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Appliances, alone, do not make a kitchen. But, they just might be the most important aspect of your space. After all, the kitchen's primary function is for preparing and cooking meals.
How high-end do you want to go? Chefs and bakers who plan to use the restaurant-quality features on professional models can justify hefty price tags that can consume their kitchen budget.
On the other hand, if you like the look of the professional-grade range and built-in refrigeration units, and those dramatic (and highly effective) hoods for ventilation, you can have your cake and eat it, too. With many mid-range and high-end (but within reach) appliances on the market today, you can get the looks and quality performance without shelling out for the high-high end models. So seriously consider how much of your budget you want to spend on appliances.
Ideally, you should choose your kitchen layout first, then choose appliances that fit. If you fall in love with a side-by-side fridge, will you have room for two wall ovens and a cooktop? See, there are compromises.
Cooktops. Gas, electric or induction? The choice is personal, though you don’t often hear of people who go from gas to electric. When choosing a cooktop for performance, consider efficiency: how much heat do you lose from burner to pan? With gas, you lose about 40 percent, says Nancy Divita, showroom manager at Trevarrow Inc. On the other hand, with induction heat—a flat cookstop like electric that performs like fast-heating gas stoves—you lose the least amount of heat. Induction isn’t mainstream, but it’s making a return in the American market now, Divita says. “Induction is certainly a time-saver because you can bring a pan of water to boiling faster than you can on a high-performing BTU (gas) range top,” Divita says.
When shopping for gas cooktops, ask about BTU, which stands for british thermal units, a measurement of energy content. Serious ranges are 9,200 BTU and up. Ask about variable control, meaning how long can you maintain “simmer” without the flame going out. Look for burner grates made of cast iron or a metal that conducts heat for better heat transfer from the burner to the pan.
Ovens. A high-performing convection oven, which circulates heat with a fan to cook food faster and more evenly, will help you get dinner on the table faster than a traditional oven. Bakers, on the other hand, will want the traditional bake/roast/broil. In a perfect kitchen world, you can have both with a stacked or side-by-side oven station.
Range hoods. A serious cooktop demands a ventilation system that will usher exhaust out of the kitchen without sounding like a Cessna is landing at your dinner party. If you hear the sound of suction (and not the motor running), this is a good thing. If noise bothers you completely, consider units that can be installed with exterior motors. (You can build housing for these so they blend somewhat with your home’s façade.)
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