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Plugging In: Kitchen Appliances You Want and Need

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by Allison Gunkel

The favorite room for many homeowners is undoubtedly the kitchen.

Kitchen Appliances

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It is a welcoming environment associated with warm memories, bubbling conversation, and of course, delicious dishes that hold the power to improve outlooks and lift spirits. That is, if your kitchen is outfitted with the right equipment. There are plenty of manufacturers hawking the next must-have, timesaving, miracle cooking device. But what good are the bells and whistles without your principal appliances?

In today’s design home, kitchen essentials are more impressive than ever, with plentiful options in functionality, placement, even color! What you choose depends on what exactly your appliance needs are. Here are some options to consider:

Refrigerators

You may find yourself wondering what you need to know about refrigerators other than they keep your food cold until you want it hot. However, today’s units have quite a few contemporary features that could make your life a bit easier.

Refrigerators come in three primary layouts:

  1. Top Freezer, Bottom Refrigerator: Typical refrigerator and also the least expensive.
  2. Top Refrigerator, Bottom Freezer: Easier access keeping ingredients handy at eye level.
  3. Side-by-Side Refrigerator and Freezer: Narrow sections but allows the easiest access.

Once you have your basic unit chosen, it is time to customize it to your whim. Some available options (depending on manufacturer) include:

  • Adjustable shelving including shelves with cranks that will move them up or down and sliding shelves for easier access (these are often spill-proof as well)
  • Ice-and-water dispenser with water filtration systems
  • Refreshment center that allow drink/snack access without opening the main door
  • Interior wine rack
  • Separate climate controls for each compartment (ex. humidity-controlled crispers)
  • Child lock-out features
  • Beeping that lets you know when the door is ajar

Now that your yummy ingredients are able to stay cool and fresh, you need the right equipment to get them cooking! Cooking equipment in a kitchen is difficult to reduce to one element. The most effective of kitchen set-ups can handily use three:

Cooktops

These come in three heating varieties, the best depending on how you cook.

  1. Gas Burners
    • Can instantly turn heat on or off
    • Give precise control over temperature; great for cooking fickle items like sauces
    • Newer models are more energy efficient
    • Good ventilation required to avoid gaseous fumes
    • Certain gas hookups are required

  2. Electric Coils
    • Larger burners heat faster
    • Very little precision and control of temperature
    • Do not cause indoor air pollution
    • Easy maintenance and repair
    • Long haul–higher overall cost than gas

  3. Glass Ceramic Surfacing
    • Smooth surface allows easy cleanup, can use as counter space when not hot
    • Allows for an uncluttered appearance
    • Very little precision and control of temperature
    • Difficult to tell if still hot when off (many are equipped with a light that stays on until surface is safe to touch)

Glass ceramic surfaces use either radiant or halogen heating elements. Magnetic induction is an option, and allows for wonderful temperature control like a gas burner, however it is difficult for many to use on a daily basis. Magnetic induction cannot be used to heat aluminum cookware, only steel or cast iron, and a magnet must be able to be placed directly on cookware.

Home Kitchen Appliances

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Ovens

There are two choices of ovens currently on the market and each has its merits.

  1. Conventional Ovens:

    Conventional ovens are the less expensive of the two and are quite common in many household kitchens. The common complaint is the uneven cook times when one attempts to cook dishes on different racks. This is largely due to the way conventional ovens heat–from the bottom up- and results in dishes burning, others still not done, and quite a bit of frustration on the cook’s part.

  2. Convection Ovens:

    Convection ovens cook food faster than conventional ovens, and can cook a number of dishes at once. They use circulated air to ensure even cooking despite the location within the oven. Also with convection ovens, flavors and odors do not mix so different foods can be cooked at the same time. Many bakers embrace the convection oven for its convenience and consistency. One hesitation about convection for conventional users is converting cooking times that have already been perfected via trial and error.

    Cooktops and ovens are as customizable as the refrigerator in your home. The most common choice of customization for many consumers is the purchase of a range. A range is a combined element of a cooktop and oven. Many ranges can be dual-fueled to allow the best possible cooking experience with gas burners and both conventional and convection ovens. Other things to consider for your cooktop and/or oven is:

    • Built in grill tops or wok burners
    • LCD screens with recipes
    • Smart ovens that respond to voice commands
    • Warming drawers built in (or near)
    • Speed cook functions
    • Refrigeration & cooking element within one unit–settings allow refrigeration to switch to cooking mode at proper time and can be accessed by remote or via Internet from outside the home.
    • "Sabbath mode" allows steady heating/cooking over 72 hour period

Microwaves

Once the newest thing in technological advances, the microwave has become a standard for many homes. Its user-friendly, time saving approach to cooking is agreeable to nearly everyone at some point in his or her life. No longer just about reheating leftovers and popping popcorn for the home theater, microwave ovens are more advanced than ever. Some features to consider when installing your new microwave:

  • Under cabinet and under counter installation allows for easier access to all family members while concealing the typically space consuming appliance.
  • Microwave drawers pull out and place food from the top rather than the front. Particularly useful in universal design homes.
  • Possible back and front doors for greater efficiency when used on kitchen islands.
  • Many new models have safety locks – access can be denied to those who may need supervision when using.
  • Scanners on newer models are set to recognize thousands of prepackaged foods and adjust timer and settings accordingly.

After all that cooking has been enjoyed, the time in the kitchen is still not complete. Doing the dishes is not a favorite chore of many family members, but the latest in dishwasher design is making this task a little less burdening. (And allows everyone to enjoy his or her after-dinner coffee that much sooner!)

Dishwashers

  • Quieter than ever
  • Many brands significantly exceed energy efficiency requirements. Eco-cycles are becoming standard on many machines and save quite a bit in utilities.

  • Space friendly countertop, drawer, and compact models allow a dishwasher for any home design.
  • Drawer models can come in one or two drawer designs, and the drawers can be used together or independently of one another. Also great for island or bar installation.
  • Hidden touch pads maximize streamlined appearance.

Built-in Coffee Makers

  • Common in more and more home kitchens.
  • Space–saving machines are built into walls or streamlined for counter/island tops.
  • Built-in wall machines connect directly to water supply – just add coffee!
  • Ranges from single cup machines that pour directly into favorite mug to 12-cup coffeepots with regulation to keep coffee hot for preset length of time.
  • Many machines offer up to four choices of coffee (you choose the flavors and preset) including cappuccino or espresso.
  • Some machines regulate coffee amounts and water amounts within storage units and notify you if running low.

All of today’s appliances can be purchased as free-standing, built-in, or integrated units to match cabinets and doors for a concealed look. With new house plans, this paneling is quite popular as are bright, statement making colors and streamlined stainless steel. The designs are plentiful and completely up to you. Don’t be timid about expressing what you want, whatever that is!

Cooling, cooking and cleaning – the three Cs of kitchen appliances – will get your kitchen prepared to make your family’s most sought after gourmet meals, be it mac and cheese or Persian chicken with pomegranates. Remember that your kitchen should be about the people using it – user-friendliness, time and energy efficiency, and space utilization should all be factors in what appliances you choose. Keep in mind a budget and propose what you want and what you can spend. Be flexible – what you want may not be within your proposed price range so you may need to spend more or downgrade your dream kitchen. Working with a designer and explaining honestly how your kitchen is used daily will allow for the best recommendations and quality purchases, eliminating unnecessary equipment and expenses. Do not forget – warranties, maintenance and installation are extremely important with large purchases and should be discussed thoroughly with manufacturers and merchandisers. Now get cooking!

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