What’s New in Appliances: 40+ Best Features to Shop For
Since you’re considering a kitchen remodel, you’ve probably spent lots of time pinning images from your favorite magazines and following your favorite designers on Instagram. Maybe you've even asked your friends who designed their cabinets. However, aside from ogling an influencer’s gorgeous French stove—or grumbling about your current dishwasher or refrigerator—you may not have spent much time thinking about the best appliances for your future kitchen. But you should. For starters, together with cabinets, appliances make up more than half of most people’s remodel costs. The appliance landscape has also changed dramatically in the past decade.
Think about the laptop or phone you bought in 2011. It probably looks pretty different from the one you have in your pocket or bag right now. (Hello, BlackBerry!) The shift in appliances has been just as dramatic. It’s just that most of us change phones more often than we do freezers or stoves. The latter now feature the same wifi connectivity, virtual assistants, and digital cameras you expect in your smart phone, speakers, and exercise equipment, along with brand-new configuration options and healthy, energy- and time-saving features. Invest in the ones that will streamline and simplify your daily routine, and cooking will be easier and more fun.
Sorting out which technologies will actually be helpful from those that are merely novelties can be confusing. But we've seen it all, and heard from thousands of customers which additions they like the best and use the most. Read on to learn about the new appliance features that count. They just might change your future kitchen’s layout—and your life.
We know what you’re thinking. Sadly, there’s still no tech that can load and unload the dishwasher for you. But the best dishwashers make everything that happens in between as quiet, efficient, and painless as possible. The classic under-the-counter, built-in models you grew up with are still around, but now an ultra quiet dishwasher is the gold standard. Many have noise levels lower than the average conversation; we recommend looking for one that’s 47 dB or under. Also, dishwasher drawers have become a popular alternative for a few reasons: A single one saves space, is easier to unload, and won’t block busy kitchen thoroughfares, while a double-drawer unit lets you run smaller loads independently—a convenience that ensures you’ll never have a sinkful of dirty dishes. And since all three options are counter-depth and panel-ready, they can fit right into your kitchen cabinetry.
Features to look for: A third rack at the very top to contain small items like ramekins and measuring cups, water-softener technology to eliminate water marks and get glasses spotless, and an auto-open door that unlatches once the cycle is finished to enable quicker and more complete drying. A select few machines, such as Miele and Bosch dishwashers, also feature interior lights; they show off your sparkling-clean dishes and give you a satisfying feeling. And perhaps most impressive of all: the long-lasting Miele automatic dispenser lets you forget about adding detergent, since it holds up to 20 loads at a time.
We have Food Network to thank for turning us into budding chefs. Thanks to Padma and Co., you likely know what umami means, but you may still be a little fuzzy on your options when it comes to the most important tool in your kitchen: the thing you actually cook on. You probably grew up with a porcelain rangetop-oven combination (some call this a stove, but appliance nerds like us call it a range); it was the standard for forever. Today, the best ranges are as beautiful as they are smart, with features that literally cook for you.
You can also break up your burners and oven in different ways. Rangetops (which take up a full section of the counter, front to back, and have knobs that face out) and cooktops (which take up less counter space, and have knobs that face up) both give you storage space underneath, and are geared toward entertaining. The best cooktops make your island the set for your very own nightly cooking show. To learn more about the differences between them and how they can fit into your kitchen, check out our cooktop vs rangetop guide.
Induction cooktops are also becoming more popular, since advances in the technology have made them more efficient, easier to clean, and safer to use than their electric and gas counterparts. The only drawback is that their configuration—with one power burner and three smaller ones—is relatively fixed.
Steam ovens are gaining ground thanks to their smaller cavities that warm up quickly and cut down on preheating and cooking times. They're also generally considered a healthier option than conventional ovens because the moisture of the steam allows you to use less cooking oil. You might consider replacing your microwave with one too, since they reheat leftovers more evenly without ruining the texture.
And then there are speed ovens, which combine the quickness and convenience of a microwave with the crisp results of a conventional or convection oven or grill.
Features to look for: An easy-to-clean griddle with a cover for ranges and rangetops; sous vide capability, an integrated air fryer, an infrared broiler, steam cleaning modes, and French doors for ovens
Elegant & Effective Ventilation
As recently as 10 years ago, over-the-stove range hoods were noisy eyesores you only switched on in desperation, whenever the kitchen got really smoky. Whether they actually sucked up any fumes is still up for debate. Today's range hoods are so beautiful, they'll be the focal point of your kitchen. They can be fitted with a custom-designed cover to match your cabinetry. They're also hardworking and quieter than ever. And there’s a bigger range of affordable ductless units available now if your kitchen floor plan or apartment won’t let you vent outside. Our advice, regardless: Go a little wider than your cooking surface to pull out the most smoke and odor.
Features to look for: Heat-detecting sensors that automatically turn the blower on when temperatures flare up, a timer (so it automatically shuts off after you finish cooking), customizable LED or halogen lights, and wifi connectivity to ping you when you need to clean or change the filter.
Better, More Flexible Refrigeration
Since we’re all making bigger, fewer trips to the supermarket, food storage has become more important than ever. But finding space for all of those groceries can feel like losing at Tetris. The best refrigerators change the game with flexible options for every kind of customization. For instance, there are four-door units, with two big compartments up top and two smaller ones below, that let you change the temperature to customize how they function. You can also get a full column fridge or freezer in a custom width, and set several side by side (or in different parts of your kitchen) to suit your space.
While refrigerators in the past stuck out past your cabinets, the most popular models today don't protrude as much. The best counter depth refrigerators create a seamless line with your cabinets. You can also choose panel-ready, built-in refrigerators that truly blend in; Sub-Zero has long been the leader in this market. Know that these have different space requirements: Counter-depth refrigerators come in widths from 36 inches to 42 inches, and typically require a 72-inch tall opening, while built-ins are taller, typically requiring an 84-inch opening.
Features to look for: Improved systems for better airflow and humidity control, door-in-door access (a small glass panel within the main door of the refrigerator that allows you to see inside without letting loose all of that cold air, so your food stays fresher), interior cameras that let you take stock from the store via your smartphone in real time
Sleek, Space-Saving Undercounter Appliances
Extra Fridges & Freezers
There are several clever ways you can supplement your main fridge. Refrigerator and freezer drawers give you more room for food storage, as do undercounter refrigerators, wine coolers, beverage centers, and ice makers. Placed strategically, they can also help you avoid traffic jams in your kitchen. Wondering what's the difference between a wine cooler and a beverage center? The latter simply gets colder.
Features to look for: Dual-zone temperature control for wine coolers
Chances are you use your microwave for just two things: to reheat and defrost food. But the best microwave ovens can do anything a regular oven can do, from roast a chicken to bake a cake. Pull-out microwave drawers are also available. They free up space on your counter or over your range; you’ll also love them if you’ve been bending way down or reaching way up to put plates inside. And if you never want to wipe off the remnants of a food explosion again, consider a Panasonic inverter microwave—it heats food more evenly than a basic one, for fewer messes.
Features to look for: Sensors that automatically adjust cook time and wattage, an easy-clean antimicrobial stainless steel interior, convection cooking settings that let you bake and roast, and other conveniences. For instance, we like Whirlpool’s low-profile slim microwave with a hidden control panel inside the oven itself, and Samsung’s model with a built-in grill, perfect for crisping up leftover pizza slices.
Arguably the most important appliance in your home, at least in those first early hours of the day, new industrial-grade coffee makers run laps around their traditional countertop counterparts. Built-in devices like a Miele coffee maker can be hidden within your kitchen cabinetry to give you more cooking and prep space. Combine it with a cup-warming drawer for maximum bleary-eyed efficiency, all in one place.
Features to look for: Customizable grind, temperature, and milk-frothing settings; the ability to preset multiple user profiles and make more than one drink at a time; tanks that can be plumbed directly to your water supply so you never have to refill again