We all know the rule of thrifty kitchen makeovers: spend the money where you can see the result. But, while many of us save on the cupboards to splash out on the worktop, we don't always make the most of the kit that actually get the work done. Labour-saving devices have been around since the 1950s, but the new generation of machines can think for themselves, are more economical and eco-friendly, and are even better at making our busy lives run more smoothly and quickly.
These gadgets aren't still in development, and they're not prototypes – you can buy them now. They'll give your kitchen an air of luxury to impress viewers, and when you move, you can either take the appliances with you, or recoup much of the outlay by selling them with your house. So, if you need to replace a creaking cooker, you may soon spend less time looking after your family and more time with them.
SIEMENS LIFTMATIC, £1,200
www.siemensappliances.co.uk; 0870 840 3300
This is probably one of those devices that you never thought anybody needed until it was invented. Designed to be wall-mounted, the floor of the oven slides down at the push of a button so that you can access the food more easily without having to bend or balance a dish on one hand while you fiddle with the door with the other. Also, because heat rises the oven doesn't cool while it's open.
The oven has the other touches you expect from Siemens, such as a glass base that's easier to clean and means you can put bread and pizzas directly on it; a speed function to reduce cooking time by 30 per cent; and a self-cleaning system that turns food residue to ash by heating it to a high temperature.
MIELE INDUCTION HOB KM 5775, £1,294 (including free Le Creuset pan set)
www.johnlewis.com; 0845 604 9049
Induction cooking has been around in the United States for a while, but we are only just coming round to it here. Basically, it heats using a magnetic coil, and the circuit is only completed when the pan is on the ring. That means you get the smooth, clean lines of an electric hob, with the speed and control of gas. It's faster than gas, and safer as there is no open flame or residual heat.
Be aware, though, that the circuit is only completed with a pan made of certain metals (stainless steel, copper and cast iron are fine), so glass and aluminium won't work – but that old set of Le Creuset that was left in the cupboard because it was too heavy is perfect. The long, wide hob pictured here (top right) is the latest thing in funky design, but it also comes in the traditional layout.
NEFF CIRCOSTEAM, from about £900
www.neff.co.uk; 0870 513 3090
As we become more aware of healthy eating, the steam cooker has taken off. Many of them just do steaming, so you won't be able to get rid of your traditional oven, but this new model from Neff combines steam and fan so you can roast the chicken and the potatoes and steam everything else to go with it. You can also cook fish and rice.
In addition to the health aspect, it's more energy-efficient – instead of covering the hob with three or four pans, it all goes together into the oven.
BEKO XPRESS, £349
www.euronics.co.uk; 01264 320 500
Speed is the new buzz word in washing machines, and this newly launched model can turn around a family load of about 7kg (about three armfuls) in just 30 minutes. You can even do it in 14 minutes when someone has forgotten to wash something that they absolutely need to wear to go out in half an hour. It has a huge motor that can cope with high speeds, so the whole process just takes less time. The door also opens extra wide for stuffing everything in in a hurry, and there's a remaining time display button, which is useful.
SMEG WMFAB16, £946
www.smeguk.com; 0870 990 9907
It may not be the fastest or the sleekest machine on the block, but this new Smeg washer is pleasingly retro – and for those who don't want to integrate and don't want their smalls on view, the gently rounded door is a good cover-up. And here's the clever bit – you can store the powders and fabric softeners in the door, so it manages to be space-saving as well. The machine is available in cream or pink as a change from the usual white or stainless steel.
GAGGENAU VARIO COOLING, from £3,000
www.gaggenau.com; 0870 125 4500
This is the new range from Gaggenau, which you can mix and match to suit your needs. Choose two large fridges and no freezer or a small fridge and large freezer. It's a sort of bespoke system of refrigeration if you like.
The other cool bit – pardon the pun – is the motorised shelf. It might sound ridiculous but if you've just made a big pan of soup and it won't fit in the existing space, press a button and up goes the shelf to create more space. It's handy if you have people coming for dinner and need to chill extra bottles of wine. Gaggenau products are A+ rated and are among the quietest on the market.
NORCOOL DRAWER FRIDGE, £1,599
www.fdef.co.uk 01202 733 011
So you want a big fridge but you don't want to lose precious worksurface? This sleek three-drawer unit is the answer. It fits under the counter, taking up the space of a double cabinet and storing the same amount of food as an upright. There are two big drawers and a smaller one for the butter and less substantial stuff. Choose from white or stainless steel, ready to be integrated with your own choice of units. Of course, if you have installed an eye-level oven to save the bending, this won't help – but you can't have everything.
WHIRLPOOL ADP 8000 POWERCLEAN, £370
www.whirlpool.co.uk; 0870 600 8989
We all know that we are supposed to rinse last night's lasagne dish before we chuck it in the dishwasher, but the reality is that very few of us ever do. And then, of course, the dirt is baked on for evermore.
This newly launched device should put an end to all that. The dishwasher has jets at the back, and if you load your dirty pans facing them and press the button, it will direct powerful blasts of hot water at the dried-on dirt and save you the bother of pre-soaking. It's even got a party glass accessory and a programme for the morning after the night before.
FISHER PAYKEL DISHDRAWER, £899
www.johnlewis.co.uk; 0845 604 9049
This two-drawer dishwasher is perfect for when you have only a small load that you can't quite be bothered to do by hand. It not only allows you to wash a few plates, but also means that you can choose two different programmes to run at the same time – heavy duty for the pans, as well as a quick rinse for the glasses. It has removeable inserts so you can make more space for big pans or add racks for up to 24 plates and long-stemmed wine glasses. The "intelligent" load sensor means that it can adjust the amount of water needed according to what is being washed.Reuse content