Smart Kitchen Appliances for Home Chefs
Would you buy an induction cooktop that only knows recipes created by BuzzFeed? Do you want to spend $1,500 on a countertop appliance capable of recognizing your food? Are you interested in a smart oven designed to cook pre-packaged meals delivered to you each week? Even if these products don’t appeal to you, technology is the future of home cooking – and these smart kitchen appliances may be precursors to the next home kitchen staple.
Tasty One Top
BuzzFeed is famous for creating occasionally accurate pop culture quizzes, melodramatic headlines that turn whatever last went viral into clickbait, and minutes-long recipe videos that linger enticingly on Facebook feeds. Those videos, made for the BuzzFeed Tasty channel, have become immensely popular – so popular that the media company has announced the Tasty One Top.
Made in partnership with GE Appliance’s First Build division, which first struck gold in 2016 with an ice maker advertised to produce Sonic ice at home, this induction cooktop is advertised as a “phone to table” appliance. It uses Bluetooth technology to connect to the Tasty Recipes app, which contains upwards of 1,700 recipes. Because it’s engineered to be compatible with the app, the One Top will adjust automatically to follow the instructions predetermined by the selected recipe, taking the worry of tasks like adjusting temperatures out of users’ hands. Since the team at BuzzFeed recognized its audience may want to cook without being limited to Tasty recipes, the induction cooktop can also be used independent of the recipe app to make other meals.
Priced at $175, the Tasty One Top is meant to heat up your Instagram feed: It’s shaped like a pentagon and is available in black or light blue. Visual appeal aside, it features an integrated sensor that monitors pot and pan temperatures as you cook, and comes with a thermometer capable of measuring the temperatures of liquids and proteins. As long as you have induction-ready cookware, the appliance can be used to simplify (if not automate) the process of making some of BuzzFeed Tasty’s many recipes, since the app will let the user know when to perform steps like adding additional ingredients.
Like other induction cooktops, the One Top facilitates nearly any cooking style, so users can fry chicken, sous vide steak, sauté vegetables, and more. The BuzzFeed cooking device sets itself apart from similar appliances with its aesthetics and its app compatibility, as well as its more affordable price point. The Tasty One Top is expected to ship November 2017.
Less affordable is the June Oven, a smart oven priced at $1,495 that can fit on your countertop. June is capable of baking, broiling, reheating, roasting, and toasting food like any convection oven – but it identifies food when it is placed inside the cooking cavity and offers cooking suggestions based on what you’re preparing.
When the appliance shipped in November 2016, it could already recognize 25 foods thanks to proprietary identification technology that combines an HD camera with artificial intelligence. The June Oven also includes dozens of Preset cooking programs for everything from bagels to asparagus to tuna steak, and the company continually updates the smart kitchen appliance’s software to expand its Preset program and Food ID capabilities. For example, software updates in July introduced a Slow Cook option and eliminated the need to flip steak and chicken nuggets over during the course of cooking.
June is designed with heating elements made of carbon fiber, which allow it to heat more quickly than other ovens. It also has a built-in scale and a food thermometer, features that help the smart oven achieve precise cooking so, as it’s advertised on the website, “everything you cook comes out how you want it, every time.” Thanks to app functionality, users can watch a live video of the cooking process on their smartphones, and when the meal is finished, the June Oven communicates that to their phones as well. In most cases, that allows the home chef to put food in, press a button, and walk away.
So, does this smart kitchen appliance deliver on its promises? Reviews by Alex Cranz for Gizmodo and Ashlee Clark Thompson came to a similar conclusion: June is an impressive smart oven, but its flaws and price tag will likely keep it out of the majority of homes until its capabilities are more robust or the cost decreases.
Launched publicly in July 2017 and made possible in part by a $255,000 Kickstarter campaign, Tovala is a $399 smart oven that pairs with a smartphone app. What’s the twist? Tovala is designed to cook prepared meals that are shipped each week to customers subscribed to the meal service, making the process of cooking meals at home easier and faster.
Tovala owners who want to use the prepared meals can order three single servings for $36 or three double servings for $72, which is about $12 per meal. Customers can choose from a rotating selection of meals like lemon garlic chicken, sweet chili salmon, and curried turkey meatballs. Meals are prepared fresh and shipped cold, but not frozen, and are generally good for five days. The components for the meals arrive in aluminum pods, which are packaged with labels and barcodes. When the barcode is scanned, the smart oven knows for how long and at what settings to cook the meal, thanks to a predetermined program.
The team at Tovala hopes to bring convenience to the home kitchen, not only by shipping prepared meals that are supposed to be healthy and delicious, but by giving users a hands-off cooking tool. When customers want to cook meals not provided by the company, they can program their own cooking recipes via the connected app. Since this smart kitchen appliance can bake, broil, and steam, recipes can be programmed to automatically cook food in multiple steps, using different functions and temperatures.
Like the June Oven, the Tovala oven is a promising new product that offers imperfect innovation. Richard Gunther backed Tovala’s kickstarter and wrote about his experience for technology website The Spoon. Noting that the oven struggles to perfectly cook anything outside of the packaged meals, he concluded that, “If you’re interested in eating good, prepared meals at a premium price, then Tovala is worth your consideration.”