If you're designing a new kitchen, creating a utility room or fitting out a laundry room, it's likely you'll need to buy new appliances. But where to start, and which are the best to buy? Here's everything you need to know about kitchen appliances.
Buy the best fridge or fridge freezer
Which fridge or fridge-freezer type?
Compact fridges and freezers, whether freestanding or integrated, that sit on or under a worktop in a W60cm space are ideal for small kitchens or as extra drinks' fridges or freezers in a utility room. If you only have space for the one appliance, the fridge is the obvious choice; but if you want more than the compact freezer compartment these offer, you will need to sacrifice work surface for a taller fridge freezer. Find the best mini fridges for your kitchen.
Fridge-freezers will comfortably fit, either freestanding or integrated, into a W60cm gap in an average-sized kitchen. Think about your cooking habits when considering the fridge to freezer ratio when buying. Bear in mind, too, that having the fridge in the upper half and the freezer in the lower will be a more convenient option. Shop for the best fridge and fridge freezers.
Drawer fridges and freezers, whether freestanding or integrated, are similar in overall capacity to compact fridges and freezers, only in drawers. The major upside? When sited under a kitchen worktop, it's easier to access items at the back than in standard compact models.
American style fridge freezers often have side-by-side fridges and freezers, and are generally wider (W90cm) than standard fridge-freezers. Ideal for a large family, they're an ideal focal point in a contemporary kitchen.
Chest freezers is ideal for large families and bulk freezing.
Wine fridges come in countertop, compact, slim, standard and super-sizes. Not intended for long-term wine storage, they're handy for keeping your favourite brews chilled and on-hand. For maximum versatility, look for a model with more than one temperature zone. Find the best wine fridge for your kitchen.
Features to consider when buying a fridge, freezer or fridge freezer:
Auto-defrost, where water drains into a trough at the back of the fridge, then evaporates.
Climate class rating, which tells you the range of room temperatures your freezer can deal with. For example, N-rating is for a 'normal' room temperature (a kitchen or utility); SN-rating is for 'sub-normal' temperatures, like you'd find in a garage; ST-rating is for 'sub tropical' rooms, not something we have to worry about in the UK.
Cold accumulation block increases the time the freezer will remain cold in case of a power cut.
Displays and signals allow you to monitor the fridge, from its temperature, doors being left open to potential faults.
Drainage spout – this pull-out freezer option means you can drain melted ice away more easily when you defrost.
Energy-efficiency: choose a fridge or freezer with an A++ rating best performance.
Fast-freeze, which keeps the freezer's temperature low if you bulk-free all in one go.
Frost-free freezers have a heater and a fan that mean you don't have to worry about ice build-up and defrosting.
Holiday mode – useful for turning off the fridge but leaving the freezer on.
Humidity controls help keep salad, meat and cheese drawers fresh.
Reversible doors – particularly handy if you will be taking your fridge with you when you move house.
Separate controls that allow you to set the fridge and freezer separately in a fridge freezer.
Buy the best cooker, oven or range
Single ovens are a good option for small kitchens at W60cm – or anyone who prefers a takeaway to catering for a dinner party. Whether freestanding or integrated, they can sit beneath the worktop or, more conveniently, at eye level. The downside? You can't use both the oven and the grill at the same time with these basic models.
Double ovens give family kitchens more flexible cooking options, with a main oven plus a smaller second oven grilling option(s). They come either as built-in or freestanding beneath the worktop, the latter models being slightly smaller. Buy the best freestanding or integrated oven.
Multi-function ovens allow you to use their various options – from fan to grill – separately or together for flexible cooking options; some include a defrost setting, too.
Range ovens, whether traditional heat storage (think Aga) or contemporary cooking-only options, create fabulous focal points in large or open-plan kitchen diners. Traditionally equipped with one wide oven with grill side-by-side with a smaller oven, it might also include a pan storage or warming drawer, plus a (sometimes multi-functional) hob. Externally, range cookers are larger than double ovens, but usable oven space internally is no larger – and sometimes more limited than that of a double oven. Find out more about choosing a range cooker.
Steam ovens wouldn’t replace conventional electric ovens in a kitchen, but if you regularly steam foods, a combi-steam oven may be a useful choice. A stand-alone steam oven alongside your existing electric multi-function oven is also worth considering if you're a keen cook. Use our guide to buy the best steam oven and find the best five steam ovens in the shops now.
Whichever you choose, always examine the usable interior space carefully – the size of the oven's body, and even the stated capacity (usually given in litres) doesn't always add up to a large cooking area.
Which fuel type for your oven?
From electricity and gas to, more unusually, oil, wood and solid fuel, what you choose will largely depend on your cooking preferences and where/how you live. And don't forget, many ovens don't just come as one-fuel models; dual fuel cookers are perfect if you love the heat-up speed of a fan oven but prefer to cook on a gas hob.
Electric ovens come as either conventional or fan-operated models. Conventional ovens, less widely available than once upon a time, tend to be hot at the top, cooler at the bottom, and are far less popular than fan ovens, where the heat is circulated evenly to give you more even, more predictable results. Watch out for a subtle difference between fan-assisted ovens (where air heated by conventional elements is circulated by a fan) and convection ovens (where the heating element is wrapped around the fan, making for quicker heat-up and cooking times, and even heat distribution).
Gas ovens, like conventional ovens, will be slightly hotter at the top than the bottom, which makes them a good choice in a small kitchen with a single oven, as you can achieve different results for different foods within one meal, simply by choosing the right shelf (crispy roast potatoes at the top, moist chicken at the bottom, for example). Unlike electric ovens, which produce a very dry heat, gas ovens create a moister atmosphere, making them a popular choice for keen bakers. Watch out for European, rather than British, gas models – these tend to have burners within the base of the oven, making for a similar cooking experience to that of fan ovens.
Which grill to choose?
Often the last consideration when choosing an oven, here's what you need to know about grills:
Electric grills take time to heat up, unless you choose a top-of-the-range cooker.
Gas grills come as: ceramic grills, which take time to heat up but distribute heat evenly and quickly once fired; fret burners, which need no pre-heating but can brown food unevenly; surface combustion burners, which distribute heat – and therefore brown food – evenly.
Features to look out for when buying a new oven:
Automatic cooking controls set the temperature, heat source and moisture levels, plus cooking time, once you've selected the food you're cooking.
Automatic timers that will turn the oven on or off when you are out.
Clear door-viewing panel so that you can see how your cooking is coming along without opening the door.
Cool-touch oven doors, a must if you have young kids; look out for child-proof controls, too.
Digital controls, more precise than dials.
Energy efficiency, with A-graded models being the most efficient.
Half-grill facility for cooking smaller quantities of food.
Safety and flame-failure devices on gas ovens.
Self-cleaning: cleaning an oven a job you'd rather skip? Look out for: easy-clean enamel – simply wipe clean and go; nano-cleaning, where the glass oven door has a dirt-repellent coating; pyrolytic ovens, which heat to 500°C to incinerate spilt food; catalytic liners, which absorb fat and break down baked-on food when you heat the oven to more than 200°C; steam cleaning, which loosens burnt-on food.
Slide-away doors which slide underneath the oven when open – ideal for small kitchens.
Smart features that let you control functions or check on your food by phone or tablet.
Storage drawers and plate-warming racks for warming serving dishes and keeping cooked food hot.
Telescopic runners for shelves – make pulling shelves out and pushing them back in stabler and safer.
Triple or quadruple glazed doors keep more heat in, saving energy.
Buy the best hob
Whether your hob will be integrated with a multi-functional oven or a stand-alone hob, what do you need to know before buying one?
Which hob size?
This largely depends on the size of your kitchen, that of your family, and your cooking habits, but here are the basics: standard hobs are W60cm with four burners; hobs over W70cm will have extra burners. Look out for electric hobs with a dual element – these allow you to match the size of the inner or outer ring of the element to the size of the pan, which will save energy.
Which burner configuration?
Standard-sized hobs usually feature a large burner, two medium-sized ones and a small burner. Domino hobs, which usually feature two burners, allow you to create a more versatile mix of burner types – or you can fit an additional domino hob next to your standard one. Options include elongated electrical zones to cope with large casserole dishes to griddle, barbecue or tappanyaki hobs.
Whichever hob you choose, ensure yours has a good variety of burner sizes and ratings to cope with all the different types of cooking you will tackle.
Which hob fuel?
Induction hobs are a sleek choice for contemporary kitchens. Easy to clean and energy efficient, they heat and cool quickly, meaning they're highly responsive for cooks but also a safe choice for families with young children. Some hobs come with timers so that overcooking a pan of pasta will become a thing of the past; a power boost feature is another option (power can be increased for quick boiling on one or two rings, although the output of others may be affected during this period); and zoneless induction hobs will work wherever you place the pan. The downside? You need iron-based magnetic pans to work with this type of hob, so a new set of cooking pans might be on your shopping list, too.
Gas hobs are easy to control and responsive. Better models have mains ignition rather than being lit by a button. The downside is the cleaning, so ensure yours can be easily dismantled or choose a gas on glass hob, where the burners are mounted over ceramic glass, which is marginally easier to clean.
Electric ceramic hobs have heating systems beneath a tough ceramic glass surface. Easy to clean, they are not as responsive as gas or induction hobs.
Electric plate and electric coil hobs are an affordable option but expensive to run, slow to heat and cool down and tricky to clean. Make them last on your list of preferences.
Dual fuel hobs combine two fuel types: gas and electric or gas and induction to give you greater cooking flexibility.
See our pick of the best hobs, from induction to ceramic and gas.
Features to look out for when buying a hob:
Automatic switchout turns off an electric burner zone if the pan is left unattended for an extended time.
Child-safety controls to stop those curious fingers fiddling.
Coated pan supports which wipe down more easily than cleaning stainless steel.
Electronic boil start/automatic heat reduce – where the zones heat at the highest setting, then reduce to simmer.
Flame failure protection – an important safety feature for gas hobs.
Hot hob light on electric ceramic hob rings to show when they are hot.
Overspill protection turns off the burner if a pan boils over.
Removable controls and pan supports to make cleaning a breeze.
Buy the best cooker hood
You very much get what you pay for with cooker hoods, with cheaper, smaller models being less efficient extractors than larger or more expensive models; better models feature more than just the three power settings, too – additional power boosting and the ability to set the hood to turn itself off are handy bonus options.
Which type of cooker hood to choose?
Built-in or integrated cooker hoods, at up to W60cm, fit into the standard slot above a single oven. Often hidden within cabinetry, making them perfect for small kitchens that you want to feel streamlined, they are not as powerful as chimney or island hoods.
Chimney cooker hoods range from standard to larger models. More imposing in stainless steel or glass (or both), they make the ideal focal point in a contemporary kitchen. Fixed to the wall, they are usually powerful and efficient; choose yours to match the width of your hob.
Freestanding cooker hoods, like chimney hoods, are attached to the wall. Without the chimney attachment, they are smaller (typically W60cm), slimmer and cheaper than other cooker hoods, so great if you are on a budget or have a small kitchen. However, they are also the least powerful, so ensure your kitchen has other ventilation options (ie, windows that open).
Island cooker hoods are the perfect finishing touch to a focal kitchen island. These cooker hoods are fixed to the ceiling, and come in a wide range of designs, from standard chimney-style to ones that look like glamorous light fittings.
Extraction or recirculation?
Extractor hoods, which are the most efficient at removing cooking smells and steam, work by pushing air through a duct to a vent in the wall. This means they ideally need to be sited on an outside wall, although you can have the ducting hidden – or have it on show, perhaps desirable if you're designing an industrial style kitchen – if that's not possible. Recirculating hoods, where the steam and smells are simply pulled through carbon filters before being pushed back into your kitchen are cheaper to install, but not nearly so effective.
Cooker hoods and noise
When you're buying a cooker hood, don't just consider looks and configuration – how much noise it makes will be important, especially if you're planning an open plan kitchen diner and living space. As a guide, 54dB is quiet, and over 60dB will be a nuisance if you're trying to have a conversation or listen to music while cooking.
Cooker hood filter know how
Cooker hoods filters need regularly cleaning or changing to work properly, with each material having its pros and cons: easy-to-remove metal (aluminium or stainless steel) filters can be put in the dishwasher; messier-to-remove fleece and paper filters should be replaced every couple of months.
Features to look for when you're buying a cooker hood:
Filter saturation indicator to tell you when to change or wash the filter rather than leaving it to guess work.
Lights, something to bear in mind when planning kitchen lighting, are a handy extra, but ensure yours are easy to change when the bulbs fail.
Buy the best dishwasher
Buying a dishwasher? Which type is best for you?
Freestanding dishwashers are ideal for utility rooms or unfitted kitchens where appliances are on show. These washing machines generally fit into a classic W60cm base unit space.
Integrated dishwashers are very slightly smaller than freestanding dishwashers, and are designed for fully fitted kitchens, with appliances hidden behind cabinet doors for a neat, streamlined look.
Semi-integrated dishwashers are fitted like integrated appliances, but the control panel is on show.
Which dishwasher size?
Full-sized dishwashers fit in a classic W60cm base unit space and can accommodate 12 to 15 place settings at a time – at least a family-sized meal.
Compact dishwashers measure around W55cm, and are perfect for small kitchens with little storage space; however, like a microwave, they do take up worktop space.
Slimline dishwashers, at just W45cm, are a neat solution for small kitchens but will fit a small family's washing up.
Features to consider when buying a dishwasher:
Adjustable baskets, or ones which can be removed, allow you flexibility when loading.
Anti-flood feature turns off water if there's a leak at the back of the dishwasher.
Child-safety lock – ideal if you've got curious little ones.
Delayed start let you programme the dishwasher to start when it suits you, perhaps when you are in bed (handy if you can take advantage of a cheaper energy tariff).
Drying, usually only a feature on full-sized dishwashers, this cycle is completed either with hot air or residual heat, the latter being more energy efficient.
Energy efficiency – using a dishwasher is more eco-friendly than washing up by hand, but you can improve that performance still more by choosing an A-rated model with an eco programme.
Hidden controls – ideal for a sleeker look for freestanding dishwashers.
Hydrosensor ends the programme automatically when dishes are clean, saving on water wastage.
Pre-rinse is for plates before you wash a full load.
Programmes: most dishwashers offer a main setting; an economy programme and a light wash. Others to look out for include: half-load; rinse and hold; and glasses only.
Salt and rinse aid indicator lights illuminate to tell you when to refill.
Sensor features, which adapt the programme to the load, upping or decreasing how much water or how many rinses are required.
Find out how to clean your dishwasher for a sparkling finish every time.
Buy the best washing machine
Which washing machine type?
Integrated washing machines are designed for fully fitted kitchens with appliances hidden behind cabinet doors for a neat, streamlined look.
Slim-depth washing machines take up less room than classic washing machines and are ideal for a small kitchen or utility room.
Find out which washing machines under £300 we rate as the best.
Features to consider when buying a washing machine:
Auto dosing is a feature that allows you to pre-fill the machine with enough washing liquid to last about 20 washes; the programme will then release the correct amount of liquid for that particular load. This feature cuts down on unnecessary rinsing, saving energy in the process.
Energy efficiency is important for saving on fuel bills, so pick a machine that has anything from an A to A+++ rating.
Load size is down to the size of the drum. If you're washing for a large family, a 9kg washing machine will suit; 8kg will do for an average family; 6kg to 7kg is big enough for single people or couples.
Quiet mark washing machines are a good option if you are designing an open-plan kitchen diner and living space or perhaps live in a small home and want quiet appliances.
Smart washing machines can be controlled from an app on a phone.
Spin speeds vary: more expensive models have an economical long spin cycle for cottons and an interval spin to reduce creasing in synthetics; those combined with a tumble dryer need a high spin speed to dry clothes efficiently.
Wash programmes include: economy settings which automatically reduce the water temperature; extra rinse, handy in areas with soft water or for anyone with sensitive skin; hand-wash for wools or silk; quick wash; reload, which lets you add to the load once the cycle has started; steam, which revives creased, dry clothes and removes odours; variable temperature control – allowing you to choose a lower wash temperature to save energy.
Find the best laundry room storage ideas.
Buy the best tumble dryer or washer dryer
Which tumble dryer type?
Vented tumble dryers discharge the damp air produced by the drying process via a vent in an outside wall – or, less ideally, via a hose pushed though an open window or door. These models tend to be cheaper than condensing dryers.
Condensing tumble dryers discharge the water extracted in the drying process into a container within the machine. This gives you the freedom to install it along any wall, although the room should be well-ventilated to cope with the moist air produced.
Washer dryers are a good compromise if you have no space but great need for both a washing machine and a tumble dryer. Washer dryers have wet condenser systems that use cold water for the drying process. Although a washer dryer may add to your water and energy consumption, they come equipped with timers or sensors. Some brands also feature a heat pump, which recycles heat in the drum.
Features to consider when buying a tumble dryer or washer dryer:
Crease care – clothes are tumbled every now and then once the drying cycle is finished. This stops them becoming creased if you don't empty the machine immediately.
Cool air setting – refreshes clothes that have been stored. Ideal if you put out-of-season clothes away and want to wear them without washing, ironing or dry cleaning them.
Drum capacity – the bigger the drum, the faster the drying time, the fewer the creases. Tumble dryers tend to dry a similar-sized load to that of a washing machine with the same size drum; they tend to be available in 4kg to 6kg, 7kg to 8kg, and 9kg models (1kg would roughly equate to one person's dirty clothes for a day).
Energy efficiency contributes greatly to running costs (as does the time the machine is left running and how full you've loaded it). Since tumble dryers cost more to run than washing machines, it makes sense to invest in an A-rated one: heat pump condenser models or ones with sensor drying (see below) being the most energy efficient).
Final cool tumble takes place in the last 10 minutes of the drying cycle, bring clothes back to room temperature.
Heat pump technology, available in condensing tumble dryers and some washer dryers, helps contribute to an A energy rating; the hot air produced in the drying process is reused, making the it much more efficient.
Reverse tumble is where the drum rotates first in one direction, then the other (and so on), separating clothes more efficiently and therefore speeding up the drying process.
Sensor drying is when the tumble dryer notes that your clothes are dry and stops – a good energy efficiency feature.
Find the best tumble dryer for your home.
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