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Kitchen Appliances That Really Cook
If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then its life blood is its appliances - those busy, underappreciated workhorses that cook the roast, scour the dishes and keep the ice cream frozen. But if you're ready to pick out some new appliances, don't judge a refrigerator by its cover.
Sure, style counts, but a stainless steel exterior isn't everything. These days, appliance manufacturers are focusing on building refrigerators, ranges, ovens, microwaves and dishwashers that not only look good but also offer innovative, intelligent features that cater to a homeowner's need to save time and space.
In addition, appliances are more energy efficient and earth-friendly than ever before. "Energy efficiency is definitely the No. 1 trend for manufacturers right now," confirms Jill Notini, communications director for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
It's clear that today's appliances will not only make your life easier, but also can help reduce home energy costs. That in itself might be enough reason to shop around for new kitchen appliances. Here's a quick guide to get you started.
KitchenAid's compact dishwasher drawer uses less water than a standard dishwasher
The Time Savers
Busy home cooks are always on the lookout for a way to get dinner on the table quickly. Now, instead of frozen pizzas and canned soup, the answer is in the oven itself. Several manufacturers have introduced ovens and ranges with innovative cooking methods that aim to significantly decrease oven-to-table time.
A 12-pound roasted turkey in 42 minutes instead of 4 hours? That's an 83-percent time savings with TurboChef's new Speedcook Oven. A mainstay in high-end restaurant kitchens, the Speedcook uses a fan to blow superheated air over and around food in the oven. The air is constantly reheated and recirculated until the dish is done. Luckily, a digital control panel takes the guesswork out of timing. You simply use the digital keypad to specify what you're cooking (say, a dozen chocolate chip cookies) and at what temperature, and the oven takes care of the rest. The Speedcook will even ping once the cook cycle is 80-percent complete, so you'll have a chance to increase or decrease the cooking time.
Thermador's new Induction Cooktop not only heats 50 percent faster than gas, but its electromagnetic technology ensures that only the pan is heated, while the rest of the sleek, easy-to-clean cooktop stays cool to the touch. Induction coils beneath the cooktop draw on electricity to generate a magnetic field that delivers an ultra-precise heat and is ultra-responsive to temperature changes. You can even use the Powerboost button to bring a pot of water to boil as rapidly as possible.
The Quick-Change Artists
You've customized every aspect of your kitchen, from the special-order backsplash tiles to the maple cabinetry. Why not customize your appliances as well?
On the outside, Samsung's QuatroCooling Convertible Refrigerator is a standard bottom-freezer refrigerator with side-by-side doors on top and a drawer beneath. But inside, the refrigerator features four distinct compartments, each with its own evaporator and fan, so you can switch each compartment from cooling to freezing and back with the touch of a button. If a Costco run leaves you overloaded with fresh produce one week, simply reconfigure your space into three refrigerator compartments and one freezer compartment. Next week, switch it back.
The Velos SpeedCook Oven from Whirlpool looks like a microwave and cooks as quickly as one, but it also acts as a convection oven, grill and steamer. The 2-cubic-foot, over-the-range oven has a convection heating coil and circulating air fan that roasts a chicken or bakes brownies the way a regular oven would. It also uses 1,500 watts of power from a quartz halogen light to grill steaks in half the time usually required, and a steaming option lets you steam rice or vegetables right in the oven.
The Space Savers
As homes - and kitchens - expand in size, homeowners are looking for ways to maximize space and create efficient work zones. An appliance's ability to multitask, along with its design flexibility, makes it simpler for homeowners to plan roomy, functional kitchens.
There may be other ways to watch a Seinfeld rerun while you rustle up dinner, but nothing's quite as cool as watching it on your refrigerator. LG's TV refrigerator has a 15-inch LCD television screen integrated into its door, so you can check the local news or view your favorite program while you cook or clean up. It not only helps keep your countertop clear of clutter (no need for a portable TV taking up space), but also offers a number of handy features, including a current weather display, a digital recipe file and a digital photo album (you can upload images via a USB port near the fridge's water dispenser). The LCD screen will even play your favorite DVDs.
Bulky microwaves often suck up precious counter space. But the Insight Pro Microwave Drawer from Sharp broadens your placement options. You can install the 1,000-watt microwave below countertop level in an island or in base cabinets. Large enough to hold a 9-by-13-inch pan, it pops open with the touch of a button. Even more efficient is Sharp's Insight Range, which combines the microwave drawer with a standard oven and ceramic cooktop.
It's easy to find energy- and water-efficient appliances these days, but if protecting the planet is a top priority, these kitchen appliances might fit the bill.
A favorite of off-the-grid homeowners, Sun Frost's top freezer refrigerator uses just 171 kilowatt-hours of energy a year - a 51-percent energy savings over the 349-kilowatt-hour standard for similarly sized models. Among Sun Frost's low-energy innovations is a top-mounted cooling system that keeps heat produced by the compressor and condenser away from the refrigerator, so it doesn't have to work so hard to stay cool.
KitchenAid's pint-size, Energy Star-rated dishwasher drawers are as effective at cleaning pots and pans as standard dishwashers, but they use 33 percent less energy. And because of their compact size, they use less water than larger models. You also can conserve by running them with full loads that would be only partial loads in larger dishwashers. Best of all, they can be stacked by the sink or scattered throughout the kitchen, so you can place them where you need them, improving efficiency.
The Smart Cookies
One of the most promising innovations in the kitchen is a wave of intelligent appliances that use RFID and Internet technology to simplify cooking - sometimes even when you're not at home.
In the past, your two options for frozen dinners seemed to be still icy in the middle or charred beyond recognition. The Beyond Smart Microwave Oven from Salton makes nuking your food a no-brainer. The 850-watt carousel microwave scans the barcodes on products like frozen meals, bags of veggies and microwave popcorn, then automatically determines the perfect cooking time and temperature for that product. Although the microwave comes preloaded with some 4,000 barcodes, the machine also includes a digital wand so you can scan new food finds.
The Connect Io Intelligent Oven from TMIO knows you're busy. That's why it will refrigerate your lasagna until you connect by phone or the Internet to remotely program in a cooking temperature and time to start the oven. If you're still not home when the meal is done, it will return to refrigeration mode. Now that's smart.
For a Kitchen Appliance Resource List, see Page 56