Appliances 101


Here I will explain some of the commonly shared features and what/how they work so I don’t have to explain this for every brand review I discuss (articles to come). There will be more detailed explanations on some of these terms in the reviews based on which brands make which type of appliance.  Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments area below. I will try to get back to you in a timely manner.

Appliance Glossary


Built in refrigerators also called Counter Depth had to get taller in order to keep the same cubic ft. of storage area. These are 24″ deep which is the same depth as your counters so they sit flush and save walkway space (a commodity in smaller kitchens). These are most common in the 84″ height so you can keep the same storage space with the same width model.  I love them… but I am almost 6′ tall so I don’t have to bend over as much and I don’t end up with science projects in the way back of the fridge. There are some new counter depth refrigerators that did not change their height but as I said you will loose significant storage space unless you go wider. Width is also a hot commodity in most kitchens so I think the best way to keep the same amount of storage is to go up. If your ceilings are 8′, you just don’t have a cabinet above them. Maybe a book shelf, or a decorative piece but there is only 12″ left in this scenario.

Free Standing or Slide in models   are usually 30″ to 33″ depth fridges and are mostly around 69″ to 72″ tall. They come in all of the styles listed below.

French Door is a 2 door (fridge) and 1 drawer (freezer) below. They allow wider platters or items to be stored than the side by side version. I like them. They come in counter depth and standard depth as well as the 2 heights depending on brands.

Side By Side is what most of you know of now if you have purchased a refrigerator in the last 10 years or so. These come in standard depth  and counter depth styles but remember to keep the same storage space if you go counter depth, choose the 84″ height (or Built-in)

Over Under is when you have one full width top fridge door and a freezer drawer below. Again these come in both counter depth and 33″ depth but these are more common in the counter depth (built in) models in the higher end brands.

Under Counter units are popular in larger kitchens with more than 1 work space or a tiny mother-in-law unit where space is very limited. The various styles are 1 drawer, 2 drawer, Beverage center, wine cooler, ice maker or tiny regular fridge (for MIL’s). I love the drawers when they are put near a secondary prep sink so you minimize trekking all over your kitchen while working. And of course the wine fridge is great for those of us wine lovers in the wine country!

Cooking Appliances:

Range is a combo unit with burners and an oven(s) which can be built in or slide in. Most of them have the knobs or controls on the front edge to save cooktop/burner space. They go from 30″ wide to 60″ wide in some high end brands. Usually once you get past 36″ wide, you have 2 ovens, one small and one regular size. Some brands now have 30″ and 36″ models that have 2 ovens stacked on top of each other. I have not had clients who have opted for this yet, but I can see that it will be utilized by the many. Ranges come in electric, gas, duel fuel (explanation below) and induction.

Range Top is just the burners but the top styling of a range…. with the knobs on the front. People opt for these when they have the space for double ovens on the wall and don’t want to bend down. They look more industrial than a stove top or more…. macho one might say. There are some range tops that are electric but mostly you see these in gas.

Stove Tops come are drop in (to the counter) units and come in gas, electric and induction. The knobs are either along one side or along the top/ front. These take less depth so you can fit a 3 drawer base underneath them making them popular where storage is tight. The top drawer will not be very deep but it can be used for utensils or spices if designed right. (hint, hint)

Duel Fuel means the oven is electric (often convection) and the burners are gas.

Induction Cook Topsare completely smooth on the surface and uses less energy because it uses electromagnetic waves to heat the bottom of the pan instead of the cooktop and this is done very fast. You have to use cookware that is magnetic though, so you need to use stainless steel or cast iron pans that can heat up with the magnetic charge. If you have a favorite collection of cookware that is not stainless or cast iron, this cooktop is probably not for you unless you are willing to change out all your pots and pans. Cooking with induction is 70% more efficient than gas and 20% more efficient than electric so if you are thinking green, this is a good option. I will also say that I think Induction cooktops are good for the elderly or disabled (ADA) because it is so safe and easy to clean and they take up even less depth so you can design them so that a wheelchair can slide right up under the cabinet they are in allowing for better access and reach. I have heard that they heat up faster than even the highest of the gas burners and cool down just as fast.

Griddles are usually a built in area on gas or duel fuel ranges or range tops that have a cover that you remove or lift up for use. Often they have a grease well so the grease drips off into a vessel that can be emptied easily after cooking. I personally find this a waste of space because you can just as easily put your own separate purchased griddle on top of any 2 burners when needed but see that’s just me. I have had a few clients who say they are indispensable in their families for how they cook. To each his own!

Indoor BBQ Grills  are also a built in area taking the place of 2 burners usually on a range or rangetop that is at least 42″ wide. I love the indoor grill but make sure you get a ventilation system that can handle the smoke that is created when using this device. You will most likely need the most powerful fan/vent available which is 1200 CFM’s which needs a 10″ duct. Do not get an indoor grill if you don’t have a hood and I would not rely on a down draft system for an indoor BBQ either. They suck (or don’t suck which is the problem).

Misc. Appliances:

Farm Sink   is a sink that has a visible front sometimes called an apron or Apron Sink. They come as a single bowl or divided into double bowl and now come in stainless steel as well as copper, stone, cast iron, zinc, solid surface (corian type) and fire clay and can be made out of concrete as well. I like them because the sink well is right at the front edge, not separated by 2″ to 3″ of counter so it not only allows for more deck space behind the sink but makes it so you don’t have to lean in so far when washing (for those of us with bad backs, this helps).

Undermount Sink is just what it says and I think most of you know the difference between an undermount and a drop in these day but…… the advantage is that the counter is above the sink well so water and debris can be wiped right in without hitting the lip/edge that a drop in sink has.

Drop in Sink is the easiest of sinks to install for the do-it-yourself-er because you can rough cut the whole using the template provided and then the lip of the sink covers that cut so you don’t have to have a professional installer polish that edge. The disadvantage is that you have that rim that has to be sealed with silicone and it eventually gets mucky. Yuck!

Steam Oven  is a small built in wall oven that cooks with steam only. They have a water chamber that you fill each time you use them. I love them because you can cook with far less oil than a conventional oven and they are fast. There used to be only 1 or 2 brands that made them but more and more are popping up these days.

Convection Ovens use a fan to circulate the heat/air around the oven. This eliminates “hot Spots” and thus cooks foods more evenly which is why bakers tend to fall in love with convection ovens. This circulation tends to cook foods more quickly as well so there is some need to modify cooking times or temperatures of your recipes.

Convection Microwave Ovens combine a convection oven with a microwave oven to cook food with the speed of a microwave oven and the browning ability of a convection oven.

Teppanyaki Cooker or grill as they are sometimes called, is a combo grill and hot plate.  “Teppanyaki” is derived from the word “teppan” which means “iron plate”, and “yaki” translates to “grilled”. Put it together and it adds up to what you would find at those Japanese steak house restaurants where they slice and dice the food right on the grill and try to flip it into your plate. I haven’t had any clients opt to put one in their new kitchen but I guess it would be fun if you had the room.




The origin of the word Kitchen

Have you ever wondered why all the other rooms in your house are labeled with the activity that takes place in them…. except the Kitchen!  The bed room has a bed in it, the dining room is where you dine, the bathroom is where you bathe, the play room is where you play and the living room is where you live (well, I live in the kitchen mostly but that’s just me).

Why is the kitchen not called the cooking room? Where did that word come from? The answer is the same as the origin of most words…. from Latin. The Old Latin word (that you can only find in a Latin dictionary) is coquere meaning “to cook”. Then that translated in many languages from Old English, Cycene, to kichene in Middle English to cucina in europe (various countries had different spellings) eventually  to the word kitchen.

But why did ‘they’ decide to use one word, a word that means ‘to cook’ and not ‘the cooks room’ ?  If anyone has an answer let me know. I am the curious sort!

A place to get inspired about all things Kitchen