Category: Kitchen


Induction Cooktops 101

With many compelling benefits, as well as some real drawbacks, induction cooktops are an intriguing alternative to the traditional gas or electric range.

Photo: geappliances.com

Picture this: You put a large pot of water on the stove and within only a few minutes, the water has rolled to a boil. That’s the magic of an induction cooktop. Compared with conventional gas and electric ranges, induction cooktops boast enhanced, even revolutionary, speed. But it’s not just about power; induction cooktops also offer a high level of precision. In other words, there’s no delay when you turn the dial up or down; the technology responds immediately to your adjustment and holds, without deviation, the desired temperature. Though induction cooking has existed for decades, it’s really started to gain traction in the last few years, having become a viable alternative to the conventional heating appliances we all grew up with. Even so, induction cooktops account for less than 10 percent of the market in the United States, and a great deal of confusion remains as to how the technology works and what it offers the home cook.

The Science
Unlike any range you’re likely to have used before, an induction cooktop does not give off heat. Rather, its burners are essentially electromagnets that transfer energy to the cookware. That energy, in turn, causes the cookware—and the food within it—to heat. So even when a pot of water is boiling vigorously, the cooktop itself stays relatively cool. If it warms at all, it’s only because the hot pot has sat right over the induction cooktop surface for a prolonged period of time.

Photo: geappliances.com

Benefits
Induction cooking is fast, responsive, and precise, and for these reasons many professional cooks have adopted the technology. But even for the average homeowner, there are at least a few benefits to consider beyond the bounds of meal preparation. For instance, because there are no hot surfaces (except those directly under active pots and pans), induction cooktops are a safe option in homes with children. As well, the smooth glass-ceramic surface of an induction cooktop is very easy to clean, with no grates, drip pans, or awkward gaps to collect crumbs or splatters. And because the cooktop does not get hot, spills do not burn and become caked on—they come right off, with no need for scrubbing.

Energy Efficiency
According to the Department of Energy, a conventional electric or gas stove fails to transfer about 60 percent of the energy it consumes. Induction cooktops are nearly twice as efficient. While it’s certainly true that—compared with, say, heating and cooling—cooking accounts for only a small amount of the energy used in the average home, many like the fact that induction cooktops save energy by cooking faster and that they waste a minimum of energy in the process of doing so.

Cons
Induction cooking takes some getting used to, and some cooking methods simply may not translate. Any technique that requires an open flame—grilling, for example, or even toasting—is not possible with induction cooking. There’s also the possibility that you would need to replace some or even all of your nonmagnetic cookware. Cast iron, enamel, and stainless steel are often suitable, but copper, glass, ceramic, and aluminum are not. When in doubt, touch a magnet to the bottom of the pot or pan in question. If it sticks, then you’re in business. If not, the cookware unfortunately won’t work.

One final drawback: Although induction cooktops have recently come down in price, they can still be pretty expensive (though budget options are out there). Then again, for those entranced by the magic of induction cooking, cost may be secondary to the many performance and lifestyle benefits.


How To: Clean a Refrigerator

While you may cringe upon opening the door to a dirty fridge, even more upsetting is how the appliance may be affecting your electric bill. Clean your refrigerator today, not only for cosmetic and health reasons, but for financial reasons as well.

How To Clean A Refrigerator

Photo: shutterstock.com

As the only home appliance to host a rotating population of mess-making foods, it’s no wonder the refrigerator ranks as the quickest of all to get seriously grimy. Within only a week, splatters and drips, leakage and smells take hold and compromise, not only the appearance of your fridge (and your mood upon opening it), but also its energy efficiency. That means a fridge you haven’t cleaned is a fridge that’s costing you more than it should on your month-to-month energy bills. So if you were looking for a reason to clean the refrigerator, you’ve finally got one—money! To do a thorough job it, follow the simple series of steps detailed below.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Coil brush
- Vacuum with attachments
- Soft cloths
- Rubbing alcohol
- Vinegar
- Dishwashing detergent
- Warm water
- Sponge
- Toothbrush
- Baking soda

STEP 1
Start by unplugging the fridge. Next, locate the condenser coils; these may be on the back of the unit or on its bottom side. If the coils are on the back, pull the unit away from the wall and then use a coil brush (a tool well worth its low cost) to free whatever dust and dirt has accumulated there. If the coils are on the bottom of the fridge, you need not go through the trouble of moving the appliance, but you do have to hunker down so as to manipulate the coil brush toward the target area. In either case, sweep up or vacuum all the stuff your brushing has brought to light—there may be quite a bit, if you haven’t cleaned the coils before.

STEP 2
Empty the refrigerator of all contents and put them aside. In the process of doing so, take the opportunity to purge any items that are past their expiration date. When it comes to choosing a cleaning solution, you may prefer something store-bought, but the following homemade version works well, too. Mix 1 teaspoon rubbing alcohol, 1 teaspoon vinegar, and warm water into a spray bottle. Add in a few drops of dish detergent, then shake it up. While the alcohol and vinegar cut through tough stains, the detergent works to eliminate grease and disinfect. It’s a potent cleaning cocktail, to be sure, but using it won’t make you want to retch.

“]How To Clean a Refrigerator - Compartment

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Take out any shelves or drawers that are removable, place them on the counter, and clean them one by one in the sink. Spray each with your cleaning cocktail, then scrub with a sponge. Once you’ve cleaned one, rinse it off and move to the next. As they all air-dry, proceed to cleaning the inside of the fridge.

STEP 4
Start at the top and work your way down, spraying the back and side walls along with any fixed-in-place shelving. Use the sponge to scrub any areas with stubborn food residue, and follow up with a paper towel to clean up the excess spray. Where crevices have collected crumbs, use an old toothbrush or a similar tool. Pay special attention to where the drawers sit, and don’t forget to address the pocket panels on the door. Finish by tackling the door edges as well as the door seal (go gentle on the latter).

STEP 5
Now it’s time to clean the refrigerator exterior. Spray and wipe it down on all sides; go over the door handles more than once, as they are likely to harbor both finger smudges and germs. Note that if yours is a stainless steel appliance, special cleaning techniques apply. Do not use any product that contains bleach, and shy away from any abrasive scrubbing pads that might leave scratches behind. Opt instead for a damp, soapy washcloth. For extra firepower, mix together baking soda and liquid dish soap, then apply the paste with a nylon scrubbie. As a last step, wipe away all remaining suds with a damp towel.

STEP 6
Plug the refrigerator back in and refill it. Your appliance is now in tip-top shape!

Additional Notes
It’s best to clean the refrigerator coils every few months, even if the visible parts of the refrigerator look more or less clean. If you find the refrigerator isn’t getting cold enough, dirty coils are likely to blame.


Before & After: A Massive Makeover for a Minuscule Kitchen

One cramped kitchen sees new life, thanks to the husband-and-wife team behind The Grit and Polish.

Kitchen Before and After

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

Cathy Poshusta says, “My husband and I are a couple of old-house renovation junkies.” Together, she and Garrett renovate one after another residence in the Seattle, WA, area, temporarily living within the walls of the project house before moving on to their next adventure. Right now, the couple lives in a 1926 Tudor they’ve dubbed the Ravenna House. Here, one major area of focus has been the kitchen, which at the outset was woefully outdated and inconveniently closed off from the rest of the home. The plan? Transform the space into the sort of heart-of-the-home kitchen that modern families have grown accustomed to enjoying. The result? Stunning. Though Cathy documents her challenges and triumphs over on The Grit and Polish, we tracked her down to find out more details about the design decision-making and do-it-yourself feats that went into achieving a kitchen before-and-after of such jaw-dropping style and persuasive substance.

Kitchen Before and After - Full View

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What was the kitchen like before?
When we bought the house, the kitchen had 1920s cabinets, an original cast-iron sink, and a wall-mounted faucet. It was also the smallest kitchen I had ever seen and completely closed off from the rest of house. It all added up to a space that no one wanted to be in. Our renovation goal was to open up the space and create a room that people actually wanted to gather in.

Where did you look for inspiration?
I have a pretty robust “kitchen” board on Pinterest, where I keep all my inspiration. Once I saw a kitchen with a marble herringbone backsplash, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. In the last two kitchens we remodeled, I installed a white subway tile backsplash. This time, I wanted to try something new.

Kitchen Before and After - Herringbone Backsplash

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What did you learn from installing the tile yourself?
My husband and I learned a lot from that DIY tile installation, mainly that laying tile in a herringbone pattern is not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of custom-cuts and sore thumbs involved. We probably won’t attempt herringbone again.

Kitchen Before and After - In Progress Work

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

What was the biggest challenge? Any compromises along the way?
Like many old houses, nothing in the Ravenna House is square or plumb. That proved tedious, particularly when it came to hanging cabinets and installing molding. The ceilings were a real construction challenge as well. After taking out the wall between the kitchen and living room, we had varying ceiling heights. The simplest solution to hide the imperfections, we decided, would be to install a faux beam and beadboard ceiling. In the end, those details are two of my favorite features. We did have to compromise on counter and cabinet space in order to fit in a dining table. An island would have added workspace and storage, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of not having a table, since our family gathers there every night.

Small Kitchen Makeover

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

As someone who’s renovated a few different houses, do you have any tips for our readers?
If all else fails, shim it and caulk it, and everything will look just fine. That’s a mantra my husband and I find ourselves repeating during every renovation. I’ve also learned to take my time and do the job right. It’s natural to want to rush through a project… but doing that second measurement and checking the level one more time will ultimately save you time and money. Having to redo a project that you or a previous homeowner has already done is beyond frustrating. Just check out the tile floor we had to rip up and redo in our basement shower!

Kitchen Window Seat

Photo: thegritandpolish.com

Now that you’ve lived with the new kitchen, how do you think it’s changed the way you use the space?
The new kitchen is way more open. It is a small space but well laid out and really efficient. It’s now a gathering place for our family and friends (instead of a closed-off room that could only fit one person). And we use the space every day for every meal and often sit at the table to do coloring or reading with our 1-year-old son. This kitchen is now truly the heart of our home.

 

See even more photos of this kitchen before-and-after over at The Grit and Polish.


Big Chill’s Cutting-Edge, Retro-Styled Appliances

A Colorado manufacturer unites the playful colors, sinuous forms, and sparking chrome of 1950s appliances with the advanced engineering of today.

Big Chill Appliances - Blue Suite

Photo: bigchill.com

How did Big Chill end up manufacturing cutting-edge new kitchen appliances that look, in the best way possible, 60 years old? The idea came to company founder Thom Vernon when, in the process of designing a home for himself and his family, he encountered a dilemma. The other rooms of the house would have both a vintage look and modern conveniences, but this same balance wouldn’t be possible in the kitchen. Even if he could find the right antique appliances, either at auction or through a specialty dealer, his feared these midcentury originals would be too small for his modern family’s needs. Energy efficiency was another worry, because the appliances that best suited his aesthetic vision had been engineered well before most people ever thought of such things.

Big Chill Appliances - Lime Green Fridge

Photo: bigchill.com

That’s when Vernon sought out his nephew, Orion Creamer, who had trained as a product designer. The two started a business with a novel concept: They would produce kitchen appliances that were brand-new in everything but their outer shell, which would recall the distinctive design of the 1950s. After studying countless vintage appliances, the team launched their first product, a professional-quality refrigerator clad in a retro-styled housing. They called it the Big Chill.

Since then, the company has gone on to develop a full line of appliances that includes dishwashers, microwaves, stoves, range hoods, and wall ovens. All boast the benefits of modern technology, all are Energy Star-rated, and all adhere to the same classic aesthetic. Each comes in eight standard colors, such as Beach Blue and Jadeite Green, with more than 200 custom colors available on request. Most orders are assembled at the company headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.

Big Chill Appliances - Pastel Blue Stove

brucon.com

According to its Web site, the company continues to grow and plans to open a division in France, where there’s a high demand for vintage American appliances.

For more information, visit Big Chill Appliances.


Gas or Electric? Choose Your Next Stove Wisely

A host of factors, from your location to your culinary ambitions, influence the choice between a gas and electric stove. If you're shopping for a new range, read on to learn what trade-offs to expect with each type.

Gas vs. Electric Stove

Photo: shutterstock.com

There are two main types of stoves—gas and electric. Each type has its devotees, and its detractors. Which stove you prefer seems to depend largely on which type you grew up with. If you learned to cook using a gas stove, chances are that you’ll stick with it. However, conversions occur, and plenty of people find reasons to switch their allegiance. For instance, burgeoning chefs may be swayed by the versatility and accuracy provided by the flame heating of gas stoves. Meanwhile, parents with young children may switch to an electric stove, seeing it as the safer of the two. Families also appreciate the easy-clean virtues of electric stoves. Strong as one’s personal preference may be, economics play a role too: Depending on where you live, one or the other stove type might be cheaper to operate. If your current stove is scorching your sauces, burning the bacon, and ruining the roast, keep these considerations in mind as you choose between gas and electric.

Though propane, butane, or even liquefied petroleum gas can be used to power a stove, most gas stoves run on natural gas and require a gas line to the house. Depending on where you live, the requirement of a gas line may be a deal-breaker. In most suburbs, the infrastructure is such that gas- and electric-powered stoves are equally feasible. In more remote areas, gas lines are not a given. But no matter where you live, chances are there’s electricity. And so long as your home has electricity, you can operate an electric stove. It simply needs to be plugged in. Note, however, that most electric stoves do require a 240-volt power outlet.

Gas vs. Electric Fireplaces - Glow Detail

Photo: shutterstock.com

COST
As with any other investment you’d make in your home, choosing a new stove involves weighing both the upfront purchase cost and the long-term operating cost. Electric stoves tend to carry the higher price tag—not by much, though. Whereas average electric stoves range from $650 to $2,800, comparable gas stoves range from $800 to $2,300. So there’s a difference, but it’s not a very dramatic one. Operating costs, however, are often different enough to be a deciding factor for many. It’s difficult to make blanket statements here, because utility rates change from state to state. But in most states, natural gas costs less than electricity, and where that’s the case, a gas stove typically costs 10% to 30% less to operate on an ongoing basis.

PERFORMANCE
When it comes to cooking, the main difference between gas and electric stoves lies in how quickly they respond to temperature setting changes. Gas stoves respond more or less instantly, giving you more of the precise control needed to be successful with certain dishes. Electric stoves do not respond as quickly, particularly when you’re adjusting the temperature down or turning the heat off. Besides that, there are also a few things that an electric stove simply cannot do (and that a gas stove can); these include charring, toasting, and flambéing. If you’re a committed home chef, the superior performance of gas stoves may sway you in their favor.

SAFETY
When you’re cooking with a gas stove, you’re effectively cooking on an open flame. That makes it the more dangerous of the two, because wherever there’s an open flame, there’s a chance of children or pets being burned (or a flammable item catching fire). There’s also the risk of gas leaks, so to be on the safe side, any home with a gas stove should have a carbon monoxide detector. Though electric stoves do not entail zero risk of burns or fires, they are generally considered safer. They’re also easier to clean. That’s particularly true if you purchase one of the newer electric stoves that features a smooth glass or ceramic cook top.

All in all, when shopping for a new stove and choosing between gas and electric, choose what you’re most comfortable with. If you have reservations about natural gas, or are nervous about cooking on an open flame, opt for an electric stove. On the other hand, if you’re budget-minded or a budding chef, gas may be best. The choice, of course, is ultimately yours.


How To: Clean a Garbage Disposal

If your sink smells like the dumpster behind a restaurant, take ten minutes to clean out your garbage disposal with these freshening tips.

How To Clean A Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

Consider the environment within the average in-sink garbage disposal: It’s cool, dark, and moist, and there’s a near constant influx of food that gets shredded and scattered about. No wonder it gets smelly from time to time! To clean a garbage disposal and eliminate the odor-causing bacteria, follow these instructions.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Flashlight
- Needle-nose pliers or tongs
- Ice cubes
- Rock salt
- Vinegar
- Baking soda
- Old toothbrush
- Liquid dishwashing soap
- Lemon or orange peels

STEP 1
There are two cardinal rules when it comes to cleaning a garbage disposal. The first is always to disconnect the power to the appliance before working on it. The easiest way to cut its power is simply by unplugging it. Normally, it’s plugged in to the wall under the sink. If you can’t locate the outlet, go to the electrical panel in your house and cut electricity to the circuit on which the garbage disposal is powered. To confirm that the power is off, try turning on the garbage disposal.

Next, point a flashlight down the drain to identify objects that may be lodged in, or wound around, the impellers that macerate the solids sent through the disposal. Look for such things as bottle caps, aluminum can pull-tabs, or vegetable fibers. If you find any, remove these items with needle-nose pliers or tongs. Yes, the second rule of cleaning a garbage disposal is never to stick your hand into the chamber.

Clean a Kitchen Sink's Garbage Disposal

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Drop about a dozen ice cubes into the garbage disposal, followed by a half-cup of rock salt. Restore power to the disposal, so that you can turn on the mechanism while running water down the drain. Keep it on for about a minute, until all the built-up grime and gunk has fallen away from the disposal blades. Check the drain with a flashlight again. If the blades are clean, go and shut the power back off.

STEP 3
Pour a cup of vinegar and a half-cup of baking soda into the disposal. Let the combination fizz for about 15 minutes. In the process, the acidity of the solution kills bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli. Stick with the natural cleaners here; no toxic chemical should be used. Just as bacteria can come flying out of the disposal, compromising the sanitation of your kitchen sink, so too could a chemical.

STEP 4
While the vinegar and baking soda are busy fizzing inside the disposal, combine the two again—this time outside the appliance, on the counter—to create a thick paste. Put some of that paste on an old toothbrush, and use it to scrub down the top and bottom surfaces of the rubber flaps along the neck of the disposal. Those flaps are likely to be as bacteria-ridden as any other component. So while you’re at it, think about giving a good scrubbing to the rubber parts on your sink stopper, too, if there are any.

STEP 5
Now’s the time to engineer one final flush of the garbage disposal. First, plug the drain opening. Second, run the water in the sink until its basin is about three-quarters full. Add a teaspoon of dish soap, then finally remove the drain plug, letting the water drain out all while the disposal runs.

Additional Notes
You can add a fresh aroma to the sink and disposal by sending citrus peels through the disposal. And in the future, with regular cleaning of the garbage disposal, you can make sure odors stay away. Mark your calendar with a reminder to clean the garbage disposal every two weeks or so. For regular cleaning, any method works, be it ice and rock salt or vinegar and baking soda. Each takes only a few minutes, and if you stay on top things, you can avoid the more laborious and time-consuming process detailed above.


How To: Clean an Oven

Smell something smoky? Check your oven. Spills and splatters from long-gone casseroles could be to blame. Roll up your sleeves and follow this step-by-step to get your oven back to working order.

How to Clean an Oven

Photo: shutterstock.com

You’ve put it off for months, hoping the little spills and splatters inside the oven would vanish of their own accord. There comes a time, though—as much as you wish it weren’t true—when you must clean an oven to ensure its continued operation. Of course, that’s assuming you don’t have a self-cleaning oven. These marvelous inventions have been around for a number of years. They maintain themselves by heating to an extremely high temperature that burns away residue. Older appliances are not so conveniently equipped. But by following the instructions detailed below, you can clean an oven completely in only a handful of steps.

TOOLS AND MATERIALS
- Baking soda
- Water
- Sponge
- Old newspapers
- Spray bottle
- White vinegar
- Clean microfiber cloth

STEP 1
Start be removing the oven racks. These may need to be cleaned, too. The most effective method of cleaning oven racks is to give them a good, long soak in hot, soapy water (liquid dish soap or a crumbled dishwasher tablet ought to suffice). Can’t fit your oven racks in the kitchen sink? As an alternative, you can soak them in the bathtub. Just be sure to line the tub with an old towel so as to prevent the metal racks from chipping or scratching the delicate finish on your tub.

How to Clean an Oven Door

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Within the oven itself, use a metal spatula to gently scrape away residue. The sides of the oven may be messy too, but most of your effort is likely to be spent on clearing ashy chunks off the bottom of the oven chamber. Most baked-on spills and splatters can be removed this way, but you’re not finished yet!

STEP 3
Mix baking soda with just enough water to create a thick paste. A typical ratio is one half-cup of baking soda and two or three tablespoons of water. Apply the paste to every surface inside the oven, including the back side of the door. Let sit for several hours or overnight, allowing the paste to penetrate deeply.

STEP 4
Once six or eight hours have gone by, lay old newspapers or paper towels on the floor in front of the oven. Next, using a slightly moist sponge, wipe out as much of the paste as possible. Lots of grease and ash should come out along with the paste. Continue wiping, rinsing the sponge as necessary, until no more paste remains in the oven. If the chamber still seems dirty, you may want to repeat the process, reapplying the baking soda and letting it sit before attacking the oven with a sponge yet again.

STEP 5
Fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mixture of white vinegar and water, using it to spray down the glass portion of the oven door. Wipe away the moisture with a clean, dry cotton or microfiber cloth.

Additional Notes
In the future, to make oven maintenance less of a time-consuming chore, why not regularly wipe down the oven chamber with soapy water? If you stick to a program of more frequent, less intensive cleaning, your oven may never again need such major TLC. Hey, it’s something to think about, at least!


How To: Clean Stove Burners

Return a messy stovetop with grease-covered burners to like-new condition in under 30 minutes. Here's how.

How To Clean Stove Burners

Photo: Shutterstock.com

We’ve all been there: It’s the end of a long day, and rather than wipe up the splatters on the range, you decide the mess can linger for a day. A week later, you still haven’t cleaned the stove burners, and—largely thanks to the pasta sauce you’ve just brought to a low simmer—the situation has only gotten stickier. OK, it’s time. All it takes is one deep cleaning to restore the stovetop to its pristine state. Follow these steps to clean stove burners quickly and with a minimum of hassle.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- Dishwashing soap
- Sponge
- Baking soda
- Scouring pad
- Ammonia (optional)
- Clean cloth

STEP 1
Before going any further, wait until the burners have completely cooled. Next, remove the grates (for a gas range) or burner coils (for an electric range). In the latter case, it takes only a little tug-and-lift motion at the point where the coils connect to the sockets on the stove. If those coils don’t budge, refer to your appliance manual in order to avoid causing any damage. Once the grates or coils are off, move them over to your countertop to be cleaned separately.

Dirty Stove Burners

Photo: Shutterstock.com

STEP 2
Combine lukewarm water and a bit of dishwashing soap in a bowl. Dip a cloth or sponge into the solution, then proceed to scrub the burners. (With an electric range, do your best to avoid getting the sockets wet.) If you’ve cleaned the burners somewhat recently, you may have luck with this approach.

STEP 3
To tackle tougher stains, enlist the abrasive power of baking soda. Mix a handful of baking soda with a little bit of water to form a thick paste. Coat your burners in the paste and let them stand for about 20 minutes. Once that time has passed, caked-on residue should have become soft enough to be removable with  a sponge. Lastly, rinse off the burners to make sure that none of the paste remains.

STEP 4 (optional)
If neither of the above has worked to clean your stove burners, there’s one more method to try. Place each burner into its own plastic bag, along with a quarter-cup of ammonia. The goal is not to cover the burners in ammonia, but simply to seal them in with the ammonia fumes. Let the plastic bags sit overnight in your sink, in case of a leak. On the next day, with proper ventilation in the kitchen, open the bags and now—finally—the burners should come clean under a sponge. Once the burners are no longer caked in residue, remember to rinse them thoroughly to remove all traces of the ammonia.

STEP 5
Pat down the burners with a clean cloth or paper towels and let them air-dry. Before reconnecting the coils on an electric range, be certain that both the coils and the stove sockets are both completely dry.

Additional Notes
One trick for everyday cleaning is to spray the burners with vinegar. Let them sit for a while (perhaps while you put dishes in the dishwasher), then wipe down the vinegar-treated burners with a clean cloth or paper towel. Cleaning burners after each use of the range makes it so grease and food residue cannot accumulate, and that negates the need for a deep cleaning like the process laid out in the steps above.


Buyer’s Guide: Best Refrigerators

With so many available sizes, finishes, features, and configurations, picking the right refrigerator can be a challenge. Let us simplify the process with this quick rundown of important considerations and a sampling of well-reviewed models.

Best Refrigerators

Photo: shutterstock.com

The kitchen plays host to more appliances than any other room in the house, and the king of them all is the refrigerator. Whereas it was once a plain white box of no-frills functionality, the refrigerator has evolved to boast a range of stylish finishes, plus an ever-widening assortment of features, some more useful than others. If it’s been years since you last shopped for a fridge, you may be surprised by how much the product landscape has changed. So as you navigate the many options, keep these factors in mind to make a selection that meets your day-to-day needs, satisfies your style preferences, and fits within your budget.

Size/Capacity. When it comes to refrigerator size, there are two measurements to know. The first is the appliance’s exterior size. If you’re buying a new fridge as part of a major kitchen renovation, then you’re free to consider larger- or smaller-than-standard appliance sizes, because your countertops and cabinetry can be designed to fit around whichever model you choose. However, if you’re working within an existing kitchen layout, the new refrigerator needs to fit into the space vacated by the old one. In some kitchens, there may be a height limitation, but width is more typically the crucial dimension. Standard refrigerators measure between 30 and 33 inches across. Depth varies as well. Some models are designed to sit almost flush with the edge of the countertop. Counter-depth refrigerators yield a sleek, almost built-in look, although because they are shallower, these fridges may not offer as much storage capacity as full-depth models.

The fact is that once the refrigerator has been installed, you’re going to care less about its exterior dimensions and more about its interior capacity. Standard-width refrigerators typically have interior capacities ranging from 19 to 22 cubic feet. While some models offer up to 33 cubic feet of capacity, they are wider (and sometimes taller) than the average model. Compact refrigerators, some as narrow as 18 inches, are experiencing new popularity, not in dorm rooms or offices, but in smaller homes. While these so-called column refrigerators often lack a freezer, you can buy a separate (equally small) freezer to serve as a companion.

Best Refrigerators - Full Interior

Photo: shutterstock.com

Configurations. In their quest to expand interior capacity and pack in extra features, manufacturers have struck upon a bevy of innovative configurations. While the most common configuration is still the familiar freezer-on-top design, some of the other popular arrangements include:

side-by-side combinations: Appealing to those who reach into the freezer as often as the fridge, these feature a vertical, full-length split, with the refrigerator on one side and the freezer on the other.

bottom-freezer styles: A fast-growing subcategory, this design positions the refrigerator above the freezer; while the fridge portion often has hinged French doors, the freezer pulls out along sliding tracks.

• four-door models: We’re used to “four doors” being a descriptor for cars, but here the term refers to refrigerators that feature an extra drawer (for meats and beverages) between the two-door fridge and pull-out freezer on bottom.

In deciding upon the ideal refrigerator configuration for your kitchen, don’t forget to account for a model’s door swing in relation to nearby walls, cabinetry, and other appliances. Another important consideration: Many appliances work best when installed with a certain amount of clearance on all sides. Read the literature and work with the appliance salesperson (and/or your contractor or kitchen designer) to make sure that the refrigerator you are purchasing is going to actually fit in your space.

Energy Efficiency. In any product showroom, you’ll find that each refrigerator carries an Energy Guide label, summarizing the appliance’s energy requirements and annual operating cost (based on average natural gas and electricity rates). To minimize monthly energy bills, focus on models bearing the Energy Star designation. Such refrigerators exceed federal minimum standards for efficiency and quality.

Additional Features. Bells and whistles are as prevalent here as in any other appliance category. Among the most popular are temperature-controlled drawers, adjustable storage shelves and bins, and through-the-door ice and water dispensers. On pricier models, you can find wine-chilling compartments, Bluetooth-enabled sound systems, and even integrated television and/or computer screens. In addition, most brands today offer a range of colors and finishes, from matte white to stainless steel and beyond.

To help you find the best refrigerator for your home, we’ve picked a few favorites, weighing the above factors against critical reviews on the top shopping sites:

 

Maytag M1TXEGMYW Top-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerator - Maytag

Photo: maytag.com

One of the most reviewed refrigerators over on The Home Depot, this traditional top-freezer model received 4.2 out of 5 stars, with consumers praising its “convenient” ice maker as well as its “large capacity.” The Energy Star-qualified unit provides 20.6 cubic feet of interior space, with adjustable full-width Spill-Catcher glass shelves; FreshLock humidity-controlled crispers for produce; and Cool Flow ventilation that helps evenly refrigerate large items. Available in an assortment of finishes, including stainless steel, the Maytag, though not the newest kid on the block, impresses as a low-cost, high-performing choice. Price: $799

 

Kenmore Elite 71323 French Door Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerators - Kenmore

Photo: kenmore.com

Sears shoppers gave the Kenmore Elite 5 out of 5 stars, citing its “roomy” 21.6-cubic-foot interior, which is housed within a modest 30-inch-wide frame. Energy Star-qualified, the refrigerator features a full-width pantry drawer, specially designed to hold extra-large, typically hard-to-store items like party platters. Other features include a filtered water dispenser, factory-installed ice maker, and a pull-out freezer with a two-tier design that maximizes storage space. Price: $2,099

 

LG LDC24370ST Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator

Best Refrigerators - LG

Photo: lg.com

Available in white or stainless steel, this LG bottom-freezer refrigerator combines contoured doors, commercial handles, and hidden hinges for a streamlined and seamless look. It’s spacious, too, with the refrigerator and freezer portions adding up to a total capacity of 23.8 cubic feet. Best Buy shoppers gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars, voicing appreciation for its LED lighting, quiet operation, and easy-to-clean adjustable shelves. The Smart Cooling system at its core relies on six temperature sensors and multi-airflow cooling to monitor and maintain temperature, with an electronic interface displaying the system status at any given time. Price: $1,619


How To: Install a Dishwasher

Unlike the plug-in appliances used in rooms beyond the kitchen, a dishwasher must be hardwired and hooked up to the home's plumbing. If you're up to challenge of installing it yourself, you can save real money.

How to Install a Dishwasher

Photo: shutterstock.com

Installing a dishwasher may seem daunting, but with the right instructions and a little care, it can be a rewarding DIY. And with the money you’ll save by not hiring a professional, you can afford to splurge on a high-quality appliance that will serve your household well for years. A word of wisdom, though: To keep things simple, aim to replace your current dishwasher with a model of the same or similar size. If your kitchen has never included a dishwasher before—or if the one you’ve purchased is significantly larger than your existing model—sophisticated cabinetwork may be necessary to accommodate the new machine. That’s beyond the scope of this article. But if your new appliance fits snugly into the space left by your old dishwasher, these instructions can help you install the replacement within hours.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS
- 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing
- Tubing cutter
- Tube-bending spring
- Two ½-inch compression fittings
- Adjustable wrench
- Teflon tape
- 3/8-inch to 1/2-inch brass plumbing elbow
- Hose clamp
- Plumber’s strapping
- Cable clamp
- Wire strippers
- Electrical wire nut
- Level
- Drill/driver

STEP 1
If your current dishwasher is still in place, the obvious first step is to remove it. Before going any further, shut off the water supply to the dishwasher and cut power to the unit. To do this, you’ll need to shut off the power at the electrical panel by toggling the switch associated with the circuit on which the dishwasher runs. Double-check that the power is truly off by trying to turn on the machine. If the dishwasher doesn’t respond, it’s safe to move on by breaking the three connections that allow the dishwasher to do its dirty work: the drain line, the water supply, and the electrical supply.

STEP 2
With the old dishwasher out of the way, you can now prep the connections for the new unit. While the existing electrical wiring may be reused, it’s a good idea to replace the water supply line (unless the existing supply line is copper, in which case you can skip ahead to Step 3). Remove the old, most likely braided plumbing line, and begin snaking 1/2-inch flexible copper tubing from the front of the dishwasher cabinet to the hot-water valve under the sink. Once you’re finished, use a tubing cutter to cut the line away from the remainder of the tubing coil.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Isolated Appliance

Photo: shutterstock.com

STEP 3
Under the sink, maneuver the tubing as close as you can to the hot-water valve. To make the connection, it may be necessary to use a tube-bending spring, a small plumber’s tool that enables you to shape the tubing as needed. Secure the connection with a compression nut, which you’ll tighten with your hands before finishing off with the wrench.

STEP 4
Look on the bottom of the dishwasher to locate the channels along which the water supply and electrical cable are meant to run. Measure their locations with respect to the sides of the dishwasher, then transfer those measurements to the floor of the cabinet. Now use the tube-bending spring to shape the copper tubing so that it travels along the side of the cabinet and then runs along the supply line you’ve marked on the floor of the cabinet. Do the same for the electrical cable.

STEP 5
Your new dishwasher will have come with its own drain hose. Assuming you’ve removed the drain hose for the old dishwasher, go ahead and run the new one from the dishwasher cabinet through the existing hole and to the area under the sink. As you do so, be careful not to let any kinks interrupt the hose. In a later step, you will connect the hose to the dishwasher and the sink drain.

STEP 6
Enlist another person to help you ease the dishwasher onto its back. From there, you can more easily remove the panel cover at the base of the unit and access the water inlet, through which clean water will feed into the unit. Wrap Teflon tape around the threads of the inlet and use an adjustable wrench to attach either a 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch brass elbow, depending on your appliance. Now, using the tube-bending spring, turn the flexible copper supply line so that it meets the brass elbow you’ve added. Where the two meet, the copper must run for at least two inches without any bends. Secure the connection between the tubing and the elbow by placing a compression fitting over the straight run of copper. Tighten the compression nut with your hands before giving it an extra turn with an adjustable wrench.

STEP 7
Turn your attention to the electrical cable (which may be left over from the old dishwasher hookup). Slide a cable clamp over the exposed wires, right where the wires disappear into the plastic or metal sheathing around the wire bundle. Then locate the junction box and remove its cover plate. Loosen the nut on the cable clamp and push the wires (along with the threaded end of the clamp) through the junction box’s hole. Once you have finished, use a screwdriver to tighten the nut again on the part of the clamp that remains outside the box.

STEP 8
Inside the junction box, use wire nuts to join the identically colored wires, white to white and black to black. If the wires coming from your home are sheathed in plastic (such as Romex), then be sure to connect—by means of another wire nut—the green wire (the ground) to the dishwasher’s green (or bare copper) wire. Otherwise, wrap the the dishwasher’s ground wire around a mounting screw on the junction box, then fasten the screw so that the ground doesn’t budge. Finally, fold all the wires into the junction box before screwing the cover plate back onto the receptacle.

How to Install a Dishwasher - Diagram

Photo: removeandreplace.com

STEP 9
Back in Step 5, you ran the drain hose from the dishwasher cabinet to the sink drain. Now it’s time to make the necessary connections. First, slip a hose clamp over the “sink side” of the hose, then fit the hose over the inlet on the sink drain. With plumber’s strapping, secure the hose against the top of the sink cabinet (or high on its rear side), so the hose arcs before it reaches the inlet. That U-shape is very important, because it prevents sink backflow from entering the dishwasher. Meanwhile, in the dishwasher cabinet, connect the other side of the hose to the dishwasher’s drain. This latter connection should be very quick and easy to make.

STEP 10
With the dishwasher in place, adjust its feet until the mounting brackets meet the underside of the counter. Check with a level to make sure that the appliance isn’t tilting to either side; adjust as necessary. Now use the drill/driver to drive screws through the mounting brackets, firmly securing the dishwasher in position. Replace the access panel cover at the base of the unit, which you removed in Step 6.

STEP 11
Turn on the water supply and return power to the circuit to which the dishwasher is connected. Don’t turn on the dishwasher yet; over the next few hours, keep a close eye out for leaks. If there aren’t any, take your new dishwasher out for its first test run!