Cooking Category On Fire As Induction Technology, Pro Looks Propagate

By Colleen Bohen On Aug 7 2006 - 6:00am

The abundance of celebrity chefs dotting the pop culture horizon, the proliferation of food-related programming in the mass media, and the emergence of the kitchen as the “new living room” have turned up the heat on premium cooking appliances.

Vendors have responded to the consumer clamor by rolling out more commercial-look “pro” lines and introducing a fresh crop of induction cooktops, perhaps the most pervasive “new” product this year. The technology, popular in Europe, creates a magnetic field to heat steel and iron-based pots and pans while keeping the cooking surface cool. Dealers can expect induction models from a wide range of manufacturers including Fagor, which has two entries featuring touch controls that carry suggested retails of $2,500 (four burners) and $3,300 (five burners).

Elmira, known for its modern appliances with retro looks, is also incorporating induction technology into its cooktops, including a new six-burner, antique-styled model with a two-burner induction unit option that's priced to retail for about $7,500.

Toronto-based Diva de Provence, maker of professional grade European-styled cooking equipment, is launching an entire line of induction cooktops allowing consumers to decide how many elements they need. Choices range from two to five elements with cooktops that range from 12 inches to 36 inches in size. The units are available now at suggested retails ranging from $1,260 to $3,600.

In the traditional cooktop department, a variety of new options exist in both the gas and electric categories. EuroChef's Italian-designed DeLonghi brand offers two new built-in stainless steel cooktops with cast iron grates featuring five burners — including one that will heat to 18,000 BTUs for faster cooking time. A 36-inch gas version is priced to hit a $469 price point, while a 12-inch electric cooktop with two heating zones carries a suggested retail of $449.

BSH's Gaggenau group will be offering the CE 490, a 36-inch electric glass ceramic cooktop (suggested retail: $1,899) that features four cooking zones. Expected to launch around the fourth quarter, its removable magnetic knob is promoted as an added safety feature for households with children.

In combination units, Sharp is offering its Insight Pro combination microwave drawer and cooktop. The company is positioning the unit as an all-in-one compliment to a wall oven that allows customers to avoid a countertop microwave for a sleeker look. Suggested retails range between $1,690 and $1,800, depending on the finish.

In the oven area, Frigidaire is offering built-ins in single- and double-oven configurations within its Frigidaire, Frigidaire Gallery and Frigidaire Professional platforms for suggested retails ranging between $529 and $2,299. The company has increased cavity capacity from 3.1 cubic feet to 3.5 cubic feet on 27-inch electric ovens and from 3.7 cubic feet to 4.2 cubic feet on 30-inch models.

At the super premium end of the spectrum, TurboChef's 30-inch double wall speed-cook oven will be available this fall with a suggested retail price of $7,500. The unit, offered in a variety of finishes and colors to fit multiple design schemes, can cook a 12-pound turkey in 42 minutes and a rack of lamb in four minutes, the company said.

Vendors have also introduced a wide range of ranges for 2006. Among them is KitchenAid, which is shipping its Architect Series II ranges this fall in both freestanding and slide-in formats. The 30-inch ranges will be available with electric, gas and dual-fuel heating options, and all feature convection heating. Non-convection models will also be available in gas and electric configurations. Suggested retails will range from $1,299 to $2,499.

At 24-inches deep, the built-in look Pro Harmony Professional series dual-fuel range from Thermador, with suggested retails of $4,300 to $6,600, features a three-in-one star burner for fast boiling, the company says, while its “ExtraLow” simmer feature controls flame for delicate tasks like melting chocolate or cooking sauces. The range is available now in both 30-inch and 36-inch sizes.

Meanwhile, its sister BSH division Bosch is launching an Evolution series of freestanding ranges, an Integra platform of slide-in ranges and a Pro version of Evolution. The lines offer a variety of cooking options including gas, electric and dual-fuel sources. All models will begin to hit retail this summer at price points ranging between $1,000 and $2,300.

Also shipping this summer is Dacor's ER48D, a range featuring a 36-inch oven with separate 18-inch convection oven. It has a suggested retail of $9,200, and will be followed in September by the ER36D, which drops the convection oven and the price point to $6,550.

Also entering the luxury fray is the Brand Source buying group, which is launching a private-label Gourmet Professional line of luxury cooktops, hoods, warming drawers and ranges. (Brand Source general appliance manager, John White told TWICE the brand is expanding in the coming quarters to include wall ovens, refrigeration and dish products.)

Finally, Whirlpool is appealing to multitaskers with its new PowerPair Cooking Center, which features a freestanding range and a multifunctional SpeedCook oven hood. Whirlpool says the pairing offers the features of five appliances in one (microwave, cooktop, oven, warming drawer and ventilation). Available in gas or electric and a a variety of finishes, the unit carries a suggested retail of between $1,400 and $2,200.

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