Creative Cooking

Meal planning has been elevated to an art form by many home chefs, thanks in part to the variety of cooking techniques and innovative cooking products on the market today. From steam cooking to indoor grilling, induction cook tops to convection ovens that make meal preparation simpler than ever before, the options available allow for creativity and personal expression in the kitchen.

Healthy living and individual lifestyle choices have a large influence on appliances choices, and homeowners are looking for equipment that fits their design style while adding ease and function to their kitchen. That’s according to manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Kevin Henry, director of business development at Dacor, based in City of Industry, CA, says, “We see two types of consumers, those driven by cooking and those driven by design. We strive to create products that will best reflect the needs and style of the homeowner.” The goal as product designers, he says, is to create a timeless product that will blend seamlessly into the overall kitchen environment.

While appliances must be able to handle a large workload and function effortlessly, home chefs also desire the ability to express their own creativity when creating meals, and when designing their space. “Today’s kitchen designs are well thought out to give homeowners efficiencies and conveniences as they cook,” says Tim Tyler, director of marketing for Viking Range LLC in Greenwood, MS. “Consumers like individuality and want to be able to choose between color, stainless front appliances or custom panels that give a hidden or integrated look,” he adds.

Additionally, more activity is taking place in the kitchen, with family and friends becoming active participants in the meal preparation or gathering to watch the meal being created says Zach Elkin, director, Brand Marketing for Thermador at BSH Appliances in Irvine, CA.These culinary enthusiasts want to have a kitchen designed in a way that enables them to put on their best cooking performance, whether they’re entertaining guests or testing a new recipe,” he says.


Lifestyle Designs

The way consumers choose to live their lives has a large impact on trends in cooking appliances. Healthy living, personal style and the time available to devote to meal preparation all have an impact on which appliances come out on top.

“While health and eating well have been a trend for a while, it’s become an even bigger issue and focus in the modern kitchen,” says Chris Cullen, senior product development manager for Benton Harbor, MI based Jenn-Air. “Cooking appliances with features that can accommodate a healthy lifestyle are making an impact,” he says. For example, he says, Jenn-Air’s recently introduced built-in steam and convection oven offers flexibility in food preparation and a variety of specialty cooking modes to meet the individual’s needs.

“Today’s consumers are looking for cooking innovation that is suited to their own personal pace and priorities,” says Valentina Bertazzoni, brand manager for Bertazzoni, based in Guastalla, Italy. “One size fits all is out. Lifestyle cooking is in.”

The question in the home kitchen is no longer simply whether or not one cooks, or what their style is, but instead how and what they cook, and what elements of design and performance best meet their needs, says Elkin. “Today’s culinary enthusiasts want the heart of their home to be more than a beautiful space where they cook – they want and need the kitchen to reflect how they cook: in the number of appliances, the layout of the space and the overall design aesthetic,” he says.

Differences in the way people live influences what products they select. “The biggest trend in cooking products is the demand for design that fits the individual lifestyles of our consumers,” says Dan Kenny, director of brand management for Bosch home appliances at BSH Appliances.

One emerging design trend is the demand for products that fit in small spaces, says Kenny. Lifestyle changes taking place across America are at the center of this trend, he says, including young professionals moving into big cities with smaller kitchens and space restrictions, empty-nesters downsizing, the desire for smaller kitchens in vacation/second homes and appliances in ancillary spaces such as basements or media rooms. Bosch recently unveiled a 24” kitchen line to address these needs. “Design for small space is one of the biggest trends we expect to see this year,” Kenny notes.


Flexible and Professional

Flexibility is also a top consideration for current trends. Just as the way people live inspires how they cook, the options they choose must fit their style. When an appliance offers many options, it appeals to a wider audience.

Bertazzoni says that customized cooking is becoming more and more popular. This means combining different technologies into one appliance for optimal flexibility. “We see the number of kitchen cooking appliances like this to be growing: People like to mix more products in order to fit their lifestyle needs,” she says. “If in the past, a gas cooktop and an oven was enough, today we need more products to create the perfect kitchen.” Appliances that combine several meal preparation options, such as an electric griddle, wok burner and induction cooktop, are increasingly popular, she adds.

Elkin concurs. “Real cooks also desire freedom and flexibility,” he says

Bob Martin, design director, Major Appliances North America for Electrolux North America in Charlotte, NC sees a demand for products that offer flexibility as well, such as large cooking surfaces and ovens with larger capacity. Time-saving features and technologies like easy clean and fast preheat are also in demand, he says.

Davies adds that visual feedback, such as glowing bezels that ensure the user knows what burners are turned on from a distance, is beneficial. Additionally, he says, premium customers are conscious of paying for features that provide a real benefit.

Features that are found in restaurant appliances are also in demand, allowing consumers to cook like a professional chef at home, says Tyler.


Varied Techniques

While it’s essential to offer the whole range of options in cooking techniques, some technologies are making a larger impact, continuing to grow in popularity. Induction and steam, in particular, are making great strides in the market.

“Induction is a big subject today. In Europe it is already a reality, in North America it is gaining traction,” says Bertazzoni. Designers love induction for the clean lines, she says, and homeowners love it for the safety features and easy of cleaning.

Scott Davies, marketing manager for Fisher & Paykel North America in Huntington Beach, CA says that induction cooking can be intimidating for customers, but adds that there are the clear benefits of safety and quick heating times.

Henry adds that consumers are becoming more familiar with new cooking technology. “Induction cooking is quickly eliminating standard electric cooktops simply because they are more energy efficient, safer to use and offer a faster form of cooking. The same goes for Convection and Steam cooking,” he says.

Martin adds, “All major manufacturers are offering induction ranges, which is making the technology more accessible to consumers.” The industry is also trying to amplify consumer education about the technology and its benefits, he says.

Attention to health is contributing to the rise in demand for steam cooking options, manufacturers say. “Steam is also becoming a major trend because of the level of attention people pay to healthy eating,” says Bertazzoni.

Steam cooking is still relatively new to the US market says Kenny. Since the introduction of Bosch’s Benchmark Steam Convection Oven, however, he says they’ve seen an increase in consumer awareness and demand for this technology.


Progressive Technology

Desired technology in cooking appliances reaches far beyond simply adding digital controls, moving toward a more connected and intuitive range of options, say manufacturers. “It’s no longer about digital, it’s about ‘connected,’” says Henry, including features like on-board guided cooking, recipe storage and retrieval, self-diagnostics and the ability to download updates and fixes.

“Many people want products that give control, feel and response as they cook their favorite dishes,” says Tyler. Home chefs are looking for the same performance and results as a restaurant chef, and want professional features that save time, he adds. “Entirely new cooking technologies from commercial kitchens are being introduced,” he says.

Though advances in technology can’t always be seen, they are behind everything in modern cooking appliances, says Bertazzoni. “Ovens are managed by power boards and chips to allow precision in control and the achievement of perfect results. Constant feedback is given through modern interfaces that look like smartphones.” The complex technology is kept behind the scenes inside the product for Bertazzoni, allowing the user to interact with the appliance in the easiest, most intuitive way, she says.

Technology must improve the user’s experience, allowing for flexibility and high functionality. Technologies that keeps oven doors cool, and unique cooking functions that enable hassle-free cooking are important, as are premium valve controls on gas cooking that allow for better temperature control, says Davies. “Digital controls simply provide a more user friendly way to interact with the product,” he adds.

“Off-appliance control enabled by apps and touch screens are becoming more popular,” says Cullen. He points to the FutureHAUS , presented by the Virginia Tech Center for Design Research, as an interesting look at how technology is incorporated into the kitchen. Jenn-Air was a key supporter of this conceptual display, which is part of a research project exploring manufacturing strategies and the greater integration of technology with architecture to enhance the industrial production of smart homes, he says. “The resulting kitchen concept explores how technology can be used to enhance user experience throughout the kitchen,” says Cullen. “Ideas include a camera that monitors cooking in the oven to a gesture that can be used to open cabinets and appliances.”

At Bosch, says Kenny, they believe that technology should be used to enhance well-designed products. For instance, the company’s AutoProbe feature takes the guesswork out of cooking meats to the appropriate temperature, and EcoChef uses residual heat in the cavity to complete the cooking process, working in conjunction with the meat probe, to save energy with optimal cooking results.

Sometimes, however, simple technology works better for the consumer. “Consumers are looking for a combination of physical and digital controls,” says Martin. “Full electronic panels are perceived as more modern and easy to clean, however sturdy knobs are often easier to use and more durable which is why we look to integrate both.”


Visual Appeal

There’s no doubt that stainless steel will always be a top choice in appliance finish. “Stainless steel is still king and the industry is focusing on building the texture and finish of metallic as accent points into appliance and kitchen design,” says Martin.

Davies says that stainless steel and black glass are the most prevalent finish selections in appliances, because those colors can match any kitchen cabinet finish.

Cullen agrees that stainless remains popular, but adds that darker hues like black are also gaining traction.

More unique finish choices are beginning to show up as well, adding a pop of color that turns the cooking appliance into an accent piece or focal point. “Consumers and designers are using a bold color for the anchor cooking product for the kitchen,” says Tyler.

Bertazzoni says, “Cooking appliances are always the focal point in every kitchen, but we see them becoming more integrated in the cabinetry in terms of lines and proportions.” Clean design is important for balanced beauty and the way these appliances look can be used to inspire emotion and harmony in the space, she adds. “A vibrant color can add a touch of personality; the rhythm of few ovens in a wall can generate harmony in a space; lines, radius, a precious finish can create emotion,” she says. “We were not surprised designers love black, but the big surprise is they love warm, vibrant colors too like Arancio (orange) and Rosso (red),” she adds.

Henry says that there is a strong return to color – and not one particular color, but any color, depending on the consumer’s personal taste. “People want true ‘personalization’ not a few options,” he says. “We have developed the DacorMatch Color System to allow our clients to choose whatever their eye desires.”

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