When you hear the term “smart home,” it’s easy for your mind to immediately go to smart lights, thermostats, locks, hubs, and what have you. Imagining how your living area might become a connected web of devices isn’t hard anymore — especially with the rise in popularity of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Home Pod. But what about other areas of your home? What about “the heart of your home,” the kitchen?
The Kitchen plays a huge role in our lives. It’s where we prepare and enjoy meals. It’s where we spend time with friends and family. It’s where some pretty valuable memories are made. It’s also where some very essential technology resides — the refrigerator, the oven, dishwasher, coffee maker, toaster, and so much more.
Sure, these appliances have served their functions perfectly well with little change in the last couple of decades, but a new wave of devices has begun to crest. Now you can expand your smart home into the kitchen, improving day-to-day utility and making your life a little bit easier. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and reasons for why you might want to consider picking up some smart kitchen tech.
Arguably the most important reason for getting into the world of smart kitchen tech is safety. The same appliances you rely on every day to prepare meals can also pose a danger to your home — either by user error or just faulty equipment. Fortunately, there are now appliances with built-in smart features that minimize these dangers. Some of us (including me) are forgetful, which can make stoves dangerous. A smart stove connected by Wi-Fi to a mobile app, can send get alerts and other information when burners are left on. In some cases, you can even remotely operate your stove, preheating the oven before you arrive home or shutting off when cooking is complete.
Arguably the most important reason for getting into the world of smart kitchen tech would be for the added safety.
As with any smart technology, convenience is a huge part of venturing into the space. It’s what most manufacturers market towards. As mentioned above, with a smart stove, you can preheat your oven on the way home for work. You can also check on cooking times, adjust temperatures, identify surface burners that are hot, and more. In the refrigerator space, you can use internet-connected interior cameras to see what you need to add to your grocery list. Some of the higher-end smart refrigerators use built-in displays to leave digital notes for other members of your household.
Finally, improving what you can actually do in the kitchen is a good reason to look into smart kitchen tech. Cooking technologies like sous vide machines bring a new level of consistency and accuracy to your cooking. With connected applications, you can make sure your food is cooking to exact temperatures and remaining at that temperature for the correct amount of time. You can also pick up coffee makers that will brew at exact temperatures. With more accuracy in your cooking, your meals will be taken to a new level.
The Best Smart Kitchen Products
Now that you have an idea of why you might want to invest in a smart kitchen, let’s take a look at some of the best smart kitchen products available. These products range from stoves to refrigerators, from coffee makers to sous vide machines. Some definitely cost a bit more than you’d typically pay for non-smart appliances, but there are a couple you can pick up to get your feet wet.
Best Smart Range – LG LSE4617ST
If you’re looking for a smart cooking range, you’ll want a balance of cooking capabilities and smart functionalities. LG’s LSE4617ST with LG SmartThinq technology does an excellent job at both, and at a relatively reasonable price. This oven has a gliding rack, multiple baking modes, infrared heating system and more, as well as the convenience of the SmartThinq wifi-enabled functions. It’s an ideal option. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons.
SmartThinq Functionality: The LSE4617ST includes LG’s proprietary smart technology, which can be found in some of its other appliances such as refrigerators. The stove is Wi-Fi-enabled and uses LG’s app to access additional smart features. If you have guests coming over in the evening, you can start preheating your oven with the app when leaving work. You can also monitor active burners (though you can’t turn them on or off remotely) and set timers that turn the oven off after finishing. This range also works with Google Assistant so you can exercise limited control of your stove from the comfort of your couch.
Infrared Heating System: Wi-Fi connection aside, this range has some other technologies built-in that make it worth considering. It has an infrared heating system which improves how evenly the oven cooks your food and decreases the time it takes. This technology also helps give your food more of a seared taste, which baked foods can lack.
Induction Cooktop: Induction cooking is becoming more popular as the price comes down, but it’s still not a widely used method. Induction cooktops use magnetic fields to heat up pots and pans and do not use direct heat like traditional units. Placing your hand on an induction burner won’t hurt at all, and there is much less risk of fire since the stovetop heats the pan or pot directly. If safety is a major consideration for you, this is something you might be interested in looking into.
Still Pretty Expensive: You can get a solid (but not smart) range for under $1,000 pretty easily. Dropping nearly $3,000 isn’t an easy decision for most people. However, if you think about where this range sat on the price scale when it first became available (nearly $4,000) this price might not seem too bad.
Wish the app could do more: Though the features that the connected app does allow are welcome additions, we still wish you could do a bit more. For safety reasons, there are a few steps you have to go through before being able to remotely heat your oven. This is totally understandable, but it makes doing so on a whim a bit challenging and sometimes a bit frustrating.
LG’s smart range isn’t the only one on the market.
GE’s Wi-Fi oven has very similar features to what you’ll find with the LG, with an easier price tag to swallow. With Wi-Fi Connect, GE’s cross-device smart home app, you can easily power your oven on and off, change the temperature, set reminders, and more. As an added benefit, GE’s smart oven also works with Amazon Echo and IFTTT. Not only can you use your voice to turn the oven on and off, but you can also take advantage of some IFTTT recipes to turn your oven off whenever you leave the house, or trigger your Phillips Hue lights to flash when the oven has finished preheating.
Best Smart Refrigerator – Samsung Family Hub
The refrigerator acts a hub for many families. It’s where you hang calendars, pin up bills, leave notes for your kids or spouse, and display pictures of your family members near and far. Samsung has gone all in on this idea and brought things into the digital age with their Family Hub refrigerator.
A whole lot ‘o screen: The Samsung Family Hub refrigerator sports a monster 21.5-inch touchscreen display on the front and this is where the magic happens. You can perform tasks like adding items to your shopping list to view on your portable devices later, adding items to your online shopping cart, sending real-time updates to whoever is shopping , or even order delivery if you want to skip grocery shopping altogether. You can also store digital notes for others to see, sync multiple family members’ calendars, display interactive photo albums, and create digital to-do lists.
Tons of space: The model we’ve linked here (not the top-of-the-line model) has 24 cubic feet of internal storage space. Combined with the adjustable shelves, and you have plenty of room for all of your food items — even taller items like wine bottles.
Keeps your food cold: The Samsung Family Hub does a lot of cool and smart stuff. It also keeps your food cold. With Samsung’s Twin Cool feature, your food stays colder and fresher for longer. There are also drawers with adjustable temperatures so you can keep everything just how you like it.
Cost is a bit prohibitive: Unless you really want to invest in the best of the best technology and you aren’t worried about price, it might be hard to leap right into such a high-end purchase. However, outside of the smart functionalities, this is just a great appliance to own.
Can’t delete or add apps: Unfortunately, though Samsung has practically shoved a full-blown tablet into this refrigerator, it didn’t give us the ability to add or delete applications. At the end of the day, this isn’t a huge deal, but you would think that it could have gone this one step further to up the experience.
Though Samsung’s Family Hub takes the cake when it comes to feature-rich smart refrigerators, there are other options for you to choose from.
LG InstaView Refrigerator: A couple years back, LG made a comparable refrigerator to Samsung’s Family Hub, but it has since been discontinued. The LG InstaView line of refrigerators represents their latest and greatest now. This isn’t really a “smart” refrigerator, but it has one really cool feature that I think is pretty smart. The large pane of glass on the front of the refrigerator offers you a peek inside to see what you need. Simply knock twice on the glass window, and the contents of the fridge will be illuminated so you can have a look. This is one of the many built-in enhancements that make this a very energy-conscious product, too — it keeps the cold in even when you want to see what’s left in the fridge.
GE Cafe Series: Similar to it’s smart oven, GE’s Cafe Series refrigerators use it’s Wi-Fi Connect system to provide smart utility to the user. With the Wi-Fi Connect app, you can interact with your fridge in a number of ways from your phone. This includes getting alerts when the temperature is too high or the door is left open, adjusting the temperature, turning the ice maker on and off, or initiating hot water heating. Yes, I said hot water heating. This particular model actually has the ability to dispense hot water in case you’d like a cup of tea in the morning or evening. On top of that, there is a built-in K-Cup brewing system!
Like their smart oven, the Cafe Series refrigerator works with Alexa and IFTTT to bring added functionality like being able to increase the fridge’s temperature when a power outage is likely to help preserve your food. Take a look at what else you can do with Alexa and IFTTT.
Best Smart Coffee Maker – Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer
For those who cherish a great cup of coffee and who want a few extra smart features to go along with it, the Behmor Connected Coffee Brewer is the perfect machine.This pairing of a quality brew and high-tech controls comes at a price, but if you’re willing to take the hit to your wallet, you’ll be delighted by what you get.
Wifi-Enabled Brewing: With the Behmor app you can perform functions such as set schedules, accurately adjust brewing temperatures and brewing amount, and select from specific brewing profiles to get the perfect cup of coffee. For coffee connoisseurs, being able to make these fine-tuned adjustments is critical in getting the perfect cup of coffee, so it’s nice to be able to make them from anywhere.
Quality in the design: If being able to fine-tune temperature and brewing profiles wasn’t enough, Behmor strives for an excellent cup of coffee in the design of the machine itself. For starters, it has a wide shower head with a pulsing feature to ensure all of the coffee grounds in the machine are evenly saturated in the brewing process. You can also program your machine to soak the grounds before brewing, which can elevate the flavor profiles.
No physical controls: Since the entire brewing process is controlled via the Behmor app, there are no physical buttons on the machine. This means you can’t groggily roll out of bed in the morning and stumble over to the machine, aimlessly pushing buttons until you have coffee. You’ll actually need to be conscious enough to get things just right within the app.
Doesn’t store water: With all of the features the Behmor app packs in to make your coffee routine more convenient, it would be nice if the machine could either store water or connect to a water supply so you don’t have to make a trip to the machine each time prior to opening the app. This way, a spur of the moment cup of coffee could be brewed from your couch at any time.
Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brewer: The Mr. Coffee Smart Optimal Brew machine is cheaper than the Behmor. It’s more like what you would expect from a normal drip coffee maker, but with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities. Unlike the Behmor, Mr. Coffee’s connected brewer does not have a proprietary app but instead uses WeMo’s smart home app. As you might expect, you can use the app to schedule brew times, and start a brew from the office or on your way home, if you need to get a rush of caffeine the minute you walk in the door. Some may also be excited to see there are physical controls on this product, unlike the Behmor.
Looking for more options? Check out our list of the best smart coffee makers.
Best Smart Cooking Accessory – Chef Steps Joule Sous Vide
Sous vide cookers basically allow you to precisely heat water to the exact temperature required to cook your food items perfectly every time. Modern sous vide cookers are relatively small and are inserted into any pot of water to do the cooking — no range required. The Chef Steps Joule Sous Vide is one of the most reputable and highly rated sous vides on the market, and for good reason.
Precision cooking: Cooking your food extremely accurately is the nature of any sous vide machine. The Chef Steps Joule is inserted into any container of water and can heat the water to a precise temperature using the 1100 watts of power. Cooking your meals in sealed bags (even steaks) retains the flavor and allows you to get the perfect doneness every time.
Slim size: The Joule is only 1.3 lbs and only 11 inches tall. Its sleek design makes it ideal for whatever type of container you have. Compared to standalone sous vide machines, which are large and bulky, you can easily tuck this away into any kitchen drawer until you need it.
Smart features: It wouldn’t be on this list if it didn’t contain some level of smart features. The Chef Steps Joule connects to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and enables you to control the device from wherever you are. Just like with a smart oven, you can use this feature to heat the water ahead of time to prepare for cooking. You can also activate the device with your voice using the Alexa skill.
No physical controls: Again, like the Behmor coffee maker, the Chef Steps Joule has no physical controls or screen outside of the LED indicator. This means you have to use your phone to do all of the adjusting. Fortunately, all of your settings should really be completed up-front before you begin cooking, and you likely won’t need to adjust anything once it starts.
Best Smart Kitchen Hub – Amazon Echo Show
Last, but certainly not least, is the Amazon Echo Show. No, this is not an appliance — it can’t cook you a steak. It is nonetheless an extremely useful tool in the kitchen.
Take command of your kitchen and home: Since the original Echo’s release, Amazon’s line of smart devices and its assistant Alexa have become the most popular choice for manufacturers and third-party developers to create useful “skills” for controlling your home. The kitchen is no exception here. With an Echo device of any kind sitting atop your counter, you will be able to use your voice to control various aspects of your kitchen if you have smart appliances like the ones we’ve listed. You can start cooking with your Chef Steps Joule, preheat your GE stove, and so much more.
The screen is your friend: More so than just the voice abilities, the Echo Show is also great in the kitchen because it has a screen. You can follow recipes, watch tutorial videos on how to cook your favorite dish, and even have a hands-free video chat with someone while you’re preparing a meal.
Takes up precious counter space: This seems nit-picky, but if you’re like me, you need every inch of counter real estate when cooking a meal. Somehow, all of the space in the world just isn’t enough. The Echo Show takes up about 7.5 inches of space on your countertop.
The kitchen is where many families spend the majority of their time. As technology continues to advance, and more products get “smart” functionalities, having connected kitchen appliances is going to quickly become common. We’re still in the “early adopter” phase, so these kinds of appliances are still quite pricey, and the barrier to entry is high.
If you’re fortunate enough and interested enough, there are certainly a slew of products with which to equip your smart kitchen. There’s nothing wrong with starting small with an Echo Show or the Chef Steps Joule Sous Vide to get you going, and then working your way up from there, either.
What smart kitchen items do you have in your home? We’d love to hear how you are making use of the technology and if there is anything that we should add to our list!