Smart technology, personalization, and healthier living are driving new kitchen appliance designs and trends in a crowded but dynamic market.
Perhaps the more exotic of these developments is occurring in the area of wireless control and smart technology. Whereas five years ago the reasons for having smart appliances were less clear, “now we’re seeing real advantages to creating efficiencies for families,” says Wendy Treinen, senior manager, product public relations at GE Appliances.
With the ability to operate and monitor an appliance via a mobile device or voice assistant, users are not confined to the kitchen and can do more with their time.
The 48-inch Dual Fuel Professional Range is available with three cooktop configurations: eight gas burners, four burners with a four-zone induction cooktop, or five burners with a griddle. Both ovens are controlled via a high-resolution touch screen.
Almost all major appliance companies offer connected products in their luxury and mass premium lines. Through partnerships with companies outside the kitchen appliance space, these platforms, such as LG’s ThinQ and Bosch’s HomeConnect, have become more powerful, improving user experience and providing support with everything from appliance maintenance to wine selection.
What are the most popular appliance brands in the U.S. market? The 2018 PRODUCTS Brand Use Survey gives some clues.
All Things Tech
Manufacturers are pushing the proverbial envelope further, deploying artificial intelligence and cameras in refrigerators to track food inventory, make recipe recommendations based on their contents, and help with meal planning and preparation. Cameras in ovens allow users to monitor baking progress from a mobile device. Announced this year, the next generation of GE’s Kitchen Hub, a smart screen attached to a vent hood, will include a front-facing camera for video chatting and a downward-facing camera that images the food as it cooks.
The brand’s new 400 series dishwasher offers back-wall illumination and Zeolite Drying, which is a natural mineral allowing moisture to be transformed into 176 degrees Fahrenheit to dry dishes. Home Connect is also now available with this product, giving users the option to use a remote control and seamless integration into home management systems.
“It facilitates that idea of social cooking and bringing the family together when we’re all disconnected through distance,” says Treinen. Food recognition technology will enable the device to suggest recipes and adjust them based on the imaged serving size. A microwave version is also planned. “The smart appliance is no longer a trend, but a must-have,” says Treinen.
According to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, 10 percent of homes will own a smart appliance this year, and Futuresource Consulting forecasts the category will grow at 36 percent compound annual growth rate to 2023. For many consumers, however, the higher price tag remains an obstacle and “the functionality right now is still kind of basic,” says Steve Sheinkopf, CEO of Boston-based retailer Yale Appliance and Lighting. Moreover, “the connectivity in a lot of these things is poor.”
The Designer Series of ranges has added two new standard colors—gloss black and slate gray—as well as new matte black and burgundy knob options. The 36-inch gas ranges are already available in stainless steel and white and feature brass burners.
Health Benefits Driving Cooking Technology
Consumer interest in the environment and healthy living is also sparking innovation. Electrolux’s new Sustainable Suite includes a counter-depth French-door refrigerator with asymmetrical doors, the larger of which users can open to access 75 percent of the interior, thus conserving energy, says Eloise Hale, head of corporate communications. Ethylene absorbers and crisper drawers outfitted with a special membrane help keep produce fresh longer and minimize food waste. A TempAdapt drawer converts from -6 to 45 degrees.
The suite also has a wall oven that includes steam cooking; air-fry, a popular, healthier alternative to deep-frying food that is also available in ovens from other manufacturers; and air sous-vide, which circulates precisely controlled heated air to cook food at temperatures between 100 to 205 degrees Fahrenheit. As with traditional sous-vide cooking, the food must first be sealed in a plastic pouch.
Part of the Sustainable Suite, this Double Wall Oven does everything: Air Sous Vide, which gently cooks food by circulating heated air; a variety of steam cooking functions, including proofing bread; Air-Frying; and connectivity for remote monitoring and control via an app.
Originally developed to prepare large quantities of food in a commercial setting and widely used in restaurants, sous-vide cooking has become a trendy way to prepare food. Typically done slowly in a low-temperature water bath with an immersion circulator, the technique produces flavorful results with little risk of overcooking and does not require constant monitoring.
Other manufacturers have tapped into the trend by incorporating sous-vide functionality into their cooking appliances. Signature Kitchen Suite’s new 36-inch dual-fuel pro range and 36-inch and 48-inch rangetops, all of which feature both induction and gas burners, include a built-in sous-vide module with a magnetic, airtight lid that ensures the water is kept within 1 degree of the desired temperature without the need to circulate it. Sous-vide is also available in combination steam ovens from several brands, including Miele and Gaggenau.
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Part of the early 1900s-inspired Heritage Series, Collezione Metalli offers accent elements that add new, genuine material finishes to the line. The range shown here draws inspiration from wood-burning stoves and features six brass burners, rounded knobs, a 5.9-cubic foot oven with dual convection and seven shelf levels. Knobs and finials are available in gold, copper, or black nickel plating, the range comes in ivory, matte black, and stainless steel.
Though induction is more energy-efficient than gas or electric, and ranges are available for $1,000 or less, adoption has remained slow. Sheinkopf has noticed a greater willingness to make the leap among those who already cook with electric. Homeowners with gas cooktops and ranges tend to stay with gas. Moreover, depending on the product and the home, transitioning from gas to induction may require additional amperage, which can be a “hassle” for some homeowners, he notes. Read the product specs closely.
Customization Meets Personalization
Consumers continue to seek out opportunities for personalization and customization in their kitchens, no matter how big or small. Bertazzoni’s Heritage Series Décor Sets encompass knobs and finials plated in gold, copper, and black nickel to complement its eponymous ranges, which come in ivory, matte black, and stainless steel. Valentina Bertazzoni, head of brand and style for the Italian manufacturer, has also noticed an increased interest in colored appliances, especially black and white. So, too, has Sheinkopf, but only as an accent. “The pop of color is much more persuasive than an entire suite of matching appliances,” he says.
Standing tall, the 36-inch columns boast 25.1 cubic feet of interior space and can accommodate items as large as 18-by-26-inches. The columns are available as both refrigerators and freezers designed for both commercial chefs and home entertainers.
For products not meant to draw attention, integrated or built-in designs with flush installation remain desirable, especially in the luxury kitchen. Bertazzoni has rolled out more than 100 products in traditional, contemporary and classic designs, and GE has unveiled a handle-less wall oven that opens with a push and, later, by voice activation.
In laundry, wireless control, automatic detergent dispensing, and overnight cycles that wash and dry clothes for use the next morning have been welcome conveniences. Recent innovations address longstanding problems, such as odor in front-load machines, which according to Treinen, is one of the reasons more than half of the people who own them switch to a top-loader when they fail.
The UltraFresh front load washer tackles the problem of odor with a gasket widened and angled for improved drainage after a wash cycle; a ventilation system that removes moisture from the washer interior by pulling in and circulating fresh air; and Microban antimicrobial technology to inhibit bacterial growth on the gasket, dispenser, and pump.
Cooking Terms You Should Know
Induction: Unlike gas or electric stoves that use thermal conduction from a flame or electrical element, an induction range or cooktop uses magnets to cook food or boil water. Induction uses the magnetic field below the glass cooktop to transfers current directly to magnetic cookware, which heats up almost instantly. Pots and pans must be made of ferromagnetic metal such as cast iron or stainless steel.
Sous Vide: Also known at low temperature long time cooking, sous vide is a technique in which food is placed in a plastic pouch or a glass jar and cooked in a water bath for longer than usual cooking times at a regulated temperature. The technique is typically found in high-end restaurants, but it is now available on home appliances. Proponents say the technique results in food that is moist and evenly cooked evenly, without overcooking the outside.
Air Frying: Some manufacturers now offer an Air frying feature on their ovens. What exactly is air frying? It is a cooking method that circulates hot air inside an oven at a high speed. This is usually done via convection fans. In theory, food is cooked faster and creates a crispy, fried layer and even browning on all sides of food with very little or no oil.
Steam: Steam ovens are appliances that inject moisture into the cook process. Some companies offer steam-assist feature on ovens while others, such as Gaggenau, JennAir, Wolf, Bosch, and others, offer true steam ovens that feature a reservoir that must be filled with water for the oven to cook with steam. Others can directly connected to a water line.
Convection Ovens: The preferred oven cooking method by most chefs, convection ovens use heat at the top and bottom of the oven but also uses a fan to circulate the warm air around the food. This method cooks food evenly with thorough browning and good moisture retention.
Speed Ovens: A speed oven is a unit that combines convection cooking and microwave technology to speed up the cooking process. The outside of the food is cooked like a conventional oven, with radiant heat produced by halogen bulbs above and below the food. In theory, foods will cook faster but will be evenly brown and moist.
The new 500 Series Heat Pump Dryer is a 24-inch ventless dryer with a self-cleaning condenser that eliminates the need for manual maintenance. The unit cleans the condenser by recycling the moisture collected in the water tank during the drying process.
Available in electric and gas models, the InstaView ThinQ Ranges with Air Fry is WiFi-enabled for easy access to the company’s customer service tool and recipes from several smart cooking platforms. The ranges can also be controlled by voice command.
The new Air Fry was the first oven of its kind on the market, the company says. With less than one tablespoon of oil, users can fry ingredients to achieve all the desired crunch without the fattening oils fried food usually requires. The oven also features a quick preheat, five-burner cooktop, and a true-convection setting and is available in gas, electric, and induction models.
The Platinum Architect French door refrigerator uses an ethylene-absorption cartridge to help extend the freshness of produce by 25 percent. The fridge interior features glossy walls and LED lighting designed for high-color contrast, and a three-tiered freezer drawer provides organized storage and easy access.
The 24-inch integrated wine cellar can hold up to 100 bottles of wine and can come pre-finished or panel-ready for a customized look. With three independently cooled zones and four humidity sensors, the wine cellar creates and maintains an customized environment for a diverse wine collection. The cellar also features smart home technology that allows users to monitor and control its settings while receiving real-time notifications.
Using smart home technology, the new smart laundry washer and dryer allow consumers to monitor the laundry cycle and control the washer and dryer remotely. The company says that consumers can avoid unnecessary service calls and better maintain their machine because of the smart features. The washer also features an Extra Power button to tackle particularly messy loads.
This is the manufacturer's first stand-alone oven: the stainless-steel, 24-inch Combi Steam Oven in stainless steel. The oven has 2.16 cubic feet of usable space and features four preset cooking modes, including a cooking-time-reducing steam-assist feature, gourmet recipe, guided cooking, and true convection. Using the 7-inch colored touch panel, cooks can also set personalized preferences.
Designed to operate quietly and integrate seamlessly into kitchens, the Monolith Column Refrigeration features clean lines, smart technology, and eco-friendly engineering. The energy-efficient refrigerators come in a stainless steel finish or panel-ready so customers can customize them to match existing cabinetry.
Sofia is a 48-inch range with six crescendo burners, a stainless-steel griddle, and two oven cavities. It has five oven functions: bake, broil, convection, true convection, and sabbath mode. Inside the ovens is black porcelain enamel, and the oven’s cool-to-the-touch door features a soft close.
The brand’s 48-inch Culinary Series range features sealed burners, 21,000 BTUs of searing power, and a precise simmer burner. It has a 30-inch convection oven that will accommodate a commercial size baking sheets plus a companion oven that accommodates a half size sheet pan. Customers may customize with a choice of 1,000+ colors, 10 metal trims, and colored knobs.
The updated Family Hub refrigerator includes new side-by-side model . It offers a built-in look, flat doors, minimal dispenser, and recessed handles. Available in black stainless or stainless, each model has a redesigned interior, multiple vents throughout the interior keep food evenly cooled and fresh, and LED lights. In addition, it offers a digital bulletin board for photos or videos, an internal camera to view what’s inside the fridge.
The Classic 1900 Series Stove mixes textured metals such as brushed brass with 18,000-BTU burners, full extension oven rack, electronic ignition, 1850-degree infrared broiler, and convection fan. It’s available in five standard, four premium, and more than 200 custom colors.
The Majestic is the first 40-inch induction range on the U.S. market, the manufacturer says. Each burner features pot-sensor technology, power boost, and simmer. Offered in more than 200 colors, it has a multi-function oven, full-size warming drawer, and rotisserie accessory.
The Noir 48-inch Dual-Fuel Professional-Style range features precision-drilled brass burners, cast-iron grates, 20,000-BTU dual-stacked power burners as well options ranging from 9,000 to 18,000 BTUs. It comes in 34 range configurations and offers remote access and control via an app, including a connected temperature probe.
The 36-inch built-in refrigerator featrues dual compressors, full-extension drawers, and five-mode convertible drawers that can be set to five temperature zones. It also offers adjustable LED lighting, removable ice-bucket storage, and digital controls. The unit will accept a cabinet panel.
Manufactured in Scandicci, Italy, this new line of Provençal ranges is sized for and offers features to meet the needs of the American market. The range has high-performance burners with BTUs ranging from 8,500 to 20,000, a stainless steel burner pan, electronic spark ignition, porcelain-coated cast-iron grates, and polished chrome die-cast knobs. Colors include dark blue, stainless steel, graphite black, and antique white.
The multifunctional brass burner system can be integrated into any kitchen countertop, such as granite, quartz, marble, concrete, terrazzo, glass, ceramic, stone, Corian, or stainless steel. It allows users to cook on both low and high power and is operated by only one knob. The burners come in six models.
Abbaka by BlueStar, Blandon, Pa., www.abbaka.com; Aga Ranges, Greenville, Mich., middlebyresidential.com; Air King America, West Chester, Pa., www.airkinglimited.com; Asko, Madison, Wis., www.askona.com
Beko, Bolingbrook, Ill., www.bekoappliances.com; Bertazzoni, Reggio Emilia, Italy, www.us.bertazzoni.com; Best, Hartford, Wis., www.bestrangehoods.com; Big Chill, Boulder, Colo., www.bigchill.com; Blomberg, Bolingbrook, Ill., www.blombergappliances.com; BlueStar, Blandon, Pa., www.bluestarcooking.com; Bosch Home Appliances, Irvine, Calif., www.bosch-home.com/us; Broan and NuTone, Hartford, Wis., www.broan.com
Caliber Appliances, Huntington Beach, Calif., www.caliberappliances.com; Capital Cooking Equipment, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., www.capital-cooking.com; Coyote Outdoor Living, Carrollton, Texas www.coyoteoutdoor.com
Earthstone Ovens, Glendale, Calif., www.earthstoneovens.com; Electrolux Major Appliances, Augusta, Ga., www.electroluxappliances.com; Elmira Stove Works, Ontario, Canada, www.elmirastoveworks.com; EuroChef USA, Edgewood, N.Y., www.eurochefusa.com; Evo, Inc., Tualatin, Ore., www.evoamerica.com
Faber, Hudson, Mass., www.faberonline.com; Fantech 10048 Industrial Blvd. Lenexa, Kan., www.fantech.net; Fisher & Paykel, Costa Mesa, Calif., www.fisherpaykel.com; Fotile America, Parsippany, N.J., www.fotileglobal.com/us/; Frigidaire Appliances, Augusta, Ga., www.frigidaire.com; Fulgor Milano, Vicenza, Italy, www.fulgor-milano.com/us
JennAir, Benton Harbor, Mich., www.jennair.com
RangeCraft Manufacturing, Fair Lawn, N.J., www.rangecraft.com
Samsung Electronics America, Ridgewood, N.J. www.samsung.com; Sharp Home Electronics, Montvale, N.J. www.sharpusa.com; Signature Kitchen Suite, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., www.signaturekitchensuite.com; Smeg, New York, www.smegusa.com; Splendide, Clackamas, Ore., www.splendide.com; Streamline Hoods, Fair Lawn, N.J., www.streamlinehoods.com; Sub-Zero, Wolf, and Cove, Madison, Wis., www.subzero-wolf.com; Summerset Professional Grills, Huntington Beach, Calif., www.summersetgrills.co; Summit Appliance, Bronx, N.Y., www.summitappliance.com; Superiore S.P., Gualtieri, Italy, www.superiore.us
U-Line Corp., Milwaukee, www.u-line.com
Vent-A-Hood, Richardson, Texas, www.ventahood.com; Verona, Edgewood, N.Y., www.veronaappliances.com; Viking Range, Greenwood, Miss., www.vikingrange.com; Vinotemp, Rancho Dominguez, Calif., www.vinotemp.com
Zephyr, San Francisco, www.zephyronline.com