Choosing Major Kitchen Appliances

Design, technology, and budget factor into decision making on the purchase of major kitchen appliances.

Major Kitchen Appliances

Choosing major kitchen appliances can be fun, but homeowners should think of family and lifestyle first. If hiring a designer, be prepared with a list of your desired appliances as they will impact space and traffic patterns. Many designers will want this information first, as it will influence the shape and design of the rest of the kitchen.

Dishwasher Upgrades
Dishwashers have undergone changes over the years, replacing loud, clunky eyesores with incognito models that are so quiet it is difficult to tell if they are on. Look for models that feature concealed control panels built into the top of the door and stylized paneling that keep this appliance from standing out. Quieter motors and stainless-steel interiors help deaden dishwasher noise—a crucial feature for open-plan homes or kitchens with adjacent entertaining spaces.

Don’t overlook the possibility of buying two or more dishwashers, a growing trend in kitchens and kitchen remodels. “Fifty percent of my clients have at least two dishwashers in their kitchens,” says Peter Salerno, a certified kitchen designer and owner of Peter Salerno Inc., in New Jersey. “For larger families or homes that like to entertain, one dishwasher can be cleaning while the other is being filled with new dirty dishes.”

Companies like KitchenAid and Fisher have also come up with dishwasher drawers, essentially two independent dishwashing drawers that are stacked on top of one another to accommodate single- or double-drawer loads. Salerno sees homeowners in space-challenged kitchens using the dishwasher drawers as storage, too. “If there’s a shortage of storage space, one drawer can hold dishes while the other washes them,” he adds.

Dishwasher Technology and Sizing
Homeowners interested in cutting-edge technology should be on the lookout for energy-efficiency, shorter cycles, and advanced features designed to cut time and fuss over dishes. GE’s SmartDispense dishwasher, which holds 45 ounces of detergent for automatic release with each load, and Jenn-Air’s 3-tiered dishwasher, with adjustable racks and a washing arm under each rack, are setting new marks in dishwasher design.

Most American-made under-the-counter dishwasher models are a standard 24 inches in width, so selecting a new unit to replace an old one may not require space reconfiguration. If considering European models, check the measurements since they are often narrower than their American counterparts.

Cooktop Features
Cooktops—formerly known as stoves—are now fully independent from ovens, which brings more features and flexibility to both. Commercial cooktops are becoming more popular in residential kitchens because they truly cater to the gourmet chef. High-end gas cooktops feature low-level BTU output settings for cooking light sauces or melting chocolates, which provides maximum control for precise cooking. Look for burners with an inner and an outer flame for high-precision and consistent heating.

New residential units are chasing their commercial predecessors in terms of price and features, so do your homework. Electric residential cooktops may be less expensive, but will not have the same precision as gas models. Cooktops range in size from 30 to 38 inches wide, but may be as wide as 48 inches if a griddle is included.

An island cooktop allows the entertaining chef to face the guests and bring the cooking to the party. Downdraft ventilation systems can eliminate the need for overhead hoods, and emerging technologies like induction cooking can create a safer cooking environment. With induction cooking, a magnetic-based pot or pan interacts with a magnetic field created by the cooking hob coils, inducing a current in the pot or pan. The pot or pan actually heats up and cooks the food while the surface stays cool. The system itself is entirely flame-free.

Stove Exhaust
The exhaust system is an essential and often overlooked kitchen component. Exhaust system capabilities should match the size of the stove or cooktop below it. Exhaust systems are measured in cubic feet per minute (cfm). The bigger the stove, the greater the exhaust capabilities of the system. A 36-inch stove, for example, should be matched by a minimum 800-cfm system, while a 48-inch stove would require at least 1000 to 1200 cfm. Check with your designer or certified dealer to be certain that the exhaust system matches and complements the stove that it services.

Standard and Convection Ovens
Ovens come in two types:  convection and conventional. Convection ovens are more expensive, as they feature blowers that circulate the heat for faster, even cooking. As with dishwashers, two ovens is becoming the norm in today’s kitchen. “The double oven is really critical,” Salerno believes. “Every kitchen should have two ovens.” Whether wall-mounted or fixed below the cooktop, two ovens allows for greater cooking capacity and flexibility.

Warming drawers, once a pretty prominent fixture in kitchens, are seeing a resurgence in kitchen design. Warming drawers can be set from 0 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the texture and temperature of cooked foods without drying them out. Warming drawers cost anywhere from $800 to $1,400, but are useful additions to kitchens that see a lot of use and provide large or complex meals for guests or families.

Innovative appliances like convection microwaves offer new cooking options for the pressed-for-time homeowner. With roasting, baking, and crisping capabilities, convection microwaves combine all the reheat features of a microwave with the cooking options of a convection oven. Cooking time is cut in half, but the desired flavor and texture of the food remains.

Refrigerator Rundown
Refrigerators come as side-by-side, top-and-bottom, and built-in units. Choosing a style may be largely a matter of personal preference, but the size of the refrigerator should take into account the size of the family. A family of four may only require a unit of 21 to 25 cubic feet, while one of six or more might want a unit with 27 to 32 cubic feet. Storage may be measured in cubic feet, but the width of the unit determines placement options. Let the needs of the family determine the size of the fridge, but be sure not to skimp—there’s nothing worse than having a packed fridge that doesn’t function to fit the family.

When considering additional features like ice makers or water dispensers, think about placement. A paneled refrigerator, for example, won’t go well with an external water dispenser, as spills can damage the paneling over time.

Both height and width need to be taken into account when looking at refrigerator size. Refrigerators can be as tall as 68 inches or more and as wide as 36 inches. A homeowner will want sufficient clearance from hallways, doorways and so on. A refrigerator that is going to be placed next to a wall will require a suitable door design. A standard rule of thumb is to allow at least 2 inches minimum on each side to allow a door to swing open, depending on the model.

One rising trend to consider is the addition of auxiliary fridge/freezer drawers. These under-the-counter units can serve as easy-access beverage centers or to store overflow items from the fridge or freezer. Reducing traffic through the chef’s space is a nice little perk for the busy kitchen. “A beverage drawer can keep the kids out of the cooking area and out of the primary refrigerator,” Salerno says.