There is no shortage of marketing gimmicks in the world of kitchen appliances and gadgets—like the robot whose sole purpose in life is to make croutons from your leftover French bread. But practical, convenient, stylish, and space-saving designs always reign supreme. Think about, for example, how much counter space your stovetop takes up. Wouldn’t it be groovy to be able to use this space as a work surface when the stove isn’t in use?
Eco-friendliness is also at the top of most homeowner’s lists of priorities. According to Allison Gatta of GE Consumer and Industrial, the cross section of connected technology and water/energy use is important. “The introduction of connectivity will open a number of incredible new paths of efficiency,” she says. Witness the company’s Eco Dashboard in its Ecomagination Homebuilder program, which provides energy and water usage info to homeowners, allowing them to modify their consumptive behaviors accordingly.
Several interesting kitchen-of-the-future type applications have surfaced, as well, such as the idea that smart kitchens can take stock of the food, present a variety of meal suggestions based on ingredients, and even guide cooks through preparation. For details on other futuristic concepts, see our slideshow.
As far as tried and true technologies go, connected displays are becoming more and more commonplace in the cookery, proving that the trend of LCDs in a refrigerators or elsewhere has staying power—especially when you can access recipes via the Internet, play photo slideshows, and more.
Here, we have separated the useless from the useful, and have selected a few uber-cool concept technologies that will make your mouth water—literally and figuratively.
Samsung RFG299 French Door Refrigerator – $3,100
The concept of a display on a refrigerator isn’t new, which means it’s actually somewhat useful. Samsung’s new RFG299 French Door fridge ($3,100) includes a 7-inch touch screen above the ice and water dispenser that gives you access to calendars, nutrition facts, schedules, and photos. You can also control the refrigerator’s temp and water filters. According to Samsung, the fridge has the industry’s largest internal storage at 28.5 cubic feet. The extra space is thanks to the RFG299’s urethane insulation, which reduces the size of the walls from 2.04 inches to 1.38 inches thick, while maintaining a standard footprint. Now you can pack more meats and fruits than you ever dreamed possible, and thanks to the LCD, find something tasty to do with them.
Blendtec Total Blender – $600
Recently, I came across perhaps the funniest press release I’ve read, for a proud kitchen gadget called the Blendtec Total Blender. The little something extra you get for the lofty asking price is the ability to blend pretty much anything. The company’s founder, in fact, is known to put everything from outdated iPods to handfuls of ink pens to shock guns into the blender and shred them to pieces. Touted as the “most masculine” blender of all time, the blenders “not only make everything from Nacho dip to margaritas, but they help keep a Man Cave pristine and free of scented candles, stuffed animals, dried flowers, wine coolers and other less masculine things.” How do they do that? They blend the crap out of them. Check out this YouTube video for evidence. Overkill? Yes. Worth checking out for pure entertainment value? Absolutely.
Blendtec Total Blender
Philips Green Cuisine Concept – Price TBD
At a recent event in Moscow, Philips showed a new Green Cuisine concept kitchen that features a large center island table on which you can not only fry an egg, but eat it as well. The tabletop automatically senses when you place something on it, and can cook it anywhere its set down. If you are in the mood for some gazpacho or just want a cold drink, the table can also cool your food and beverages down. What’s more, Green Cuisine is eco-friendly. It helps control waste thanks to an under-table composter, byproduct from which can be used to grow an herb garden on the table itself. No more running the water to get it hot, either. You control the temperature at which it comes out of the faucet, cutting down on usage. Green Cuisine is a few years from becoming a reality, but it’s one of the coolest eco-kitchen concepts we’ve seen.
E-Sommelier Wine Management System -$8,000
OK, so E-Sommelier is more of a wine-cellar management system than a kitchen gadget, but if your love of good food pours over into wine, you can’t go wrong with this tracking system. It’s comprised of a touch-screen computer and bar scanner to help you monitor your cellar. When you add a new bottle to your collection, simply enter in the information, the computer spits out a new bar code for your wine, and you put it in your cellar. The computer can access the Internet to download labels for your digital library or pull reviews on various vintages. When you are ready for a glass, search the database by wine type, region, etc. After you select a bottle and remove it from your cellar, scan the wine “out” and it will be removed from your database. Before you head to the liquor store, print out a shopping list so you can restock all your favorites. And with exact cellar locations displayed through the system, you’ll never have to go hunting for the bottle you want again.
Pandigital Kitchen Technology Center – $450
The kitchen is a messy place. Yes, you can still go to Barnes & Noble, buy a cookbook and proceed to sauce and dough it up until the pages stick together. But that’s not how a lot of today’s meal-makers roll. More likely, they use the Internet to find recipes and print them out, or, gulp, take their laptops into the kitchen while they are cooking. If you don’t want to get cake batter on your expensive computer, check out Pandigital’s Kitchen Technology Center ($450). The device features a 15.6-inch touchscreen and wireless Internet access so you can search the Web for a good vegetable lasagna, plus a collection of recipes from Bon Appetit. You can also watch the evening news or a digital slideshow, as the KTC is a 720p high-def TV and digital photo frame, too. Very cool.
Pandigital Kitchen Technology Center
Haier Convertible Bottom Drawer Refrigerator
Imagine cooking a big holiday dinner: You go to the store, get a bunch of groceries, like that frozen turkey, come home, and stock the freezer. After you whip up the tasty vittles and your family has expressed their gratitude, it’s time to stow leftovers, but there is no space left in the fridge. With Haier’s new 24.6-cubic-foot model, you can convert the bottom-drawer freezer into a refrigerator and back again with ease, offering you untold storage flexibility. The convertible drawer is as wide as the fridge itself, letting you store a sheet cake or cookie tray with ease. There is also an interior wine rack for chilling a bottle of vino. If entertaining is your deal, then this is the perfect refrigerator for you.
GE Monogram Isobutane Side-by-Side Refrigerator
It’s good to see big manufacturers taking their environmental duties seriously. GE, for example, is looking to make refrigeration cleaner, having recently submitted plans for a hydrocarbon refrigerant for EPA approval that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Isobutane would replace harmful hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which will help reduce global warming. Once approved, GE plans to roll out this fridge in their Monogram Side-by-Side line in early 2010. The company also has a very interesting program in line for smart Energy Management Appliances that take a signal from their local utility company and adjust usage accordingly—great during those times in the late afternoon when household energy usage peaks. Appliances can self-regulate their energy intake and operate more efficiently, resulting in less usage and more savings.
LG Kitchen Appliances
LG is on the forefront in kitchen technology. Unfortunately, the US isn’t the immediate beneficiary of all their cool appliances. Available in Europe, the LG flower-etched GR-P247JCMA side-by-side fridge’s big draw is its unique looks. It also has, according to LG, one of the largest capacities of any standard-sized refrigerator. The freezer is larger due to an icemaker mounted on the door instead of inside the fridge. It also features an air-tight crisper to keep your veggies fresh for longer periods of time. (The company also recently rolled out a similar flower-themed Swarovski-crystal encrusted side-by-side model in Singapore.)
LG’s new SolarCUBE MP9287NW light-wave oven–a splice between a microwave, a grill, and a range—is small, which is great for homeowners with cozy kitchens. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in speed. The SolarCUBE has a “quadruple heating system,” which sounds fancy, but it simply means that the oven uses a halogen heater, grill, convection fan, and microwave to cook food four times faster than a conventional oven. It’s so fast, you don’t even need to preheat it. The quadruple heating system, according to LG, saves 50.7 percent of the energy used by traditional ovens, which, cumulated over the course of one year, is enough to light up the Empire State Building for four hours! Let’s hope these innovations make it stateside sometime in the near future.
LG’s SolarCUBE MP9287NW light-wave oven
Westinghouse Digital PT-16H610S Flip-Style LCD HDTV – $350
We can write about pie-in-the-sky concepts and out-there gadgets until we turn blue, but there are actually many great, gift-worthy appliances for the kitchen available now. Westinghouse Digital, for example, makes some very cool LCDs designed specifically for the kitchen. Their 16-inch PT-16H610S can sit on a countertop, be mounted on a wall, or be attached to the bottom of one of your cabinets to save counter space. With a 1080p HDMI input, it’s a true HD display, and when you are not using it to watch TV, you can watch photo slideshows of family and friends. Not using it at all? The unit folds flat to save space, and the steel finish matches the rest of your modern appliances.
Mode Premium All-in-One Recycling Center – $280
This recycling wonder can crush cans, jugs, and 2-liter plastic bottles at once. It lets you sort and store recyclables and even reminds you of scheduled pickup days. And if you want to feel really good about yourself, check out the Track feature, which tells you how much you have recycled over a designated period, giving you that extra incentive to save the planet.