Your 4 Must Have Appliances-part one-Cooking
slide in range in island with sautéing vegetables and preparations to cook spaghetti
slide-in range used in an kitchen island

The good, the bad, the ugly news in appliances

The good news is appliances are getting more energy efficient. The bad news is that refrigerators are getting larger making it harder to retro fit your space. The ugly news is the average life span of a major appliance is now eight years. Gone are the days of the 25 year old washer and dryer you grew up with. Wether it’s the increase in technology inside appliances and it’s fragility or our culture of always looking for newer and better, I don’t know and am not going to get on my environmental soapbox here. ☺️

There are four main functions that you’re buying appliances fo in your kitchen-

  • cooking
  • food storage
  • cleaning
  • extraction

Cooking Appliances

Generally your cooking in one of three ways. In the oven for roasting and baking, on burner for boiling, sautéing, frying, etc., and in the microwave often for reheating, steaming, and cooking frozen food.

Besides the size of your cooker you’ll want to decide if it will be gas- natural or propane- or electric. Ranges will be one or the other though you can also get duel fuel ranges, but they are significantly more expensive. Duel fuel use gas on the cooktop and electricity in the oven. Many cooks prefer the flame of gas on the cooktop and the even heat and control of the electric in the oven. If you need propane check to see if the models your interested are convertible and get the conversion kit. Your propane supplier can hook it up or recommend someone to do it.

Range/Stove

A range or stove is the popular because it contains both a rooking surface and oven making it more economical than buying a separate cooktop and oven of the same quality. It may also give you more counter space as a wall oven, particularly a double or one with a microwave, is going to need a minimum of a 27″ wide tall cabinet. That eats up countertop space.

Here we’re back to the gas vs electric. If you need electric your choices are coils like your Granny’s, glass topped, or induction. Induction is the future of electric cooktops. It is a smooth cooktop which doesn’t generate heat it heats the food by causing the molecules in the pan to vibrate and heat up pot and the food. You have to use pots and pans that a magnet will stick to. (See the video below of an induction cooktop built into a Dekton countertop. Sooo cool!)

Now for the next question- do you want a slide in or freestanding range? A slide in is like the one in the photo above- all the controls are on the front and there is no raised back. The advantages are you can use it in an island and the controls are in the front so you don’t reach over burners and pots to get to the oven controls and timer. You also get a cleaner and more professional range look and you can add a decorative element to the backsplash behind it if it backs onto a wall.

Self Cleaning, Convection and Double Ovens

Two of the most popular features for ranges are self cleaning and convection. Self cleaning ovens work by either burning off the gunk with high heat or using steam by spraying water on the inside or pouring a small amount of water on the bottom tray. Using heat cleaning smells and if you forget to remove everything that you’ve stored inside you could have a house full of smoke or worse. You know who you are and it’s not me, bro. Steam cleaning requires that you wipe down the inside when the cycle is done so is more work, but probably healthier for your environment especially if someone in the household has respiratory problems.

Convection ovens have a blower that moves the air and so the heat around the food. It gives a more even cooking for roasting and baking. “true convection” has a third designated burner next to the fan. Meh re third burner, but remember I’m not the chef in my house.

Double ovens in stoves can be separate cavities or one cavity separated by a removable wall. They are top and bottom oriented not right left. They save energy and are convenient if you do a lot of casseroles like lasagna or if you want to cook two things at separate temperatures. The draw back is that the larger section is usually at floor level. Think of deadlifting the 15-20 lb. scorching hot holiday turkey complete with drippings.

Other Features

WiFi connection is the hot new features. With a Bluetooth connection you can set the oven to preheat, cook frozen food, or start a self clean cycle from your smart phone or tablet. Some will hook up to Yummly for guided cooking. I’m ambivalent about wifi connections in appliances and can’t see it as being a selling feature in my household. Until it cleans up after the chef.

Broilers used to be in a drawer under the oven. Nowadays it’s likely a burner on the top of the inside of the oven and you set the rack up high to broil. Most people I know used that drawer for pan storage anyhow. Except my grandmother who hid her good silverware in a roasting pan there. Another tragedy waiting to happen.

Cooktops

Cooktops like ranges will either be natural gas or propane or electrical coils, smooth surface or induction. They are most often 30″ or 36″ wide. Sometimes a single wall oven will be used underneath it, but it’s usually a cabinet. I like to use a two drawer base cabinet with a scooped drawer (the sides and back of the drawer are reduced height to leave space for the mechanics of the cooktop). It makes for easier storage of pots and pans.

Something very new is the induction burners built into the countertop and invisible. The countertop would have to be something like Dekton or a porcelain material. This is so cool I have to show you. Thank you, MP Millwork.

Wall Ovens

Wall ovens are usually electric and are 24″, 27″ or 30″ wide. The cabinets they sit in should be 3″ wider, but verify with both the oven and the cabinet manufacturers. They can be single, double, or single with an attached microwave. As with ranges new features include steam cooking and wifi connection.

If your want a wall oven consider a frenchdoor opening one as opposed to a door that folds down. It’s easier to get stuff in and out of especially if a user has physical limitations because the doors aren’t blocking the front of the oven.

Microwaves

Microwaves can be a microwave hood used above the cooking surface, built into a base, wall, or tall cabinet (with or without trim around it), a drawer, or sit on the counter. They can have just straight microwave functions or have convection like ovens, and even have regular cooking so you can bake and roast food. We have a countertop convection oven microwave that a lot of our cooking is done in.

Microwaves will come in sizes ranging from about .9 to 2.1 cubic feet. A cubic foot is about the size of a basketball in a box and .1 cu ft is about the size of a softball. The smaller units are countertop and most hoods are around 2cu ft.

My clients use microwave hoods about half of the time and a decorative hood the other half. A microwave hood will either recirculate or vent out through ducting. The average cubic feet per minute is 300-400. The microwave hood is good if you have a small kitchen or need every inch of countertop space and storage in the cabinets. If you’re a smaller person or if kids are using it it may be too high for safety. Figure that the bottom of the microwave should be no closer to the cooking surface than 18″ and no farther than 24″. Remember you want to be able to use, not just put, your tallest pot on the cooktop. If it is too high for comfort you could spill something all over yourself taking it out of the microwave.

There are cabinets designed specifically for microwaves. With wall and base cabinets the microwaves can be placed in an open shelf or enclosed with trim that matches the unit or molding to match the cabinets. I lean towards the open space because sooner or later that microwave will have to be replaced and then the trim will probably not fit the new one. An open shelf one can be removed and replaced easy-peasy. And you don’t have to replace the trim which can cost as much as a microwave it self. On the other hand, trimming it out makes just one less place to clean. So many decisions!

A drawer microwave replaces a drawer in a base cabinet made for that use. They will either open in the front or like a drawer. I like the drawer ones- much easier to take things in and out and easier to clean, no hunching down to get at the back. And soooo much easier for little people to melt toys in. Just sayin’.

Countertop microwaves are the easiest to replace, but maybe not the easiest to place. Even a small one is bigger than a toaster and will take up valuable counter realestate. They are pretty basic unless you get one like my gigantic convection oven model.

The Takeaway-

  • The average lifespan of an appliance is 8yrs.
  • You’ll see wifi connected everything. And more bells and whistles as manufacturers try to top each other for your attention.
  • A range/stove will usually be more economical than separate cooktops and ovens.
  • A range/stove will give you more countertop space than a wall oven in a tall cabinet and a cooktop.
  • Microwave hood will do the jobs of both microwaving and vent extraction and take up no counter space.
  • Everything depends on your space and budget, but how you cook is also a very important factor

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