Ideas and tips for your dream kitchen
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Appliances can cost as much as the kitchen itself so don't leave appliances to the last minute. Think about how you use your kitchen when choosing appliances. Do you cook a lot or do you eat out a lot? Do you love to entertain at home? How many family members will cook in the kitchen? Do you use the cooktop (hob) more than the oven or vice versa? How often do you shop for grocery?
The trend in appliances is integrated design where appliances are concealed behind cupboard doors to create the clean and unobtrusive look of a kitchen. Appliances such as fridges, dishwashers, washing machines and rangehoods can all be integrated. On the other hand, stainless steel appliances still remain hugely popular.
A freestanding cooker or a separate oven and cooktop/hob? A freestanding cooker is easy to install and can be taken away with you when you move. It can also be used as a design feature in your kitchen. A separate oven and cooktop however, allows you to mix and match different sizes of ovens and cooktops. For example, you may prefer a large cooktop with a small oven. You also have the flexibility to position them separately: a wall oven with a separate drop-in cooktop is perfect for people with back problems. It also allows two people to cook at the same time, one with the cooktop and one with the oven. A wall oven is also safer for families with young children.
For small spaces, consider ovens with side opening doors that you can open all the way to give you more room in your kitchen. It's also easier to reach the inside of a side opening oven.
Gas or electric ovens? Generally speaking, a gas oven is slightly quicker to heat up than an electric oven. A gas oven also has different cooking "zones" which means different shelves have slightly different temperatures.
Electric ovens, however, heat up evenly inside the ovens when using the fan-forced function and can have different cooking functions by utilising different elements in the oven. Cooking functions for certain types of food can also be found in electric ovens, for example, a pizza function creates perfect pizzas especially when used with a pizza stone. With automatic cooking programs, all you need to do is choose the type of food on the oven menu and enter the weight of your food and the oven will do the rest for you. Many fan-forced ovens can also be used to defrost food by activating the fan only without heat.
If you like cooking roasts in the oven then you would enjoy using a self-cleaning oven. A self-cleaning pyrolytic oven utilises high heat to clean the oven interior without any chemical. The extremely high temperature (around 500 ºC/932 ºF) breaks down all the grease into ash that will fall on the oven floor. A simple wipe in the end is all you need to do. The oven door will also lock itself once it has reached a certain temperature to prevent burns and to ensure safety.
Ovens can also be combined with other functions such as microwave and steam. A combined microwave/oven gives you the option to cook food quickly by using microwave and normal baking function together. It also saves space by combining two appliances into one. A steam cooker is excellent for food such as vegetables and fish, or for reheating food in a gentler way than in a microwave. A combined steam oven can also bake with steam to improve moisture in baking.
Most kitchens these days have microwave ovens for convenient and fast cooking. Many manufacturers provide built-in microwave ovens to match their ovens. Alternatively, you can hide a freestanding microwave oven behind a lift up door.
Cooktop / Hob
Gas, electric or induction? Gas cooktops are fast to heat up but electric cooktops are generally easier to clean (with less parts) and good for simmering. You can also choose a dual-fuel cooktop with both gas and electric.
An induction cooktop instead of having conventional heating elements has induction coils underneath the ceramic glass surface that create magnetic fields to generate heat. When an iron or magnetic pot is placed onto the cooktop, a magnetic field is created and heats the pot directly. The advantage of induction cooking is its fast heating because heat is generated directly to the pot. The glass surface does not get as hot as a conventional cooktop and food is less likely to be burnt onto the glass surface, making it easier to clean. It is also safe to use since the cooktop will not heat up unless a suitable pot is placed on the cooktop, suitable for families with small children. Make sure you have suitable cookware for induction cooking, check the base of your pan by using a fridge magnet to see if it is magnetic. People with pacemakers should check with manufactuers as induction cooktops may casue interference to pacemakers.
When shopping for a cooktop, it's a good idea to bring your favourite cookware with you to "test-drive" different cooktops to find the one that will accomodate your cooking needs, espcially if you have uniquely-shaped cookware such as large woks, supersize stock pots, BBQ griddle plates and tagines.
If you cannot find a cooktop that suits your need, you can create your own with modular units. They come in different sizes and are available in gas, electric and induction allowing you to mix and match different fuels. You can also combine a modular barbeque top or deep fryer with other pieces to further personalise your cooktop.
Rangehoods are essential in today's kitchens no matter how much or how little cooking you do on the cooktop / hob. Simply choose one according to the size of your kitchen and your cooking style (a stronger one for stir-fry and indoor barbeque or a simple one for light cooking such as steaming and boiling).
If possible, a rangehood should be ducted outside to get rid of grease and smells in the kitchen. Try to minimise any sharp bends in the duct to allow air to travel freely.
If ducted option is not possible, a rangehood can be used in a re-circulating mode where air is filtered and exhausted back into the room. Charcoal filters can be installed to absorb cooking odour in this mode.
Make sure you wash your rangehood filters regularly to remove grease and particles in the filters. A grease-saturated filter will not only decrease the efficiency of the rangehood but can also be a fire hazard. Many rangehood filters can now be conveniently washed in dishwashers.
Rangehoods come in a variety of designs. A wall mounted canopy rangehood can be used as a design feature in a kitchen, or you may want to integrate your rangehood to blend with the kitchen cabinets to give to create a simple minimalist design.
Check your local regulations about the minimum distance between your cooktop and rangehood. Also take into account the height of the person who will be using the rangehood the most.
If an overhead rangehood is not feasible, a downdraft exhaust system can be installed on the benchtop near the cooktop. The downdraft system is usually situtated next to or behind the cooktop to extract steam and grease down into the motor unit mounted under the cooktop and can either be fixed or height adjustable. A height adjustable downdraft exhaust system rises up to a desired height when in operation and goes back down when switched off, creating a neat finish on the counter.
Position your dishwasher as close to your sink as possible to make loading and unloading easier and place your dishwasher under the draining board of your sink to avoid dripping when loading your dishwasher.
Like a wall oven, a dishwasher at a higher level makes loading and unloading easier.
Dishwashers come in different colours and finish to co-ordinate with your other kitchen appliances. Or you can choose an integrated dishwasher which is concealed by a cupboard door to create a sleek look in your kitchen.
To save water and electricity, only run the dishwasher until it's full. If necessary you can use the pre-wash program to eliminate smells in the dishwasher caused by unwashed dishes. If you usually can't fill up your dishwasher in a few days you may want to choose a dishwasher with a half-load option or one with an automatic load sensor.
Think about your shopping pattern when choosing your fridge: You may need a big freezer if you shop less frequently and you do your shopping in bulk. On the other hand, you may want more fridge space if you buy fresh produce on a daily basis.
Positioning your fridge near the entrance of your kitchen so guests and members of your family can use the fridge without interrupting any food preparation process taking place inside the kitchen. Alternatively, having a separate "drink" fridge away from the main fridge can also solve this problem.
A side-by-side fridge provides ample space and is perfect for large families, or you can simply put two fridges side by side if space is not a problem. A fridge with water and ice dispenser is also handy for family with kids and entertaining. Some fridges also incorporate a wine storage section to safely store your wine at a perfect temperature and humidity level.
If you don't like the look of a freestanding fridge, you can integrate your fridge by concealing it behind door panels. Check with manufacturers to see which models are suitable for integration as not all fridges can be integrated.
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