Ok, so having a "true" simmer is important as pointed out by several posters.
I have seen some models online that go as low as 500 BTU.
The unit I am considering has 620 btu minimum. Is it too much or would do?
BTU ratings won't tell you how good the simmer is. That's why some companies discuss temperature rather than BTUs, because some folks might be fooled into thinking it actually means something. You need to research appliance reviews, not BTU ratings.
Can anyone recommend theirs?
I like my DCS. Excellent simmer on all burners (17.5K or 13.5K BTU). I can hold mashed potatoes without scorching, simmer stock all day long, and render schmaltz. No need for a separate simmer plate, tweaking air or orifice settings, nor starting numerous simmer discussion threads on the Appliance Forum.
Good cookware is also required for simmering.
You need to make sure the heat is spread evenly on the bottom pf the pa.
Copper and cast iron.
Restaurants get away with thin stainless steel since they have someone standing there watching the cooking the whole time.
Not all that effective in a home kitchen when you need to cook multiple things all at the same time.
Me again. I have no idea how anyone could describe a "true simmer." Slow simmer, yes. Rapid simmer, yes. Moderate simmer, also yes. All of those are true simmer if the bubbles are slow and small. But the viscosity of the liquid, fat content and cookware responsiveness all will affect the quality of the simmer.
Here's an example. Nine years ago, before there were options in electric-only homes, I installed a Viking electric smoothtop. Next to coil electrics this is possibly the worst type of cooking surface since it cycles on and off to moderate heat. But I really see the difference with simmer which is low enough not to cycle. I can get a perfect slow simmer in my Demeyere stockpot but have less control with other pots.
So I see it as the corollary to searing. The btus are less important than the ability of the burner to sustain a very low flame (which I understand to be a function of machining and design, adjustment and efficiency of the gas supply) and the ability of the pan to spread the gentle heat evenly and responsively.
The # of BTU's on simmer is to a large part determined by the # of flame holes in the burner. This is because most controls can be turned way down and then fine adjusted to where a flame is tiny, but stays lit.
So it follows that fewer tiny flames can be turned down to use less gas and produce fewer BTU's than a burner with many tiny flames!
Mine have a 620BTU simmer and it is low enough to melt chocolate on a paper plate.
Any lower and you may as well just rub your hands together and hold the pot.
I'll second cooksnsews - I've cooked on friend's DCS and I find the simmer to be incredibly low for a gas flame.
Semisweet chocolate melts at approximately 100 degrees F. A flame low enough to melt it without seizing is not any type of simmer. This is a burner with an excellent ability to produce very low heat -- enough to keep something warm and hold it steadily below a simmer. Every range should have this as a given, not as a special feature. But as we know, that isn't always the case.
The marketing of ranges has skewed certain features in a way that is great for sales. Unfortunately, that's at the expense of some pretty basic expectations.
A bowl of hot water or some hot liquid heated in a microwave to 180 F and added to chopped chocolate will melt chocolate more efficiently than a range burner. But the marketing has made this a test and called it "simmer" when it's only ye old "keep warm" setting -- a sub-simmer. But "keep warm" sounds old-fashioned whereas "true simmer" -- a meaningless term -- becomes a selling point.
Don't get me wrong, a good range should have the ability to keep chocolate below the seizing point on the low end and provide sufficient power for searing and rapidly boiling large quantities of liquid. And that same range should have an oven that heats evenly throughout within 10 degrees of the setting and holds the temperature as closely as possible without temperature averaging. Sadly, one is too often available at the expense of the other.
I was also confused by the simmer threads with the statements of what was simmer and if it could do simmer it was fine. Poaching is done in a liquid that is at a temperature less than simmer, and I would hope that any range is capable of poaching something. Some range manufactures talk about a 140 degree simmer. Well, 140 degrees is no sort of simmer, but that doesn't mean it's not a usefull temperature for gently warming something. Unfortunately, it's hard to get good comparisons between ranges.
I was confused as well with all those talks about "true" simmer vs. "regular" simmer. My current cooktop does not go below "high" simmer, so I did not know what people were talking about, LOL.
Agree that BTU rating whether the high end or low end of a burner is not the whole story but it is a starting point. This complicated by the shape and configuration of the burner. If you try to rate it by temperature though, there are even more complicating factors-the pan and what you are cooking added, confusing the matter even more. I can't for the life of me figure why you would rate a burner by BTUs for the high end and temperature for the low end.
Good cookware--for me it means choosing cookware that will do what you want it to do. Copper and aluminum transfer heat well and would be better for simmering on a burner that runs a little too high. Cast iron is better when you are trying to build heat as when searing a steak etc when you are trying to maximize a burner.
We have a Wolf with sealed burners. Five of them go down to 950 BTUs and we have held foil catering dishes full of pasta across 2 burners with no scorching. One smaller burner goes to 325 BTUs. In my experience they all will just warm and it is well below simmer. I just bought a Le Creuset wide French oven and it will be interesting to see how the bigger burners do with it. It will probably run a little hotter.