A range that refrigerates, a dishwasher that allows you to clean up after 20 guests, and a cooking unit that speeds heating time up to five times faster than normal. These definitely aren't your mother's appliances - at least not 20, 10, or even five years ago.
All the latest in appliances were recently on display at the 2003 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Orlando, Fla.
"The biggest change has been a move to specialty and high-end appliances," said David Pappert of Modern Kitchens in Syracuse, New York. "A very strong niche has been building for several years for stainless steel refrigerators, stainless steel dishwashers, and pro-style residential ranges with large stainless steel hoods."
When it comes to cooktops and ranges, Christy M. Bowen, Designer for The Kitchen Source in Dallas, Texas, says that many homeowners want gas cooktops and ranges because of the nostalgic look and the fact that gas cooks better than electric ribbons because the cook has more control over the flames.
And Pappert says manufacturers have done a good job on the high-end with high- and low-temperature cooking innovations. Some appliances feature extra-low systems that allow the burner to cycle on and off -- and allow for a product to be on the range for 10 hours without boiling over.
Experts say that gas heats and cools quickly, while electric cooktops feature smooth, easy-to-clean glass or ceramic surfaces. Gas is a better option if you cook frequently or cook many things at once, and electric is better if you cook small, simple meals. Can't decide? Dual fuel ranges (gas cooktop and electric oven) are also available.
Several unique new range and cooktop options were introduced at the kitchen and bath show, including the Polara Refrigerated Range by Whirlpool.
The Polara allows you to put tomorrow's meal in the range and program the unit to cool for up to 24 hours until the timed cook setting kicks in. Then the range stays in warming mode for one hour before automatically beginning a cooling cycle.
Or try the Ceramic Induction Wok Cooktop by Kuppersbusch. When the induction unit is turned on, a high-frequency, alternating magnetic field is produced, stimulating the molecules in the pan to quickly move back and forth to create friction, producing faster-than-gas cooking. With no open flame or coils and front sensor touch controls, the cooktop is both high-tech and safe.
Bowen says many people want convection ovens because they cook faster, more evenly and keep in moisture better than conventional ovens. She says that although high-end models cost more, they perform like gourmet cooking units.
For those who need to cook several dishes at once, double wall ovens are best. Single ovens are less expensive and take up less space. Both types are available in standard, which provides heat from both the top and bottom of the over and can make for uneven temperatures within; and convection, in which hot air circulates and allows foods to cook faster. All types are offered in both gas (good for broiling) and electric (better temperature control).
If you need something cooked and you're short on time, try the GE Profile Oven with Innovection. Thermal, convection, and microwave energies unite, cooking foods up to five times faster. It does all the thinking for you. Once you enter food type, time, and temperature, the oven's brain will convert your traditional recipe into an optimized time/bake, leaving you with a fully roasted turkey in half the time.
Once the meal is cooked and it's time to clean up, the federal government, through the Energy Star program, suggests comparing dishwashers to find one that features advanced sensors that adjust to the amount of soil on your dishes, which means it uses only as much water as necessary.
As for dishwasher design, Pappert says a strong niche has been building for several years around stainless steel dishwashers.
There are several kinds to choose from, including: plastic tub (typically least expensive); stainless steel tub (quickly heats for superior cleaning); and those with varying rack depths and adjustable racks; jets (more expensive models have numerous more powerful jets for better cleaning); drawers; and lower noise levels (determined by the decibel rating, the lower the better).
Another find at the show is Kitchen Aid's Design-Your-Own Dishwasher, which offers choices in interior feature packages, door style and color.
And if you like hosting big dinner parties, but hate cleaning up, you're in luck. The Epicure 30-inch Dishwasher from Dacor, also seen at the show, is the largest residential dishwasher on the market. It holds 20-plus place settings and has adjustable racks, which allow an extra two-inch clearance for oversized pots and pans.
Time to get cooking.