Cooking Like a Pro

by Autumn McGarr

As more and more people tune in to the multitude of cooking shows that have aired in recent years, demand has exploded for appliances that allow them to cook in similar ways. Cooking appliances designed for the home chef must be user friendly and flexible, offering a range of possibilities that suit the user’s lifestyle, family needs and personal style. That’s a tall order to fill, but manufacturers are rising to the challenge with multi-functional, innovative products that meet any cooking needs.

“Consumers are looking for cooking appliances that are more responsive, flexible, intuitive to use and that produce chefs’ quality cooking results,” says Beatriz Sandoval, director of brand marketing for Thermador at BSH Appliances in Irvine, CA.

Technology is becoming increasingly important, with demand for features that increase performance and convenience. “Combining design, functionality and innovative technology into appliances that [are] smarter and are more efficient is important to consumers,” says Basil E. Larkin, v.p., sales at Anaheim, CA-based Hestan Commercial Corp. “They want to be able to show off high-performance burners coupled with superior design, but they also want something easy to use that makes their life easier and better.”

Appliances that offer a range of cooking methods, particularly those seen in commercial kitchens, are also in demand. “With all of the exposure of celebrity chef shows, consumers are looking for what is offered commercially to be available residentially, like griddles, high-powered woks, French tops, sous vide and more. Consumers want the functionality to cook like their favorite chef. We are seeing more restaurant-style kitchens being designed that really encourage gourmet cooking,” Larkin states.

While performance is important, style is also a top consideration for cooking appliances. “Homeowners continue to seek a balance between form and function, with appliance power and performance driving functionality considerations, while flush and integrated models remain leading style choices,” says Michael Rockstroh, spokesperson for Bertazzoni, based in Guastalla, Italy.

Other top trends for cooking appliances include products that add convenience and flexibility, a rise in connectivity, more use of color and personalization of both form and function. So say manufacturers recently surveyed by Kitchen & Bath Design News.

Versatile and Convenient

From induction to steam, convection to grilling, slow cooking to the Instant Pot, there’s a method of cooking to suit anyone’s lifestyle and preferences. And with so many options out there, designers and homeowners are looking for ways to incorporate multiple cooking styles into the kitchen space; this means both selecting appliances that offer many capabilities and finding creative ways to incorporate several appliances into the kitchen space.

“Today’s homeowners expect their appliances to provide a flexible cooking experience,” says Jeff Sweet, corporate product manager for Sub-Zero Group, Inc. in Madison, WI. “People still value performance and reliability most, but there is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to cooking appliances.”

“Homeowners realize that it’s impossible for one appliance to do everything, even though the majority of today’s cooking appliances offer anywhere from five to 10 cooking applications,” says Rockstroh. When including several appliances throughout the kitchen, he says, design harmony is a primary decision driver. “Coordinating appliance handles, interface logic and finishes or grades of stainless steel helps to create a comprehensive kitchen suite and remain relevant at all price points.”

“Consumers are looking for versatility and innovation in their appliances, and they’re willing to pay a premium for it,” says Larkin. “Multi-functional appliances are important, but these functions have to be things consumers will actually use on a daily basis, or they don’t see the value in paying that higher price.”

“With consumers leading hectic, busy lives, they have developed a strong appreciation for the details that can enhance their quality of life,” adds Anja Prescher, director of brand marketing for Bosch at BSH Appliances. “When it comes to the cooking process, this means appliances that offer meaningful innovations and enable them to easily and efficiently prepare delicious and healthy meals for others.”

Tony Dowling, v.p., sales & marketing for Elmira Stove Works in Ontario, Canada, says there’s a trend toward owning many specific-function appliances including sous vide cookers, high-end beverage makers, pizza ovens, smokers and other specialty appliances for cooking ethnic foods. “We’re not a meat-and-potatoes society anymore! We’re enjoying a greater diversity of options when we dine out, and then we’re bringing those styles of cuisine and cooking back to our own homes,” he says.

With people’s increasingly busy lives, appliances that increase efficiency and convenience are in high demand. “People are strapped for time and looking for appliances that can perform multiple functions without compromising performance,” Sweet says.

Dowling sees trends toward both the “quick and easy” methods and leisurely methods meant to be a social occasion. “The huge success of the Instant Pot attests to the fact that many consumers want the ability to prepare a tasty and nutritious meal quickly and easily. At the other end of the spectrum we have ‘slow cooking’ – not the crock pot/slow cooker type, but the social occasion where friends get together and make the preparation of a larger meal a multi-hour social occasion. We can go from a 20-minute simple meal on a busy week night to a leisurely four-hour multi-course meal on a weekend,” he states.

Rising Techniques

While many options are available, there seems to be a growing demand for induction as well as cooking methods that make meal preparation healthier.

“One type of technology that is continuing to increase in popularity is that of induction cooking. With faster and more precise heating, unparalleled power and standout simmering results, induction cooking is a method we can expect will continue to trend upward,” says Sandoval.

Sweet also sees a lot of excitement around induction, and expects induction to continue trending as homeowners gain a better understanding of the technology and how it works.

Rockstroh says, “Induction continues to gain mindshare as well, and we expect it will become mainstream in the near future.” He adds that people are beginning to explore steam cooking as well, which helps maintain nutritional value while sealing in flavor, but notes that it’s not yet a top choice.

Busy lives and a desire for healthier preparations also impact cooking methods. “People are creating kitchen environments that inspire them to make healthy, gourmet-style meals, but [they don’t] always have a lot of time,” says LaRon Doucet, national training manager for Fisher & Paykel based in Costa Mesa, CA.

This desire for healthier meal preparation has inspired innovation in products, sometimes incorporating elements that have primarily been standalone appliances into the range. “Launching in May of 2019, Frigidaire has taken one of the hottest trends in cooking and integrated it into its new Frigidaire Gallery Front Control Ranges. These ranges are the first on the market to include Air Fry – at the touch of a button,” says Natalie Walsh, senior brand and product marketing manager for Electrolux Major Appliances North America based in Augusta, GA.

Connected in the Kitchen

Manufacturers say that technology, particularly the rise in connectivity, is increasingly important in cooking appliances just as with other facets of modern life.

“Smart appliances have been steadily infiltrating the market over the past few years, with new technology, smartphone apps and Wi-Fi connectivity,” Sandoval says. “As kitchens continue to evolve, connectivity in the kitchen is becoming more prevalent.”

Prescher agrees: “The connected home is continuing to emerge at the forefront of the home appliance industry. As such, the demand for cooking appliances that not only feature sleek and timeless design, but also offer efficient, convenient and easy-to-use operation is stronger than ever.”

Geoff Mitchell, senior product manager, North America at Fisher & Paykel says one of the noticeable trends at KBIS this year was appliances with apparent technological features. “The show allowed us to demonstrate the functions, features and technologies for many of our next generation products,” he maintains, including a smart new interface with capabilities to provide a guided cooking experience via automated functions and a library of recipes.

Although Dowling agrees that smart appliances are a big trend, he’s not sure consumers are really looking for this feature. “Do consumers really care if they can connect by Bluetooth so they can change their appliance settings without getting up from their favorite show? Do they want a fridge that can keep track of inventory and create a shopping list? Probably not, but if they do, it’s available. They should keep in mind that the more technology they have, the more things they have to break down,” he says.

Larkin sees smart technology with Wi-Fi enabled products continuing to gain momentum in 2019, such as smart cooktops and tabletop guided technologies. But simply offering connectivity isn’t enough. “Consumers want real technology they can use vs. gimmicks, and technology without support won’t work,” Larkin believes.

Color Creeps In

Stainless steel will always be in style, and many designers and consumers naturally gravitate toward the timeless finish. That said, manufacturers agree that color is beginning to show up in more lines than ever. Whether a new take on a tried-and-true favorite, such as black stainless finishes, or a pop of intense color, new options emerge all the time.

“Traditional stainless steel continues to dominate dealer showrooms and sales, but more colors are definitely appearing from more manufacturers,” says Dowling. “The colors range from subdued darker shades and pastels, to bright bold tones like Candy Red, Tropical Blue and Robin’s Egg Blue.” Elmira is receiving more calls for custom colors, he says, and has expanded its offering to the full range of 1064 automotive tones offered by Axalta coatings.

“In the premium segment, we have seen the color trend grow each year,” Larkin adds. “Even if consumers don’t want to commit to a full colored kitchen, many are going with color for the heart of the kitchen – the range – a fun place to make a bold statement.” Orange, red and blue finishes have been the most popular for Hestan, he adds. “Dramatic custom hoods are also a popular way to customize the cooking area and make it a focal point.”

“While kitchen design in general varies from a sleek, modern aesthetic to more traditional styles, stainless steel remains a highly popular finish for cooking appliances,” Sandoval states. “In addition to stainless steel, metallic glass – with gray or silver finishes – and vibrant color displays are showing up more frequently in the latest cooking appliance innovations. Of course, personalization is key, so we also love to see how designers create their own unique expression with custom panels,” she adds. 

Rockstroh says, “Stainless steel remains the dominant material, but we’re seeing a higher adoption rate of color and alternative finishes, with homeowners seeking hues that harmonize with their kitchen style, rather than providing stark color contrasts.”

Finishes are evolving, he adds, with color and texture pairings that create an increasingly experiential, tactile experience, whether matte textured tones, glossy enamel or porcelain inspired. “White has seen a particularly strong resurgence, as it had seen a lower adoption rate but is gaining further popularity,” he notes.

“Architecture and kitchen design trends globally are increasingly featuring black finishes as a feature, external cladding, hardware/fasteners, lighting fixtures, then into the more refined black kitchen and bath fixtures and sinks – the materiality, the finish, the level of quality is important,” says Mitchell. “Black, executed well, is timeless.”

Personal Reflection

The range of cooking styles and finish options illustrates a larger need: the ability to integrate products that reflect both design style and lifestyle of the end user. “Personalization is a trend everyone seems to agree on, not only in terms of aesthetics but also functionality,” says Sweet.

“Homeowners are increasingly moving away from the standard kitchen design model of the past and customizing the space to reflect their own lives. For instance, those who like to entertain are more likely to incorporate specialty appliances like a Wolf warming drawer or install a larger capacity oven, whereas busy families are looking for appliances that save them time, like the new Wolf speed oven,” he says.

“As consumers become more design-savvy, demand for design that matches their personal style and sense of self is higher than ever,” states Prescher. “While the general trend in cooking product finishes remains traditional stainless steel and, increasingly, black stainless steel, consumers also appreciate the ability to customize the look of their appliances to match kitchen cabinetry and their overall design aesthetic.”

Larkin notes, “Thoughtfully integrating appliances into consumers’ kitchens in a unique and customizable way, while focusing on the way they cook and entertain for family and friends, continues to be a big trend. Consumers want to enhance their experience in what continues to be the epicenter of the home – the kitchen. There are considerable options today to incorporate functionality with gorgeous design features – whether it’s blending concealed elements into a sleek, minimalist design or doing a full kitchen in a signature color or finish.” ▪

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