Last month we discussed Stainless Steel Appliances vs. Overlay which is mostly about the aesthetics of the appliances and the look you are going for in your kitchen. This month I wanted to discuss brands and the difference between professional appliances and non-professional appliances. The best website I found that digs into various brands is Yale. As noted in the first month, all brands are generally well made and all brands can have had a bad apple. Typically each manufacturer is going for an overall style and attempts to capitalize on a feature or benefit within their line up like Thermador’s Star Burner or Subzero’s noteworthy food preservation. Whether it is the sleek, more contemporary look of Miele, the functional, commercial look of Wolf/Subzero or the luxurious, professional look of Thermador, each brand offers unique functionality and features or winners in a specific category.  My top three favorite brands based on look, functionality, breadth of line and craftsmanship are:

  • Thermador

  • Wolf/Subzero

  • Miele

The best decision is to look at Consumer Reports for ratings for each individual appliance and look at the overall design of each line to decide what is right for your taste. Then, visit an appliance dealer or showroom to “test drive” each brand.  What matters at the end of the day is functionality, breadth of the line and service after the sale. Nine out of ten people who purchase Professional Appliances, don’t truly cook. But for those who want to sear, simmer, flambé with superior food preservation, then the professional lines are the way to go. If you truly don’t cook often and appliances mean very little to you, then don’t invest your dollars in high end appliances. The semi-professional or standard appliances will still get the job done. Finally, for those who do care, I believe a best of breed approach is the way to go:

  • Thermador for the professional ranges with steam or griddle

  • Miele or Bosch for the dishwasher

  • Subzero or Thermador for refrigeration and food preservation

  • Vent-a-hood for ventilation

  • Scotsman for ice. They are the ones that make the bar style, clear ice cubes

  • Uline or Marvel for under counter refrigeration and wine preservation

  • Theramdor or Wolf for ovens (Thermador is the originator of the oven)

  • Miele for coffee makers

Note, take a look at induction cooktops as they are great for a contemporary look or for those who want the power and control of gas, but not the bulky feel of range top or ranges.

What makes an appliance professional or non-professional?

For ranges it has to do with depth, width (some ranges can be 60”+ wide) BTU output and breadth of line.
For refrigerators it has to with width, generators, depth and most importantly food preservation. To create that built in sleek appliance visual, the refrigerator needs to be 24” deep corresponding to your counter depth. This in turn, will require the compressor to either be on top or bottom of the refrigerator and not the back. Thus, the typical professional refrigerator increases the height from 70” to 84” tall and 30” wide to up to 72”+ wide.
For dishwashers it has to do with number of wash arms and decimals of sound. A really quiet dishwasher is 37-45 decimals. Why do we care? Dishwasher quietness is the number 1 feature to consumers because our living spaces have merged. The kitchen and living space is one space, not separate rooms like our parents’ homes. We simply do not want to hear the dishwasher.
For ovens it is steam, glide racks, construction of the cavity, size options and features like convection bake and delayed start.
So visit a showroom, do your homework, read Consumer Reports and don’t be talked into features and benefits that don’t matter to you. One last note to help lengthen the life of your appliances, remember to install a whole water purifier or filtration system to remove calcium and calcium build up in the later lines of refrigerators, ice machines, steam oven and faucets. And finally, if you don’t really cook, save your money and instead of spending $60K on your appliances spend $25K and do some great decorating!

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