Appliances, alone, do not make a kitchen. But, they just might be the most important aspect of your space. After all, the kitchen’s primary function is for preparing and cooking meals. How high end do you want to go? Chefs and bakers who plan to use the restaurant-quality features on professional models can justify hefty price tags that can consume their kitchen budget.
On the other hand, if you like the look of the professional-grade range and built-in refrigeration units, and those dramatic hoods for ventilation, you can have your cake and eat it, too. With many mid-range and high-end (but within reach) appliances on the market today, you can get the looks and quality performance without shelling out for the high-high end models. So seriously consider how much of your budget you want to spend on appliances. Ideally, you should choose your kitchen layout first, then choose appliances that fit.
Cooktops. Gas, electric or induction? The choice is personal, though you don’t often hear of people who go from gas to electric. When choosing a cooktop for performance, consider efficiency: how much heat do you lose from burner to pan?
When shopping for gas cooktops, ask about BTU, which stands for british thermal units, a measurement of energy content. Ask about variable control, meaning how long can you maintain “simmer” without the flame going out. Look for burner grates made of cast iron or a metal that conducts heat for better heat transfer from the burner to the pan.
Ovens. A high-performing convection oven, which circulates heat with a fan to cook food faster and more evenly, will help you get dinner on the table faster than a traditional oven. Bakers, on the other hand, will want the traditional bake/roast/broil. In a perfect kitchen world, you can have both with a stacked or side-by-side oven station.
Range hoods. If noise bothers you completely, consider units that can be installed with exterior motors. You can build housing for these so they blend somewhat with your home’s façade. Exterior blowers and inline blowers provide high-performance ventilation. As for those recirculating fans in economy oven-range-microwave stacks: You might take out some of the fat, but you’re not moving out any of the heat. Choose a hood with adequate cfms for your cooktop. As a general rule, a four-burner electric cooking surface should have ventilation that performs at 400 cgms.
Of course, there’s more to the hood than blowing out hot air, even if that’s the key function. Hoods are focal points in some kitchen designs, and they are available in designs from linear-modern to majestic-traditional, and in materials from stainless steel to glass.
Refrigerators/Freezers. Freestanding models slide into a space and generally stick out 6 or 7 inches beyond counter depth. But you can purchase counter-depth refrigerator/freezers that will look like built-in units. When evaluating refrigerator performance, quality comes down to the compressor. Single-compressor units that power a refrigerator-freezer work double-time to keep a moist fridge and a dry, cold freezer. A dual-compressor unit costs more but will allow you to keep fresh food longer.
As for configuration, French-door models are popular, as are French-door refrigerator (on top) with freezer drawer (on bottom). Units might have two side-by-side freezer drawer, or a refrigerator drawer that is accessible to children. The ideal (and most expensive) situation is completely separate refrigerator and freezer units. Concerning water/ice in the door, people are more focused on purification of water these days. Some units will accomplish this. Others simply pass water through the copper pipe in the unit and out your refrigerator door.
Microwaves. Microwaves can consume a lot of space no matter where you put them: on the counter, built in to cabinetry or above a cooktop. So if you want your microwave to work twice as hard for you, consider a convection microwave that also works as a fast-speed oven, eliminating the need to purchase a double oven.
Dishwashers. Now you can get drawer dishwashers, which are easier to load and can be installed at various heights based on your needs Plus, they can handle smaller loads, so they are more efficient. Still, traditional dishwashers with doors that pull from the top down are the most popular style, and they can be paneled to blend with the cabinetry for a seamless look.
Sinks. The sink is an after-thought in some kitchens, but it’s a good idea to choose one at the same time you choose cabinetry for underneath the sink area for a seamless look. If you opt for an undermount style, the sink is generally installed before the countertops, so plan for that. Don’t skimp on the sink if you splurged on a gorgeous countertop. If the sink has to be replaced prematurely, a contractor might have to lift up the entire countertop of an undermount sink—a costly and messy job.