Everything has gotten so complicated since the days when humans cooked on an open fire. Now it’s getting even more so with the growing interest in induction cooktops.
Induction cooking was introduced about 25 years ago but never caught on with ordinary consumers, although chefs in commercial and institutional kitchens adopted the technology. Now, induction is back in cooktops offered by manufacturers such as Viking, Wolf, Diva de Provence and Kuppersbusch.
ApplianceAdvisor.com’s Alex Cheimets says induction is growing in popularity in part because the technology has improved. Plus, there’s the snob appeal. “This is a way of differentiating the haves from the not-so-haves. We know what high-end is in gas (appliances), and now this is the high-end of electric.”
Induction cooking vs gas , electric cooking
But induction cooking, touted by fans as the most efficient way to cook, isn’t like gas or electric, because nothing happens until you put a pot on. Electromagnetic coils under the surface of the cooktop generate a magnetic field. When a stainless-steel, enamel or cast-iron cooking pot is placed within the magnetic field, the metal in the pot reacts, and energy is transferred to the pot to directly cook the food or boil the water. The heat is instantly adjusted by adjusting the strength of the magnetic field.
- “Gas is responsive, but it’s the least efficient way to cook — only 50% efficient, which is why it heats up a room,” says Sue Bailey.
- Viking product manager. “Electrical is 60% efficient. Induction is over 90% efficient, which is why commercial kitchens like it, because it doesn’t add heat to kitchens.”
- The downside is that copper, aluminum or Pyrex pots won’t work. “This could be a roadblock” to induction’s mass marketing, says Cheimets. “People have spent a fortune on expensive pots, and they’d have to chuck them.”
Induction cooktops cost about $350 more per burner than gas. Viking offers two six-burner models priced from $2,000 to $3,600.
Will ordinary homeowners be tempted to switch to induction? They might, Bailey says, “if the price comes down with technology advances.”
The microwave goes undercover In the quest for more kitchen counter space, Sharp Electronics has come up with the disappearing microwave: It’s built into a drawer.
And why not? After all, appliance makers already have put dishwashers in drawers.
For years, “we’ve tried to answer the question of how to get the microwave off the counter,” Sharp’s Joy Daniel says. “Over the range, then over the counter, then built into walls; but all of these opened with a door. So we came up with this” — an under-the-counter solution.
Sharp’s Insight Pro Microwave Drawer ($850) offers 1 cubic foot of space, or about enough room to place a 9-by-13-inch casserole dish. Touch a button to open and close.
Sharp has the only product on the market so far, but others can be expected to follow, says Alex Cheimets of ApplianceAdvisor.com. He says designers who have seen the drawer at kitchen-and-bath shows are intrigued.
“I love the idea, because it’s much more convenient to pull food out of a drawer than at eye level,” Cheimets says. But he worries about the “cleanability” of unseen internal surfaces.
Also, this is not an impulse purchase because most kitchens would have to be retrofitted. “You have to plan ahead for this,” Daniel says.
‘Pocket’ doors see an opening Room doors can be space-wasters; on the other hand, you can’t have a bathroom without a door. The solution: pocket doors.
Pocket doors are especially helpful where bedroom, closet and bathroom doors bump into furniture and fixtures.
Traditional doors “get in the way,” says Brooklyn architect/designer Gita Nandan, one of the experts on HGTV’s new Small Space, Big Style series, which launches Aug. 4. “Plus, a pocket door doesn’t have a heavy jamb, so that’s a way to minimize trim if you have a modern house or design.”
There are two kinds of pocket doors: One slides into a frame against the wall; the other requires ripping out drywall and studs for the door to fit into the wall cavity.
Johnson Hardware of Elkhart, Ind., has been selling them for decades, but they have become a lot more popular recently, vice president Steve Johnson says. Johnson’s Series 2000 door won a Most Valuable Product award last year from Hanley Wood, which publishes remodeling magazines.
Kitchen, bath take a shine to glass Glass, one of the oldest materials manufactured by humans, is turning up in kitchen and bathrooms as an ultra-modern design element. That might strike some people as quixotic; after all, glass is so fragile and so hard to keep clean, right?
Actually, no, says Gary Uhl of American Standard, which offers a range of glass bathroom sinks under its Porcher brand.
“This is art glass that (doesn’t) show water marks the way a drinking glass would,” Uhl says. “Also, it’s tempered. It’s a strong, durable material.”
Glass for sinks, countertops and cabinetry in bathrooms and kitchens has been gaining popularity in the past decade, “and in plumbing, 10 years is considered recent,” Uhl says.
So what’s the appeal?
The look is clean and has a “wow” effect on homeowners who have modernist leanings, designers say. An all-glass kitchen created by an Italian design team and spotlighted in the April issue of Gourmet was especially eye-popping: Faucets, sinks, counters and cooktops were made of the same multilayered glass used in I.M. Pei’s Louvre pyramid.
One sign of the trend: wide availability and price range. You can buy a $200 glass sink at a big-box retailer or spend up to $2,500 for Porcher’s luxury products.