With intelligent technology, impressive eco-credentials and streamlined good looks, the array of new generation appliances is breathtaking. Our guide reveals the top features worth having.
Appliances consume a much larger share of today's kitchen budgets, but you do get serious performance and quality for your money. Modern hobs and ovens are reaching professional standards, led by increasingly advanced technology and our enthusiasm for recreating chef-like results at home. The trend for installing 'banks' of appliances – either in long runs or modular blocks – has really boosted their status in the kitchen, encouraging investment in luxury ranges that bring restaurant functionality into the home.
Freestanding versus built-in
While freestanding range cookers can be striking and offer high capacity cooking, built-in appliances make the ultimate design statement in a streamlined fitted kitchen. They also tend to boast better technology, and ovens can be fitted at eye-level for superior access. 'Built-in appliances have a cleaner, sleeker look that blends seamlessly into the living area,' enthuses Fiona Scott, brand manager of Barazza.
The latest built-in ovens have intelligent technology that takes the brainwork out of programming by using sensors to monitor humidity and temperature, finely adjusting the settings to ensure perfect results. If you like baking, look out for models with oxygen sensors; as a cake cooks the oxygen levels in the oven change, allowing the oven to predict precisely when it will be ready.
Despite all this flash technology, the most advanced ovens have intuitive touch controls and built-in recipes, so you don't need a degree to operate them. Miele's top-end ovens will even tell you in what order to add new dishes or ingredients, which shelf to put them on and what time they will be ready.
Other features worth exploring include roasting programmes that automatically sear the meat to lock in flavour, and pyrolytic cleaning, which turns spills to ash at high temperatures (500˚C), kicking manual oven cleaning to touch. For great flexibility, try the new single ovens with two independently controlled cavities (Hotpoint's OpenSpace, for example), which can cook two dishes simultaneously at different temperatures, without odour transference.
Words Linda Clayton