Whether it’s convection or induction, kitchen trends tend to hit Europe before they hit the U.S. And if one of the most influential kitchen design shows in Europe is any guide, downdraft ventilation is back—in a big way.
Walking through the LivingKitchen design show in Cologne, Germany, it was impossible not to notice just how many downdraft vents were on display. From heavyweights like Bosch and Miele to brands we’d never heard of before, almost every manufacturer was showing off a cooking appliance that didn’t need a range hood hanging above it.
Downdraft ventilation first became popular in the U.S. back in the 1970s, when Jenn-Air introduced a series of ranges and cooktops that drew steam and odors down into a vent—rather than up through a hood.
Over the years, downdraft ranges gained a reputation for being difficult to install and not very effective. But with the growing popularity of open-plan kitchens, customers still demand them in kitchens where a range hood would obstruct a clear view.
On the manufacturer side, the advent of new filtration technology means users can expect better performance from a downdraft vent. Modern versions can even be set up for recirculation, so an external vent is no longer necessary.
We saw two main kinds of downdraft vents at LivingKitchen. In the first kind, a vent is built into the middle of an induction or radiant electric cooktop. Steam and smells get pulled straight from pots and pans and into a vent—which either exhausts or filters and recirculates the air.
In the second kind, the vent is part of a modular cooktop—a style that’s also growing in popularity in Europe. You can install it in between two different kinds of burners, or put one on either side of a single burner for more airflow. This especially makes sense for indoor grills and teppanyaki burners, which are in demand for high-end kitchens.
In the U.S., only Jenn-Air currently makes ranges with built-in downdraft ventilation. GE and Frigidaire both offer a few downdraft cooktops—but that lineup is about to grow.
Elica, an Italian company best known for its vents and hoods, is about to introduce a downdraft induction cooktop to the American market. Called the NikolaTesla, it puts a circular vent in the center of its four burners. It’s quite similar to a product that’s already on sale in Europe, and is expected to sell for $3,300 when it goes on sale here later this year.
If it becomes a sales success, we wouldn’t be surprised if Miele and Bosch started bringing their own downdraft technology to the U.S. Until then, you can always install a Jenn-Air—or a hood hanging from the ceiling.