Why I Thought I Wanted One
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I own a DeLonghi mixer, and although I do not use it often, I have been very pleased with it. It seems to be well made. So when I searched epinions for indoor grills and saw that a DeLonghi was highly rated, I added it to my Christmas list.
My Experience Was Extremely Disappointing
I was very excited to try it after opening my gift. Following the recommendations in the manual, my wife set the heating element to the maximum "5" setting in order to sear some tuna steaks. After the heating element indicator winked out, indicating the unit was at temperature, she put the steaks on --- but no sizzle. The steaks sat there and after a few minutes, they finally started to make just a little frying noise. But they never seared, and never got but the very least bit brown where they touched the grill. It took 3 times the cooking time that the manual said it would take to cook the tuna steaks, and even then we had to cut the steaks up into cubes so that the middle would cook.
I am an electrical engineer specializing in product testing, so I decided to measure the units capabilities and compare them against the number listed in the manual.
Here is what the manual states about the heat settings:
Setting Function / Type of food
1-2 (low) "Keep warm" setting
2-3 (medium) Slow cooking delicate foods such as
260 -- 350 F fish fillets, ham, sausages.
3-4 (high) To cook thru after ingredients have
350 -- 430 F been sealed.
5 (Max Sear) Highest setting to sear meats and
450 F seal juices. Preheat grill.
I used an oven thermometer and layed it flat on the grill so that it made good contact with the grill, and so that it would fit beneath the heavy glass lid. I then started at the "1" setting and proceeded to the "5" setting -- allowing plenty of time for the unit to thermally stabilize at each setting before recording a temperature reading. Just to double check, I stopped at 4, 3, 2, 1, on the way back down to "Off" just to get see how repeatable my measurements were. Here are my results:
Setting ... Meas A ... Meas B
--------- ... ------ ... ------
1 -------- 140 F ----- 140 F
2 -------- 175 F ----- 180 F
3 -------- 230 F ----- 235 F
4 -------- 280 F ----- 280 F
5 -------- 335 F ----- none
Note that the "335 F" reading the I recorded for the max 5 setting corresponds with a temperature that the users manual says is appropriate for "slow cooking delicate foods". Which, surprise , corresponds exactly with our experience trying to cook our tuna steaks!
But the experience gets worse from there. So a couple of days after Christmas, when I figure there might be somebody to answer the phones in the customer service department, I make the call to see what DeLonghi will do for me. I am hoping that they will be apologetic that my unit does not work, and will agree to ship me a new control element ASAP.
Of course it took a while to get through to a real person, maybe 20 minutes and about 5 or 6 times I declined to "leave a message and have somebody return my call in 24 to 48 hours". When I finally talk to somebody, she tells me that I need to call "JohnDoe Appliance" and ship the unit to them. No offer to pay for shipping. No offer to do anything else.
I Void My Warranty
I don't want to pay to ship the whole unit. I'm an electrical engineer. What would you do in my place? Yes, I voided my warranty.
I remove 5 screws and open the cover of the heating element. Unfortunately, I do not see anything that is absolutely positively wrong. But, I did notice something that I thought might be the problem.
The wiring connections to one of the two contacts was quite substantial. The wires were solidly crimped in place and soldered in place as well. But the wiring connection to the second contact looked very flimsy. The wire was not inside the crimp area, no solder, --- and maybe that is by design, because it appeared that the wire was sort of welded in place. I say "sort of" because the wire was barely connected to the contact. Very poor weld quality, although that is not my area of expertise, but I have seen such welds and this did not impress me as a good quality weld.
So, I got my soldering iron, some 12 gauge solid copper wire, beefed up the connection, and put it back together to make more measurements. Short version, I got another 5 to 15 degrees F depending on which setting, but the unit still maxed out at 350 F.
My guess is that the temperature sensor in the heating element shuts the unit down well before it is as hot as it should be. If I thought my bad unit was a rare exception, I would order a new heating control. But I'm guessing that DeLonghi went to cheaper parts and now the heating elements just don't cut the mustard.
So, I have a strong hunch about how the sensor works. I might research it and try to fix it myself, if I find the spare time. Otherwise, I'll set this unit down in the basement and either sell it cheap at a garage sale or just plain toss it in the trash.
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