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issue: August 2006 APPLIANCE Magazine

40th Annual Report on Cooking
Fired Up


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by Jill Russell, Senior Associate Editor

The cooking industry is heating up as the notion of speed drives product designs and technologies.

TurboChef Technologies, Inc.’s Speedcook oven offers fast results with an eye-catching design. Featuring curved handles and rounded edges for a sleek look, the oven is said to cook foods in 20 percent to 25 percent of the traditional cooking time with its Airspeed technology.

Whether consumers are looking for new and advanced cooking technologies to replace current ones or to improve tried and true methods, today’s cooking appliances provide a solution for every need and want.
The options were evident on the floor of the 2006 Kitchen/Bath Industry Show in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Appliance makers from around the globe showcased their latest and greatest cooking products that ranged from sleek and modern to bold and traditional. Despite the diverse display, one thing is certain in the cooking world—speed is key and the faster OEMs can help consumers cook up a storm, the better.
“Everyone wants hot, fresh and delicious food,” Steve Beshara, chief branding officer for appliance maker TurboChef Technologies, Inc., tells APPLIANCE. “We all lead busy lives and no one wants to wait on an appliance. Consumers are interested in appliances that are faster and perform with high-quality results.”
Many manufacturers are responding full-speed ahead with products designed around induction and speed cooking technologies, while others are choosing to tweak the technology already found in kitchens around the globe. Either way, companies are racing to present fast, easy and professional results.

Well-known in Europe for induction, Fagor Electrodomésticos introduced induction cooktops to the North American marketplace. Fagor America, Inc. is itself a newcomer, with only 2 years in the U.S.

Induction’s Sizzling Popularity

Widely used in the commercial foodservice industry and already common in European households, OEMs are pushing a new and improved version of induction cooking in the U.S. market with a variety of sizes, enhanced heating elements and smaller depth sizes.
Using its European heritage and expertise, BSH Home Appliances Corporation, a subsidiary of German-based Bosch und Siemens Hausgeräte GmbH, introduced its first ever line of induction cooktops under its U.S. brand Thermador. Five models are available in 15-inch, 30-inch and 36-inch sizes. Mathieu Sabbagh, head of the company’s cooking division, says the 15-inch cooktop allows the company to provide a solution for the replacement market, and allows consumers to add the technology to their kitchen without a complete kitchen remodel.
Although it is definitely not a new technology, the re-emergence of induction is expected to take a hold of the market this time around. This is helped by the increased power of the latest units. “The reason why induction failed in the past was because the power was insufficient,” Sabbagh explains. In response, Thermador’s cooktop boasts a 12-inch cooking element-made possible with a 3,600-W element.
Spain’s Fagor Electrodomésticos introduced a new line of induction cooktops with its U.S.-based Fagor America, Inc. Featuring self-adjusting burners and cookware detection, the company prides itself that its units feature independent heating elements. This, according to Patricio Barriga, president of Fagor, increases the technology’s reliability. “You don’t run the potential that if one element fails, the whole cooktop needs to be removed or replaced,” he says. Aware of the learning curve the U.S. market presents with induction, Barriga says Fagor is prepared to win the U.S. consumer by educating users in the retail channel.
“We will work with our partners and make sure that we come up with the proper elements of explanation,” Barriga tells APPLIANCE. “Not just in terms of point of purchase, material or describing the technology, but demonstrating the benefits of using it—making sure they understand the product completely.”
Another new entrant to the induction product segment, Brea, California, U.S.-based Wind Crest says it expects the technology to be a success due to its precise controllability; something yet to be found with traditional gas and electric cooking methods.
Steve Kirkley, president of Wind Crest, says induction is the best of both the gas and electric worlds and is anticipating the technology will finally take off in the U.S. after first being introduced more than 30 years ago. “This is really going to be the next cooking medium that is going to explode in the American market,” he says. This, he attributes to induction’s near 95-percent efficiency rating combined with a smoothtop’s cleanability.
The company’s cooktop features three 3,600-W generators and Wind Crest prides itself on technology that enables all of its induction heating elements to operate at full power simultaneously. According to Kirkley, this is achieved with the three generators. “Other units share the power between two zones and cycle it back and forth on a time-duty basis,” he explains. “We have the technology that allows us to use both units at full power at the same time.”
Wind Crest’s induction cooktop features include 11 temperature settings from 50 W to 3,600 W and an AutoOff™ setting—which turns a cooking element off within 30 seconds in the presence of a non-ferrous pan or if a pan is removed.
Dacor (Diamond Bar, California, U.S.) is also investing in induction and will introduce its first induction cooktop in 2007. The company will offer a 30-inch, four-element version and a 36-inch, five-element version. Bob Lewis, assistant vice president of Dacor’s product development and support, says the company engineered the unit with a shallow cooktop depth so that wall ovens could be installed beneath it. The company says it was able to reduce the cooktop depth to 2.25 inches, compared to a typical depth of 4.5 inches to 5 inches, through the greater use of electronic components and enhanced design techniques. Additionally, Dacor’s touch controls enable jump-in temperature selection that allows users to reach low, medium or high settings with one touch of a button.
Dacor is also optimistic that induction has staying power now that some of the original kinks have been worked out and user benefits of efficiency, reliability and usability abound. “Consumer demands can outpace available technology, and conversely, technology can outpace what the market wants,” Lewis says. “Just because you can make a product, doesn’t mean that they want it. If they don’t get the benefit out of it, then it really doesn’t mean anything. I think [induction] is the way of cooking in the future.”

Project Luna™ from Fisher & Paykel puts a twist on gas technology with a new burner that recesses when not in use and lifts up to form the burner and pan support—all on a gas-on-glass cooktop.

Racing to the Dinner Table

Induction technology isn’t the only way appliance makers are providing fast, efficient cooking. Several companies are developing new speed-cooking technology.
Commercial cooking appliance maker TurboChef Technologies, Inc. (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.) entered the residential arena with its TurboChef 30-inch Double Wall Speedcook Oven. Max Abbott, chief strategy officer, says the oven utilizes a combination of its patented Airspeed technology and microwave technology to reduce cooking times up to 75 percent compared to traditional methods. The Airspeed technology comprises heated air that is speed-controlled—an advanced version of convection technology—in combination with microwave technology. According to Abbott, the oven’s air velocity is controlled independently from the top and bottom of the unit via the use of perforated jet plates, which increases the heat transfer rate that results in faster cooking times. Microwave technology is simultaneously initiated to ensure a thoroughly cooked product in the short time frame. The drastically reduced cooking time is achieved via a form of specialized convection cooking that is said to be four to six times faster than traditional convection methodologies.
“The heated air goes through the jet plates that have roughly two dozen holes in the top and two dozen holes in the bottom plate,” Beshara of TurboChef, explains. “Through the small holes, columns of heated air rapidly circulate and, in turn, rapidly cooks the food.”
TurboChef’s first residential appliance is a double wall oven with a 2.5-cubic foot Speedcook oven and a 3.5-cubic foot oven below for conventional and convection cooking. The lower oven can be used as a warming drawer or proofing oven. The oven has a stainless steel finish with the Speedcook oven door highlighted in one of seven finishes, ranging from Orange Hearth and Thermal Red to Evening Blue and Ivory. Because of the new mindset of cooking times the speed oven creates, TurboChef designed an intuitive control to allow users to easily prepare their favorite dishes without having to “relearn” how to prepare them with speed cooking.
To start cooking, users simply select one of seven cooking modes—bake, roast, broil, air crisp, toast, dehydrate, or favorites—and follow specific prompts on the unit’s color LCD interface about the kind of meal the user wishes to prepare. The oven selects the correct cooking time and temperature based on a preprogrammed algorithm and automatically converts the desired result according to the new technology. “What we’ve done is simplified the use of the technology for the consumer, but we’ve still taken the advantage of all the flexibility we have,” Abbott tells APPLIANCE. “The oven is preloaded with more than 450 algorithms that are selected based on consumer inputs.”
Another company utilizing controls to achieve a faster cooking process is Germany based Miele. The company’s subsidiary Miele, Inc. uses Navitronic™ control technology on the new speed oven and a new steam oven in its MasterChef Collection™. The control creates more than 17 cooking modes based on user input and more than 900 preprogrammed algorithms for various menu selections. Miele says the focus on intuitive controls is key to a product’s success. “People don’t really now how to cook with completely new technology,” Matt Kueny, manager of product development for the company, says. “The food-driven menus simplifies their use and expands the user’s experience.”
An added benefit of the controls is the ability for Miele to customize its cooking appliances for a more universal market. “Using a soft-key system like Navitronic means we don’t need hard printing on the control panel. We can utilize up to seven different preprogrammed languages into the system, addressing the Spanish-language market or French-language market without having to develop new products or even new components specifically for those markets,” Kueny explains.
Miele’s speed oven—the company’s first in the U.S.—achieves faster cooking by combining microwave, convection and radiant broiling cooking modes in the 24-inch appliance. The company’s steam options include two models with the capacity to cook all the components of a 6- to 8-serving meal simultaneously. In 2007, the oven will feature the company’s “CleanSteel” finish—a silicon-blasted, stainless steel surface that is said to reduce the appearance of fingerprints and improve cleanability.

Turning Up the Heat

While induction and speed oven product launches are certainly accelerating, more traditional cooking methods are heating up as well.
New Zealand-based appliance maker Fisher & Paykel created an entirely new burner system for its gas-on-glass cooktop, set to be released in 2007. Project Luna™ features burners that serve as the cooking grate and retract when not in use via a patented lifting mechanism controlled with a clutch-type component. The result is a flush cooking surface.
Seven years in the making, the Luna has three burners instead of the traditional four or five. This, the company says, is due to what it found in consumer research studies.
“Most consumers use about 2.1 burners at any one time. Hardly anyone uses three burners at once,” Matt Sinclair, brand manager for the Fisher & Paykel, tells APPLIANCE. “Also, there are ergonomic benefits to the design. Having three burners in a row eliminates the need to reach over a burner in the front to get to the back burner.”
The company, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary in the U.S., said the project started during the design of its Aero burner, which integrated a fan into the burner system to improve efficiency and performance. Sinclair says this delivers an optimized mix of gas and oxygen to the burner, ultimately making it more efficient and able to handle low simmers and high settings. Efficiency is also increased because the pan sits directly on the burner supports and eliminates any gap between the flame and pan.
The 36-inch cooktop boasts a unique depth of 16 inches, which allows it to be integrated in a counter or island for a truly modern and minimalist look. “Style was certainly a driving influence and we were after a style that wasn’t too cumbersome or too in your face,” says Sinclair. “It’s a flat surface that won’t dominate any kitchen design—and for a gas cooktop, that is quite unique.”
The Luna was designed to be a global cooktop and as such will be released first in Australia, Asia and Europe, followed by the U.S. when the power requirements are reconfigured accordingly.
“It is an extremely easy-to-use, easy-to-clean, visually uncluttered glass surface that transforms into a very powerful glass cooktop,” Sinclair says.
As Fisher & Paykel focused on its burner technology, other companies are cooling things down to heat the innovation pipeline with traditional cooking methods. TMIO, LLC, after first showcasing the appliance in 2003, is launching its Connect Io™ Intelligent Oven™ Professional Series, an electric oven that features built-in refrigeration that keeps your meal cool until you command the oven to cook it. The 30-inch double wall oven makes dinner “ready when you are,” as the company motto states, and allows users to control the appliance outside the home via the Internet or cell phone. TMIO President David Mansbery says an on-board, single-board computer enables users to access any Web browser or phone line, enter a pin number into TMIO’s site and be able to control the oven—selecting cooking start and stop times, and adding cooking steps—without any charge from Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.-based TMIO.
The company, taking an almost reverse approach to induction and speed cook technologies, is delivering faster results by allowing the appliance to perform despite a user’s schedule instead of enabling them to cook faster once they find the time to do so. “In removing the waiting time from cooking through its use of refrigeration and remote access, this puts dinner on the table using traditional cooking methods,” Mansbery tells APPLIANCE.
The Connect Io self-cleaning oven features a 3M Touch Systems MicroTouch™ ClearTek™ capacitive touch-screen control panel, using the flat capacitive Profile sensor. The panel is supplied with a transparent overcoat from 3M, which is said to enhance the physical durability of the surface. Reportedly the first residential appliance application to utilize the technology, it takes the user step-by-step through the operation of the unit without needing an instruction manual. The oven also features a message center and can be integrated into a home network system to allow users to check the status of their oven while watching TV, for example.

Jenn-Air® introduced its Oiled Bronze finish as an alternative to stainless steel. Instead of the “cool-feeling” of stainless steel, it fits into the trend to remodel using warm colors and woods.

Burning-Hot Designs

Other appliance companies are creating heat in the kitchen with hot new finishes and innovative visual appeal.
Jenn-Air® (Benton Harbor, Michigan, U.S.) says its Oiled Bronze finish will be the “new stainless steel.” Frank Kminke, brand manager, says the new finish was designed in response to consumers increasingly remodeling their kitchens with warm earth tones and burnished metals. “We wanted the appliances to blend-in and become an integral part of the kitchen design and work well with warm woods, and stand out just enough to be functional,” Kminke tells APPLIANCE.
The finish is achieved by way of a patented process that involves multiple finish coatings, pressure and heat to bond the finish to the metal substrate. “Our oiled bronze finish is actually a recipe,” he says. “The patented process we use lays the finish down and cures it.” The finish is said to be as durable as stainless steel and the look is completed with the use of stainless steel handles that allow the appliance to demand attention, but still blend with a warm kitchen design. The finish will be available on a variety of Jenn-Air appliances, including 30-inch and 36-inch electric and gas cooktops and single and double wall ovens.
Another company creating some heat in the kitchen, while designing products to vent it out of the home, is ventilation hood maker Broan-NuTone LLC. Known for its Best by Broan® line of luxury hoods, the Hartford, Wisconsin, U.S.-based company is once again creating some heat with its designs that combine both form and function. The WC26 hood features a blue LED light that transmits throughout the outer edge of the hood canopy via four LED pods for added aesthetic appeal. The hood also features the company’s Heat Sentry™ technology, which detects heat and automatically adjusts the blower speed, remembering to vent when needed in the case the user forgets. Broan is also creating some heat with its latest prototype designs. The Tecnico concept hood features a glass-bottom panel that utilizes “perimeter induction” technology.
“This puts a very high stream of air at the edge of the hood and it is inducting very fast at that point,” Brian Wellnitz, product manager for Kitchen Ventilation, explains. “The smoke can hit anywhere on the bottom of the hood, but when it reaches the edge, it is drawn up into the edges and into the chimney.”
Capital Cooking Equipment (Santa Fe Springs, California, U.S.) is also focusing on providing professional products in a residential setting. The company says most pro-style ranges generate 12,000 BTUs to 17,500 BTUs on each burner, but Capital’s patent-pending Power-Flo™ range burner achieves 30,000 BTUs. Capital ranges include a dual-oven format comprising a 36-inch (5 cubic foot capacity) and 24-inch convection oven, which boasts the reportedly first-ever rotisserie feature in the self-clean convection oven.
Complete kitchen appliance suites are also proving to be hot options. Both South Korea-based LG Electronics and Sears, Roebuck and Co. (Hoffman Estates, Illinois, U.S) introduced new cooking products to make up a full suite of kitchen appliances.
LG completed its kitchen appliance offering with the introduction of its electric range. The unit’s 5.6-cubic-foot capacity stands out with its blue interior in addition to its technological advancements. The company’s EvenJet Plus™ feature, a convection system that is said to achieve more even air distribution, was realized by way of a modified fan shape, according to Tim Kavanaugh, the company’s director of merchandising. The unit also features heating elements that expand from 6 inches to 12 inches and an extra-wide (20-1/4-inch) oven window. The range compliments a suite that includes microwave ovens, dishwashers and refrigerators.
Sears, which added a 36-inch induction cooktop to its product line this year, introduced its Kenmore Pro™ line based on the success of its sleek Kenmore Elite suite. The Pro suite includes a variety of slide-in and drop-in gas and electric cooktops, single and double wall ovens, a dual-fuel range, ventilation hood, warming drawer, refrigerators, and a dishwasher. The Pro ranges feature a 27,000 BTU bridge burner, griddle and triple-ring elements to really fire up cooking performance. The unit also boasts a professional look with its stainless steel construction and heavy-duty knobs and analog dials.
Despite the approach, be it new technology, radical redesigns to traditional cooking methods or new looks that offer beauty in a smart package, one thing is certain—consumers are looking for cooking appliances that can come up to speed with their busy lifestyles. “Speed is always going to play an important role in the development of cooking appliances,” Sinclair from Fisher & Paykel, says. “Consumers are looking for a product that will provide perfect results, are easy to use and perform exceptionally well. Hopefully we’ve had and will continue to achieve that.”

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Thermador
Miele
Jenn-Air
Dacor
3M Touch Systems
Fisher Paykel
 

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