warm thoughts


Written on: November 1, 2022

From the Propane Education & Research Council

Although it’s too early to say whether it’s the new normal, there’s been a clear postpandemic trend toward people cooking at home more and wanting to get the most from their kitchens. According to the 2022 U.S. Houzz Kitchen Trends Study from Houzz.com, “The median spend for both major and minor kitchen remodels increased in mid-2021 by 14% to $40,000 and by 25% to $10,000, respectively, compared to 2020.”

“I think that people have a greater appreciation of entertaining at home and cooking at home,” says Kim Taylor West, owner and principal designer at St. Louis–based K Taylor Design Group.

Here are three trends that are changing how we’ll cook for years to come.

1. High-tech help is here to stay.

According to the Houzz.com study, 35 percent of renovating homeowners report that at least one of their upgraded appliances includes high-tech features, with the most popular being wireless smartphone and tablet controls.

“We are seeing more demand for these features and capability as consumers continue to integrate technology into their day-to-day lives,” says Stephen Polloni, North America brand manager for manufacturer Fulgor Milano and former vice president of sales for appliance importer Amiel Distribution and Distinctive Appliances. “I think like all technological developments, as every aspect of our lives become integrated with our mobile devices, people expect the same from their appliances.”

But the high-tech integration doesn’t stop at just letting you monitor and precisely control a stove or oven remotely through an app or home assistant like Google Home or Amazon Alexa. Now technology can even teach you how to cook better. For example, Cooksy is an AI-powered product with two cameras (one thermal and one for visible light). It’s mounted above the cooktop and measures the surface temperature of the cooking pans, communicating wirelessly to an app on a smartphone or tablet. Cooks can use the surface temperature readings to make their cooking much more precise with guided help from the app, which also offers master chefs’ prerecorded recipes with touchless step-by-step video and audio guidance.

“I do believe that the more data that we can provide somebody in a cooking environment, that we can help make that cooking experience more reliable, more precise, and a lot safer,” says Jeff Knighton, president of Cooksy, which offers the product in two versions (pro and mini). “I think some of these smart technologies … will empower more people to be able to be successful in the kitchen, hopefully giving them more confidence and allowing them to eat better and eat healthier.”

2. Aesthetics matter.

Homeowners don’t just want their cooking appliances to work better and make cooking easier — they want them to look great and match their style too. “I am seeing clients loving featuring their oven and their range. That becomes this beautiful piece of jewelry in the kitchen,” says John McClain, CEO and creative director of Los Angeles– and Orlando-based John McClain Design, and author of The Designer Within.

And with manufacturers increasingly offering the ability to customize the colors, hardware options, size, shape, finishes, and other visual aspects of propane ovens and stoves, the sky’s the limit for consumers who want beautiful cooking appliances. “You want this shape or that shape. Or what color of knobs do you want? Now they’ve got a zillion options for that,” says Carrie Ellington, owner and principal of Minneapolis-based Ellington&Co. Design.

Though being in a higher income bracket certainly does help with being able to get cooking appliances with luxury finishes and customizable options, more consumers than ever are now able to get away from the standard white, black, or stainless-steel appliances of the past. “The barrier to entry isn’t really there anymore,” McClain says, pointing to GE Café appliances with features such as knobs that can be easily switched out as an example of a line of high-end, visually striking appliances that are more affordable.

3. Cooking outdoors is in.

With more people staying at home because of the pandemic and wanting to connect with nature in their backyards, outdoor cooking is hotter than ever and not likely to go away. “I wouldn’t even call it a trend anymore,” McClain says of outdoor kitchens. “They’re here to stay.”

West agrees: “We’re seeing huge amounts of very elegant, over-the-top outdoor kitchens.” Dishwashers, refrigerators, wine chillers, sinks, and pretty much any kind of appliance and feature you can think of are showing up in outdoor kitchens nowadays, adding to the grills and cooktops that have been a mainstay of outdoor cooking for a long time and are now available with all the bells and whistles found in indoor cooking appliances. “It’s almost a complete kitchen of everything you have inside, but people are wanting it all outside, which is incredible,” West says.

Because of its portability, availability, and the option to run a dedicated line outside, propane in particular is perfect for powering outdoor cooking. And it’s a mainstay for features such as fire pits and patio heaters, which make outdoor living and entertaining even easier and more attractive year-round.

With people’s renewed focus on home cooking and wanting to make their kitchens focal points of their homes, these trends don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. “Now that the world is opening back up, I think that more people are now excited about entertaining,” McClain says. “And now this fabulous kitchen — indoor or outdoor — that was sort of made for their family, now they’re really loving showing it off for entertainment purposes.”