HOT KITCHEN TRENDS
Functional backsplashes, hobs, steam ovens lead the pack
by Mary T. Liebhold, CKD
We’ve all heard the old saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” But whoever said it clearly wasn’t referring to the hot new products available today for the serious and creative chefs among us. Even novice cooks can be captivated by some of the possibilities.
For starters, backsplashes — that vacant space between upper wall cabinets and countertops — are not just for decoration anymore. While rail systems holding shelves, cookbooks, utensils and the like have been around for years, the age of electronics has reached a new height. With the realization that life centers around the kitchen, a backsplash now can become a whiteboard or a hidden television, among other things. Single area controls for Internet, radio, iPod docks, built-in speakers and lighting can bring electronics into an integrated kitchen. It’s the height of function with minimal design.
Lighting also can vary, from a standard under-the-counter glow to variable colors for fun mood lighting. When the kitchen is so visible and integrated into the home, it’s no longer just for cooking.
Cooktops have moved beyond simply choosing between gas and electric. More companies have begun offering hobs, allowing homeowners to use more than one method. Hobs can be placed side by side or across the room from each other to designate cooking zones. For example, a Teppan Yaki hob with two separate cooking zones functions as both a traditional Japanese appliance and one that serves as a griddle, broiler, roaster, and warmer.
While grills are best used outside, the sheer variety of indoor grills can keep any cook inside as well. High-heat wok burners, in-counter steamers and deep fryers can be added to an assortment of double-gas, smooth electric, and induction burners.
Induction itself is making inroads as more manufacturers add the option to standard 30-inch and 36-inch units. While the initial cost is a bit higher, induction’s amazing performance and responsiveness — combined with easy cleanup — has created many converts. Most cookware manufactures make a ferrous metal pan that can be used for induction; just imagine spreading a cooktop with a paper towel under the sauté pan to catch splatters. An instant, gas-like response to temperature increases and decreases now are possible with electric stovetops as well.
These days, speed cooking no longer refers to a typical microwave. Speed ovens using a combination of halogen lights, ceramic discs, convection heaters, and fans and microwaves now are coming into play. These heating elements can be used together or separately, cooking meals that average about four times faster than a conventional oven.
In addition to speed ovens, conventional wall ovens can partner with steam ovens to maintain nutrients in meats and vegetables. An entire meal can be prepared in this type of oven without overlapping tastes. Fantastic ribs, breads and fish move steaming well beyond broccoli.
Finding a place for all of these units at a convenient height has led to an increased use of pullout-drawer microwaves. Similar to a traditional warming drawer, these microwaves can be placed in a base cabinet in the most likely used area. Kids often use the microwave as their first cooking appliance, so having it at a safe height also helps reduce the risk of accidents.
Explore the newest inventions, challenge pre-conceived notions of what goes into making a fabulous and fun kitchen, and discover that an organized, updated kitchen goes a long way toward an organized life.
Mary T. Liebhold, CKD, is owner of The Kitchen Specialist Inc. in Durham. To learn more, call (919) 490-4922 or visit www.thekitchenspecialist.com.