Appliance Design · cooking · Cooktops · Energy Efficiency · Innovative Features

Burner-less induction cooktop senses the shape and location of cookware to heat anywhere on surface

Induction cooktops, already the hottest way to cook, just got hotter.

The new Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop heats up your cookware wheverer you place it - no burners.

No more being limited to four or five burners of the same shape.

The new Thermador Freedom cooktop lets cooks place their cookware anywhere on the cooking surface — even oddly shaped items like griddles or roasting pans (think of the gravy making possibilities).

The cooktop will intelligently recognize the cookware size, shape and position to deliver heat without boundaries.

If you’re wondering, ‘What is an induction cooktop?’ Induction cooking rivals gas cooking’s responsive temperature control while being much more efficient, safer (the surface stays cool to the touch) and the smooth surface naturally is easier to clean.

If you’re really into specifics, here’s more info from Thermador:

  • 48 individual 3-inch induction heating elements translates to a 63-percent more effective cooking area on the surface by eliminating the conventional standard of predefined elements.
  • A 6.5-inch, full-color touchscreen display that recognizes pot shape, size, and controls power setting and cooking time
  • Surface area to accommodate a 21-inch x 13-inch pan with the largest cooking surface in the industry
  • A range of 4,600-watt maximum power output with Boost feature and 15-watt minimum power output

But what would a super innovative product be without a color touchscreen these days? The obligatory touchscreen doesn’t just control temperature but shows the position of all cookware.

The Thermador Freedom Induction Cooktop will be available July 2012 with a MSRP of $4,949.

Appliance Design · Food · Freezer · Refrigerator

Refrigerator temperature: What temperature should the freezer be set at?

Refrigerator temperatures come automatically set to factory recommendations, which are the proper refrigerator temperature of 37 degrees and the ideal freezer temperature of zero degrees.

These are generally the correct temperatures, but according to Whirlpool Corp., your freezer is set at the correct temperature when the ice cream is firm.

If the freezer is too warm or too cold, first check the air vents to make sure that nothing’s blocking circulation. Then adjust the temperature up or down one setting and allow a full 24 hours for the temperature to adjust.

One level is equal to about 1 degree of temperature, so remember: the higher the freezer temperature, the faster your frozen foods lose their quality. However, colder temperatures also could dry foods out, so try to keep the freezer at the recommended zero degrees.

>>Read more tips on proper frozen food storage

Appliance Design · cooking · Cooktops

DCS 36 gas cooktop

DCS gas cooktop
DCS gas cooktop

DCS Appliances is trying hard to be the go-to brand for people who cook. (You might have seen them in action on America’s Test Kitchen.)

DCS was purchased by the (probably better-known) New Zealand brand, Fisher & Paykel but inherited its focus on performance from the commercial DCS products, so “home chefs” are likely to be pleased.

Especially with the DCS gas cooktops.

Of course faster boil times are great, but you don’t want to screw up delicate sauces when you’re trying to simmer. Sealed Dual Flow Burners, unique to DCS appliances, provide the control you need.

DCS 36 gas cooktop

On the 36 inch gas cooktop (CDU-365), the powerful center burner can roar at 17,500 BTUs on the 36 inch gas cooktop.

This 5 burner gas cooktop can hover at a gentle 140 degree simmer on ANY burner — so you won’t scorch your five pots of chocolate. (Hey, you never know, right?)

Sealed burners and a sleek design mean no more hard-to-reach spills. And heavy duty grates cover the entire stainless steel cooking surface to make sliding larger pots and pans easy (hello, canners!).

Big, distinctive knobs are easy to use and offer visible confirmation of cooktop temperatures.

There’s also a 4 burner 30 inch gas cooktop, which like the 36 inch cooktop can drop into any kitchen counter. And a one-touch downdraft vent can be added to both the 30 in and 36 in models.

Appliance Design · Design · Ranges

How to buy a range: choose a style

We've come a long way, baby. (Photo courtesy of Time)

Now that you’ve figured out where to buy a stove (as if there were a question), here are some quick tips on how to buy a stove.

The fastest way to narrow your options — beside knowing your existing fuel type, gas or electric — is to identify your style.

 

Freestanding ranges

The freestanding range is the most commonly used range style in homes, probably because it’s the most affordable and easiest to install. Featuring finished sides and a flat back, this range can sit flush against a back wall.

>>Shop freestanding electric ranges

>>Shop freestanding gas ranges

 

Built-in ranges

With the growing trend of kitchen islands and decoratively tiled backsplashes, the slide-in range has become one of the fastest growing segments in the industry. Featuring unfinished sides and back, this style is designed to be built in between two cabinets.

The body of the range is typically 30-inches wide, and the top of the range is slightly wider to prevent crumbs from getting in the crevices between the countertop and range while providing a more built-in appearance. The oven and burner controls are located on the front of the range, just above the oven door.

Though similar to a slide-in range, the drop-in range has waned in popularity in recent years.

The primary difference is that while a slide-in range touches the floor, a drop in range sits on top of a cabinet baseboard. Though a drop-in range looks more built in than a freestanding range or even a slide-in range, it’s also more difficult to replace because of its height and the limited selection of drop-in style ranges.

>>See built-in gas ranges

>>See built-in electric ranges

 

Professional (pro-style) ranges

While it is the most expensive range style available in the industry today, the professional range is becoming more common in high-end and gourmet kitchens. Pro-style ranges take the performance and styling of a true commercial range and make it safe to use for a home cook.

The oven and burner controls are always located on the front, just above the door.  Professional ranges feature burners capable of reaching high temperature for rapid boiling as well as extremely low temperatures for delicate and precise simmering. Larger models (36”, 48” or 60” wide) offer flexibility in the cooking surface, allowing for the addition of built-in griddles, grills and other specialty surfaces. Large oven(s) generally boast convection capabilities and intensely high-temperature broiling.

Professional ranges generally come in a stainless steel finish although some manufacturers such as Viking and Bertazzoni other distinctive colors (i.e. beyond white and black).

 

>> Read more advice on buying a range in our Range Buying Guide.

>>See all our Appliance Buying Guides

Appliance Design · cooking · Ranges

Capital Range: Capital Culinarian

If you’re not much of a cook, you should probably just stop reading now. Capital range got an earful about how crappy the burners are on a standard range. In response, the appliance-maker built the Capital Culinarian.

Some cooks just want a commercial-looking range but need the safety of a sealed-burner system (several flames rising around a burner cap). The Culinarian sharply departs into both a commercial fit and finish AND the power and performance as an open burner range that’s closer to that of a restaurant kitchen.

The flame rises from each part of the burner ports to provide the most even heat distribution and best cooking results. Sure, some ranges offer BTUs in the upper teens and maybe even 20s, but that’s generally one burner — and you’d have to move your cookware to a different burner when it’s time to simmer.

Capital wisely gave each burner 23,000 BTUs of power AND the ability to simmer at an incredibly low 140 degrees F.

But it’s the way the temperature interacts with the cookware and food that makes the difference.

Would you rather trust your sauce to 94 evenly spaced flames or one or two circles of flame with large separations? And imagine how fast your water will boil when you’re heating the entire pot rather than just a couple rings of heat.

Plus, the open burner system targets the center of a wok cooking and distributes heat evenly.

Positioning the top oven rack 3 inches from the broiler achieves the best, most-efficient broil, though strangely, competitive products add an extra3 inches. Obviously, those who love to cook appreciate these differences.

And those that love to griddle or grill can go single (12 inch at 18,000 BTUs) or double (24 inch at 30,000 BTUs) on either option.

Or stretch your burners all the way across your new favorite toy, which comes in 36″, 48″ and 60″.

Appliance Design · Energy Efficiency · Energy Star · Refrigerator · Sustainability · Washer

ENERGY STAR appliances add ‘Most Efficient’ category

(At the risk of sounding pretentious) My beloved theory of chase and flight posits a privileged class of people whose behaviors and tastes subordinate others “chase,” thus motivating the former to run — fast.

What does this have to do with appliances? Think of commercial-grade appliances and then look at the stainless steel kitchen package we sell for $1499 (through Sept. 5!).

Same goes for energy efficiency.

ENERGY STAR was created by The Man in 1992 to encourage the purchase and manufacture of energy-efficient home products through a voluntary program labeling the most-efficient products.

Think Studio 54 for dishwashers.

But now that ENERGY STAR is old enough to vote and buy cigarettes, entry to the club is less exclusive; 75% of dishwashers qualified as ENERGY STAR by 2009 standards.

Says Consumer Reports:

It’s good news that products have become more energy efficient. But when many or most of the products in a category qualify for the Energy Star, it makes it harder, not easier, for consumers to identify the truly exceptional products.

It would seem the manufacturers won this chase, until ENERGY STAR’s Most Efficient program was launched this year.

The 2011 efficiency clique calls out the best in four categories, including clothes washers and refrigerators.

Here’s a sampling of the best washers and refrigerators:

LG 3.9 cu. ft. True Steam Washer in Cherry Red (#WM3360HRCA)

Not only is it sexy, this LG washer kills allergens, can maintain cleaning performance without heating the water and has a 15-minute wash option for us procrastinators. And it’s also on sale through Labor Day.

Frigidaire 4.2 cu. ft. Affinity Washer with Ready Steam (#FAFS4272LW)

This Frigidaire steam washer offers a little more capacity, NSF certified cleaning power and power saver cycle that apparently reduces energy use by 60%.

Frigidaire Affinity 4.4 cubic foot washer with Ready Steam (#FAFS4474)

This Frigidaire washer is the big sister to the previous (more capacity) plus an allergen cycle.

Electrolux 5.1 cu. ft. Perfect Steam Washer (#EWFLS70JSS)

This Electrolux steam washer also is NSF certified plus it fit the most clothes in one cycle and it has the fastest wash and dry time (if you have the dryer: 15 and 14 minutes, respectively).

And refrigerators: there were only two and there’s practically the same, save for depth. One will stick out from your cabinets, the other will sit back in line with them and set you back an additional $400.

LG cabinet-depth French-door refrigerator (#LFC21776ST)
LG's French Door Refrigerator (#LFC25766ST)
Appliance Design · cooking · Ranges

GE Cafe range: pro-style range at home cook price

I visited this summer with a homeowner on the upcoming AIA Homes By Architects Tour who loved to cook. Wolf Range makes the go-to cook’s range, but she hated the way it looked.

She loved the look of the GE Cafe dual fuel range, which also happens to be quite a bit more affordable, at $2799. It’s worth taking a look at, due to its professional styling and features:

  • Dual fuel means  combines the precise temperature control of gas on the stove top and even heating of electric in the oven
  • Convection system promises even air and heat circulation, plus it converts temperatures for you automatically.
  • Super big (5 cubic foot) oven cavity with meat probe, ideal for large roasts and — since it has convection — multiple racks of dishes
  • PowerBoil 18,000 BTU gas burner means water boils really quick, plus high heat for more professional-style cooking