problem with smooth top burners

kent3September 10, 2007

I just purchased a new JennAir smooth top range. I cannot get the burners to keep a rolling boil! They cycle on and off, ie. boil for a minute then shut off, etc.. My Calphalon pots have fairly smooth bottoms, except for the "Magnalite" name stamp. I have read about others having problems with the smooth tops. What gives? Will I ever be able to cook pasta again?

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But are the pot bottoms flat? Get a ruler & line up the edge of the ruler along the bottom of the pots. Shouldn't be any gaps or rocking of the ruler. Aluminum pans can warp.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 9:48PM
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my instruction manual talks about the ruler test but says minor gaps are acceptable. some of my old pots clearly don't pass but others sit firmly on the cook top. yet the elements still cycle on and off. are any pots made that are perfectly flat?, that pass the ruler test with absolutely no gaps?

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 3:16PM
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Yeah, mine do. I scrapped my old aluminum pans for a very nice stainless set from Costco. They have a heavy disc bottom.

Some cycling on & off is normal, but if you can't maintain a boil with a flat bottomed pan, then that's different.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2007 at 8:45PM
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all electric burners cycle off and on -- even the old coil type. That's the way the heat level is achieved.

Some smooth top stoves also have an automatic cut off, if there's too much heat build up -- it's a safety measutre. If your pasta pot more than 2" larger than the burner you're using you may be getting a heat build up and the stove is cutting off briefly.

Please do not be offended, but are you bringing the pot to a boil with the top ON the pot. When I realized that my daughter wasn't using a lid, she was astonished at how much faster the water heated once she covered it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 4:05PM
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Disagree with kayskats.

No coil-type stove I've ever owned cycled its burners on/off. Straight reostats that deliver particular power-level and that's it.

I think your Jenn-Aire's buggy. I would not accept what you've described on a new stove. I presently have a GE smooth-top. Same or similar power as your Jenn-Aire. Its burners will cycle on/off but not with just water in the pot. Purpose of the "cyle" is to protect the surface, nothing more. It will cycle off if it senses over-heat condition. Less conductive pan materials are more prone to activating it because they don't transfer the heat away from the surface as quickly as metal-bottomed pans. Problem typically does not occur except at higher heat settings. Will happen at lower settings if pan boils dry. GE brings six quarts to a vigorous rolling boil in about 18 minutes without the lid on. Return to boil -- lid off -- in less than a minute. ( I make pasta and shrimp all the time and this characteristic is important to me.) It does not cycle off with water in the pot. It stays where I set it -- even on high. It will sometimes cycle off (annoyingly) when I'm trying to sear meat and want a really hot pan. With no water in the pan to moderate, the built-in sensors apparently detect too much heat for the surface and cycle it off briefly. I don't like that, but I've learned to live with it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 5:36PM
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maybe I had a cheap stove... all five or six of 'em.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2007 at 10:28PM
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thanks for all the responses! guess cooking on a smooth-top will take some getting used to. will see if i can find some perfectly flat-bottomed pots and pans to see if that helps. any recommendations?
thanks again.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 8:44AM
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Before you invest in a lot of new pots & pans, try buying 1 good pan with a flat bottom to see if that helps. If not, then call JennAir.

But if you're in the market for new cookware, the stainless tri-ply set at Sam's gets great reviews from users and is inexpensive enough that you can afford to add a few luxury specialty pieces later on. I love my Costco set, but they're very heavy -- not everyone's cup o' tea. They came with a humongous saute pan which I didn't care for (it's no longer included in the set) and have swapped out for a lovely old #10 Griswold cast iron skillet & a #8 Griswold cast iron chicken fryer, both from eBay.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2007 at 9:29AM
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I've had 2 Maytag smooth cooktops (1st one DH didn't want to move when we sold house) so I got an upgraded one and I've always been able to boil water or anything else. I'm pretty sure mine cyles but just for a short time,,your oven does too for that matter,,they'd have to or the burner would just get hotter I'd think so it has to back off on the heat if you have it set at say, #7 out of 10 settings. Call JennAir,,ask what it normally does THEN tell what yours is doing. Hopefully you bought a svc contract or if new,,get them to replace or refund. Check out Consumer Reports magazine...recently they've put out their list of all stoves they have tried out. That is why I chose mine over other ones. IMO.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2007 at 4:14AM
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My electric coil stove cycles on/off in order to maintain the proper temperature level. You can even hear a faint pinging or clicking when it does this. I thought they all cycled.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 2:27AM
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OK, then. I'm learning. I've owned/used a couple of dozen of them in my lifetime but not one had that characteristic. Every one has been pure reostat regulating power-level only -- no cycling feature in any of them. I apologize for mis-information posted. More stuff out there than I know about, apparently.

FWIW, I very much dislike the cycling feature on my smooth-top. It's only an issue on higher heat settings when I'm trying to sear something, but does compromise my intentions from when I'm trying to accomplish that task. Except for that, I like the precise control.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 12:14PM
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Consumer Reports did recommend the Jenn Air JER8885RAS. That's why I bought it, but no mention was made of the nuances of cooking on a smooth top. I have found cooking times are 20-30% longer than on my old regular burner range. Waiting for the pan to heat up takes ages in comparison. Will try a SS flat bottomed pot to if it makes a difference. Other than the looks of the smooth top, I'd take my old range back in a heartbeat.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 12:34PM
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FWIW, cooking times on my GE smooth-top are pretty much identical to coil-tops. Because of my frequent pasta and shrimp cooking, I've timed rolling-boil and return-to-boil times on it and on several these other ranges. They're within seconds or, at most, a couple of minutes of each other. Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum.

Differences I do notice are are 1) smooth-top offers much more precise heat control on all settings except highest (with no cycling), and 2) Highest heat settings will cycle off temporarily sometimes when I'm attempting searing -- which I don't like. They do NOT do this when there's water in the pan.

Your Jenn Air is essentially just like mine. I think your particular unit is faulty. 15 years ago, before they offered smooth-top cartridges, I owned a Jenn Air with coils. It's time-to-boil/return-to-boil performance was as described above. I would be surprised to learn that your range doesn't deliver the same or more power to the elements -- unless something is wrong with it. I think the cycling off with water in the pan is tell-tale.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2007 at 6:00PM
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We have been told that one should not use illuminum, copper bottom or cast iron pans on smooth surface burners. Does anyone know why? We are considering buying a stove with such burners but have a number of old pans that we like that should not be used according to the above caution.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 7:58PM
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Our K/A smooth top cycles on and off regardless of the setting. Even though it is cycling, the temperature stays constant.

Most smooth tops are very sensitive to both the size and flatness of the bottom. An improperly sized pot, or one that is warped will not work well, if at all.

Aluminum and copper bottoms can leave a residue on some smooth tops. Cast iron and other types of heavy cookware can be prone to scratching. For these reasons, a stainless bottom seems to be the best choice, but stainless is not very good at conducting heat. To overcome this, a different metal, usually aluminum, is sandwiched on top of the stainless bottom.

With our new range, we ended up purchasing the Cuisinart S/S aluminum clad disk bottom. A relatively low priced set, but adequate we felt for cooking on a smoothtop electric range.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:11AM
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Aluminum warps. Easily, and especially at high temps.

I love cooking with aluminum (my aging hands appreciate the lightweight 3qt saute pans vs. my beloved cast iron), and for the price at the local restaurant supply ($13) I can toss 'em when they start rocking and rolling on my grates.

We own several pieces of the original 1980s Calphalon Anodized, all warped. DH loves them so we keep them as mementos, LOL.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 7:22AM
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