How to Choose the Right Connected Kitchen
There are ways to cook with your phone that don’t involve ordering delivery through an app. If you love cooking and technology, connected appliances and kitchen devices are the ideal gadgets for your smart home. They can automate parts of the cooking process, keep you updated on the progress of your food, or simply make sure you’re following a recipe correctly.
Smart kitchen gadgets are as varied as any kitchen appliance. There are broad, multi-purpose devices like ovens. There are specific but common tools like coffee makers. And there are unique but incredibly useful appliances you might not have heard of before but won’t know how you lived without, like immersion circulators. Whether you live in the kitchen or just brew coffee and toast bagels, there’s an appliance that can make your culinary life easier.
You don’t need to replace your appliances to make your kitchen smarter. Inexpensive, easy-to-store devices can improve your cooking and help you out with cleanup. They’re usually under $100, and tuck into kitchen drawers and cabinets when you’re not using them.
The Meater+ is a Bluetooth-connected monitor that uses wireless probes to measure the temperature of your meat as it’s cooking. You don’t need even need to stick around the whole time to watch the numbers rise, since it connects with an app on your mobile device to let you know that something has reached its desired temperature.
Sous vide is a relatively new cooking technique (at least, new in the timespan of the culinary sciences) that has become particularly popular in the last few years, so it’s only appropriate that multiple connected sous vide devices have popped up lately.
Cooking sous vide involves vacuum sealing food (though a carefully pressed freezer bag will do in a pinch) and immersing it in a water bath kept at a very precise temperature. The sealing process ensures that no moisture is lost, and the water temperature ensures the food can’t overcook. The result is tender, perfectly cooked food, often then quickly seared on a pan to provide a crisp outer texture.
You can cook sous vide using a big sous vide machine with its own water bath, or you can simply put an immersion circulator on the side of a stock pot or large plastic box. We’ve tested several immersion circulators, all available for $200 or less. Their designs and controls are different, but they all do exactly what they have to: heat the water to your desired temperature, down to the degree.
If you have the space on your counter, you can get high-tech cooking devices that do all the work for you. The Tovala Steam Oven, for instance, is a super-functional multi-purpose smart oven capable of baking, broiling, and steaming foods through app control and QR codes. The Brava Oven is similar, with a touch screen and an app that let you access a library of recipes and cooking presets.
The AmazonBasics Microwave, meanwhile, costs about the same as any other small 700-watt microwave, and instead of direct app control, you can simply use Alexa voice commands to cook. It isn’t terribly powerful, and you need a separate Echo device in order to use the voice functionality, but it’s priced similarly to models that don’t do nearly as much, making it a great buy for Alexa users.
If you have the money to spend, you can get smart versions of large appliances, too. Companies like LG and Samsung have been working on connected refrigerators and ovens for a few years now. Some, like LG’s SmartThinQ fridge, let you check their status through your phone so you can make sure things are working properly and that you have enough ice. Others, like Samsung’s Family Hub fridge, have their own touch screen and can function as a communication center for your home, and even have cameras inside so you see what you’re low on while you’re out shopping.
These larger smart appliances carry a significant premium, and you can expect to spend several thousand dollars on each. On the bright side, they tend to be equivalent to the highest-end non-smart appliances from manufacturers, in terms of design, build quality, and features. You can expect stainless steel finishes and other very nice touches you won’t find on cheaper options.
Read our reviews for a closer look at each of these smart kitchen gadgets. You just might find your favorite new appliance. And if you want to improve your skills in the kitchen without having to step foot in the grocery store, check out our list of The Best Meal-Kit Delivery Services.
Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill
Pros: Cooks delicious wood-fired foods.
User-friendly controls and mobile app.
Requires two people to assemble.
Bottom Line: The Traeger Ironwood 650 is a wood pellet grill equipped with Wi-Fi and variable speed convection fans, making it easy to barbecue, roast, and smoke like a pro.
Pros: Convenient Alexa voice controls.
Lots of automated options.
Costs about as much as a non-smart microwave.
Cons: Too small for a family.
Alexa voice command syntax is occasionally awkward and stiff.
No microphone; requires an Echo device for voice commands.
Bottom Line: The AmazonBasics Microwave is a small, simple microwave oven that responds to Alexa voice commands without costing more than a traditional model.
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
Pros: Very easy to set up and use.
Wi-Fi lets you adjust settings from anywhere.
Onboard display and controls.
Cooks food perfectly.
Cons: Bulky design requires a large pot.
Bottom Line: The Anova Culinary Precision Cooker is one of the simplest, easiest, and most economical ways to start cooking sous vide.
The Wi-Fi connectivity is just gravy.
Pros: Cooks food rapidly and thoroughly.
Lots of automatic cooking settings that work well.
Easy-to-use touch screen.
Built-in cameras for remotely watching your food cook.
No window for simply looking in on your food.
Bottom Line: The Brava Oven is a fast countertop appliance that can bake, sear, toast, air fry, and even dehydrate food, with loads of automatic cooking settings and internal cameras for watching your meal as it cooks.
iDevices iGrill Mini
Pros: Sends notifications to your phone when your dish is done.
Reliable preset temperature options.
Allows you to set timers.
Accurate temperature readings.
Cons: No display or alarm sound.
Ineffective status lights.
Bottom Line: The iDevices iGrill Mini is a small connected thermometer that allows you to monitor the temperature of any dish you cook from your smartphone.
Opal Nugget Icemaker
Pros: Stylish design.
Easy to use.
Relatively fast ice production.
Connects to app for scheduling.
Doesn’t require a water hookup.
Makes perfect nugget ice.
App could use some work.
A bit noisy.
Bottom Line: The Opal Nugget Ice Maker is a countertop ice machine that connects to your phone and produces the same chewable nugget ice made famous by Sonic restaurants.
It’s a little noisy, but it makes perfect ice and does so faster than your refrigerator.
Tovala Steam Oven (2nd Gen)
Pros: Multiple cooking modes including steam cooking.
Easy to program multi-step cooking cycles.
Reliable steaming and broiling.
Surprisingly tasty, easy meal kits available.
Cons: Small cooking cavity.
Meal kits are pricey (but optional).
Bottom Line: The second-generation Tovala Steam Oven can easily cook foods in multiple steps, letting you steam, bake, and broil your meals to perfection.
Instant Pot Smart WiFi
Pros: Lets you start and monitor cooking from your smartphone.
Google Assistant integration.
Cons: Premium price for Wi-Fi.
Limited customization and control using the app.
Bottom Line: The Instant Pot Smart WiFi allows you to start and monitor and your cooking from anywhere using your smartphone, though customization via the app is limited.
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