Smart tech is invading the home. First it was our lights and our thermostats, then Amazon Echo and Google Home made their way into our living rooms and bedrooms, and now smart devices are even making their way into the kitchen.
You may not think your frying pan needs an app (though you can get one) but there are plenty of useful app-enabled kitchen gadgets, whether you want to put a brew on from bed or check how something’s cooking. Here are our favourites.
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When it came time to bring apps into the kitchen, the kettle was one of our first thoughts, and it’s not hard to see why - having a freshly boiled kettle ready for you when you wake up or get home from work is a great example of tech actually making life simpler, rather than just adding unnecessary fuss.
Now in its third generation, the iKettle has gotten past some early headaches to deliver a smooth experience (mostly at least - setup is still fiddly and awkward). You connect it to your Wi-Fi through a phone, and then use the Smarter app to trigger it to boil (or just heat to a temperature of your choice), to keep water warm, or just to check water levels.
You can also set it to boil on a certain schedule, and link it up to IFTTT or Amazon Alexa so you can turn it on with voice controls or set up more complex triggers. And don’t worry, there’s a physical button too, so you don’t need your phone on you every time you want a cup of tea.
£100 may sound like a lot for a kettle, but you can usually expect to pay that much for variable temperature controls alone - throw in the sleek design and smart functionality, and the iKettle offers more than enough to earn a place in your kitchen.
If the Smarter iKettle’s high-tech style isn’t up your street, maybe the AppKettle will tempt you. After all, the ability to put the kettle on before you get home should appeal to everyone, not just techies!
While some smart home gadgets are a hassle to set up and use, it’s not the case with AppKettle. Besides having a sleek steel design that would go well in any kitchen, the AppKettle is incredibly easy to set up and takes no more than a minute or two to connect to your Wi-Fi.
Once it’s connected to your Wi-Fi network, you can use the smartphone app to trigger it to boil, or to heat up to a specific temperature for herbal teas. It provides you with information about the amount of water in the kettle, along with the current temperature and time remaining. You can set specific profiles in the app for different types of tea, and even connect it to Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa.
And unlike the Smarter iKettle, the AppKettle also provides a host of physical controls that allows you to set the temperature, boil the kettle and toggle the ‘Keep Warm’ feature without the use of the app – ideal for those technophobes in your house. Oh, and it boils water really quickly too!
Anova Precision Cooker
You may not think you need a smart sous vide - hell, you may not think you need a sous vide at all, or even know what it is. But after a few weeks with the Anova Precision Cooker, believe us: you’re wrong.
If you don’t know, sous vide cooking involves cooking food underwater in a sealed plastic bag, usually before finishing it off quickly in a pan. The trick is to have precise control of the water temperature, allowing you to cook a steak to the exact temperature it needs to be rare, or chicken to exactly when it’s safe to eat, without risk of over-cooking.
The Anova clamps onto any of your existing pans and plugs into the mains for power, and will heat water to a precise temperature, all controlled from an app, with alerts to let you know when the water’s at temperature, and timers so you can keep track of the cooking remotely. It can connect over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, or you can grab a slightly cheaper model that just uses Bluetooth.
It’s designed to be friendly to those who are new to sous vide, with an included selection of recipes that include guidelines for timing and temperature for the sous vide - triggered automatically from within the recipe - along with ingredients and the preparation steps you need before and after you sous vide.
Nespresso Expert and Milk
If the iKettle is perfect for making tea or a filter coffee, Nespresso’s app-enabled machines are probably the best bet for espresso fans who don’t want to get out of bed.
If you’re on more of a budget, the Prodigio is the more affordable option, but for those who want the best Nespresso has to offer, the Expert + Milk is the creme de la crema.
It uses the ubiquitous Nespresso capsules to create coffee in four different sizes, from ristretto up to americano, along with a milk frother to let you make cappuccinos too. You can also tweak the temperature of the water depending on how hot you want your drinks.
The included app lets you trigger the machine remotely, customise the settings for each brew, save preferred recipes, track your stock of capsules, and order more directly.
The only downside? Well, besides the steep asking price and the fact that Nespresso capsules will never quite live up to true espresso, taking advantage of the smart features requires a bit of forward planning - you have to leave a capsule in the machine and a cup at the ready ahead of time if you want to make a coffee remotely, but for the organised among us that might just be worthwhile.
Read more in our full review of the Nespresso Expert and Milk.
Meater Smart Meat Thermometer
Like most smart kitchen gadgets, the Meater thermometer takes something that's inarguably useful - a meat thermometer - and adds in smart features that make it marginally more useful and convenient - with a pretty hefty price hike to show for it.
The Meater is a meat thermometer designed to be left inside the meat or fish while it's cooking, so that it can tell you exactly when to stop cooking and make sure your dinner is perfectly cooked.
Setup is a breeze, pairing the thermometer to your phone via either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and then you've just got to download the free Meater app to get going. Charging is also easy - the wooden stand serves as a charger, supposedly offering 100 uses off of one AAA battery.
To cook, insert the probe, tell the app what sort of meat you're cooking and what temperature you want it to reach (with some handy presets for things like 'medium rare' or 'cooked enough to not kill you'), and start cooking.
Meater uses a combination of an internal sensor to tell you the temperature of the meat and an external sensor to measure the ambient temperature (i.e. the temperature of your oven and grill), which it uses to estimate a cooking time (and notify you along the way) - factoring in rest time, so don't be alarmed if it tells you to stop cooking while it's still a few degrees off.
There are downsides though. It won't remind you to turn whatever you're cooking, so remember to factor that in if appropriate. All the sensors also mean this is a pretty chunky thing, so it'll only be useful if you're cooking a fairly large piece of meat. And then there's the price: it's many times the cost of a regular meat thermometer, so you'll have to decide for yourself if phone notifications about your pork chops are worth such a hefty premium.
Click and Grow Smart Herb Garden
Some smart tech seems pretty superfluous, and some, well… some is a smart herb garden. Yes, meet the Click and Grow, which does its utmost to hook Mother Nature herself into the Internet of Things.
This is what a herb garden would look like if it was designed by Apple, with sleek white curves and a simple structure. There’s space for three plants side by side, which grow up towards the LED light - which is extendable, to accommodate their growth.
Everything is designed to be as simple as possible. The light runs on a cycle of 16 hours on, 8 hours off - so you can have it off overnight if you prefer - while you only need to fill the water tank every few weeks and it will eke out the appropriate amount to your plants.
The accompanying app will give you reminders to top up the water when required, but beyond that it isn’t really ‘smart’ - the app doesn’t actually connect to the garden, so you can’t switch the light on and off remotely or anything like that. It’s really just a glorified diary, which you can use to store photos and notes about your plants and their growth.
The garden comes with three basil plants included, but the company sells capsules for a variety of plants, along with seedless capsules so that you can grow what you like. Presumably you could skip that entirely and just add your own soil and seeds, but we’re not sure how well that would grow.
‘Smart’ may be a bit of a misnomer, but this is undeniably hassle-free, and thanks to the included app does a decent job of making growing your own plants easy enough to fit into anyone’s life.