The Smart Kitchen: Kitchen Appliances Today Do More Than Cook and Look Pretty

Kitchen appliances get an upgrade in 2014, with connectivity leading the charge.

A white-themed kitchen full of electronic appliances made by the Electrolux Company.

Today’s kitchens appliances focus on aesthetics as well as functionality. New technologies are also being integrated into kitchen appliances to make them easier and more convenient to use. Photo courtesy of Electrolux.

If a recent survey commissioned by appliance manufacturer LG Electronics is to be believed, more than a quarter of married homeowners say they would give up winning fights with their spouse in exchange for an appliance upgrade.

Homeowners are definitely fed up with their kitchens and appliances are getting most of the heat. More than half describe their kitchen as outdated and 58 percent say they don’t have the appliances they need for this room. Surprisingly, 51 percent don’t have a self-cleaning oven and almost a third say they’ve had to cook a meal in shifts due to a lack of cooking space.

“It's no surprise to me that so many people have so many gripes about their kitchens,” says design star Nate Berkus, who is working with LG Appliances on the design of their new products. “It is, after all, the hardest working room in every house. And, its also the hardest space for most people to figure out.”

Technology and aesthetics were the reasons that Professional Builder magazine selected LG to outfit the Ultimate Kitchen in the 2014 Show Village of this year’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS), held in Las Vegas in early February.

In 2014, Appliances Rule

Since the recession, appliance manufacturers have been noticeably absent from KBIS and other trade shows, but this year they seemed to pull out all the stops at the joint KBIS/IBS (International Builders Show

Last year, new technologies for cabinets were the most-cutting edge projects at the show. This year, appliances led the way. The new crop of products were an expansion of existing technologies such as steam, convention and induction cooking, which experts — including Brenda Bryan, executive director of RICKI, the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence — predicted would start to get popular again.

A number of this year’s new products center on induction cooking. Some products give users the option of combining two burners or have burners that automatically adapt to the shape of a pan. Thermador’s cooktop — which was featured in the National Association of Home Builders’ annual demonstration home, the New American Home — has the option of using the entire surface as a single burner.

Last year, GE introduced a wall oven with a mobile app that allowed owners to preheat the oven, set the time and check cooking status while they were away from home.

At KBIS 2014, Dacor introduced Wi-Fi-connectivity for an oven — dubbed the Dacor Discovery IQ Wall Oven — and a range with an integrated, wirelessly connected tablet that can also be controlled via smartphone. Users can go online, find recipes and download them to the oven.

Another showstopper was Dacor’s Discovery Wine Station, an automated temperature-controlled wine-dispensing appliance. Users can select between four bottles and dispense just the amount they want — a taste, half glass or full glass. Additionally, it keeps contents just as the vintner intended for up to 60 days.

Chef-Quality Kitchens

Bringing professional grade 
appliances home was another theme this year, as brands continue to find ways to elevate the experience of home kitchens. Viking unveiled more than 50 new products — a record for the company — including an upgrade in their professional series with a 23,000 BTU burner with brass flame ports.

Other innovative products include a French-door double oven, right, and their TurboChef oven that prepares meals up to 15 times faster than conventional methods. Viking products got a high five from attendees who gave them the top three spots in the People’s Choice Awards.

Electrolux, which designs kitchen appliances for nearly 50 percent of Michelin-starred restaurants worldwide, returned to KBIS for the first time since 2008. Among their offering was a line of professional-grade appliances, as well as a new dishwasher with a fast wash cycle that cleans and dries dishes in 30 minutes.

Double-duty appliances have been a mainstay at IBS and KBIS. A few years ago, an oven that switched between refrigeration and cooling was featured at one show. Coming this spring from Frigidaire is a new flexible freezer that allows users to switch between refrigeration and freezing with the flick of a switch. It’s not revolutionary — Whirlpool offered a similar product a few years ago that is now discontinued — but it definitely fits the lifestyle of many homeowners.

What’s on tap for next year? Who knows, maybe a refrigerator/oven/washer combo that does the cooking and cleaning for you!

Camilla McLaughlin is an award-winning writer specializing in house and home. Her work has appeared in leading online and print publications, such as Yahoo! Real Estate, Unique Homes magazine and Realtor Magazine. She has also freelanced for the Associated Press.

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