Cooking Appliances Spotlight Versatility

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Just as the American family has evolved, so, too, has the kitchen. And that means the cooking function has evolved as well. The home chef is no longer isolated in the kitchen while entertaining occurs elsewhere in the house. Kitchens today are opening up to the rest of the house, the space is being developed for more and more uses and families are working together to get meals on the table.

With more cooks in the kitchen, it follows that larger work spaces, multiple work zones, and appliances that offer more cooking options are important. Homeowners want cooking tools that can multi-task, with features that make tasks efficient and easy, and functions that promote healthy cooking. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News who see versatility, “smart” functionality and efficiency as key trends in cooking appliances today.

Zach Elkin, director, brand marketing for BSH Home Appliances in Irvine, CA says, “With added convenience in the kitchen through various appliance settings, we are encouraging Americans to get back in the kitchen and cook – making it a family affair and leaving the hard work and guess work to the appliances.” The traditional work triangle has been replaced by multiple work triangles, which facilitates having more than one chef in the kitchen, he adds.

Melissa Haber, director of sales and marketing at EuroChef USA in Edgewood, NJ says, “As people spend more time cooking in their kitchens, they want more room.” She notes that the American kitchen has gone from a standard 30” range to a 36” range that allows for a double oven to increase utility. EuroChef also sees a large increase in demand for a 48” range. “Customers are willing to give up cabinet space to allow for bigger, more productive range,” she points out.

Kevin Henry, director of business development and designer for Costa Mesa, CA based Dacor adds, “Dacor understands that the kitchen is more than a space dedicated to food: It is a place of family gatherings, recipe experimentation and entertainment. However, with homeowners now busier than ever, their needs are changing. They want appliances that make cooking easier and that they control through their smart devices.”


Multi-Tasking Appliances

In addition to more space, the demand is high for specialty appliances, as well as appliances that do more, thereby increasing the cooking capabilities in the kitchen.

Haber says people are adding function-specific appliances such as warming drawers, steam ovens, griddles and rotisseries for a multi-tasking kitchen. EuroChef’s Majestic ranges already incorporate many of these modules, and the ILVE line will be offering a 12" drop-in cooktop in the beginning of 2014, the firm notes.

Speed and convenience also matter, says Haber. “Busy lives make dinner one of the few times of the day that families spend together , so people want speed for preparing meals so that they have more time to spend at the table. High BTU burners, quick pre-heats and rapid boiling are all features consumers are seeking to help them get dinner to the table quicker.”

Elkin says he has been surprised at how well microwave drawers are doing. “The microwaves are all coming off the walls. Designers are opening up the kitchens. They’re taking the cabinets off the walls, especially if there’s a window there that they can open up to the outside. We’re seeing this microwave now going under counter, on an island, out of sight but also easily accessible, not only for a child but also accessible from an ADA perspective,” he said.

Juliet Johnson, brand experience manager for Benton Harbor, MI based Jenn-Air says, “As manufacturers continue to develop smarter appliances, culinary enthusiasts expect their appliances to multi-task as much as possible.” Jenn-Air offers multi-purpose appliances including a microwave combination oven and a warming drawer that doubles as a slow cooker. “These appliances offer chefs several functions in a single appliance for more flexible design options,” says Johnson.

Jenn-Air has also introduced several new built-in appliances this year, including a 24” steam and convection oven that offers a wide range of cooking modes from steam cooking to bread proofing, she notes.

Johnson adds, “Though traditional cooking appliances continue to gain popularity, complementing a wall oven with a warming drawer is another way chefs are creating a comprehensive cooking center.”

In ventilation, systems that can do their work without overpowering conversation make a difference. Blake Woodall, v.p. for Vent-A-Hood in Richardson, TX says that sound is very important in the ventilation category.


Induction Increase

With a desire for clean lines, added efficiency, speed and flexibility topping consumer wish lists, it comes as no surprise that induction cooktops continue to gain standing in the market.

“The induction cooktop, offering a sleek design profile combined with high performance, is an appliance that luxury consumers are likely to continue to gravitate towards,” says Johnson. “Since induction technology allows for a far more efficient transfer of energy than a gas flame or heated electrical element, it saves both energy and time, particularly in bringing ingredients to a boil.”

Many manufacturers are jumping on the induction bandwagon, introducing new and improved models that feature induction cooktops. Haber says her company is seeing a surge in the sale of induction products, which offer speed, safety and flexibility on a cooktop surface. In early 2014, EuroChef will introduce a new line of Verona Radiant and Induction cooktops in both 30” and 36” options to meet this marketplace demand, she states.

Henry adds, “Induction cooking is rising in popularity due to its energy-efficiency and safety appeal.” He points to the lack of open flame or heating element as an important safety benefit that keeps small fingers safe from burns.  

Elkin says that induction continues to be one of the fastest growing segments for both the Bosch and Thermador brands. Thermador’s Freedom Induction cooktop is unique in that there are no burners, Elkin says. Instead, the top is covered with individual three-inch inductors so that the whole surface can become a burner, adapting to whatever size and shape pan is being used to bring on the inductors beneath it.


Streamlined Style

Appliance manufacturers agree that kitchen design is still trending toward simple, clean lines, and cooking appliances must complement the overall feel of the room. “People are requesting streamlined designs for their kitchens and want their appliances to fit right in,” says Haber. This desire impacted the launch of the ILVE Majestic Techno collection by EuroChef, which has a more modern trim, giving it a cleaner look, she says.

“We’ve seen continued strong growth with stainless steel, which is a mainstay in the industry today,” says Elkin. He adds, “Consumers want options and are steering toward built-in appliances for a seamless, yet highly functional kitchen design.”

During Design & Construction Week in February, Bosch will unveil a completely redesigned cooking line, which will be available to consumers in April 2014. Bosch’s design philosophy has strong connections to Bauhaus design, says Elkin, which moves away from fanciful experimentation toward design that is rational and functional, yet still aesthetically appealing.

Johnson also sees a demand for appliances that blend in. “When it comes to the exterior appearance of appliances, stainless steel has long been the industry standard. While stainless continues to be in high demand, there is also a call in the luxury category for appliances to be seamlessly integrated into their surroundings,” she notes. One new product introduced by Jenn-Air this year that meets this demand is the telescoping Accolade ventilation system. When in use, it becomes a design focal point, but when not in use it virtually disappears, says Johnson.

“Stainless steel is still the primary choice for kitchen appliances today and we believe that it will be the preferred choice for years to come,” says Henry. “The beauty of stainless steel is that it’s timeless and takes on the personality of the space around it.”

Eurochef has seen its ILVE Matte Graphite and Verona Matte Black move to the top of their color sales chart, says Haber. “The Matte finish offers a softer take on black and mixes nicely with the gray and white finishes that customers' are opting for. We continue to see our chrome finish sell strongly, as it coordinates with the stainless steel appliances being used in other areas of the kitchen,” she says.

Woodall says they see a move towards heavy metal, such as hammered copper and bronze. Vent-a-Hood has developed a designer series to fill the demand, which allows for a custom look without the lead time, he says.


Smart Appliances & Digital Controls

Advancing technology is everywhere, and while there is a demand for smart appliances and digital controls, there is also still a call for the simpler controls of days gone by.

Henry says that the trend of “smart appliances” is making headway in the kitchen and he foresees several manufacturers incorporating advanced technology in the coming year. Dacor’s Discovery iQ Wall Oven offers users the ability to control and monitor the oven from any Wi-Fi environment – the grocery store, the office or on the way home, he says. When a dish is complete, the oven switches automatically to a warming mode and texts the chef that the meal is ready.

Johnson adds, “Consumers have become used to using things like touch screens and expect a user experience that is intuitive. This has had an influence on some of our appliance designs.” One example is Jenn-Air’s collection of built-in wall ovens, which feature models with a seven-inch glass touch screen. The screen features a full color LCD display with an interactive, image-driven Culinary Center that helps cooks achieve desired cooking results, she says.

Elkin says that his company sees two types of consumers: those who prefer the traditional look of knobs for ease of use, and those who prefer a more contemporary look, with digital controls and digital readouts.

Woodall agrees. He notes that digital controls are necessary in some models for the generation entering the marketplace. The older generation, however, seems to prefer simple switching, which avoids the service problems that can be associated with electronics, he says.


Healthy Cooking

A quest for better health plays an increasing role in what consumers are looking for from their cooking appliances as well, according to manufacturers.

“More and more families are choosing to eat healthier by controlling their ingredients and preparing their own meals at home. Efficient and top performing appliances that can do anything from steaming to roasting to grilling help make healthy eating easy and delicious at the same time,” says Haber.

Elkin says that steam cooking allows preparation of meals without oils or butter, and its healthy food preparation capabilities are making it a staple in today’s cooking. The steam oven is the vehicle that people are using to bring the farm-to-table movement to life, he adds. There are many benefits to steam cooking, he notes, including better browning, maintaining vitamins and nutrients in vegetables and keeping moisture in the food when reheating.

Johnson concludes, “The growing importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle has certainly impacted the types of features and technology included in the latest Jenn-Air appliance collection.”

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