Title:
Cooking tray
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cooking system configured to be used with at least one heating element includes a main body including an integrally formed first cooking area and an integrally formed second cooking area. The first cooking area is separate and distinct from the second cooking area.



Inventors:
Lee, Karl (Downers Grove, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/075248
Publication Date:
09/14/2006
Filing Date:
03/08/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F24C15/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PRICE, CARL D
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Jennifer M. Hall (Downers Grove, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A cooking system configured to be used with at least one heating element, comprising: a main body comprising an integrally formed first cooking area and an integrally formed second cooking area; wherein said first cooking area is separate and distinct from said second cooking area.

2. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said main body is a unitary piece of metal.

3. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said first cooking area is integrally connected to said second cooking area through an intermediate portion.

4. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said first cooking area includes a flat cooking surface.

5. The cooking system of claim 4, wherein said first cooking area further includes a drainage channel surrounding said flat cooking surface.

6. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said second cooking area includes a recessed cooking pocket.

7. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said first and second cooking areas each comprise a burner grate mount configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element.

8. The cooking system of claim 1, further comprising a ridge downwardly extending from said main body, wherein said ridge is configured to limit movement of said main body when positioned on the at least one heating element.

9. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said first cooking area is circular.

10. The cooking system of claim 1, wherein said second cooking area is rectangular.

11. The cooking system of claim 1, further comprising retractable legs operatively connected to said main body, wherein said legs may be moved to an extended position, in which said legs support said main body, and a retracted position, in which said legs are folded under said main body.

12. A cooking tray configured to be used with at least one heating element, comprising: a main body having top and bottom surfaces, said main body comprising a first cooking area integrally formed with an intermediate portion, which is in turn integrally formed with a second cooking area; said first cooking area comprising a flat cooking surface coplanar with said top surface; said second cooking area comprising a cooking pocket recessed below said top surface; and said first and second cooking areas each comprising a burner grate mount positioned on said bottom surface, wherein each said burner grate mount is configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element.

13. The cooking tray of claim 12, wherein said main body is a unitary piece of metal.

14. The cooking tray of claim 12, wherein said first cooking area further includes a drainage channel surrounding said flat cooking surface.

15. The cooking tray of claim 12, further comprising a ridge downwardly extending from said bottom surface proximate an outer perimeter of said main body, wherein said ridge is configured to limit movement of said main body when positioned on the at least one heating element.

16. The cooking tray of claim 12, wherein said first cooking area is circular.

17. The cooking tray of claim 12, wherein said second cooking area is rectangular.

18. The cooking tray of claim 12, further comprising retractable legs operatively connected to said bottom surface, wherein said legs may be moved to an extended position, in which said legs support said main body, and a retracted position, in which said legs are folded under said main body.

19. A cooking tray having top and bottom surfaces, comprising: a first cooking area integrally formed with an intermediate portion, said first cooking area comprising a flat cooking surface coplanar with the top surface and a drainage channel surrounding said flat cooking surface; a second cooking area integrally formed with said intermediate portion, said second cooking area comprising a cooking pocket recessed below said top surface; a ridge downwardly extending from at least one of said first and second cooking areas, wherein said ridge is configured to limit movement of the cooking tray when positioned on a heating element; and at least one burner grate mount extending downwardly from at least one of said first and second cooking areas, wherein each said at least one burner grate mount is configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element.

20. The cooking tray of claim 19, further comprising retractable legs operatively connected to the bottom surface, wherein said legs may be moved to an extended position, in which said legs support the cooking tray, and a retracted position, in which said legs are folded under the cooking tray.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention generally relate to a cooking tray that may be used for outdoor camping, and more particularly to a cooking tray configured to reduce the amount of cookware needed to prepare camp meals.

Use of gas-fired grills and other cooking assemblies for camping are well known in the prior art. Gas fired grills and portable propane cooking burners along with pots and pans have been the mainstay for outdoor food preparation for generations. Cooking equipment for camping typically includes multiple pots and pans that are separately packed and carried by a camper. However, multiple pots and pans add weight and bulk to a camper's load and generally are not well-suited for wilderness camping, backpacking or other back-country travel.

Thus, a need exists for an efficient, inexpensive, lightweight system for cooking outdoors. Further, a need exists for a cooking system that is easily packed and carried by a camper.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the present invention provide an improved cooking apparatus for camping that minimizes cost, packing space and cleanup required for meal preparation while camping by providing an integrated cooking tray with two distinct cooking areas. The novel integrated cooking tray comprises a recessed portion that provides a distinct cooking area for simultaneous preparation of multiple food types, such as pancakes and bacon, hot dogs and beans, as well as a place to simmer marinades for grilled fish, meat and poultry. The improved cooking apparatus also has several other advantages, such as ease of clean-up, reduced cost for equipment and minimizing packing space needed for cooking gear.

The integrated cooking tray of the present invention has two distinct cooking areas. One cooking area is recessed so that it has a bottom and perpendicular sidewall extending around the outer circumference thereof. The second cooking area is a flat plate. The perimeter of the flat plate portion of the tray has a molded channel that is intended to collect oil and other liquids during cooking. The two areas are of sufficient size to permit simultaneous preparation of typical camp foods and the recessed portion is of sufficient volume to retain the second food type or marinade away from the first food type.

The integrated cooking tray is configured to be positioned on top of two portable propane cooking burners and is made out of heat conductive material having a non-stick surface. The heat conductive material may be a metal such as aluminum having a Teflon coating. The cooking tray may be an integrally molded piece of unitary metal.

Certain embodiments of the present invention may also include a drip well for collecting grease or other such run-off away from the non-recessed cooking surface.

Certain embodiments of the present invention may also include molded slots formed on the bottom of the cooking tray to accommodate the burner grate of a standard disposable propane tank used for camping. As such, one may prepare a meal using only inexpensive cooking burners such as conventional disposable propane tanks and the present integrated cooking tray, thereby eliminating the need for a more cumbersome stove or grill.

Certain embodiments of the present invention provide a cooking system configured to be used with at least one separate heating element. The system includes a main body comprising an integrally formed first cooking area and an integrally formed second cooking area. The first cooking area is separate and distinct from the second cooking area. The main body may be a unitary piece of metal.

The first cooking area is integrally connected to the second cooking area through an intermediate portion. The first cooking area may include a flat cooking surface surrounded by a drainage channel, while the second cooking area the second cooking area may include a recessed cooking pocket.

Both the first and second cooking areas include a burner grate mount configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element. The burner grate mount may include downwardly-extending pie-shaped portions separated by arcuate gaps. The system may also include a ridge downwardly extending from the main body, wherein the ridge is configured to limit movement of the main body when positioned on the at least one heating element.

The system may also include retractable legs operatively connected to the main body. The legs may be moved to an extended position, in which the legs support the main body, and a retracted position, in which the legs are folded under the main body.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a top view of a cooking tray according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates a bottom view of a cooking tray according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates an isometric bottom view of a cooking tray according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates a transverse cross-sectional view of a cooking tray through line 4-4 of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of a cooking tray according to another embodiment of the present invention.

The foregoing summary, as well as the following detailed description of certain embodiments of the present invention, will be better understood when read in conjunction with the appended drawings. For the purpose of illustrating the invention, there is shown in the drawings, certain embodiments. It should be understood, however, that the present invention is not limited to the arrangements and instrumentalities shown in the attached drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a top view of a cooking tray 10 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The cooking tray 10 may be formed of a metal, such as aluminum having a Teflon coating. The cooking tray 10 includes a main body 12 having a first cooking area 14 integrally formed with an intermediate portion 16, which is, in turn, integrally formed with a second cooking area 18.

The first cooking area 14 includes a flat cooking surface 20 that is coplanar with a top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16. A drainage channel 23 is formed about the outer circumference of the cooking surface 20, and is configured to receive grease or other runoff from food material that is cooked on the cooking surface 20. While the first cooking area 14 is shown as a circular cooking area, the first cooking area 14 may be various shapes and sizes, including rectangular, square, triangular, or the like. Further, instead of being a flat cooking surface that is coplanar with the top surface 22, the cooking surface may be recessed below the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16.

The second cooking area 18 includes a sunken cooking pocket 24 defined by a base 26 integrally formed with side walls 28, which may be perpendicular to the base 26. The second cooking area 18 is recessed below the plane of the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16. While the second cooking area 18 is shown as a rectangular cooking area, the second cooking area 18 may be various shapes and sizes, including circular, square, triangular, or the like. Further, instead of including a recessed cooking pocket, the second cooking area 18 may include a flat cooking surface that is coplanar with the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16.

FIG. 2 illustrates a bottom view of the cooking tray 10. FIG. 3 illustrates an isometric bottom view of the cooking tray 10. Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the first cooking area 14 includes a bottom surface 30 configured to be positioned over a heating element, such as a standard disposable propane tank. A burner grate mount 32 is formed about a center of the bottom surface 30. The burner grate mount 32 is configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element.

The burner grate mount 32 has downwardly-extending pie-shaped portions 34, and arcuate gaps 36. Each downwardly extending portion 34 is positioned between two gaps 36. The pattern of downwardly-extending portions 34 and gaps 36 is configured to cooperate with corresponding features on the burner grate to securely mount the burner grate mount 32 on top of the burner grate. Optionally, the burner grate mount 32 may include a plurality of panels or fins, each having a slot formed therethrough. The slots may be configured to receive and retain fins of a burner grate. In general, the burner grate 32 may be shaped and configured to accommodate various types of burner grates.

Additionally, a downwardly extending ridge 38 surrounds the bottom surface 30. The downwardly extending ridge 38 is configured to engage the neck of a heating element, if the cooking tray 10 is shifted during cooking. As such, the ridge 38 acts to halt horizontal movement of the first cooking area 14 with respect to the heating element so that the cooking tray 10 does not slide off the heating element.

The second cooking area 18 includes a bottom surface 40 configured to be positioned over a heating element, such as a standard disposable propane tank. Similar to the first cooking area 14, a burner grate mount 42 is formed about a center of the bottom surface 40 and is configured to securely mount to a burner grate of a heating element.

The burner grate mount 42 has downwardly-extending portions 44 and gaps 46, that are configured to cooperate with corresponding structures of the burner grate (similar to that described above with respect to the burner grate mount 32). Optionally, the burner grate mount 42 may include a plurality of downwardly-extending panels or fins, each having a slot formed therethrough, that are configured to receive and retain fins of a burner grate.

The downwardly-extending ridge 38 surrounds the bottom surface 40, as well as the bottom surface 30. Thus, the ridge 38 acts to halt horizontal movement of the second cooking area 18 with respect to the heating element so that the cooking tray 10 does not slide off the heating element.

FIG. 4 illustrates a transverse cross-sectional view of the cooking tray 10 through line 4-4 of FIG. 1. As shown in FIG. 4, the first cooking surface 20 is coplanar with the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16. The sunken cooking pocket 24 is recessed below the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16. A first food item may be cooked on the first cooking surface 20. Grease or run-off from the first food item may drain and collect into the drainage channel 23.

A second foot item may be cooked within the sunken cooking pocket 24. Food items on the first and second cooking areas 14 and 18 are separated from one another. The drainage channel 23 ensures that grease and runoff from a food item on the first cooking surface 20 does not contact the food item in the sunken cooking pocket 24. Further, a food item in the sunken cooking pocket 24 remains within the sunken cooking pocket 24 by virtue of the side walls 28. The sunken cooking pocket 24 may also include a drip well formed through the base 26 or 28 that allows grease and runoff to pass through the sunken cooking pocket 24.

A simplified heating element 33 having a burner grate 35 and a neck 37 is shown positioned underneath the first cooking area 14. While only one heating element 33 is shown, it is to be understood that another heating element 33 may be positioned underneath the second cooking area 18.

As discussed above with respect to FIG. 2, the burner grate mounts 32 and 42 securely mount to the tops of burner grates of separate heating elements. The outer ridge 38 downwardly-extending around the cooking tray 10 ensures that the cooking tray 10 does not slide off the heating elements in the directions denoted by arrow A. For example, while the cooking tray 10 may slide over a short distance in the directions denoted by arrow A, the ridge 38 will engage a neck of the heating element when the cooking tray 10 slides too far, thereby limiting the range of motion of the cooking tray 10 over the heating element(s).

Alternatively, the underside of the cooking tray 10 may be configured to provide an interference fit with a top of a heating element, such as a propane heater. That is, the underside of the cooking tray 10 may include slots, channels, and tabs that are configured to correspond to the features of the top of the heater. Further, the cooking tray may be configured to snapably, threadably, or otherwise removably engage the burner grates, and/or the entire top of a heating element.

The cooking tray 10 may also include handles extending from the main body 12. For example, handles may lateral extend from the intermediate portion 16, or a handle may upwardly extend from the top surface 22 of the intermediate portion 16. Optionally, a handle(s) may extend from outer edges of the first and/or second cooking areas 14 and 18.

FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of a cooking tray 50 according to another embodiment of the present invention. The cooking tray 50 may include hinged legs 52 operatively connected to respective ends 54 a main body 56. The hinged legs 52 may be moved between extended and retracted positions in directions denoted by arrow B. The hinged legs 52 may be extended so that the cooking tray 10 may stand up. In this way, the cooking tray 50 may be used to cook over an open fire. The legs 52 may then be folded underneath the main body 56 when the cooking tray 50 is not in use. The legs 52 may move through extended and retracted positions through various systems. For example, the legs may be hinged, telescoping, foldable, or the like.

Embodiments of the present invention provide an efficient, lightweight system for cooking outdoors that is easily packed and carried by a camper. Embodiments of the cooking tray minimize cost, packing space and cleanup due to the fact that they eliminate the need for multiple pots and pans, a separate stove surface, and bulky heating devices. The cooking tray 10 may be used with small conventional heating elements, such as 16.4 oz disposable propane tanks.

The separate and distinct cooking areas of the cooking tray enable simultaneous preparation of multiple food types, such as pancakes and bacon, hot dogs and beans, as well as a place to simmer marinades for grilled fish, meat and poultry.

While the invention has been described with reference to certain embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from its scope. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.