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It’s difficult to imagine how many more electrical and mechanical things can go wrong in the same month, but in January 2012 I had to replace the vacuum cleaner at a cost of £179, service my wife’s car at a cost of £869 and have a fault fixed under the extended warranty of my car which still cost me £150 excess.
Then, we found that the grill on our 11-year-old DeLonghi cooker no longer worked. Given that all the control markings have already worn away and the whole thing looks decidedly tattier than when first bought despite being stainless steel in its outer construction, we decided to get it replaced as part of a ‘mid-term’ update for our kitchen.
The problems we have are as follows:-
a) My wife has always hankered after a gas hob for its responsiveness, and has done so from even before the existing cooker was fitted, the latter’s halogen ceramic hob having done nothing to dissuade her of this notion.
b) The piping for a gas cooker is nowhere near the only place we can stand a cooker in our kitchen
c) She also thinks that fan-ovens are the devil’s work as you can’t do any of that ‘finish off at the top of a hot oven’ malarkey – it’s all bloody hot! However finding an electric oven that doesn’t have one is like trying to find a mobile phone that doesn’t have a camera these days!
d) We wanted a cooker that wouldn’t lose its control markings with the first pass of cooker cleaner.
On the plus-side, if I could only find a ceramic hob that is neither slow nor halogen-equipped, combined with a non-fan oven, all bundled up as a stand-alone cooker that fits into a standard 60 cm gap in work surfaces, I’ll be back in her good books for at least…..oh errr…ten minutes.
ENTER THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Then I stumbled upon the Belling FSE60i (Free-Standing Electric 60cm at a guess), the ‘i’ being significant, because the hob on this cooker uses magnetic induction to heat the pan, not the direct application of something hot to the pan’s botty. All sorts of energy-efficient claims are made for this, and it’s even backed by the Energy Saving Trust as ‘A-rated’ which is pretty bloody good for anything electrical, let alone a hob. It’s also reported to be as responsive as gas, so it was starting to look like I’d found the answers to (a) and (b) above. Now if only it could manage to be a
Pictures of Belling FSE60I
An induction hob might be the latest thing in ‘hob/cookware interfaces’ a.k.a. hot-plates, but it does however rule out ever using any aluminium cookware. The golden rule you have to apply is checking your pans and skillets with a fridge magnet to make sure they have iron or steel content. In our case, we had to throw out one cheap wok, and replace a couple of frying pans but that was about it. The overall effect is something like an open-air microwave that’s safe for humans to be near, the difference being that it excites iron particles, not water.
Heart-pacemaker users are advised to consult their doctor but initial indications from the instruction book tend to imply that this is a formality.
To start with, it looks like any other 4-plate ceramic hob, being made of toughened glass with four ‘target areas’ marked out. However, unlike other hobs, you have to get used to the fact that nothing actually starts to glow, but the hob is safeguarded against being turned on without a pan there. It would, for example be quite alright to put your hand there, assuming you’re not wearing chain-mail gloves! You can even leave a ladle or spoon draped across the hob, because quite simply that’s not ‘enough metal’ to trigger its use. You can however stop worrying about putting the right sized pan on the right sized hot-plate. What you might have regarded as a small pan that previously needed a small plate doesn’t matter to this baby as it can only heat metal. Any hot-plate still showing just doesn’t get hot. I guess this is why it is so highly rated in the fuel-efficiency stakes, as it tailors energy needs to the pan size, something that even gas can’t do every time, especially with very small saucepans on large burners.
Likewise, the thoughtless use of an empty pan will also cause it to turn off as it senses the pan heating too rapidly.
There are settings for bringing liquids rapidly to a boil and settling back to a simmer; there are others for borrowing power to generate extremes of heat in one spot. You can bridge two of the ‘hot-plates’ for want of a better word, so that something long like a griddle can be placed on it. You would of course have to wait for it to cool down afterwards before lifting it off the hob, as, with any glass hob, you should only raise and lower things vertically, not slide them.
You do have to remember that whilst the glass itself can’t get hot, the pan above it can, so there’s still residual heat (although not glowing) in the glass after use just as there would be in microwave cookware, but that’s the same for any ceramic hob and so you get warnings to highlight the potentially hot areas.
As with any ceramic hob, it’s topped in a dark glass material making it very easy to wipe clean. Speaking of dark glass….
THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY
Sorry, I ran out of bad Tolkien puns as this cooker doesn’t have any ‘mordors’ than you’d expect. It has two ovens, the top one doubling as a grill and the lower main one which amongst one of its many settings can also be pressed into service as a grill which is pretty unusual. Both have tinted-glass doors which can be a little off putting cloaking the true colour of something you’re trying to brown. Thus you open the door, thereby ruining the whole effect of having see-through doors that keep the heat in!
The lower door is hinged to open to one side, representing less of a trip-hazard than our old one, whilst the upper is still a drop-down better suited to its use as a grill. Both sets of glass are removable for in-depth cleaning.
And now…wait for it…drum-roll…….the main oven has a ‘NON-FAN’ option, in amongst 8 others! Well, that’s (c) taken care of then!
Whilst we’re ticking off our ‘must-haves’ I’m delighted to say that the control markings on this, and there are 8 rotary controls across the front, are placed behind glass, so I guess that takes care of (d) too!
Being purely electric rather than using gas as well, there’s only the one connection to make – however, whatever fuel you use, it’ll cost you to get it connected these days unless you are, or know, a tame qualified electrician. It has quite a wide range of height adjustment from about 90 to 93cm, allowing me to get it exactly flush with the work surface – something which its predecessor refused flatly to do by sticking up about 25mm for the past 11 years. It’s a good job that the so-called 60cm gap I’d left when building the kitchen left a bit of room for manoeuvre as the sides of the hob are fastened with dome-headed screws, not countersunk ones.
SOMETHING ROTTEN IN THE STATE OF DENMARK
Ever eager to use it, we were hit by a fishy pong. It later transpired that Belling advises washing all the oven parts (shelves, grill pans etc) to get rid of a protective coating. That’s the trouble with users who’ve gotten used to not having a proper instruction book. I shudder to think what the ‘protective coating’ was.
PUTTING IT TO GOOD USE
If we’re honest, it does seem a little more compact on the inside than our previous cooker, at 35 and 59 litres for the top and main oven respectively, but maybe part of its new-found fuel-efficiency is in better and thicker insulation.
The controls, of which there are 8 of the rotary variety do not get hot like the last lot, even when using the grill thanks to a nice quiet extractor fan deflecting the flow away from the panel so hopefully there’ll be no long-term heat staining (and even melting) of the controls as happened previously.
When it comes to the hob, a little trepidation was felt when placing the first steel pan full of water down. Would it explode, would it dematerialise and become a member of The Enterprise’s away team – you know, the one with the dodgy jumper who ‘isn’t coming back’? Well, it did emit odd humming noises rather like magnets always seem to in Popeye cartoons, but heh, I managed a whole rolling boil, all by myself and without reference to Delia. Next stop, baked beans, and then who knows?
THE INEVITABLE NIGGLES………SIGH
Yes, like every other product we take on board, nothing’s perfect.
The control markings, whilst safely tucked away from cleaners by glass, are rather difficult to read – maybe doing the screen-printing in something other than light beige on a dark brown background might have improved matters, Belling. White for example!
Then of course there are those tinted glass doors which make it difficult to spot something nicely browning.
The grill pan’s handle is not the most instinctive thing to affix, and the pan itself is rather diminutive and it has to be said, a trifle tinny.
BUYING ONE IN A WORLD OF TOPSY-TURVY PRICES
I did a fair bit of shopping around, matching price to firms I’d heard of. Having previously seen it and admired it in a nearby Currys, priced at a jaw-dropping £899 (and no, that doesn’t include an extended warranty), I was somewhat puzzled, but pleased, to find that Dixons On-Line could deliver it for £668, which ironically is £899 upside down! Even stranger is that both stores are part of the same Dixons Stores Group – and they ask why real stores are losing out to ‘virtual’ ones! Maybe the Dixons wing of the organisation should adopt “Dixons: Turning High Street Prices on Their Heads” as their soubriquet.
There’s an up-side to all this scrap metal theft we keep hearing about. I uninstalled the old cooker the night before the Belling was due to arrive and put it outside with the intention of paying the council to take it away. Luckily I didn’t actually commit money to the endeavour, as the old DeLonghi disappeared overnight! Is this the acceptable face of scrap metal theft?
Excellent review. Well worthy of an E. We are having a new fitted kitchen come next September, so are looking at cookers. Induction hob sounds good, but it's now just a matter of whether we go for a stand-alone or an integral one..