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Bringing the grill master back to the party

New electric combination cooktop and dining table allows you to eat and grill on the same solid, stainless-steel surface.

As the weather gets warmer, we can prepare to see a lot of companies that will try to push our summertime cookout buttons. CDS has hit on something big with their line of teppanyaki-style Cook N Dine cooktop tables. The dining table is a solid piece of stainless steel that has a powerful heating element inside it that allows you to grill meat, fish, vegetables, and kebabs in the center of your table while you and your guests eat on the edge. And all you have to do is plug it into an outlet, eliminating the extra trip for propane or charcoal (or the embarrassing run for fuel when you run out of your stock mid-meal).

But how does it work? That's the cool part. If you're afraid that your dinner plate is going to be overtaken by grill juice making its way to your lap, here's some relief: the center temporarily sinks down when you turn it on, turning the center of the table into a bowl to catch all of those delicious drippings. When you turn it off, the tabletop flattens out again.

And the temperature factor? Well, the center heats up to 450 degrees, but as you make your way out toward the edge (called "the dining area"), it cools off. This turns the space between the edge and the center into a ring that is 50 percent cooler than the center cooktop. CDS calls it a "warming area," but I call it a built-in bun warmer.

Afraid that the table-cum-cooktop won't cut the mustard when it comes to authentic smoky flavor? You know, the kind that only old-fashioned charcoal can impart? I can't answer that for sure, but what I do know is that you'll be able to come back to your party and actually sit down with the people you've invited instead of camping yourself outside with the tongs and apron. And any of us, including the grill snobs, can be thankful for that.