Your kitchen is full of appliances, but they’re dumb. Technology, like smart speakers, lights, ovens, and faucets, can make cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping easier. Creating a smart kitchen isn’t hard, and everyone in the home can benefit. Here’s how.
Why a Smart Kitchen?
Your kitchen is a room of productivity and mess. You cook your meals, clean your dishes, and maybe even eat in your kitchen. Every cabinet, utensil, and tool contributes to your kitchen experience, for better or worse. And adding intelligence to your cooking space can improve your recipes and speed up the work.
Kitchens can host some of the most useful smarthome technology in your home. You can buy smart ovens that take the guesswork out of cooking times and suggest recipes you may not have tried or a smart faucet that you can turn on and off by voice, or ask to pour a set amount of water. But it’s not all big, flashy new appliances.
A smart display like the Nest Hub or Echo Show can convert measurements for you, set timers, or show the next steps of a recipe you’re working on, and smart lights are an inexpensive way to improve the lighting in your kitchen. For example, smart light switches can save you money by turning everything off at scheduled times, and smart LED strips can light the dark spaces under a cabinet.
Every kitchen is unique, but the advantage of creating your smart kitchen is choosing just the technology that you benefit from and skipping everything else.
Start With a Smart Speaker or Display
Smart ovens and faucets are impressive, but the first thing we recommend for every kitchen is also the cheapest: A smart speaker like an Amazon Echo or Google Home. Or, better yet, a smart display like the Nest Hub or Echo Show.
Echo Dots and Google Home Minis can typically be found in the $30 to $50 range, depending on sales, and the functionality they provide goes well beyond the cost. Google’s Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub)and Amazon’s Echo Show cost a bit more at $129.99 and $229.99, respectively, but add a lot over a basic smart speaker.
With a smart speaker, you can set multiple named timers to keep track of your food cook times. If your recipe calls for a measurement you don’t have, you can ask for a conversion, like “how many teaspoons in two tablespoons?” or “how many cups in a liter?” when you need to convert to another measuring system.
Smart speakers also serve as an intercom if you spread them throughout your home, so you can easily announce when dinner is ready. And to keep yourself entertained, you can listen to music while you cook.
And they can speed up the grocery list. Rather than spend an hour or two once a week looking through what supplies have to determine what you need to buy, you can make a grocery list as you go. Every time you use the of something, you can tell Google or Alexa to add “ketchup” or “cumin” to the shopping list. You’ll still need to doublecheck things when it comes time to buy groceries, but the job will be shorter.
A smart display, like Amazon Show or Nest Hub, is even better. Smart displays have all the features listed above, but the added screen gives you visual components to your timers, conversions, and can also walk you through recipes with visible steps. Got a Nest Hub? You can call up a YouTube video with your voice for some quick cooking instructions. And if you have a video doorbell, one of the best smarthome gadgets you can own, a smart display will let you answer the door without having to stop cooking.
Some companies are starting to release smart displays specifically designed for the kitchen, too. At CES 2019, KitchenAid announced the $200 Smart Display. It’s effectively a Nest Hub that’s splash resistant and comes with exclusive cooking content. And GE’s Kitchen Hub, though expensive at $1200, is a huge touchscreen that hangs right above your stove.
Smart Lights Complete the Kitchen
Every room of the home can benefit from smart lights, and the kitchen is no different. But you don’t need to go as far with smart lights as you might in other rooms.
While colored light bulbs are great for your living room and bedroom, they won’t add as much to the kitchen. Instead, you might consider either white smart bulbs or a smart switch. If you have several fixtures in your kitchen all controlled by a single switch, the latter route can be cost-effective as smart switches typically run in the $25 to $60 range. Some smart bulbs, like those by Philips Hue, cost that much on their own.
If you have cabinets over counters, like most kitchens, smart LED strips run along the bottom of the cabinets to make for excellent night lighting when you want something less bright. Philips Hue LED strips are expensive, at $80 for six and a half feet, but they do have the benefit of Zigbee range and local control. But if you prefer to save money, you could always buy standard LEDs and convert them to Zigbee. You’ll spend something closer to the $50 range and get 16 feet of LEDs.
Smart Ovens Do the Hard Work For You
If no one taught you to cook, you might find the task intimidating or stressful. And even if you do know to cook, you may not enjoy it or find it time-consuming. Smart ovens are designed to help with all those scenarios.
Most smart ovens look like an oversized toaster oven and work off similar principles. Typically they house a camera pointed at the food you place in the oven. Artificial intelligence examines the food, recognizes the ingredients, and then determines an optimal temperature and cook time. Some smart ovens have automated cooking programs; you choose the dish through an app, and it walks you through steps and finishes up the cooking for you.
Best of all, with some smart ovens, you can walk away and keep an eye on your food by streaming the camera feed to your phone or tablet. If you’re the kind of person who can never remember how long it takes to hardboil an egg, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of putting an egg in your oven, choosing hardboil in an app, and walking away.
What you may not appreciate is the price, but that’s improving too. June Ovens used to cost an astounding $1,500, but the latest model cut the price back to $600. The Brava Oven, however, starts at $1,000 and goes up depending on what accessories you want. Most smart ovens are countertop units, and won’t replace your full-sized oven. But you might be surprised at how much food does fit in a countertop oven, June’s manufacturer boats that you can cook a 12-pound turkey for instance.
For Hands-Free, Measured Water, Add a Smart Faucet
An essential part of the kitchen is your sink. You’ll use it to fill measuring cups, pots, and clean your dishes. Inevitably, when you’re cooking, you’ll need water, but your hands are full or dirty. A touchless faucet is excellent for those occasions, just wave your hands in front of the sensor, and the water turns on.
A voice-enabled faucet takes that convenience a step further. With Google Assistant or Alexa integration, you say things like “dispense two cups of water” or “turn off.” You can even set custom measurements, so if you regularly fill a container to a certain amount, you can make the process easier with a dedicated command. Imagine saying “fill pitcher” every time you made Kool-aid for your children or iced tea for yourself. You can set the pitcher in the sink, use the voice command, and walk away to work on something else without worrying about overflow.
Voice-enabled faucets come with a few drawbacks, though. The voice commands aren’t very intuitive. For Alexa, you’d say, “Tell Delta to dispense one cup of water.” Additionally, you’ll need a convenient plug under your sink, preferably one not controlled by a switch. The biggest drawback, though, is price. Delta’s VoiceID faucet runs just under $550. And Kohler’s Sensate, which isn’t out yet, will likely be priced in a similar area, given it has touchless faucets for $500 already without Alexa integration.
Extras for Your Kitchen
If you keep any small appliances or lamps in your kitchen, you may want to consider adding a smart plug to gain some voice control. Just plug the lamp or device into the smart plug, then plug that into the wall. You’ll handle the rest of the setup through an app. Smart plugs are reasonably inexpensive, ranging between $15 and $30, and make an easy way to give dumb objects some limited intelligence.
For recipes that originate outside the U.S., a smart scale may come in handy. They usually connect through Bluetooth and give you a readout on your phone or tablet. Just pour and watch the results on your screen. At around $20, a smart scale isn’t a significant investment but may save time and effort.
If you hate mopping the kitchen floor, iRobot’s Braava mopping robot will alleviate some of your frustration. Think of this as a wet Swiffer that does the pushing and moving for you. It’s also one of the cheapest robots offered by iRobot, at just $170 plus refill pads.
The one device we don’t recommend for your kitchen is a smart refrigerator. Manufacturers have done a poor job of maintaining the “smart” part of the fridge, and your appliance that typically should last 50 years maybe vulnerable and out of date in just three to five years.
That general reasoning should apply to any intelligence you add to your kitchen. You want to make sure what you use adds enough convenience to justify any complication. And that the extra tech doesn’t make a device less secure and more prone to failure. But with easier access to recipes, conversions, and voice controls, you may enjoy cooking in your kitchen more than you have before.
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