by Kate Heyhoe
Remodeler's Tip: Select your appliances early—while you're still young and strong, before the endless stream of decision-making beats you down.
With today's wide range of appliances available, you have plenty of attributes to consider in just a range or refrigerator…then there are cooktops, wall ovens, microwave ovens, vent hoods, dishwashers, washers and dryers to boot.
Selecting appliances first, before picking cabinets and countertops, makes sense. The appliances dictate the cabinet and countertop dimensions. and their placement—along with the kitchen sink's—also determine the kitchen flow. Here's what I selected and why:
I pretty much went with an all-Maytag kitchen, even though I'd never owned Maytag appliances before. Here's why...
First, I did the usual stuff, like researching Consumer Reports ratings (Maytag scored quite highly), picking up brochures, visiting manufacturers' sites, and the ultimate form of self-punishment: browsing the appliance aisles, which is like wading in leech-filled waters. In one store, no less than five salespeople glommed on to me in one visit—repeatedly. Sheesh! Less annoying than department and discount chains are the brand-exclusive retail outlets, but asking their salespeople which appliances are best is like asking a Chevy dealer which cars are most reliable—the ones they sell, of course.
My research confirmed what I had suspected: Maytag is a highly reputable brand. But so are other brands. The real reason I bought Maytag is because their appliances offer some way-cool features that aren't found in other product lines. In the end, I chose Maytag partly because it's proven to be highly reliable, but mainly because the individual appliances offer some nifty state-of-the art technology features that make my life better—and make me a better cook.
I had my heart set on a Maytag ClimateZone refrigerator before I ever entered a showroom (see photo 3A.) As a food writer, I received a 'situation analysis' called "Keeping Food Fresher, Longer" from Maytag's pubic relations firm. It points out that perishable foods keep best at lower temperatures, thus slowing down spoilage and microbial growth. This research was well documented by several independent studies at major universities.
This is what sold me on the ClimateZone: the programmable climate-controlled bins really do keep perishable foods fresher longer—significantly longer. (Photo 3B)
Consider this: Most refrigerators are made to hold a variety of foods, commonly between 36 and 40 degrees F, but meats, fruits and vegetables store best at lower temperatures. Specifically, meats last as much as 150% longer at 31 degrees, and fruits and vegetables do optimally at 34 degrees, lasting some 28 to 50% longer.
The ClimateZone refrigerator's technology uses this to enhance food storage. It has pull out bins with preset temperature options—press 'meats' and the temperature sets to a precise 31 degrees. Tap the button for 'produce' and the drawer clicks in at a cool 34 degrees, press 'citrus' and oranges, cranberries and melons store happily at a perfect 39 degrees. What's more, cold air in surrounding chambers blankets the outside of these bins to keep them cool, unlike other refrigerators that blow cold air in, thus drying out foods and sucking away natural humidity.
The ClimateZone has a number of other nifty features—energy efficiency, Elevator Shelves that roll up or down, a water and ice dispenser and filtration system, among other attributes (see photo 3C.) But for me, now being a country gal whose nearest supermarket is miles away, the ability to extend the shelf life of fresh foods was the key selling point—and the best part is, the system really works.
Some home cooks install professional ranges—the Humvees of the cooking world. But as a food writer, I need to create and test recipes in the same way that most of my readers make them. That means using standard size ovens, and burners that won't smelt iron at their maximum BTU's.
On the other hand, I do enjoy innovative technology, and I want all those nifty bells and whistles that make cooking not only fun, but more efficient. So when I heard about the Accellis 2X range, I knew I had to have one. (See photo 3D.)
Get this: the range is standard size (30 inches) but it's got more personalities than Sybil. Sure, it bakes, broils, keeps food warm and self-cleans. But it also does something really cool: it speed-cooks foods in about half the time, using a combination of radiant heat and microwaves. Not only that, it even defrosts food, and in the speed-cook mode, you never preheat the oven, thus saving even more time. All this, with just the push of a button or two.
Unlike a microwave, the Accellis 2X oven accepts all types of pans, including metal. The radiant heat browns the foods while the microwaves speed up the cooking time. So a roast chicken takes 30 minutes instead of an hour. Even dedicated foodies like me appreciate saving time in the kitchen, and most of my readers say that they prefer putting weeknight meals on the table in 30 minutes or less. The first dish I speed-cooked was Prosciutto and Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts—assembled in 10 minutes and cooked in 15. The exterior was golden brown, the cheese creamy and soft, and the interior cooked through. But one word of caution: be careful not to overcook; two minutes of speed cooking equals four minutes in a conventional oven. Best to check the dish slightly before you think it will be done, then continue cooking as needed.
Purrr. Purr. Purr. No, that's not the sound of my cat sleeping. It's the sound of my Jetclean dishwasher. In fact, my cat's snoring makes more noise than this dishwasher does. Okay, so the cat has a breathing problem, but it's true that the dishwasher is exceptionally quiet. (See photo 3E.)
In fact, even the Maytag installer was so impressed he took the door apart to see how much sound-absorbing insulation it contained. That along with a special tub material, a quieter than normal fill valve, and other features make this dishwasher so quiet, I can actually run it while dining, conversing with my guests, or sleeping. and its cleaning performance is outstanding.
Okay, I know that washers and dryers are neither sexy nor part of most kitchens. But in an odd symbiotic way, they're a natural extension of my cooking: red wine, tomato sauce and most meals I make tend to end up as much on my clothes and dishtowels as they do in my mouth and on my plates.
So while I was on my Maytag binge, I researched their Neptune washer/dryer duo, which won awards for their ground-breaking technology. (See photo 3F.) Wow! The washer features a "Stain Brain" so I can set the optimal conditions for removing 55 common stains.
Additionally, I was sold on their energy efficiency, cleaning power and customization features. The front-loading washer saves nearly 40% of the water and 65% of the energy used by regular top-loading washers (important aspects for everyone, but especially here in California). In fact, the company claims that a household doing nine loads per week will save more water than the average person drinks in a lifetime. Plus, the washer cuts back on drying time by extracting as much as 30% more water in the spin cycle. and because it uses less water, I save on hot water heating bills and cut back on drying time as well.
These "smart" machines actually communicate using English, French or Spanish controls—they're like a Berlitz course for the domestically inclined. Using the touch screen (the machines have no knobs), I can customize the washer controls for each load or each type of load. For instance, I've created a "Napkins" setting that automatically programs: presoak, cold water, cold rinse, stain removal, extra heavy wash cycle, and maximum spin extraction. I've done the same customization for towels, jeans, and sweaters.
The dryer is equally as high tech, and it offers the same customization and touch screen controls (the flat screen is so much easier to clean than a bunch of knobs and buttons). It has some nifty wrinkle reduction features, and you can even prevent "overcooking" your clothes by setting the desired degree of doneness.
Finally, this may sound ridiculous, but I get as much food on my Keds when I cook as I do on my apron. So the dryer's special Shoe Holder gets used a lot, and it keeps the shoes from banging around as they dry. It also has a setting for optimizing the new home dry-cleaning kits.
Suggested retail prices for these Maytag appliances:
ClimateZone Refrigerator—White $1799, Color $1819
Accellis 2X Range—White $1288, Color $1308, Chrome $1388
Neptune Washer—White $1399
Neptune Dryer—Electric $799, Gas $869
Jetclean Dishwasher—Black $749, White $769, Stainless $849
Copyright © 2001, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created February 2001
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