Tools for passionate cooks

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Modern cooking appliances are simple to use but highly intelligent – helping both experienced domestic chefs and keen beginners to create results they are proud of. Anna Ryland examines the cooking scene.

Modern technology is at the heart of all new developments in the kitchen. “It enables appliances to be the very best they can be – minimising energy use, making operation as quick and as simple as possible, and ensuring perfect results that are precisely monitored and programmed,” says Lauren Abbott, Gorenje’s marketing manager.

The recession has had a profound effect on people’s lifestyles. With budgets being tighter then ever customers go out and eat out less frequently. Instead they have become more creative with their food at home and they entertain more often.

“The economic climate has resulted in many consumers retreating back to the home and making it a cosy, happy place with the family at the heart, and therefore cooking has become more important.  There is a keen interest in cooking clearly demonstrated by the numerous TV cookery programmes.  From the demonstration of baking bread, cakes and pastries, to restaurant-style dishes they are inspiring the population to want to become the next MasterChef,” argues Dalia Haddad, product marketing manager, freestanding at Whirlpool.

In September, John Lewis recorded a 48% increase in sales of food mixers fuelled by the Great British Bake Off programme.

At the same time the speed is of essence, as many people now work longer hours.  Therefore all new technological developments in the kitchen aim to cut down the length of the cooking process. Nevertheless customers want to prepare healthy food which is quick and easy to make.

The UK consumers are electronics gluttons so “the gadgetry market continues to lead and influence household desires, with new generation smart phones, tablet PCs, interactive televisions and games consoles becoming the ‘norm’. Demand for intelligent programming and features of convenience in appliances is a natural expectation,” reminds Simon Freear, country manager for Amica in the UK.

An increasing number of customers now expect sophisticated programmes on cooking appliances that can be personalized in line with the family’s preferences and cooking habits. They are equipped with intuitive controls (like iPads and smart phones) and look stylish in the kitchen.

This leads to democratization of smart cooking technologies. “This standardization of specialist technology has also been adapted to suit the skills and budgets of the average consumer, with intelligent features often being introduced to more affordable models, so that a greater number of users can cheat their way to culinary success using the minimum power possible,” says Rita Balestrazzi, marketing manger at Baumatic.

Smart ovens

An increasing number of modern ovens combine the knowledge of professional chefs with user-friendly technology to produce perfect results. 

For example, the Gorenje BO9950AX HomeCHEF features a multi-step baking system – STEPbake – that allows cooking in several pre-programmed steps for complete ease of use. The PRObake operating mode is designed to produce perfect gourmet experiences, AUTObake has 65 pre-set recipes with photos, MYbake allows the users to come up with their own recipes which can be easily modified or saved,  and SIMPLEbake is the shortest, fastest way to cook nine of the most frequently prepared dishes.

De Dietrich’s DOP1190 oven, which comes from the manufacturer’s new Premium collection, is also highly specified and features four cooking modes: Expert, Cooking Guide, ICS and Low Temperature Cooking. It also has a Search function and a Sabbath setting.

Baumatic’s BO909TS 90 cm oven comes with pre-set and personalized recipes, which have the ideal time and conditions to cook a recipe that has been chosen from the oven’s menu, or from the user’s own collection of recipes. It also offers time-saving technology, such as the Booster function which accelerates the heat up time. Its Baking function simplifies the baking process, allowing to re-create the cooking effects of a clay wood-fired stove, while its Browning feature helps to enhance the presentation of dishes, guaranteeing an evenly browned finish.

Also Hotpoint’s Intelligent Cooking System, featured in the built-in multifunction NewStyle SH103CX oven, takes all the guesswork out of cooking by offering a range of intelligent programmes for roasts, bread, cake and pizza. The oven recommends the best shelf position, temperature and cooking time for the most succulent roasts, the lightest bread, perfect cakes and pizzas. There are a further six programmes for grilling and cooking at a variety of temperatures.

A first on the market is the Stoves Professional, a multifunction gas oven. It has a number of unique features, including touch sensitive electronic controls which offer accurate and repeatable temperatures. The combination of an electric element on a gas oven offers numerous benefits including cutting the pre-heat time by half.

Meanwhile the Fusion AKZM 656/IX built-in single oven from Whirlpool has a generous 73-litre capacity and features the Cook3 system that allows the user to cook on three levels simultaneously, without transferring flavours. Also its Ready2Cook feature eliminates the need to wait for the oven to heat up as its convection system creates instant airflow distribution.

Although steam ovens have been in the market for a while, this year they have been heavily promoted in the press and TV programmes which educated consumers about the benefits of food steaming.

“Steam is popular with those who are keen to present more ‘professional’ meals which retain the nutrients, taste and texture of fresh and organic produce; for less energy usage and more moisture with a gentle cooking process at lower temperatures without flavour transfer or the need to use cooking oils or fats,” explains Amica’s Simon Freear.

Amica’s Combination Steam Oven features its multifunctional management system – the Amica i-Cook Timer that includes 12 heating functions plus steam along with a selection of 24 preset recipes and 10 steam programmes. The menu is displayed as animated icons for clear navigation. 

Samsung’s Dual Cook Steam oven can be used as a standard single oven, but its steam technology also permits steam-assisted and pure steam cooking. It also features Samsung’s Dual Cook technology which allows the user to split the oven cavity into two and cook two different dishes, at different temperatures, at the same time – even steaming in one half whilst roasting in the other.

“The advent of steam has also offered a faster, more energy efficient self-cleaning option for consumers, leaving them with only the task of gently wiping the cavity after the steam cleaning cycle has burned away most of the dirt and grime, “ reminds Baumatic’s Rita Balestrazzi. The new combination steam oven from the manufacturer offers 11 functions and comes with 60 preset recipes, and its memory can accommodate 100 more.

Also pyrolytic cleaning is finally gaining acceptance with customers. Despite their higher than average price, pyrolytic ovens are  increasing in value sales by around £3 million per year and now account for a 10% share of the overall built-in market.

Many manufacturers are grappling with the oven cleaning technologies since cleaning the oven is apparently a more hated chore than cleaning the toilet. Beko equips its ovens with unique Nano Oleophobic coating technology to prevent the build-up of dirt and grease. Thanks to this technology the oven door simply requires cleaning with soapy water and a soft cloth after 20 cooking cycles.

Limitless hobs

Induction, firs
t launched a decade ago, has firmly established itself in the built-in hob category, reaching almost 12% of its volume sales in 2011 (Source: GfK). Standard size induction hobs are now available to the mass market and the benefits of this technology are now widely understood. “Induction hobs offer rapid, safe, very efficient, controllable and economical cooking. They are approximately 90% more efficient than conventional hobs,” sums up Dalia Haddad of Whirlpool.

The second generation of induction hobs is enhanced with a variety of useful features. For example, Whirlpool induction hobs are equipped with the manufacturer’s 6th Sense function that automatically senses the boiling point and indicates to the user, with an acoustic signal, when the water has boiled. On adding any contents to the pan it will return to, and maintain the temperature automatically.

Gorenje’s IQcook induction hob, removes the need for direct cooking control on the part of the consumer. A special small ‘disc’ sensor, which is placed on the pan lid, communicates with the hob’s electronics and automatically adjusts the operation of the hob. These sensors also save consumers money as this hob can use up to 40% less energy than a conventional induction hob.

Induction wok bowl hobs are also becoming more popular, offering the speed and energy efficiency of induction as well as the possibility of experimenting with the healthier wok style of cooking. The Baumatic BHIW400SS 40cm induction wok bowl is equipped Booster and Automatic Heating technology to accelerate cooking times.

However at the premium end of the category are now ‘zoneless’ induction hobs. For example Samsung’s AnyPlace induction range allows the consumer to cook with awkwardly shaped pans on any point of the induction surface, rather than being confined to specific zones.

De Dietrich’s collection includes the multi-award winning DTiM1000C Piano ‘Zoneless’ induction hob with its TFT touchscreen and a range of Continuum Induction Hobs which come even in grey pearl matching the ovens and hoods in the collection.

Similarly, the new InfinitePure induction hob from the Electrolux Inspiration range combines the latest technology, the ease of use and minimalist design. “The aim was to create an expressive hob that was modern, premium and distinct offering the speed and controllability demanded by professional chefs,” commented Thomas Johansson, design director at Electrolux Group Design. “The hob controls have ‘iPod-like’ simplicity and clarity, and are only visible when the hob is turned on.  When not in use, it is a simple sheet of black glass.”

Siemens full-surface induction hobs are equipped with 48 micro-inductors so the entire ceramic surface can be used. When the user moves the pan across the surface, the hot plate ‘wanders’ with it and its new position is displayed on the control panel. This flexibility is a result of the honeycomb arrangement of the induction coils, which use an alternating electromagnetic field to transmit energy to the base and sides of the cookware.

A distinctly different technology has been employed by Hoover in its Ghisa gas hob that combines a futuristic cast iron design with a unique burner technology. The hob is cast from a single die and is around half the depth of a traditional model. It is more efficient than a standard gas hob.  This is made possible by the development of new Direct Flame burners, which mix forced air and natural gas just prior to ignition, a small fan then forces the air into the burner to guarantee maximum efficiency and power.

Also in the range cooker category, where colour and design were traditionally most important purchasing considerations, the latest technology is making significant inroads. “New technologies are quickly being transferred to range cookers keeping them relevant to their target consumer with moves towards multi oven options, fast oven heat up, multifunction cooking, choice of hob surface, work burners and griddle trays. However, induction will be the biggest growing technological trend in range cooking,” comments Sertac Sertler, freestanding cooking product manager responsible for the Leisure brand at  Beko.

Small but smart

The small appliance category also has its share of technological innovations. The latest smart product from Philips is the HomeCooker. The first in the new range of kitchen appliances endorsed by Jamie Oliver, it is a multi-functional device developed to help busy families enjoy homemade fresh meals. The HomeCooker chops, stirs, steams and sautés and can be left cooking unattended thanks to new AutoStir technology. 

Flexibility and smart technology are also leading attributes of Tefal’s  Roast & Bake,  a versatile multi-function electric cooker, which can be used like a small electric oven to cook a variety of dishes from the Sunday roast, a stew or a dessert.  Ultra- portable, Tefal Roast & Bake can be taken away on holiday.

Meanwhile the InSinkErater hot tap is a totally different concept in the kitchen. It provides steaming hot water on tap for tea, coffee, other hot drinks and for all cooking needs, saving up to 20% energy (on 10 cups per day) compared to an electric kettle.

Seeing is believing

Modern technologies which offer genuine consumer benefits and make their life simpler will always find favour with consumers – not in spite of recessionary constraints but because of them.

The real obstacle is not the premium price of technological innovations but the lack of understanding on the part of the consumer. “Tucked behind, the electronic screen, is hidden a raft of clever technology and functions which are designed to make life easier and save time too,” points out Whirlpool’s Dalia Haddad. Only on the shop floor customers can truly examine these clever appliances and see for themselves what difference they could make to their lives.

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