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Advice from a dietitian on how your appliances can help you eat healthier

From your oven and ranges, to your refrigerator and freezer, to your blender, your appliances, when used properly, can be one of your best tools in your efforts to eat healthier. Much of healthy eating comes down to planning and preparation, says Tamara Melton, MS, RDN, LD, founder of LaCarte Wellness, a corporate wellness consultation firm in Atlanta. Melton is not only a registered and licensed dietitian, she’s also a busy working mom who loves to cook and regularly puts the meal prep tips she offers her clients into action for her family.

“You don’t have to have the fanciest appliances, but having high-quality appliances that you know how to use can aid someone who is trying to eat healthier,” Melton said. “They help store your food and cook it well. It’s really important.”

While your appliances can’t do all of the work for you, they’ll make your path to a healthy lifestyle much easier. You’ll have to put in the prep time, though, so Melton recommends carving some time out of your week to prepare the foods you’ll eat. Melton offered her advice on how to take advantage of your kitchen appliances:

Refrigerator: If you organize your food for easy access, you’ll be less tempted to grab your phone and order takeout. Put your food in easy-to-access containers so the ingredients are easy to grab when you’re making the next meal. Slice up vegetables and fruit and store them in sandwich bags for snacks. Keep snacks for the kids within their reach on the lower shelves of the refrigerator. Want to save time in the morning? Boil eggs in advance and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

Freezer: Melton bakes muffins and quick bread and stores them in the freezer, defrosting them in the microwave for 15-30 seconds for an on-the-go breakfast. She’ll also freeze extra portions of spaghetti, chili and other dishes to take for lunch or serve as leftovers.

Rice cooker: The rice cooker gets a lot of use in Melton’s home and is a cornerstone of her cooking. “I cook most of our grains in there,” she said. She regularly takes advantage of the rice cooker’s convenience to prepare grains like couscous, quinoa, bulgur and farro. “I’ll put rice in with chicken broth, coconut milk, cilantro. I’ve made quinoa that I’ll take out and make into a Greek quinoa salad.”

Oven and range: “I like to make a lot of one-pot dishes,” Melton said. “We do a lot of roasted veggies.” The range and oven are used to prepare healthy foods for that night and later in the week. “I can walk away from it, and prepare some for the rest of the week.” Pay attention to your cookware and invest in quality saucepans, sauté pans, roasting dishes and dutch ovens, Melton recommends.

Microwave: The microwave oven can be the best friend in the kitchen for busy parents. Melton has a large microwave that she uses to quickly steam vegetables and defrost proteins. “We have steamed veggies as a snack,” she said. “Now that school’s back in, I steam veggies three times a week. The microwave is really important.”

Blender: The blender is an essential tool for making healthy smoothies and juices that can get the kids to eat their fruits and vegetables without them even knowing. Try one of her favorites: ½ a cup to a cup of cottage cheese, a cup of frozen berries, a cup of orange juice and a bit of honey. Add a hard- boiled egg (from the refrigerator), a muffin or quick bread (from the freezer, defrosted in the microwave) and coffee, and you have a convenient, healthy breakfast.

Toaster oven: Take advantage of your toaster oven to reheat leftovers with a smaller appliance and cut down on food waste, Melton recommends. It’s may be a more efficient option than your oven for reheating smaller portions.

How you arrange your appliances can also affect how willing you are to cook a healthy meal, Melton said. She recommends keeping the appliances you use regularly within easy reach. Make sure you reserve enough prep space as well.

Universal design: How to select appliances

Universal design started as a concept aimed primarily at creating accessible, barrier-free homes for people with disabilities. But it has evolved into the concept of creating a comfortable, accessible space for all members of the household, and there are number of reasons why a homeowner may decide to pursue it during a remodel or renovation.

“Aging in place is a huge thing,” said Chris Salas, owner of Cocina Interior Design in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and a Certified Master Kitchen and Bath Designer. “Multiple generations may be living in one home. You may have small children and older parents living under one roof and need flexibility in the spaces according to who’s using them. Resale is also a big factor. You aren’t ruling anybody out.”

Many appliances already incorporate universal design concepts and are easy for anyone to use, Salas said. But if you’re looking to build a kitchen that’s accessible to people of all sizes and physical abilities, there are certain features and elements you should consider when choosing your appliances. Salas, who has more than two decades of design experience, shared her insight on what homeowners who are pursuing a universal design concept should keep in mind.

Cooking

A traditional oven/range has limits to where and at what height it can be installed. Wall-mount ovens and microwaves can be mounted and placed at different heights according to the needs and abilities of the user, so they may be preferable. How the oven opens is also a factor. “Side-opening ovens are handy for everybody,” Salas said. Think about how all household members will reach the controls, not just those for cooking. For example, you may choose to put the fan control at counter level rather than at the rear of or above the range, or use a remote-operated fan. Many cooking appliances already have safety features in place that are appropriate for universal design concepts, Salas said. “A lot of cooktops and ranges have an indicator showing that the surface is still hot. Some even have a lock-out so you can’t turn on the cooktop without knowing how.”

Dishwashers

You’ll need adequate space and access to load and unload dishes as well as put them away. Salas has designed kitchens with all dish storage on the same side of the dishwasher door so those who are unloading the dishes don’t have to go around the open door. Dishwashers with single or double pull-out doors rather than a standard design may make opening, closing, loading and unloading easier.

Refrigerators

Consider the width of the door swing and whether all parts of the refrigerator are reachable. “It might be hard to get out of the way of a 36-inch door,” Salas said. “The smaller doors come in handy. The French door is probably the best invention for universal design.” Keep the height in mind as well. “The door swings may not be as big as a one-door model, but you might not be able to reach half the fridge because it’s tall.” Salas recommends testing appliances before you buy them. “Some fridges have a really good feel but may be difficult to open,” she said. “The bells and whistles might look or sound cool, but once you’re living with it, it might not add value. Get out and try these things to make sure they work.”

Outside the kitchen: Laundry

The height of the appliance relative to the user’s needs is also a factor in choosing and installing clothes washers and dryers, Salas said. “Keep flexibility in mind,” she said. “The washer and dryer can be on a pedestal. You can build them up onto your custom platform. It’s all about the user’s height. The front load is optimum for anybody to use.”

Stay cooking with these kitchen appliance safety tips

An excited mother and her happy children cooking a roast together in the kitchen

When used properly, home appliances have a proven and extensive track record of safety. Appliances are rigorously tested for safety long before they make it to retailers’ shelves. Many of the accidents that involve appliances are easily preventable.

John Drengenberg, consumer safety director for UL, has been involved in the appliance safety and testing business for more than 50 years, earning the informal title of “Mr. Safety.” He recently spoke with AHAM and shared some of the kitchen appliance safety knowledge he’s gained over more than a half century spent in and around appliance testing.

Don’t touch hot surfaces: Manufacturers design portable appliances to be carried and handled in a way to reduce the risk of injury. In the case of cooking appliances, handles and knobs are often designed to stay cooler than other parts of the appliance when the appliance is in use. “All crock pots come with two handles, and that’s the way you should carry it,” Drengenberg said. If a knob or handle breaks, contact the manufacturer for a replacement. Only the manufacturer’s parts will have been tested with that appliance, and improvising or using one intended for a different model could create a risk.

Unplug your appliances…: Any appliance, regardless of whether it’s turned on, poses the risk of electrical shock. Unplugging the appliance when it isn’t in use will drop that risk to nearly zero.

…but don’t let that cord hang: “Cords are a snagging hazard,” Drengenberg said. A child can be injured by a falling appliance or burned by cooking appliances like crockpots or deep fryers. Some models include breakaway connectors to reduce the chance that an appliance will fall if the cord is pulled.

Don’t toast your toaster: Toasters and other portable appliances shouldn’t be stored near ranges. The heat from the stove can melt or damage the outer surface of the appliance. That both damages the appliance and could create other hazards if the inner components are exposed, Drengenberg said.

Keep  plugged-in appliances away from the sink: Plugged-in appliances used near the sink might fall into the sink, creating an electric shock risk. “Now it’s turned on, in a sink full of water, in a metal sink,” Drengenberg said. “It’s a perfect storm.”

Treat blades as knives: Most food processors include interlocks to stop the blade from rotating when the appliance is taken apart for cleaning, Drengenberg said. But the blades on blenders and food processors are sharp and should be handled with care during cleaning. “When you’re washing the blender or blade, it’s a sharp cutting tool,” he said.

Set the proper microwave cooking time: Care for a potato or some popcorn? Cooking those two foods for too long is a common cause of fires in microwaves, Drengenberg said. When fires happen, it’s often because the user mistakenly put too much time on the microwave and forgot the food was cooking, he said. Manufacturers have installed sensors in many models to shut the oven off in case of fire. If there’s a fire in your microwave, turn it off and keep the door closed. Opening the door could make the fire worse.

Watch what’s cooking: Most of the more than 100 million ranges and cooktops in use in the U.S. are used safely. But unattended cooking remains a leading cause of household fires in the U.S. and the leading cause of cooking fires. Monitor what you’re cooking when your range or oven is in use. AHAM, appliance manufacturers and UL are working to reduce cooking fires through technical developments and consumer education.

Prevent range tipping: Never use the oven door for support or as a step. Check to see that an anti-tip device has been installed on your range.

Read your manual: The instruction manual for your appliance should include ways to reduce hazards. Appliance safety standards from UL contain a list of “important safeguards” that are to be included in instruction manuals, Drengenberg said.

Do you have a question about kitchen appliance safety? Ask us in the comment section, and we’ll get an answer from “Mr. Safety.”

Do your part to prevent range-tipping

Ikea’s voluntary recall of tens of millions of chests and dressers in North America after a number of children were injured or killed as a result of tip-over accidents has thrust both the risk of tip-over accidents and the importance of prevention into the spotlight. The risk of tip-overs, while low, also exists for kitchen ranges. Typically, range-tipping accidents occur when a child climbs on to the open door of a range which has not been secured to the floor or wall by an anti-tip bracket and the child’s weight causes the range to tip over onto the child. This can cause death or serious injury from the weight of the range, plus burns and scalding injuries from hot food and liquids that fall from the cooktop.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 70% of tip-over accidents involve televisions and furniture, 26% involve dressers and tables and 4% involve appliances. Tip-over accidents occur in most rooms in the home, but only 4% occur in kitchens. That’s compared to 45% in bedrooms, 24% in living rooms and 29% in other areas of the home.

Range-tipping is easily prevented, and taking right measures can reduce the risk to almost zero. Here’s what you can do to remove the risk of a range-tipping tragedy from your home:

  • Have an anti-tip device installed: S. safety organizations, including UL, require that manufacturers include an easily installable anti-tip device with every new range. The devices prevent tip-over accidents by securing ranges to the floor or wall. All AHAM members that manufacture ranges adhere to the safety and stability requirements. The devices anchor the range so that it will not tip over. Manufacturers also require that anti-tip devices be included as part of installation. Check with your installer to make sure this is being done. Contact your range manufacturer, appliance dealer or an authorized service agent if you aren’t sure whether anti-tip device was installed or if you think you need a replacement anti-tip device.
  • Keep the door closed: Keep the range door closed when the appliance isn’t in use.
  • Talk to your children: Educate your children on the proper, safe use of the range. Tell them that the open door should never be used as a step.
  • Keep the weight off: Never use the door of the range as a step or to support other objects, such heavy pans that may be inside the oven cooking.
  • Check your range for an anti-tip device: If you don’t know whether an anti-tip device has been installed on your range, it’s easy to find out. Take a look under the range to see if it’s anchored to the floor, or pull gently on the back of the range to see if you’re able to pull it off the floor. If you aren’t, it’s likely that an anti-tip device is installed.

Appliance manufacturers include the installation of range-tipping devices in their instruction manuals. But ultimately, it is the responsibility of the consumer and the professionals who install the ranges to make sure the anti-tip devices are installed.

AHAM has been a leading voice for the prevention of range-tipping accidents. Its extensive public education campaign led to manufacturers including information on preventing range tipping in their manuals. AHAM has also worked to educate building inspectors and code officials, federal housing officials, building managers, landlords and insurance companies.

Get AHAM’s brochure on how to protect against range tipping.

Cooking in your dishwasher: A bad idea

Pretty, young woman in her modern and well equiped kitchen putting cups into the dishwasher - an appliance that helps her keep the home tidy

A number of cooking and lifestyle blogs have reported on the novelty of using a dishwasher to cook food. Recipes might include salmon, eggs, chicken and other foods. It’s a unique concept that most people probably haven’t considered. It’s also a bad idea, and appliance manufacturers don’t recommend it.

Many of the articles tout the alleged energy savings, ease of cleanup and unique cooking approach as reasons to try dishwasher cooking. But there has been little said about the risks, and there are many, including:

Harmful bacteria: Would you like a side of E. coli or salmonella bacteria with your dishwasher-cooked meal? Probably not. But that’s what you might end up with. Many factors, including water supply, determine how hot it gets in a dishwasher during a cycle. That means it may not reach the 140-degree minimum cooking temperature the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends to kill potentially harmful microorganisms. You could end up giving harmful bacteria an environment they can thrive in, as they tend to multiply at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Contamination: Regardless of how food is sealed, even a tiny opening will allow spray from the dishwasher and possibly detergent to reach the food. Like dishes, food can move during a cycle, and that movement may cause punctures or tears in water-tight wrapping.

Fire: Food could become dislodged during the wash cycle and end up on the dishwasher’s heating element, potentially causing a fire.

It’s a waste of energy: While dishwashers have reduced their water use more than 41 percent since 2005, they still require about five gallons of water per cycle to effectively clean dishes.

Appliances are designed to perform specific tasks quickly and efficiently. So, take the advice of the people who make the dishwashers, and leave the cooking to ranges and ovens.

How do manufacturers measure your oven’s baking ability? It’s a piece of cake.

 

Homemade cake "Red Velvet" decorated with cream.

Your oven’s baking ability has already been tested long before it makes it to your kitchen. Appliance manufacturers put ranges and ovens through a rigorous series of tests to make sure they’re capable of churning out a steady stream of treats for you and your family.

AHAM’s ER-1 standard for household electric ranges offers a specific recipe that manufacturers use to test their baking/browning performance.
• 1 cup (185 g) hydrogenated vegetable oil shortening
• 2 teaspoons (10 cc) vanilla extract
• 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
• 4 eggs (192 g) (Note: Mix 4 eggs, but use only 192 g)
• 1 ½ cups (352 cc) whole milk
• 4 ½ cups (425 g) sifted soft wheat cake flour
• 4 ½ teaspoons (16 g) double-acting baking powder
• 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt

After providing a detailed mixing process, AHAM’s standard instructs testers to place four, 22 gauge aluminum 8 inch (200 mm) round cake pans, 7 5/8 inches (190 mm) in diameter (bottom) by 1 1/2 inches (40 mm) deep, each containing 0.8 lb. (363 g) of cake batter, in an oven which has been pre‐heated to 375 degrees. The cake pans’ surfaces should not be discolored to affect performance.

After 25 to 30 minutes of baking and 10 minutes of standing, and cooling to room temperature on a cake rack, the cake is judged not on the taste, but on the consistency of color across on the top and bottom of the cake.

A consistent and effective baking performance has a major impact on how your foods taste and look. Uniform heat distribution, which is measured as part of the standard, plays a critical role in your baking success.

While AHAM’s recipe may not result in the fanciest, or tastiest cake, it provides product testers with consistency in the testing process. And consistency, as any baker knows, can make or break a recipe.

11 tips for buying the right major appliance

Man Looking inside the washing machine

Are you getting ready to buy a major appliance, like a refrigerator, washer, dryer, oven, dishwasher or room air conditioner? It’s a big decision that likely will play a role in your day-to-day life and routine for years to come. It’s essential that you do the necessary research to find the appliance you need. Here are 11 tips to make sure your next major appliance fits the bill:

• Get the specs. Ask your dealer for specification sheets from several manufacturers who build the type of appliance or appliances you plan to purchase. Compare available features, designs and capacities.

• Know what you need, and what you might need later. Decide which features you will really use, and what you might need down the line. Some appliances may include the options of adding features later, like installing an icemaker in a refrigerator.

• What’s your price range? Compare prices in relation to what the appliance offers, which will vary by model. Price tends to increase as features are added.

• Decide on the size. How much clothing needs to fit in your new washer? Will the refrigerator hold enough food? Is the room air conditioner powerful enough to cool the room? Know what size and strength you’ll need so you can select a model with sufficient capacity.

• Consider the care. Ask your dealer for the appliance’s use and care manual and read it carefully before you buy the appliance. The manuals for the floor models should be available. Reading the manual will give you a better idea of how the appliance tell you about any special care it needs.

• Will it fit? Check the space available for the appliance to make sure your new appliance will fit, and make sure halls and doorways allow clearance for entry and installation.

• How is it getting there? Ask the dealer about the cost of delivery and installation. Are they included in the price?

• Find the fix. Make sure authorized factory service is available in your area for the brand you select.

• How does it fit your routine? Check the product’s design carefully to make sure it meets your needs and accommodates your habits and favorite cookware.

• Check the power. Avoid overloaded circuits by making sure your house has adequate electrical service for the appliance. Check for adequately grounded, three-hole receptacles.

• Do a little light reading. Read the warranty before finalizing your decision. Does the warranty cover the entire product? Only certain parts? Is labor included? How long does the warranty last?

The number of options you’ll have may seem overwhelming, but following these tips will help you find the appliance you need. Good luck in your search!

Here’s what’s hot in the world of major appliances

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Source: Houzz

While connectivity seems poised to become a widespread feature in home appliances, consumers are still looking for convenience and style first when it comes to their kitchens. And top-load washers are making a major comeback. Here’s a look at the trends we’re seeing in major appliance shipments:

  • Induction cooking goes mainstream: Since 2010, the percentage of surface units shipped that include at least one induction unit has doubled. Five years ago, only 8% of electric surface cooking units shipped included at least one induction element. By last year, the number had grown to 16% of units shipped. This is one example of a commercial kitchen trend that has made its way into homes as well.
  • More doors, please: Consumers are looking for more refrigerator and freezer space. AHAM has seen a steady increase in bottom-mount refrigerators with four or more doors since 2011, the year we began tracking those shipments. Last year, 17% of refrigerators shipped in the third quarter had four or more doors, up from 11% four years earlier. Bottom-mount refrigerators with two doors made up just 13% of shipments in 2015, down from 35% in 2008.
  • Back on top: After several years of lower shipment numbers, top-load washers are seeing a resurgence in popularity. They accounted for 76% of units shipped last year, up from 62% in 2009, according to AHAM data. But it’s different this time around, as a lot of the growth is due to a growing preference for top-load washers without agitators. They made up about 48% of top-loading units shipped in 2015, compared to 27% in 2011. This is a prime example of innovation, as this product has grown more efficient, and offers the consumer multiple configurations and options.
  • It’s a “steel”: We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of dishwashers and side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish. Side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish made up 60% of units shipped at the end of the third quarter in 2015, up from 29% in 2006. More than half of dishwashers—56%—shipped last year had a stainless steel finish, a trend that has been on a steady upward climb since 2007.

What styles and features are you looking for in your next major appliances? Leave a comment below.

Food Waste Disposers – The Unsung Hero of Appliances

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Many home appliances are under-appreciated by their owners. Food waste disposers are near the top of the “out of sight, out of mind?? list of appliances. But their usefulness goes beyond convenience, and they’re helping the environment every day.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the work these appliances do for the environment.

Food waste disposers may be the first line of defense we have against the more than 30 million tons of food waste that ends up in landfills each year. That food waste, which makes up about 18 percent of the waste in US landfills, produces greenhouse gasses that can harm the environment. The USDA estimates that about 133 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US each year, or just over 30 percent of the total food supply. 250 million tons of trash were generated. 31.79 million tons (12.7%) of this was food waste. Only 2.5% of THAT (0.3% of total waste) was then recovered and turned into helpful environmental components. The amount of waste in 2008 had more than doubled from the 1960 figure of 12.2 million tons per year, and it has increased more since 2008.

The good news is that a food waste disposer can make sure those scraps don’t go to waste in a landfill. Here’s how:

  1. When food is scrapped, it goes to a wastewater treatment facility. This means it is not going to a landfill, and it is not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that landfills produce.
  2. The food waste is fed to microscopic organisms that are used to treat wastewater.
  3. While these microscopic organisms digest the food waste, they produce methane gas, which the treatment facility can capture and use as a renewable source of energy to power their facility.
  4. Any residuals after the treatment process is complete will be turned into fertilizer or conditioner for soil used in agriculture.

A process has been created that uses every bit of the waste and turns it into a benefit, making the savings exponential compared to sending the waste to a landfill.

Do your part and use your food waste disposer! But follow these quick dos and don’ts:

Do…

  • Use cold water when using a disposer. Using hot water wastes energy.
  • Run water down the drain for several seconds after grinding is complete to flush waste and keep debris from settling in the plumbing system.
  • Save and grind used lemons and other citrus fruit peels to freshen up and disinfect your disposer, naturally.

Don’t…

  • Pour oils or grease down the drain! They can clog and damage the sewer system. Instead, collect fats in a container. Then, throw the container in the trash.
  • Try to grind large amounts of food waste at one time.

This information is curated by InSinkErator, and supported by AHAM and its members. Have your own recommendations for additional savings? Please comment below!

Kitchen Redesign Regrets

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Many of us would love to have the kitchen of our dreams, equipped with beautiful appliances, cabinets and countertops, and one that will surely impress family and friends at a get-together. For some, those dreams became nightmares when their kitchen redesigns didn’t go as planned. Readers of This Old House magazine share some of their experiences of when kitchen remodeling went awry.  Some kitchen can remodels can be stressful – and expensive – experiences. This Old House suggests you follow these tips when planning to remodel to help make the process go smoother:

4 Steps to Fewer Regrets

1. Invest in the best quality materials and workmanship you can afford. A shoddy job will have to be redone sooner, creating more waste and costing you more in the end.

2. Know your needs and plan ahead. Choose materials that will stand up to kids, clean freaks, dogs—whatever’s “real” in your world.

3. Listen to the experts. Kitchen designers, architects, and fellow remodelers all know things you need to learn—the sooner, the better.

4. Go with your gut. If you’re second-guessing yourself now, chances are you’ll be smacking yourself six months down the road.

Do you have any advice from your kitchen remodeling experience?