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Old 12-25-2019, 05:22 PM   #1
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Lightbulb (appliance tech. idea) "Fly-by-wire" gas cooktop controls - feasible?

I've seen recipes that require precise temperature control and had a potentially groundbreaking idea stem from it: how does the idea of fully-digital cooktop controls sound to all you cooks out there? We already have digital oven control systems, and even Wi-Fi ones, but the humble gas cooktop hasn't gotten much attention as far as improvements. Here's my idea:

No physical connection between the knob and the burner (fully-digital). The knobs would be encoders (clicky). The user sets a specific percentage of output by default (so 100% would be HIGH, 50% MEDIUM, 0% would be LOW, etc)

Thermocouple probes (way less expensive and more accurate than the IR I originally envisioned) integrated into the top grate (touching each pan) would continuously monitor the surface temperature of the pan.

When you pushed the knob in to ignite the burner, the little LED screen above each knob would ask you for the pan type (standard, cast-iron, or nonstick) before it'd let you ignite the burner.

Fully-automatic temp. control (the purpose of the system) possible by way of pan-temp sensors. E.g you can set it to maintain 350 Fahrenheit (or any temp. between 160-500 Fahrenheit) automatically. Full manual control (specific % of full heat) is still possible, but you'd have to push the desired control dial in to override the "autopilot". When you did that, there'd be a little tune like a plane makes, so you'd know YOU had full control.

When a pan is taken off the burner for more than a second or two, there will be a rapid "dingdingdingding..." for 10 seconds, and then the burner would shut off.

-The cooktop's computer could override your input if it'd overheat a Teflon pan or burn the seasoning off a cast-iron one.

Audible warning (ding) and burner starts to turn itself down if 450 Fahrenheit is reached with a Teflon pan or 475 Fahrenheit is reached with a cast-iron pan. This CAN be overridden by turning the dial up, but the computer won't let you push a Teflon/cast-iron pan past 500 Fahrenheit, and it'll only let you MAINTAIN 500 for a few minutes. If the pan reaches that temperature and continues to rise, there will be a rapid "dingdingdingdingding..." chime, the burner will immediately reduce to LOW (if it isn't there already) and about 10 seconds later the burner will shut off. If a standard pan ever hit 650 Fahrenheit, the burner would immediately shut off to prevent a cooking fire.
As far as redundancy, the fly-by-wire cooktop could run without any sensor input. It'd just lose automatic temperature control and would be unable to keep your cast-iron or Teflon pan from overheating. If the pan temperature sensors report a sudden fluctuating reading, automatic temperature control would shut off (to keep the burner from going crazy and damaging a pan), but the computer would still offer limited pan protection that you could completely override in case you knew that it was a false alarm. The servos that actually move the gas valves would probably be pretty reliable and it'd be pretty rare to need a new one. The whole system could be based on a $30-40 microchip controller, or built into an electronic oven control board.

What do you think? Would an automated system like this be useful to you?

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Old 12-25-2019, 07:15 PM   #2
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I lived in a house built in ~1958. It had a gas cook top. One of the burners had a thermostat. It was simply operated with a dial like for oven temp. If this was a really useful feature, I think it would have caught on by now. It worked fine. My parents only used it to keep coffee warm.
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Old 12-25-2019, 11:27 PM   #3
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SO many whistles and bells! Literally, the "dingdingding" would make me want to order carry-out every night. Much of cooking is intuitive. The last thing I want is a range with "dingdingding".

Besides, your idea isn't new. As a Girl Scout in the early 1960s, I had the opportunity to take a series of cooking classes at the East Ohio Gas building in downtown Cleveland. Our first class included learning how to cook on the "Burner With A Brain" burner. Pretty high tech back then, but as taxy pointed out, had it caught on it would still be offered.

"The use of "ThermalEye" (1950s) - developed by Robertshaw and marketed by Chambers as "The Burner With A Brain", this device made it possible to set the desired cooking temperature of a pot that had been placed on the special burner on the top of the range, and the heat would be regulated automatically.[19]" ~ From Wiki "Chambers stove"
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Old 12-26-2019, 02:33 AM   #4
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As a kid, I thought it was fun to watch the gas flame change as the "magic eye" kept the pot at the same temperature.
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Old 12-26-2019, 09:01 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cooking Goddess View Post
SO many whistles and bells! Literally, the "dingdingding" would make me want to order carry-out every night. Much of cooking is intuitive. The last thing I want is a range with "dingdingding".

I couldn't agree more CG.^


Quote:
What do you think? Would an automated system like this be useful to you?

Nope. Maybe this is the way of the future, but not mine. As they are, our modern stoves are certainly a far cry from the wood burning stoves and that's plenty good enough to suit me. Then again, I don't even like crockpots.
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Old 12-26-2019, 09:32 AM   #6
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Most of the folks here are experienced cooks who know their way around the kitchen. There is a certain amount of pride that goes with all that skill and talent. I would hazard to guess that "..we don't need no stinking stove to tell me what to do" is a common thought.

That's not to say you ideas are without merit. I think you are clever and may have appeal to novice cooks. Any thought how much a stove like you imagine would cost the consumer?
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Old 12-26-2019, 09:48 AM   #7
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serious problem: regardless of how you sense the temperature of the pot on the outside of the bottom, that is not the temperature of the stuff inside.


all you've created is an app that requires one go four menu levels deep to turn down the heat. a knob is infinitely quicker.


before you get too enamored with how wonderful technology is, consider:
- crashing Teslas
- Boeing 737 Max
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Old 12-26-2019, 11:37 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Andy M. View Post
Most of the folks here are experienced cooks who know their way around the kitchen. There is a certain amount of pride that goes with all that skill and talent. I would hazard to guess that "..we don't need no stinking stove to tell me what to do" is a common thought.

That's not to say you ideas are without merit. I think you are clever and may have appeal to novice cooks. Any thought how much a stove like you imagine would cost the consumer?
Definitely high-end consumer...
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Old 12-26-2019, 11:40 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by dcSaute View Post
serious problem: regardless of how you sense the temperature of the pot on the outside of the bottom, that is not the temperature of the stuff inside.


all you've created is an app that requires one go four menu levels deep to turn down the heat. a knob is infinitely quicker.


before you get too enamored with how wonderful technology is, consider:
- crashing Teslas
- Boeing 737 Max
This system can be operated manually (that's actually the default) for compatibility with existing recipes! It's also NOT an app. It's a control system (that still uses knobs to adjust the heat) for a cooktop...
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Old 12-26-2019, 11:43 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Cooking Goddess View Post
SO many whistles and bells! Literally, the "dingdingding" would make me want to order carry-out every night. Much of cooking is intuitive. The last thing I want is a range with "dingdingding".
"Dingdingding..." won't happen all the time. It's a "master caution" and if you keep an eye on your cooking temp it's unlikely that you'll ever hear it. It's just a safety feature to get your undivided attention if something goes wrong...
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Old 12-26-2019, 02:58 PM   #11
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"This system can be operated manually (that's actually the default) for compatibility with existing recipes!"
perhaps you should start by researching and categorizing the "recipes that require precise temperature control" - and who is using them. sous vid, sugar work / candy / chocolate making are the areas where people get concerned with exact temperatures and precise temperature control.
measuring the pot bottom temperature in one little spot will not work even to set 375'F for deep frying oil on a stove top. not only the pan material but the diameter, depth of liquid, surface area of liquid, area of submerged side wall, area of exposed side wall all will affect what "number" you set to maintain 375'F oil. that approach will fail miserably because when cold food is dropped in the oil, the oil temp drops rapidly and the heat has to run much much higher than 375'F in a spot to recover.

When you pushed the knob in to ignite the burner
first step
===========
ask you for the pan type
second step
===========
set it to maintain
Full manual control ... but you'd have to push the desired control dial
third step, second control knob
===========
and then the burner would shut off
fourth step: start over from step one
or
resume function

if you want even 20 detents in a rotation - i.e. 5%ers, you'll need a knob plus other controls for on/off/auto/manual/resume/mode. if 0% is "low" - how does one turn it off?
you are aware LED panels have some issues with life at high temps . . . ?

you are aware induction burners are currently (attempting) to do similar things? ask around and see how that's going. induction is, if anything, seriously more controllable than gas or electric - and is current fully 'computerized'

reminds me of cars today. many buttons each button with many functions.
not at all user friendly without consulting the 1,000 page manual to figure out how to change the heater fan speed....

if I sound a bit negative, I am. you are proposing a solution in search of a problem. setting "the same" high-med-low burner temp for soup and for chili does not work - and that will not change by assigning a "number" to the setting and automatically controlling to that 'number' aka temp. the set point will vary for the same effect by material, size, contents and volume of contents, with and without cover/lid. altho mumu would enjoy the exercise.... this is the same issue as people who want to put something in the oven and bake/roast/broil "by the clock" - rather rarely works out well - more than one variable involved.

it raises the question whether as to the available real life experience cooking things - I have a gas cook-top with a simmer burner. at it's lowest setting I have to use a flame tamer to prevent burning sauces/gravies. and at it's lowest setting the gas flame are about 1/5 that of a candle. you will not maintain contents at 190'F without a flame tamer or turning the gas totally off and minimum on.

other high tech ideas of vanishing note:
the counter top oven that scanned the bar code and thence "knew" how to cook it
the counter top oven with a camera that recognized the item and how to cook it
multiple other Kickstarters that fell off the tee . . .
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Old 12-26-2019, 04:18 PM   #12
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Many induction cooktops have a temperature readout/thermostatic mode. As much as I love the control of induction, that mode is a feature I don't use. I just prefer to adjust based on what I see.
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Old 12-26-2019, 05:01 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dcSaute View Post
"This system can be operated manually (that's actually the default) for compatibility with existing recipes!"
perhaps you should start by researching and categorizing the "recipes that require precise temperature control" - and who is using them. sous vid, sugar work / candy / chocolate making are the areas where people get concerned with exact temperatures and precise temperature control.
measuring the pot bottom temperature in one little spot will not work even to set 375'F for deep frying oil on a stove top. not only the pan material but the diameter, depth of liquid, surface area of liquid, area of submerged side wall, area of exposed side wall all will affect what "number" you set to maintain 375'F oil. that approach will fail miserably because when cold food is dropped in the oil, the oil temp drops rapidly and the heat has to run much much higher than 375'F in a spot to recover.

When you pushed the knob in to ignite the burner
first step
===========
ask you for the pan type
second step
===========
set it to maintain
Full manual control ... but you'd have to push the desired control dial
third step, second control knob
===========
and then the burner would shut off
fourth step: start over from step one
or
resume function

if you want even 20 detents in a rotation - i.e. 5%ers, you'll need a knob plus other controls for on/off/auto/manual/resume/mode. if 0% is "low" - how does one turn it off?
you are aware LED panels have some issues with life at high temps . . . ?

you are aware induction burners are currently (attempting) to do similar things? ask around and see how that's going. induction is, if anything, seriously more controllable than gas or electric - and is current fully 'computerized'

reminds me of cars today. many buttons each button with many functions.
not at all user friendly without consulting the 1,000 page manual to figure out how to change the heater fan speed....

if I sound a bit negative, I am. you are proposing a solution in search of a problem. setting "the same" high-med-low burner temp for soup and for chili does not work - and that will not change by assigning a "number" to the setting and automatically controlling to that 'number' aka temp. the set point will vary for the same effect by material, size, contents and volume of contents, with and without cover/lid. altho mumu would enjoy the exercise.... this is the same issue as people who want to put something in the oven and bake/roast/broil "by the clock" - rather rarely works out well - more than one variable involved.

it raises the question whether as to the available real life experience cooking things - I have a gas cook-top with a simmer burner. at it's lowest setting I have to use a flame tamer to prevent burning sauces/gravies. and at it's lowest setting the gas flame are about 1/5 that of a candle. you will not maintain contents at 190'F without a flame tamer or turning the gas totally off and minimum on.

other high tech ideas of vanishing note:
the counter top oven that scanned the bar code and thence "knew" how to cook it
the counter top oven with a camera that recognized the item and how to cook it
multiple other Kickstarters that fell off the tee . . .
Want to turn the burner OFF? Hold the desired dial in for 5 secs. Auto (temp hold)/manual (direct % control)? Just tap the dial in...

I understand the issues with gauging pan temp, but one of my other features was idiot-proofing the system so you could never reach an unsafe temperature (such as one that would destroy the coating on a Teflon pan)

There's one control knob per burner with a "select" (push-in) switch.

"and then the burner would shut off" would only happen when a pan was taken off the burner for more than 15 secs (initial 5-sec delay + 10secs of insistent chiming) or a dangerous temperature was reached.

I'm aware of induction, but gas is BY FAR more popular.

Yes, I'm just a techie sharing his idea, not a chef...
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Old 12-26-2019, 05:03 PM   #14
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Many induction cooktops have a temperature readout/thermostatic mode. As much as I love the control of induction, that mode is a feature I don't use. I just prefer to adjust based on what I see.
Can an induction cooktop be like "nope!" and override you if the temperature of a pan reaches unsafe levels?
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Old 12-26-2019, 05:19 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by A-Spec_Reviews_YT View Post
I'm aware of induction, but gas is BY FAR more popular.
Yes, for now. But that trend is changing in the U.S. I am not sure why the U.S. always seems to be behind European consumer trends (front load washers for example), but with the prices of induction coming down in the U.S. market, along with better control and energy efficiency, expect the popularity of induction to expand going forward.

I am on propane, and when I built my house in 2001 I installed propane appliances. But back then it was 89¢/gal., and has more than tripled now a days. As a result, appliances that need to be replaced will be replaced with electric or wood burning.
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Old 12-27-2019, 11:18 AM   #16
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Want to turn the burner OFF?

Yes, I'm just a techie sharing his idea, not a chef...

ah, I see. I would recommend more research.

from a non-theoretical point, producing a product to solve a problem that does not exist is problematic.

example:

our oldest, in company with two other couples, all professionals - two individuals are cooks with advanced expertise - rented a house for a ski trip.

I got a call late one night "Dad, how do I get this oven to turn on?"
total bafflement all around.
next day when the agent could be contacted: if the oven clock has not been set after power loss, nothing will work.
there was no error message: "Set Clock"
software designed and written by people who never use it, didn't test it, can't construct a test tree - and generally don't have a clue.


my fancy wall oven time has the same issue. push 1 then 3 then 0 for one minute thirty seconds and you get one hour 30 minutes. you have to push the Timer button twice to get to minute+seconds mode.

the Chinese coders who don't have ovens at home, neglected to think about "fail-safe."

a timer ringing at 90 seconds on an accidental setting of 90 minutes is 'safe error.'

a time ringing at 90 minutes on an accidental setting of 90 seconds probably creates something non-edible.



btw, the overhead IR theory has been done, and failed.
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:00 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by A-Spec_Reviews_YT View Post
Can an induction cooktop be like "nope!" and override you if the temperature of a pan reaches unsafe levels?
Based on the user guide (under troubleshooting), one reason the unit might not heat is that the temperature is too high. An error code is displayed under this condition, but I have no idea what a too high temp might be. When in thermostat mode the range is 140° to 425°.
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:36 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by dcSaute View Post
ah, I see. I would recommend more research.

from a non-theoretical point, producing a product to solve a problem that does not exist is problematic.

example:

our oldest, in company with two other couples, all professionals - two individuals are cooks with advanced expertise - rented a house for a ski trip.

I got a call late one night "Dad, how do I get this oven to turn on?"
total bafflement all around.
next day when the agent could be contacted: if the oven clock has not been set after power loss, nothing will work.
there was no error message: "Set Clock"
software designed and written by people who never use it, didn't test it, can't construct a test tree - and generally don't have a clue.


my fancy wall oven time has the same issue. push 1 then 3 then 0 for one minute thirty seconds and you get one hour 30 minutes. you have to push the Timer button twice to get to minute+seconds mode.

the Chinese coders who don't have ovens at home, neglected to think about "fail-safe."

a timer ringing at 90 seconds on an accidental setting of 90 minutes is 'safe error.'

a time ringing at 90 minutes on an accidental setting of 90 seconds probably creates something non-edible.



btw, the overhead IR theory has been done, and failed.
I'm sure similar discussion went around - about "solving a problem that doesn't exist - pilots are already skilled enough" with the introduction of fly-by-wire airliners.
The thing is - no human is capable of doing what this system can do - a human chef can't monitor pan temp 10x/sec and make minuscule adjustments to hold that temp exactly to prevent what might be a boilover or scorched sauce. The idea is, after getting the food cooking how they want it, the cook engages the temp hold system. If they want, they can take control back at any time, but the pan temp will be held until the user tells the controller otherwise. For home chefs especially, the system would effectively reduce workload.
For pros, they may not want to use the temp hold system (at least until they figure out it's smarter than they are), but in the 1 in 10 million chance it might have to kick in, the auto pan protect system may well save the day...
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Old 12-27-2019, 12:48 PM   #19
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I'm starting to wonder how I managed to cook these past 60 years..

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Old 12-27-2019, 02:59 PM   #20
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Dear A-Spec_Reviews_YT:

You described your idea to us and asked for our opinions. "What do you think? Would an automated system like this be useful to you?"

What you've seen above are our responses to your question. Arguing them with us doesn't help. Sorry they aren't what you wanted to hear.
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