With the appliance industry still in the depths of its worst downturn in memory, vendors and dealers are looking outside the kitchen and laundry room for sales salvation.
That search has actually taken them outside the home altogether and into the backyard, where more consumers are expected to spend their “staycations” given the current economic climate.
In lieu of travel, manufacturers are banking on homeowners to invest in better grills and outdoor kitchens with which to entertain family and friends, as evidenced by the latest array of outdoor cooking equipment.
Recent introductions include GE Monogram's new luxury grill line, which was designed, the company said, to provide a “seamless transition from indoor to outdoor entertaining venues.”
The Monogram grills are available in built-in and freestanding designs, and in natural gas or liquid propane gas models. Sizes range from 30 inches to 54 inches, and arrive fully factory assembled and backed by GE factory service.
The units feature hand-finished chamfered edges with bullnose lighting that illuminates large control knobs and a temperature gauge embedded below the grate. GE uses heavy 304-gauge stainless steel for the canopy, which also features double-wall insulation and tubular handles. Surface space tops 1,500 square inches and is lit with brilliant halogen lamps for night cooking.
The grill itself is activated by a 120-volt ignition button, which is supplemented with a 9-volt battery backup. Inside, radiant heat baffles are set above the adjustable 25,000-Btu main burners to ensure even heat distribution below the stainless-steel grates, and to contain liquids to reduce flare-ups. The grill also features a fully adjustable ceramic-infrared searing burner that generates up to 23,000 Btu to lock in foods' natural juices and flavors, while a ceramic-infrared rotisserie burner allows slow roasting of meats and poultry.
Both built-in and freestanding Monogram models also include fully integrated accessory storage compartments, a drop-in smoker box, protective vinyl grill cover, basting pan and stainless-steel rotisserie motor, and spit rod and claws. Side burners are also equipped with a contoured reversible wok grate, with a sealed-burner design that allows for quick cleanups.
For custom installations, GE offers a number of stainless-steel storage solutions, including a Monogram under-counter refrigerator, a concealed tilt-out waste bin, and double-door and double-drawer accessories.
Meanwhile, Fisher & Paykel's DCS division, an early contender in the outdoor cooking segment, has expanded its Liberty Collection with a new corner island design featuring three commercial-look cooking components: a grill, a side-burner sink and a side-burner griddle. The line also offers expanded outdoor refrigeration options and flexible layouts for customizing backyard kitchens.
“This is the second year in a row that we have expanded the options in our Liberty Collection line,” said Fisher & Paykel sales and marketing VP Laurence Mawhinney. “Our Liberty Collection design truly allows you to build your kitchen island in any configuration you want.”
To incorporate the entire family into the outdoor cooking experience — a primary design consideration, the company said — DCS developed a curved island look that enhances 360-degree viewing and allows guests to more easily watch and participate in meal preparation. The corner configuration provides ample spacing between cooking component suites, which are shipped ready to assemble, as well as plenty storage space and countertop preparation area.
The main grill unit features two independent burners each capable of 25,000 Btu, a patented DCS grease management system that keeps oil and grease away from the flame to reduce flare-ups, and ceramic radiant technology to ensure even heat distribution across the cooking surface. The side burner griddle holds two sealed burners capable of 17,000 Btu each, and a stainless-steel griddle that can reach 12,000 Btu — useful for such atypical outdoor-grilled fare as pancakes or omelets.
New refrigeration options include a cooling drawer unit, a traditional cold storage unit, a beer tap and an ice machine.
Elsewhere, Whirlpool's KitchenAid unit has updated its line of built-in and freestanding grills with such added conveniences as dual LED timers and a remaining fuel-time indicator. Available in 27-, 36- and 48-inch sizes, the pre-assembled models all feature 22,500-Btu stainless-steel burners, a smoker box, rotisserie kit, and angled sear plates and dense grate patterns for consistent heat across the grill surface.
Other design elements include tool and towel hangers, foldable shelves and oversized casters, two of which can be locked for easy maneuvering.
“Our latest grills deliver everything a serious grill aficionado could want, plus some unique extras,” said KitchenAid senior brand experience manager Debbie O'Connor.
Available options include built-in side burners, warming drawers with a slow-cook function, canopy hoods, a refrigerator, an ice-maker, a built-in refreshment center, a sink with a top- or bottom-mount option, a single on/off faucet, built-in trash and utility drawers, and access for built-in grills.
Options for built-in side burners include a new power burner with output ranging from 5,000 Btu to 50,000 Btu, a single infrared sear burner, and double 18,000 Btu side burners with side-by-side or front-to-back configurations, the company said.