My Town Monday: Now You’re Cookin’

One thing Dayton is known for is its history of innovation. And what most people think of relating to this, are inventions over a hundred years old, such as Jame’s Ritty’s cash register, the Wright Brothers’ airplane, and Charles Kettering’s automobile starter.

Lee Smithson and his Water Broiler

That spirit of innovation continues today, much of it in commercial and military research facilities, such as the Air Force Research Laboratory. But one recent innovation I’d never heard of was one I found to be quite helpful in everyday life, and I learned about it on the Dickens of a Christmas tour of the St. Anne’s Hill Historic District, last month.

The final stop on the tour was the beautiful, dramatic Bossler Mansion, where homeowner Lee Smithson gave us an overview of the home’s history. He also told us about what he’s been up to in the twenty-five years he’s lived there.

Mr. Smithson is an accomplished chemist, retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. More recently, he owned – and worked – his own catering business, during which time he also created a simple yet elegant piece of cookware just about anyone could use: the Drannan Water Broiler.

No more of this yuck!

He compared the water broiler to the one you get with any new oven. Sure, you can use them, but what about cleaning them?  (That got most people’s attention – UGH.) And how well do those free broilers do the job? Adequately, but overall, those things are about worth what we pay for them, especially when we add in the hassle of washing them – none I’ve ever had fit in a dishwasher, and even with no-stick spray, they are a major PITA to clean!

The primary feature of the Drannan Water Broiler is that it’s made of high quality, stainless steel. The cooking surface is a grille, rather than the slotted metal found in the cheap broilers, and it’s stainless steel, too. I have a stainless steel cookie sheet from years ago, so I knew how nice this would be to bake with – no matter how burnt the cookies are, they never stick to that baking sheet, and metal spatulas don’t hurt it. The other difference in the water broiler was that it’s round. Mr. Smithson’s reasoning was that most, if not all, things cooked on it (i.e., roasts) don’t need those four corners. It’s slightly smaller than the freebie broilers, but plenty big enough for a roast – and that enables it to fit in the dishwasher.

The water broiler comes with another of Mr. Smithson’s inventions, the “Forkula.” It’s like a gripper-spatula, only with tines. It’s also made of stainless steel, and can be used on any grill, as well as with the Water Broiler.

My daughter was sold on it quickly, and talked me into buying one for my husband for Christmas (he’s the one who does most of the cooking, and the daughter does most of the cleaning). They had gift shop tables set up in the mansion, so we bought it there. I could tell DH was skeptical when he opened it, but he gave it a try last week – twice.

The Forkula

We tried chicken breasts and pork chops, both of which we’d normally do on the grill. Both dishes turned out great: properly-cooked, and surprisingly juicy. Putting the water in the broiler pan keeps the food moist, basting it while it cooks. DD wasn’t home the night we cooked the pork, so I cleaned. The fatty drippings wiped right off, the broiler went into the dishwasher with no problem, and came out clean and shiny! The Forkula tongs worked great too. We haven’t tried a roast yet, but I have no doubt it will be yummy when we do!

The Drannan Water Broiler with the Forkula is $65 plus shipping, but IMO it’s worth it. The construction is of very high quality, and I expect this to last many years, if not a lifetime. Mr. Smithson guarantees his products 100%, plus postage both ways. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one had ever taken him up on that offer. The Water Broiler and Forkula can be ordered together or individually on the Drannan Company website. (Just as an FYI, I was not asked for this blog post, and I don’t know Mr. Smithson other than briefly meeting him on the home tour.)

Does the Water Broiler sound like something you’d consider trying – or have you already, and what did you think? Have you recently discovered anything new to help in the kitchen? Please share!

Photos via