Ever walk into someone's home and smell what they had for dinner the night before?

Ten years ago a standard Australian dinner might have been grilled chops with boiled peas and potatoes - today it's more likely to be an Asian stir-fry.

Certainly, what we are eating today is more tasty and probably more healthy, but the resulting cooking odours are also far more pungent and lingering.

Team that with our modern, open kitchens and the result is a smelly house where odours are easily absorbed into curtains, furniture, carpets and clothing.

A good range hood is the only way to overcome this.

Lloyd Russell, of International Furnishings and Appliances, says most people know little about what makes an effective range hood.

“Most of the time people buy on price and looks rather than to effectively cope with their cooking style, ” Mr Russell said. “Appliance manufacturers have broadened the range of cooking appliances available, such as wok burners, charcoal barbecue grillers, even deep-fryers, but salespeople fail to point out that these all require a powerful range hood.”

Range-hood effectiveness is measured by the cubic metres of air extracted per hour.

Mr Russell said that while European manufacturers had developed more powerful range hoods to keep pace with new cooking styles, the Australian-made products, save for the isolated range, had failed to follow suit, and customers were rarely informed of the importance of ducting a range hood to the outside.

Recirculating range-hood systems, common in Australia but unacceptable in many other countries, extract the grease and steam from the cooking zone and pass it through a filter. Yes, it traps greasy particles but it simply releases the hot air and odours back into the room.

And budget options such as a ceiling fan, which may have worked when positioned in a chimney cavity above a stove recess in an enclosed room, have little hope of coping in an open plan. In addition, ceiling fans usually expel air into the roof cavity; the food and fat particles attract mice.

Because exterior venting and properly constructed ducting are important, it is vital in new home construction to plan ahead. Even more so for a two-storey home, where the kitchen on the ground floor is topped by a cement slab.

Prices for range hoods can go from $300 to $3000 (or more), excluding ducting.

The popular stainless-steel finish is perfect for range hoods, and many are sculptural features in their own right, combining glass, steel, rails and low voltage lighting.

Mr Russell recommends customers look for a model that extracts a minimum of 700cu m per hour, that is direct-vented to the exterior and is silent. Twin-fan extraction is useful if the cooking range is extended, and metal mesh filters that can be popped in the dishwasher for once-a-month cleaning are also an asset.

There are eight main types of range hoods available. Wall-mounted, non-integrated models, screwed directly to the wall. Integrated slide-out models built into overhead cabinets. Undermounted models, designed to fit into 300mm or 500mm-deep overhead cabinets and are mounted underneath, out of sight. Swing-out models, also built into overhead cabinets, that when open provide coverage for front burners and when closed appear to be simply a cupboard.

Canopy models fixed to the wall above the hot plates. Island canopies, suspended from the ceiling, for island benchtop cooking. Downdraft extractor models built into the benchtop provide super-quick extraction in between mix-and-match hotplates. Custom-made hoods for specific designs or sizes.

Of all the options, Mr Russell said the canopy style fitted to the back wall and ducted to the outside is the most effective, followed by the swing-out style, as they adequately cover the burners.

Canopies are most effective when positioned between 700 and 800mm above the benchtop, though Mr Russell stresses the importance of following manufacturers' instructions for maximum safety and effectiveness.

For example, it is important to maintain ducting size from the original range hood to outside, as any reductions or bends significantly reduce the extraction capacity.

Least effective is a ceiling fan, followed by the 300mm undermount, where the pull-out visor only serves to prevent dirt and grease collecting on overhead cupboards.

So, all up, what is Mr Russell's advice?

Research the products and narrow down the options based on the food you cook and are wanting to cook in the future, then look at aesthetics and budget.

International Furnishings and Appliances, though a supplier of brand names such as Miele, Gaggenau, Ariston and Qasair, can access other brands, as well as offer a custom-made service.


© The West Australian

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