It's hard to keep up with what's new in cooking appliances these days. By the time a consumer makes a final decision in picking the best equipment for his or her needs and to tie in with the kitchen decor, a new model appears with improved features. For most cooktops and range-ovens, three factors seem to affect style changes: speed, cleanability and color.
If you like the instant-on and no-preheating qualities of gas, the cleaning convenience and safety of electric, consider the new halogen method of cooking. Used in street and home lighting as well as car lamps, halogen light bulbs that give off instantaneous heat are installed in this system. As soon as they are switched on, rows of heat rays flash a bright red glow on the black glass surface of the cooktop. "It's like magic and really fabulous . . . quite an improvement on the typical electric stove," says Ron Martinez, an appliance consultant at California Kitchens in Burbank. "It's about time we got away from the archaic."
According to Martinez, although the appliance has been available in Europe for several years, it is still quite new in this country. In this short period, his company has received a lot of positive response to it.
At this time, the only brand of halogen cooktop approved for use in the United States is Gaggenau, which is available in two- and four-burner models ($785 and $1026, respectively). Each cooktop is equipped with just one halogen burner; the rest have regular electric-coil elements.
Another great feature of the unit is its wonderfully easy-to-clean surface. Gone are the days of scrubbing and digging your fingers into grease-laden crevices. Made of Schott Ceran black glass, the heavy, tempered smooth surface can simply be cleaned with a glass cleaner or treated with a cooktop cleaner that protects it from scratches.
With the Gaggenau, you don't need a double boiler for all low-heat cooking; however, the heat also can rise to the equivalent of 10,000 BTU in gas. Unlike the induction cooktop, which requires magnetic cookware, the halogen system will work with any type of cookware.
The influx of European products has been influencing all sectors of the market, including culinary goods. Every new thing seems to come from Europe. "We seem to be really behind but we're really not," Martinez commented. "Not all European appliances are good. Just like in antiques, there's junk. What is really odd is that European ladies love American products."
The new Thermador Convection Micro-Thermal built-in oven ($2,700) is a perfect example of an American product that, according to Martinez, " . . . if you put it in a European kitchen, the German people would oooh and aaah. It's a state-of-the-art, ultimate cooking machine."
The Thermador appliance was unveiled recently in Los Angeles. The CMT is a built-in double oven that has an upper convection micro-thermal function and a lower thermal unit. Thermador revolutionized the micro-thermal concept 12 years ago, combining traditional baking with the speed of microwaving simultaneously. The latest addition has added the convection system, circulating hot air around the food to enhance the appearance, flavor and texture. When programmed to a convection microbake mode, the oven will actually cook lasagne in just 15 minutes. At the same time, you can also bake cookies and several pies in the same oven. The 700-watt microwave system can be used exclusively for any microwave purposes if set on that mode.
Another Thermador appliance introduced at the show was the Micro-Convection Built-in double oven or MCB ($2,100) with a microwave-convection upper oven and a full-size self-cleaning oven below.
Color is one exciting feature that plays a role in updating kitchen equipment. And one color that is gaining a prominent starring role is white, outshadowing black for its sleek yet elegant appeal. Two of the leading manufacturers that have recently introduced their collection of white appliances are Thermador and Kitchen Aid.
Most eye catching are the white glass cooktops and ovens. There is something about these white "glossies" that make a cooking center look pristine and sophisticated. Soon to arrive in appliance stores are Thermador's white glass four-burner cooktops, which are available in either gas or electric hobs with option for hoodless ventilation system.
Kitchen Aid's electric built-in cooktop (from $509) features solid cast-iron elements with lower-than-low simmer feature and an option for a power burner. Clearly attracting attention, of course, is the white glass surface although the unit is available in almond glass or black glass, too.
To match the white cooktop, Kitchen Aid recommends their 25 cubic-foot refrigerator with white acrylic front panels, white glass trim kit applicable for all Kitchen Aid ovens (including microwave convection units starting from $1,459)as well as their white trash compactors, dishwasher and washer-dryer.
The Gaggenau halogen cooktop is available at California Kitchens (Burbank), Familian Pipe and Supply (North Hollywood and Anaheim) and Fators (Los Angeles).
The Thermador appliances are available at California Kitchens.
The Kitchen Aid appliances are available at Phil and Jim's (Orange County) and Snyder Diamond (Santa Monica) and Pacific Sales (Torrance).