid imitating a restaurant kitchen too closely by adjusting the amount you choose to install. Consider starting small, mixing it in as a stand-alone island in a kitchen designed with butcherblock or granite countertops—this reflective surface blends in with nearly any aesthetic, much as a stainless steel sink can pick up the color temperature of its surroundings.

 

The Benefits
Stainless steel countertops are a sure sign of a workhorse kitchen. As most chefs will attest, this nearly indestructible material stands up to the toughest treatment. In fact, that’s just the start of the long list of pros:

 These counters cannot burn or rust. Unlike other countertop materials such as wood and stone, food grade stainless steel resists both heat and rust, thanks to a combination of chromium and nickel. That means you can place a hot pot on the surface and, when you lift it later, you’ll find zero scorches. And while you may notice water will leave a temporary ring if left to dry, the metal’s special composition prevents permanent damage.

Additionally, as the name would suggest, they are impervious to stains. Spill a glass of red wine? Wipe it up without worrying about a lingering color! Oils, acids, drinks, and more that might mark up wooden counters won’t set on stainless steel—ideal for the room in the house house that hosts most of the food messes.

Installation is a cinch. No need for a sealing process, as required with granite, butcherblock, or concrete countertops. For this type of counter, a sheet of metal is cut to size and wrapped over a wood frame. To determine the amount of metal you need for a DIY installation, measure the length and width of your cabinets and add a 1-1/2-inches overhang for any exposed edge. (For counters that span wall to wall, you’ll add to the depth; if a kitchen island, add twice that amount to both your width and length so that the perimeter is covered.)

• To top it off, the metal is 100 percent recyclable. Selecting this environmentally friendly ingredient for your kitchen construction keeps your carbon footprint minimal.

 

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Traditional Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Atlanta, GA

The Drawbacks
While there’s no denying the positive qualities of stainless steel, you may want to take a seat at the kitchen table for the bad news: Contact with your metal cookware and cutlery can get dicey. First, there’s the noise—the clashing and clanging—that happens when cooking equipment makes contact with the metal surface. But an even larger reason to get in the habit of setting down those pots and pans gently would be to decrease the likelihood of scratches on the new surface. Lower-gauge stainless steel has a propensity to dent and scratch, so if you’re looking to turn your kitchen into a restaurant-worthy cookspace, it’s best to purchase the strongest, thickest material you can afford. Even then, stainless steel countertops will “age” over time as objects slide, rub, and drop on the surface.

 

Shopping for Stainless Steel
These high-performing stainless steel countertops go for between $50 and $150 a square foot—right in the same ballpark as marble. Price varies depending on the gauge, which ranges from 14 to 20. Rule of thumb: The lower the gauge, the thicker the steel and the more expensive the product. When planning your installation, you’ll want to invest in the highest gauge within budget, as a thicker countertop means less chance for dents.

 

Easy, Breezy Maintenance
While a nylon sponge and warm, sudsy water are often all it takes to clean this stain-resistant worktop, messy meal prep might require a light scrub: Sprinkle baking soda across the surface, wipe vinegar over top in the direction of the grain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Then, restore maximum shine by working just a few drops of mineral or olive oil across the surface and buffing it out with a dry a cloth. It’s that easy! Just remember to avoid harsh abrasives—like the scrubbing side of a sponge—which could do more harm than good and leave scratches behind.

Unfortunately, deep scratches and dents are near impossible to remove without professional restoration. Surface scratches, however, can be carefully “rubbed out” using a mild abrasive pad. Working a 180-grit pad in the same direction as the existing grain will help blend the existing scratch mark by removing micro amounts of material. While not all scratches will completely disappear, this scouring action will, at the very least, dull their appearance. Whatever remains can be considered a badge of honor in your hardworking kitchen.

Stainless Steel Counters - In a Colorful Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Evanston, IL


How To: Clean an Electric Stove Top

Your stove top shouldn’t reveal forensic evidence of everything you’ve recently cooked. Discover five easy steps to keep your electric range from exposing your culinary spills and missteps.

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How to Clean Electric Stove Top - After Making a Mess at Dinner

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Like most home cooks, you probably love whipping up meals but hate cleaning up afterwards. If you neglect tidying up your trusty electric stove top, however, the leftover grime, grease, and dirt will build up and harden over time—and trying to chip it off could damage the coils and the surface. Fortunately, electric stove tops are easier to clean than their gas-fueled counterparts, plus you needn’t worry about clogging the igniter. Glass-topped versions respond to a quick swipe with a dish soap-soaked rag and a baking soda scrub. One with metal-coiled burners require a bit more attention—especially if it’s been a while since you’ve tackled it—so we’ve outlined the best way to go about it. You’ll be done in no time and ready to try out a new recipe, no matter how messy it might be.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Lint-free dishrags
- Water
- Liquid dish soap
- Baking soda
- Cook top scraper (optional)
- Cook top cleaning pad or mild kitchen scrub sponge

How to Clean Electric Stove Top - Electric Coil Burners

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
Electric stove tops are designed to be self-cleaning. To banish spills, first wipe gently with a clean, lint-free cloth damp with water (an old T-shirt works great!). Then remove all cookware from the stove, turn burners to high, and leave them on for two to three minutes. The high heat will burn off most of the mess. When the stove top has completely cooled, wipe off any remaining residue with a fresh cloth.

STEP 2
Next, remove the burner coils from the socket with a quick tug and lift motion. If they don’t come out easily, refer to the cooktop user manual for removal tips. (Don’t despair if you can find it, since most manuals are available online. Simply search with the stove’s make and model number.)

STEP 3
Soak a dishrag in a solution of warm water and dish soap. Squeeze out excess and gently scrub the burners, taking care to avoid wetting the socket—it is electric, after all! Follow with a swipe of a clean, moist, lint-free rag to rinse. If your burners look spic and span, go to Step 5. If not, continue to Step 4.

STEP 4 (optional)
Still confronted with crud? Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 3 to 4 tablespoons of water to create a thick, spreadable paste. Coat the burners with this gentle scouring agent and give it up to 20 minutes “dwell time.” Then moisten a clean, lint-free cloth and use it to remove the paste, rinsing after every few passes and making sure to avoid the socket.

STEP 5
While the baking soda paste is doing its work, clean the surface below the coils. Carefully remove food residue with a cooktop scraper if necessary, and then scrub the surface with a gentle cleaning pad and a bit of baking soda paste (see Step 4 for quick instructions on how to whip this up). Remove the paste with a clean, moist rag, and dry with a fresh cloth. Finally, plug the clean, dry burners back into the sockets, and you’re ready to cook!

Get in the habit of wiping up spills as soon as the cooktop cools, and give it a thorough cleaning once a week. This way no one will know your messy little cooking secrets—unless, of course, you accidentally spill the beans!


The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Cast Iron

Discover the few simple secrets that can help you clean and care for your cast-iron cookware. So, what are you waiting for? Break out that old skillet and get cooking!

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Cleaning Cast Iron

Photo: fotosearch.com

Use well-seasoned cast-iron cookware once, and chances are that you’re hooked for life. More than simply a nontoxic, nonstick, durable, and long lasting material, cast iron also boasts even larger advantages that at-home chefs adore, such as even heating and flavor enhancement. While that long list of benefits may make switching to cast iron seem like the obvious choice, a few downsides slow homeowners from doing so—namely the confusion surrounding its care and cleaning. But don’t let that scare you off from investing in kitchen mainstays that can last years—even generations—to come. We’ve simplified its maintenance into a series of crucial dos and don’ts to ensure that you get the longest, most productive use from your cast-iron cookware.

Cleaning Cast Iron - Cast Iron Cooking Pan

Photo: fotosearch.com

DO season your new cast-iron cookware before you use it.

Even if a new pan is advertised as nonstick or preseasoned, you should give it a good seasoning before its first use. This process involves baking oil into the pan or skillet at a high temperature to seal the cast iron, ultimately protecting the pan from moisture and rendering it nonstick. In the words of the Lodge Cast Iron website, “The more you cook, the better it gets.”

To season your cookware, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven warms, wash and thoroughly dry the skillet. Then, using a paper towel, apply a thin coating of vegetable oil to the inside and outside of the skillet. But beware: Too much oil will make the pan sticky, so keep your coating light. Place the skillet upside down in the oven on the middle rack, and lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the bottom rack to catch any drips. Bake for one hour, then turn off the oven and allow the skillet to cool completely before removing it.

 

DON’T send cast-iron cookware through the dishwasher.

Putting your cookware in the dishwasher or using harsh detergents or abrasive scrubs will break down the seasoning, removing the nonstick coating and flavor-enhancing properties of your cast iron.

 

DO clean your skillet as soon as you’re done cooking.

If you’re a “leave it in the sink to soak overnight” kind of cook, cast-iron cookware isn’t for you. Rinse your pan while it’s still warm (not too hot) as soon as you’re done cooking. If you need to dislodge cooked-on food, certified House Cleaning Technician and author of Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness Donna Smallin Kuper suggests using a credit card instead of a store-bought scraper to gently remove the residue. A handful of sea salt, a touch of vegetable oil, and a plastic scouring pad or poly dish scrubber will scrub off what’s left. Rinse the pan with water and dry immediately.

The Lodge website also suggests that you “rub with a light coat of vegetable oil after every wash,” then set the seasoning by placing the cookware over a burner set on low heat for three to four minutes.

 

DON’T let it stay wet.

Cast iron is still, after all, iron, and iron rusts when exposed to water for too long. For that reason, leave wet tasks like boiling water to your other cookware, and let your cast iron tackle the searing, baking, frying, and other non-water-based cooking. When it’s time to wash your wares, dry cast iron immediately after in order to prevent rust and to preserve the nonstick surface.

 

DO reseason if your pan feels sticky, loses its nonstick properties, or looks gray.

Cast iron needs to be reseasoned on occasion, and the signs that the time has come are easy to spot. To reseason your pan, scrub it thoroughly with a touch of dish soap and a plastic scrub brush, dry it completely, then season it just as you would before a first use. Because it can remove the seasoned nonstick coating, soap is not recommended as a regular cleaner, but it can be used to prepare cast iron just prior to reasoning.

 

DON’T throw out your pan if it develops rust.

Clean off all rust with a metal scouring pad or fine steel wool, then wash the pan thoroughly using water, a soft brush, and a small amount of soap—if you feel you must use soap at all. Rinse and dry the pan immediately, then reseason the pan as if you’re seasoning it before a first use.

 

With proper care, cast-iron cookware can last 100 years or more. If you haven’t fallen in love with your cast-iron cookware yet, forget about the seasoning and cleaning challenges and just start cooking. It’s really hard to mess up a cast-iron skillet for good. Scrubbing and reseasoning can almost always give cast-iron cookware a new life and provide a second chance for cooks who are just getting to know their cookware. Great cooking opportunities and unlimited second chances? Just two more good reasons to give your old cast-iron cookware a try.


Quick Tip: The Easiest Way to Minimize Grout Stains

Turn gungy grout like-new again using this easy and colorful approach!

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How to Change Grout Color - Stained Grout in the Kitchen

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Bainbridge Island, WA

Often used as filler between tiles on the bathroom tub surround, kitchen backsplash, or foyer floor, grout can be a homeowner’s hero in warding off water and preventing surface erosion. However, as happens with white carpet or couches, lighter grout makes stains and dirt appear even more pronounced and unsightly. So, you’re not interested in a weekend’s worth of regrouting the tile every time you spot a stain—and who could blame you? Fortunately, you can easily change the color of grout to camouflage its dinginess and discoloration by using these techniques to clean, stain, and seal your existing grout.

How to Change Grout Color - Dark Grout in Mosaic Tile

Photo: fotosearch.com

For grout to adequately absorb a stain, it will first require a thorough deep-cleaning. Pour a homemade paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda into the grout lines, scrub with a grout brush, rinse with clean water, and let dry for least half an hour. As long as the tile is non-porous and the grout porous, it should be ready for a color change! Dip a stiff-bristle brush into a dark grout stain and carefully brush it along the grout lines. As grout stain is permanent, aim to avoid contact with the tile itself as best you can, and keep a damp cloth close by so that you can wipe up any stain on tile immediately. After drying the first coat of stain for at least 24 hours, apply additional coats as needed to achieve the desired depth of color.

Once the grout is perfectly stained and dried, apply an oil-based sealant to grout lines in water-exposed areas of the home. Seal the grout at least once a year to keep water and other tile threats out of reach—and dirt and discoloration out of sight for good!


How To: Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Knowing the common causes for clogs—and how to prevent them—is key to keeping money in your wallet instead of down the drain with costly repairs.

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How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal

Photo: flickr.com via Rhonda Fleming Hayes

When faced with a clogged garbage disposal, most people would agree the easiest solution is to simply call a plumber. However, the easiest choice may not always be the fastest or most cost-effective solution. So, why not try your hand at fixing the problem with a few simple home remedies before calling in the professionals? If successful, handy homeowners could save time and money, while gaining valuable DIY experience—and confidence for future repairs—at the same time.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Flashlight
- Long-handled tongs (or pliers)
- Plunger
- White vinegar
- Baking soda
- Lemons (optional)

How to Unclog a Garbage Disposal - With a Plunger

Photo: fotosearch.com

STEP 1
For homeowners attempting repairs, the first thing to do is turn off the breaker that controls the disposal—a successful home repair will never be remembered as much as a trip to the emergency room.

STEP 2
Once the breaker is turned off, shine a flashlight into the clogged disposal. Do you see any objects that could be causing the clog? If so, carefully use a pair of long-handled tongs or pliers to retrieve these items and clear the way. Once all visible items have been removed, turn the breaker back on, and then turn on the disposal. (It may be necessary to push the reset button on the disposal.) If it drains water and works properly, congratulate yourself and be sure to tell everyone it took hours to fix (kidding); otherwise, continue on.

STEP 3
Again, turn off the breaker. With no more foreign objects to retrieve, it’s time to consider another cause for the clog: lingering leftovers. Food can clog garbage disposals when it isn’t broken down enough to be flushed out of the drainpipe. In these situations, it’s helpful to use a plunger first to try to loosen food that has clogged the disposal.

After covering the drain completely with the plunger, allow water to cover the edge of the plunger and plunge the drain a few times. When finished, see if water will drain—a good sign that scraps might also do the same. If so, turn on the breaker and disposal to see if the food remnants can now be processed through the drainpipe. Should it work, add a notch on your DIY belt. If not, it may be time to prepare a cocktail—for the clogged drain, that is.

STEP 4
Ensuring the breaker and disposal are both off, pour ¼ cup of baking soda in the garbage disposal. Next, pour ½ cup of white vinegar over the small pile, and be prepared for fizz and foam. Because many garbage disposals contain plastic parts, harsh drain cleaners can be detrimental. The combination of baking soda and vinegar ultimately offers the same type of unclogging ability, but on a much gentler scale.

After five to 10 minutes, turn the breaker and the disposal back on. Then run hot water into the disposal for another few minutes. (Again, the reset button may be necessary to get it started.) If it works properly, call it a day and make yourself a cocktail this time. If not, you may want to consider calling in your last resort: the professionals.

STEP 5
Turn off everything and call a plumber. But the job isn’t done after your pro clears up the problem and goes on his way. Remember to do your part by putting half of a lemon in the disposal every 2 to 3 weeks to keep the blades operating properly and the disposal smelling as fresh as your newfound respect for plumbers—this 2-minute maintenance can save you hours of headache down the road.


3 Fixes for Oil Stains

You never know when, but at some point in the cooking process it seems that oil finds itself out of the frying pan and into your fabrics. We found three smart solutions to remove it no matter where it lands.

SHARES
How to Remove Oil Stains

Photo: fotosearch.com

Cooking oil appears in many forms—olive, vegetable, canola, etc.—and is a necessary ingredient for almost anything you whip up in the kitchen. But everyday accidents are almost as common as this pantry staple, often leading to spills and splatters on your household fabrics. Whether you’re frying up veggies for dinner, noshing on a vinaigrette salad while watching TV, or transporting a pasta dish from the kitchen to the dining room, you’re bound to discover an oil stain on your clothes, upholstery, or carpets more often than you’d like. Quickly remedy these splotches with one of these three tips for removing common cooking oil stains.

 

POWDER YOUR CLOTHES

How to Remove Oil Stains - Clothes

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Who hasn’t had a little oil hop from the pan and onto your favorite shirt during dinner prep? To remove these stains from your clothes, you’ll need to gather baking soda, an old toothbrush, dish soap, and paper towels. Start by blotting any excess oil with a paper towel. Sprinkle a light layer of baking soda onto the spot, and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes. Next, use your toothbrush to scrape off the powder. (If it comes off in clumps, that’s a good sign—it means it’s absorbing the oil!) Once the baking soda is removed, gently work a few drops of dish soap into the stain, and then toss it into the washing machine on hot. Skip the dryer until you can confirm that the stain is totally gone, otherwise you’ll set the stain instead of removing it.

 

CARE FOR YOUR CARPETS

How to Remove Oil Stains - Carpet

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Although you can use the same treatment mentioned above for oil spills on the carpet, you might need something a little stronger for set-in stains. If possible, scrape off any hardened oil with a spoon or butter knife, and then blot with a paper towel to soak up whatever you can. Next, dispense a small amount of rubbing alcohol onto a clean cloth, and test it on an inconspicuous area of your carpeting. If no discoloration occurs, reapply the alcohol to the rag and dab—don’t rub—the stain directly. Next, mix up a solution of water and dishwashing liquid (make sure the soap doesn’t contain lanolin or bleach), and apply to the stain with a sponge until it disappears. Finish by blotting with a dampened rag to remove any soap residue.

 

HELP YOUR UPHOLSTERY

How to Remove Oil Stains - Upholstery

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If a rowdy football party (or spirited viewing session of your favorite reality TV show) leads to an oily food spill on your upholstery, don’t panic. First, check the tag and determine its cleaning designation. Then, depending on what the tag suggests, proceed with one of the following strategies:

• If your upholstery’s tag features an “X,” you should avoid spot treating it yourself and leave it to the professionals to take on.
• An “S” label indicates you should attack the stain with a water-free remover, like a dry cleaning solvent, cornstarch, or baking soda. If you choose a dry cleaning solvent, use one cloth to apply the formula following the manufacturer’s instructions, and then blot using a clean second cloth so that you continue to lift up (not reapply) the oil stain. If you’d rather use cornstarch or baking soda, simply sprinkle on a light layer and let it stand for 10 to 20 minutes before vacuuming it up; repeat the process if the oil stains still persist, or apply a bit of dry cleaning solvent using the method above.
• A “W” tag means a water-based method is best. Rub a small amount of dish soap onto the spot, let it sit, and then use a dampened rag to rinse the stain.
• “SW” ensures both a water-free or water-based solution will work. Once you determine which ingredients you have lying around, you can move forward with any of the above approaches to remove the stain and get back to what’s important: sautéing and savoring!