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.
If you're hoping to pick up some smart home tech for cheap, check out our guide to the best smart home deals to make sure you're smart about your spending too.
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.
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 (the latter giving you more range), 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.
Although some smart plants pot connect to your phone to tell you when a plant needs watering, Botanium takes a different and much easier approach to the problem.
Apart from its attractive design - available in white smoke, ash grey and laurel green - the beauty of Botanium is the simplicity of how it works.
It's a hydroponic system so doesn't require soil. You plant your chosen seeds in the 'growing medium'- which is not too far from a gravel-like material made from porous clay - at the top. Then you fill the lower chamber with water and nutrient. Plug the pot into the mains with the supplied USB adapter and that's basically it.
Botanium will then periodically water the plant every three hours and won't drown it as any excess simply drains back down into the reservoir. The water can last up to a month so you mostly just need to keep an eye on the level (there's an indicator) and also trim the roots once they stick out the bottom of the top section.
All of this encourages faster growth and larger plants with fewer roots. We've tested Botanium for a few weeks with basil and we're astonished at the results.
You can plant most things including coriander, thyme, chilli peppers, tomatoes and strawberries. Plants that need a lot of water work particularly well.
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. 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.
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!
If you've made the leap to a smart kettle, you might as well go the whole nine yards and buy a smart mug to go with it.
Sounds mad? It is a little, but the temperature control ceramic mug from Ember does a great job of selling you on the concept.
The minimalist design makes the Ember mug look like a prop from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it also conceals some sneaky tech: embedded into the bottom of the cup is a heating element, which can keep your tea, coffee, or other hot beverage warmed to your favourite temperature.
After pairing your mug with the Ember app on your phone you can monitor the exact temperature of your drink, and set what temperature you want to drink it at. The app will then notify you (including on your smart watch) once it's reached that precise degree, and will use the heater to keep it there.
There's also an LED in the base (which you can set to a colour of your choice), which lets you know when the set temperature has been reached so you don't have to use the app. And it comes with a neat 'charging coaster' to keep the mug juiced up.
This second-generation mug offers 50% better battery life so will keep your drink hot for up to 1.5 hours. Plus, the standard (295ml) version comes in black, white or a more expensive copper colour and there's now a larger option - 414ml - which comes in black and runs for 80 minutes.
It takes a bit of getting used to, as you don't expect the last bit of your coffee to still be piping hot, and at a starting price of £99.99/$99.99 the cost will be a sticking point for some. (You can still buy the original, cheaper Ember from Amazon, though.) And if you're the type of person who tends to get distracted mid-mug, the Ember will save you from gross cold tea forever.
Joule Sous Vide
If you're tempted by the Anova, the Joule Sous Vide is a similar device with a few upgrades - and a slightly higher price to match.
Much like the Anova, this is a smart sous vide that you can use to heat up a pan of water, all controlled entirely from a smartphone app. Just like the Anova, it connects over either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, with the app giving you notifications, recipe ideas, and step-by-step cooking instructions.
The main upgrade here is in terms of design. The Joule is a smaller, sleeker device in almost every respect - it's shorter, thinner, lighter, and simpler, and looks like a truly modern bit of kitchen kit. It can clip onto the side of a pan, but also has a magnetic base so that it can stand upright on its own, which lets you use it in smaller pans than the Anova can manage.
There are a couple of downsides to the design though. For one, in a smaller pan the water circulation element can sit above the water level, meaning you get a constant babbling water noise as you cook - an admittedly minor irritation. There's also no display on the device itself, so you can't use it at all - even to check the temperature or timer - without your phone to hand.
You can get round this a bit if you have an Amazon Echo device, as the Joule features Alexa support, with voice commands to change the Joule's settings, turn it off and on, or ask the status of your cook. The app itself is also nicely designed, with clear instructions that make the whole thing very easy to use.
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
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.