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United States Patent Application 20170307225
Kind Code A1
Curtis; Brent Aaron ;   et al. October 26, 2017

DYNAMIC FLEX COOKTOP GRATE

Abstract

A collapsible grate for a cooktop is provided. The collapsible grate includes a plurality of support members supported at either end at spaced locations along flexible edge strips. In preferred embodiments, each edge strip includes a plurality of sockets to receive the respective ends of the support members. The flexible edge strips allow the grate to be rolled up and folded over on itself for ease of removal and cleaning the underlying cooktop surface.


Inventors: Curtis; Brent Aaron; (Terrell, NC) ; Burgess; Roddy; (Charlotte, NC) ; Carr; Sam; (Charlotte, NC) ; Moffett; Marek; (Charlotte, NC) ; Fain; Lee; (Charlotte, NC)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Electrolux Home Products, Inc.

Charlotte

NC

US
Family ID: 1000001904271
Appl. No.: 15/137568
Filed: April 25, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: F24B 1/205 20130101; F24C 15/107 20130101
International Class: F24C 15/10 20060101 F24C015/10; F24B 1/20 20060101 F24B001/20

Claims



1. A collapsible grate for a cooktop comprising: a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end; a first flexible edge strip having a plurality of first sockets disposed along a length thereof; a second flexible edge strip having a plurality of second sockets disposed along a length thereof; said first sockets and second sockets being configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of said plurality of support members.

2. The collapsible grate of claim 1, wherein a plurality of said sockets have respective shapes complementary to the shape of an associated end of one of the support members.

3. The collapsible grate of claim 1, wherein each said edge strip is made from high-temperature resistant polymer.

4. The collapsible grate of claim 1, wherein each said edge strip is made from high-temperature resistant silicone.

5. The collapsible grate of claim 1, wherein each said support member is made from a material selected from the group consisting of stainless steel, enameled steel, and cast iron.

6. The collapsible grate of claim 1, said grate being foldable such that a first portion thereof can be reversibly folded over on another portion thereof.

7. The collapsible grate of claim 1, said grate being rollable into a substantially cylindrical bundle.

8. A kit comprising a plurality of collapsible grates for a cooktop, each said grate comprising: a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end; a first flexible edge strip having a plurality of first sockets disposed along a length thereof; a second flexible edge strip having a plurality of second sockets disposed along a length thereof; said first sockets and second sockets being configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of said plurality of support members.

9. The kit of claim 8, said plurality of flexible grates together cooperating to define a cooking area above a cooktop surface.

10. The kit of claim 8, wherein a plurality of said sockets have respective shapes complementary to the shape of an associated end of one of the support members.

11. The kit of claim 8, wherein each said edge strip is made from a high-temperature resistant polymer.

12. The kit of claim 8, wherein each said edge strip is made from a high-temperature resistant silicone.

13. The kit of claim 8, wherein each support member is made from a material selected from the group consisting of stainless steel, enameled steel, and cast iron.

14. A cooking apparatus comprising: a cooktop surface including at least one heat source; and at least one collapsible grate provided over a portion of the cooking surface to at least partially define a cooking area of the apparatus; the at least one collapsible grate including: a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end; a first flexible edge strip having a plurality of first sockets disposed along a length thereof; a second flexible edge strip having a plurality of second sockets disposed along a length thereof; said first sockets and second sockets being configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of said plurality of support members.

15. The cooking apparatus of claim 14, said cooktop surface comprising a recessed portion wherein said at least one heat source is disposed, a perimeter wall surrounding at least a portion of said recessed portion, and a ledge disposed adjacent said perimeter wall, wherein the at least one collapsible grate is configured to rest on at least a portion of the ledge when installed on the cooktop.

16. The cooking apparatus of claim 15, comprising a plurality of said collapsible grates that together cooperate to define a cooking area above said cooktop surface.

17. The cooking apparatus of claim 16, further comprising one or more flanges extending over said recessed portion and resting on said ledge, wherein a portion of at least one said collapsible grate is configured to rest on said flange while another portion thereof is configured to rest on said ledge.

18. The cooking apparatus of claim 16, further comprising a support ridge or flange standing proud of the recessed portion along a predetermined path corresponding to installation locations of said plurality of grates so that a lateral edge of at least one of the grates can rest and be supported therein when installed.

19. The cooking apparatus of claim 14, comprising a plurality of said collapsible grates that together cooperate to define a cooking area above said cooktop surface.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not applicable.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The following description relates generally to a cooktop grate for a cooking range and, more specifically, to a roll-up cooktop grate that can be removed from the cooktop, as well as multiple such grates that together as a kit cover a cooktop.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Typically, a cooking apparatus such as a range includes at least one grate that is used to support a cooking utensil such as a pot or pan over a heating source, such as a gas burner. Conventionally, the grates are located over the gas burners and have a generally open configuration featuring a cooking support surface formed of a plurality of support members for supporting the cooking utensil. However, because of the open configuration the cooktop can become soiled from spills that occur while cooking. The grate can also become soiled from spills. Cleaning the cooktop surface usually requires removing the grate from the cooktop. The cooktop surface can then be cleaned and the grate can be cleaned in the sink or dishwasher. Because traditional cooktop grates are made from cast iron, they can be heavy and difficult to move around. The total weight of a grate that covers the entire cooktop currently can approach 40 pounds. Moreover, because the grates are rigid and bulky, they can be unwieldy even when removed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0004] A collapsible grate for a cooking apparatus is disclosed. The collapsible grate includes a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end. The collapsible grate further includes first and second flexible edge strips, wherein each edge strip has a plurality of sockets disposed along a length thereof. The sockets are configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of the plurality of support members.

[0005] Further, a kit having at least one collapsible grate for a cooking apparatus is disclosed. Each collapsible grate has a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end. Each collapsible grate further includes first and second flexible edge strips, wherein each edge strip has a plurality of sockets disposed along a length thereof. The sockets are configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of the plurality of support members.

[0006] A further cooking apparatus is disclosed. The cooking apparatus includes a cooktop surface including at least one heat source and at least one collapsible grate provided over a portion of the cooking surface to at least partially define a cooking area of the apparatus. The at least one collapsible grate includes a plurality of support members, wherein each support member has a first end and a second end. The at least one collapsible grate further includes first and second flexible edge strips, wherein each edge strip has a plurality of sockets disposed along a length thereof. The sockets are configured to receive therein the first and second ends, respectively, of the plurality of support members.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] Preferred embodiments are disclosed and described in detail herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0008] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example cooking apparatus with a first example collapsible grate in an unrolled state;

[0009] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the example cooking apparatus of FIG. 1, wherein a portion of the collapsible grate has been lifted up from the cooking surface;

[0010] FIG. 3 is a perspective view as in FIG. 2, wherein the lifted portion of the grate has been rolled into a bundle;

[0011] FIG. 4 is a perspective view as in FIGS. 2 and 3, wherein the entire grate has been rolled into a bundle;

[0012] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an example cooking apparatus with a plurality of collapsible grates in unrolled states, according to an additional embodiment;

[0013] FIG. 6 is a perspective view as in FIG. 5, wherein a portion of one of the collapsible grates has been lifted up from the cooking surface and laid back on itself;

[0014] FIG. 7 is a perspective view as in FIG. 6, wherein the lifted portion of one of the grates has been rolled into a bundle;

[0015] FIG. 8 is a close-up perspective view of a cooktop illustrating a pair of adjacent collapsible grates as disclosed herein at a location where the adjacent grates meet to cover the cooktop.

[0016] FIG. 9 is a close-up perspective view of a cooktop illustrating a support ridge or flange that is configured to support collapsible grates as disclosed herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0017] A collapsible grate 10 is provided for use with a cooking apparatus 100, such as a range or cooktop. As seen in FIG. 1, the cooking apparatus 100 includes at least one cooktop heat source 60. The heat source 60 can be a burner, such as a gas burner, or any other suitable heating apparatus. The at least one heat source 60 can be located at various locations across the cooktop, and in various arrangements. The collapsible grate 10 is configured for supporting cooking utensils over the at least one heat source 60. The cooking utensil can be a pot, a pan, a container, or other structure that is configured to hold or support food and to be heated by the heat source 60 to cook the food. As seen in FIG. 1, the cooking apparatus 100 can also include a control panel 80. The control panel 80 can include a plurality of controls 82, such as control knobs or touchpad elements useful to monitor and control cooking functions.

[0018] As seen in FIG. 2, the cooktop has a cooktop surface 70. In the example shown, the cooktop surface 70 is integral with the top portion of the cooking apparatus 100. In this example, the cooktop surface 70 can be comprised of sheet metal that forms a portion of the top surface of the cooking apparatus 100. The cooktop surface 70 has cutouts or other structure (not shown) to accommodate the at least one heat source 60 at or above that surface. In the illustrated embodiment, the surface 70 features a recessed portion 74 where a plurality of heat sources 60 (configured as gas burners) are disposed, surrounded by a perimeter wall 76 extending upward. A ledge 72 is disposed about the perimeter wall 76 such that the ledge 72 surrounds and is at an elevation above the recessed portion 74 where the burners are disposed.

[0019] The collapsible grate 10 can be configured to cover all or a portion of the cooktop surface 70; e.g. the recessed portion 74 wherein the burners are disposed.

[0020] FIG. 1 shows a collapsible grate 10 that includes a plurality of laterally-spaced support members 20 and a pair of edge strips 30 and 31. The grate 10 is configured and dimensioned to rest on the ledge 72 so that the grate 10 extends over burners disposed in the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the collapsible grate 10 is configured to cover the entire recessed portion 74.

[0021] The collapsible grate 10 includes a front edge 11, a left edge 12 (in the illustrated embodiment defined by the left-most support member 20), a right edge 13 (in the illustrated embodiment defined by the right-most support member), and a rear edge 14. In the illustrated embodiment, the front and rear edges 11 and 12 are defined by the respective edge strips 30 and 31. Each edge strip 30 and 31 includes a plurality of sockets 40 (best seen in FIG. 8) spaced along its length to receive respective ends of the support members 20.

[0022] Preferably, each support member 20 is configured to be removably insertable into a socket 40 of the first edge strip 30 and an opposing socket 40 of the second edge strip 31. As shown in FIG. 1, each socket 40 on the first edge strip 30 receives a first end 21 of each support member 20. Each socket 40 of the second edge strip 31 receives a second end 22 of each support member 20. Each support member 20 can be removed from the respective sockets 40 of the first and second edge strips 30 and 31, to be cleaned or replaced.

[0023] In a preferred embodiment the support members 20 are retained in the respective opposing sockets of the first and second edge strips via an interference, frictional fit. In an alternative embodiment (not illustrated), one or all of the sockets 40 can include a retention mechanism to retain the associated support member 20; for example a tab-and-notch system wherein either the support member or the socket 40 has a raised tab (which may be a ring or rib extending all or part of the circumference of the member/socket), and the opposite element has a recess or notch configured to seat the tab upon insertion of the support member 20. Alternatively, a tab-and-slot structure can be used to inhibit the associated support member 20 from rotating once received in a socket 40. For example, each socket 40 can include a hole, recess, or groove (i.e. a mortise) of finite expanse (i.e. that does not extend substantially about the circumference of the socket wall) to receive a protrusion (i.e. a tenon) located at or near the end of each support member 20. In this example, the protrusion of the support member 20 is dimensioned to substantially match a complementary shape of the hole, recess, or groove in the socket 40.

[0024] In the embodiment of FIG. 1, the sockets 40 in each edge strip are equidistant along its length. The distance between adjacent sockets 40 can be selected to accommodate particular cooking operations and particular cooktops or utensils, and can be, e.g., less than or equal to 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or 1/2 inches. In another embodiment, the distances between adjacent sockets 40 on each edge strip can vary. For example, the distance between adjacent sockets 40 on each edge strip can vary based on the location(s) of heat source(s) 60 on the cooktop surface 70. This configuration permits the placement of additional support members 20 over heat sources 60 (e.g. to support the weight of larger cooking utensils) while reducing the number of support members 20 over portions of the cooktop surface 70 that do not contain a heat source 60.

[0025] The geometry of each socket 40 preferably corresponds to and complements the geometry of the support member 20 that is received within the socket 40. In the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-9, the support members 20 are cylindrical in shape. However, the support members 20 can be any suitable shape or geometry, e.g. formed as extrusions having cross-sections such as circular or curved, triangular, parallelogram, quadrilateral, etc. In a preferred embodiment best seen in FIG. 8, at least a portion of each socket 40 has a circular or curved geometry complementary to the cross-section of the support member 20 to be received therein. Also in a preferred embodiment, the edge strip is made of an elastic material and each socket therein 40 may have a cross-sectional shape slightly smaller than the cross-sectional shape of the associated support member 20. In this embodiment, as the member 20 is inserted into the socket 40, the portion of the edge strip defining that socket deflects to accommodate insertion of the member 20, and is secured thereto via a compressive interference fit therewith. Suitable elastic materials are selected to withstand operational temperatures at the cooktop surface 72, and include, e.g. high-temperature resistant silicone elastomers.

[0026] Preferably, the support members 20 are made from suitable materials to withstand cooking temperatures and having sufficient flexure strength to support the weight of cooking utensils thereon. Suitable materials include, for example, stainless steel, iron or other metals, high-temperature composites, and coated steels, e.g. enameled steels as known in the art.

[0027] As noted above, preferably the edge strips 30 and 31 are made from a high-temperature resistant polymer material having elastic properties. Suitable materials include, for example, high-temperature resistant silicone. Such material also preferably is sufficiently flexible to allow the collapsible grate 10 to be rolled into a cylindrical configuration (i.e. a bundle) as seen in FIGS. 2-3. Conventional high-temperature resistant polymers can be selected and used by one of ordinary skill in the art for the edge strips 30 and 31. Preferably, the selected material will possess sufficient elasticity and flexibility to enable interference-retention of the support members 20 and reversible rolling and unrolling of the grate 10 as described herein for select embodiments. The selected material also preferably will possess a thermal resistance of at least 200.degree. F., 250.degree. F., 300.degree. F., 350.degree. F., 400.degree. F., 450.degree. F., 500.degree. F., 550.degree. F., 600.degree. F. or 650.degree. F.

[0028] FIGS. 5-8 show an embodiment wherein a plurality of collapsible grates 10 are configured to cooperate to substantially cover the entire recessed portion 74 wherein the burners are disposed. Similar to the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4, the collapsible grates 10 shown in FIGS. 5-8 each include a plurality of laterally-spaced support members 20 and a pair of edge strips 30 and 31. In this embodiment, each collapsible grate 10 is configured to rest at least in part on the ledge 72 (or portion thereof) about the perimeter of the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop. In this embodiment, support ridges or flanges 73 can be provided as strips that span the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop surface, and rest at either end on the ledge 72 surrounding that portion 74. In this embodiment, the flange 73 may have an inverted T-shape, wherein the vertical segment faces upward and functions as a divider between the edge strips of adjacent grates 10 resting on the flange 73. This is best seen in FIG. 8. Alternatively, where only one grate 10 is to be supported the flange 73 can have an L-configuration, wherein the vertical segment also faces upward to bound the edge strip of the supported grate 10. Still further, two adjacent grates 10 can be supported on the upper flat surface of a flange 73 having no vertical wall separating them. The support ridges or flanges 73 can be components of an after-market kit that can be used to retrofit an existing cooking apparatus. The kit may also include one or a plurality of flexible grates 10 as herein described.

[0029] In an alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 9, support ridges or flanges 73 can be stamped features in the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop surface 70. In this embodiment, the support ridges or flanges 73 stand proud of the recessed portion 74 along predetermined paths corresponding to the installation locations of the grates 10, so that lateral edges (e.g. edge strips 30, 31) of associated grates 10 can rest and be supported on the ridges or flanges 73 above the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop surface. Alternatively, the support ridges or flanges 73 can be configured as L- or T-shaped support ridges or flanges, wherein the upper, flat segment of each is substantially parallel to the cooktop surface for supporting edge strips of the grates 10 thereon. The vertical segment of each flange 73 extends from the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop a distance substantially corresponding to the height of the perimeter wall 76, so that the upper surfaces of the flat segments of the flanges and of the ledge 72 are substantially coplanar. This ensures level support of the grates 10. The lower portions of the vertical segments can be secured to the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop via conventional means; e.g. via welding or snap-in features.

[0030] In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 5-8, the collapsible grates 10 located over the left side and the right side of the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop surface 70 each cover approximately 40% of the recessed portion 74 (i.e. the available cooking or heating area), and the grate 10 over the center covers approximately 20% of the recessed portion 74. In alternative embodiments, each collapsible grate can cover less than 75%, 55%, 35%, or 15% of the recessed portion 74 or available cooking or heating area of a cooktop surface 70.

[0031] In order to access a soiled portion of the cooktop surface 70 beneath a grate 10 for cleaning, a user would grasp a portion of the collapsible grate 10 and lift that portion away from the cooktop surface 70. FIG. 2 shows an embodiment where a user has grasped one support member 20 with his right hand and another support member 20 with his left hand and lifted the left side 12 of the collapsible grate 10 away from the cooktop surface 70. This action provides access to the portion of the cooktop surface 70 beneath the removed portion of the grate. As seen in FIG. 2, the grate 10 can be folded over onto itself to provide temporary access to the (in the illustrated embodiment) left side of the recessed portion 74 of the cooktop surface 70. Alternatively, as seen in FIGS. 3-4 the grate 10 can be rolled up into a cylindrical configuration (i.e. a bundle) to facilitate easy removal and handling; i.e. to expose the entire cooktop surface 70 for cleaning. It will therefore be appreciated that a user can selectively expose only the soiled portion of the cooking surface 70 for cleaning, rather than having to remove an entire grate 10, or remove the entire grate if desired. If the collapsible grate 10 has become soiled, a user can roll the entire grate 10 into a cylindrical configuration (FIG. 4) and place the grate 10 into a sink or dishwasher for cleaning.

[0032] In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 5-8, a portion of the heating area of the cooktop surface 70 (e.g. recessed portion 74) can be exposed by lifting away all or a portion of a select one or ones of the collapsible grates 10 that cooperate to define the cooking area. As shown in FIG. 6, a portion of the collapsible grate 10 located over the left side of the cooking surface 70 can be lifted up from the cooking surface 70 and laid back on itself. Alternatively, a portion of the collapsible grate can be lifted from the cooking surface 70 and rolled into a cylindrical configuration (i.e. a bundle) as shown in FIG. 7. In both instances, a corner of the cooking surface 70 is exposed and can be cleaned to remove soil and debris without having to remove the entire grate from the cooking apparatus 100. If one or more of the plurality of collapsible grates 10 has become soiled, a user can roll the entire grate 10 into a cylindrical configuration and place the grate 10 into a sink or dishwasher for cleaning.

[0033] Illustrative embodiments have been described, hereinabove. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that the above apparatuses and methods may incorporate changes and modifications without departing from the scope of this disclosure. The invention is therefore not limited to particular details of this disclosure except to the extent that the following claims are necessarily so limited.

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