At the end of last night's "30 Rock" finale, ex-network exec Jack Donaghy is about to set sail around the world when he has a brainstorm: "Clear dishwashers! You can see what's going on inside! It's the best idea I've ever had. Thank God I took that boat trip." Jack may be onto something. In Consumer Reports labs we've noticed that the windows on kitchen and laundry appliances are getting bigger and bigger and one of our top-rated toasters has transparent sides so you can see your bread brown. Hey, it's more exciting than watching paint dry.
It makes sense for ranges and wall ovens to have large windows so cooks can monitor the progress of their roast or cake without opening the door. And front-loading washing machines have windows so you don't accidentally open the door when there's still water inside. But watching food debris being flung around during a dishwasher cycle seems to have less appeal.
Some of our top-rated wall ovens have TV-screen-sized windows. Both the Whirlpool WOS92EC0AH, $1,500, and the KitchenAid KEBS109BWW, $2,000, have large viewing areas. They also have ample space inside where it counts, are excellent at broiling and very good at baking. The Whirlpool did a bit better on our self-cleaning task, important if you want to keep that window clear.
Some ranges in our tests also have larger viewing windows, most notably five models from Maytag that feature the AquaLift low-heat self-cleaning system. Without the high-heat cleaning cycle, Maytag was able to install a lighter door. Unfortunately, we found the low-temperature cleaning (200 degrees F) to be subpar in our tests, especially for splatters on the window and oven walls. That pushed the Maytags down in our range rankings.
Washing machines are getting larger these days and so are their viewing windows. A mega-capacity front-loader from LG, the WM8000H[V]A, $1,350, was superb in our washer tests overall and is a recommended model near the top of our Ratings. The matching electric dryer, LG DLEX8000[V], $1,350, also has a window, offers excellent drying and is relatively quiet. (The gas model is DLGX8001[V], $1,440.)
But we have yet to see a dishwasher with a see-through door. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show, Haier showcased a transparent washer to highlight its 3D Wash System. And with appliances getting smarter and more efficient every day, maybe Jack's dream of a clear dishwasher isn't far off. In the meantime, we'll just sit and watch our Magimix Vision Toaster brown a bagel.