The Smart Kitchen Has Arrived
By Patrice Doucet
For most of us, the most amazing thing that happens in our kitchen is cooking dinner two or three times a week. But, if you’re in the market for new kitchen appliances, you’ll be wowed at what’s available in technology these days. The Smart Kitchen is here - from Internet-connected refrigerators, ovens and dishwashers to other innovative devices that make our time in the kitchen easier.
Convenience has been the moving force behind the latest innovation that pushes the limits of what we thought our appliances could do. Refrigerators, for instance, can go far beyond keeping food cold, with features capable of entertaining us, keeping track of our groceries and helping us cook from remote locations.
Brands like LG, Samsung and GE have come out with new models that have computer screens that can play television shows, by connecting with their counterpart TV, stream music, display photos, and allow consumers to posts notes away from home: Be dressed for soccer by 5:15! Costs range from $6,000 to $3,200.
Tracy St. Upery, sales associate at Magic Video Appliances & Electronics in New Iberia, says the appliances of a Smart Kitchen are designed to save time and keep us organized. The Smart GE refrigerator, available at Magic Video, sends a message when it’s time to change the water filter.
Voice-activation platforms will soon allow you to control some of your appliances and devices with Siri and Amazon’s Echo.
According to LG Electronics research, a U.S. household of four people opens the refrigerator 15-20 times a day. If you’re always yelling “Shut the refrigerator door,” the LG Electronics InstaView refrigerator may be the solution. Coming soon and with Wi-Fi capabilities, its door has a window so users can peek inside after tapping twice on the tinted glass panel, preserving cold air.
It’s three hours before a dinner party, you’re running one last errand and realize all the plates are dirty. Relax. Through an app on your smartphone, the GE Profile Dishwasher, $1,499, lets your turn it on to begin washing. You can also keep track of how much time is left on the dishwasher and determine if your rinsing agent is low, all from your phone.
Oven technology is heating up as well. Say you’re hung up in traffic and you really wish you were able to preheat the oven so that dinner would make it to the table on time. Bosch and GE offer a couple of models equipped with Bluetooth so that you can control oven functions remotely with your Smartphone.
St. Upery says Magic Video Appliances offers GE models from electric ranges to the upper end Profile line that connect with Wi-Fi, allowing you to preheat the oven from your phone, set a timer, and then reduce the temperature later on. Boom! The pork roast is ready by 7:00. Costs range from $1,499 to $1,999.
For faster than conventional cooking, steam ovens do the trick and help foods retain their nutrients and flavor. Wolf Appliances makes an oven that combines steam and convection modes with a series of pre-set programmed recipes so that all you have to do is put the food inside. The oven does the work of figuring out which cooking modes to apply to get the best results. (Kind of like your microwave does with the popcorn setting.) You can even tell the oven what time you want your dish to be ready, and it will turn on and adjust the cooking process as necessary to finish at exactly the right moment.
Even the Crock-Pot is web connected now. For about $130 and using a free WeMo app, you can check the temperature, start the setting on high and then change to low, or turn off the pot from your smartphone while at work.
In considering a Smart appliance, St. Upery offers this helpful advice: “Look for something with a safety feature. A lot of kids play with their parents’ phones, so if you do have the app that connects with an appliance, keep track of your phone so the child doesn’t accidently (or intentionally) change the temperature in the refrigerator or turn on the oven. ”
While the term Smart Kitchen refers to Internet-connected appliances, a smart kitchen adds convenience in many other ways - a few worth mentioning here.
Microwave ovens have come far since first looking like a Zenith TV sitting on the counter. The latest generation is built-in, flush with the cabinetry and can steam or make food crispy, with a combination convection oven, and weigh the dish while it’s heating. The Breville Element IQ smart oven has five quartz heating elements that can each be set separately, so you can heat or reheat a meal without something on the plate being overcooked and mushy.
Never wonder again about the freshness of your eggs. A hand-held device the size of your phone, The Egg Minder uses LED lights and an app to let you know which eggs are the oldest and which ones might be going bad. Cost is about $50.
The 4-Door Flex frig has two doors at the top for refrigeration and two at the bottom for freezing and if you need more refrigerator space, the bottom right freezer drawer can turn into a refrigerator with the tap of a button.
While the hands-free faucet is not new, Thermador plans to roll out Open Door Asist, which lets users open a refrigerator door by pushing it, rather than pulling a handle, keeping germy hands off of the appliance that stores your food.
Not to be discounted in the design of a smart kitchen, is anything that makes cleanup easier, like the new truly smudge-proof appliances.
St. Upery says her customers consider price, functionality and warranty when purchasing an appliance. “Many people also want American made,” she adds. While the Wi-Fi appliances are considerably more expensive than their more traditional counterparts, St. Upery says some appliance makers, like GE, offer rebates online. Something else to consider, as consumers are buying refrigerators and ovens to last 20 years, it begs the question, “Will the technology last that long?”
Smart Kitchen appliances are still new to the market and many stores are feeling out customer interest before over ordering for their showrooms. “Overall, our clients are more practical,” says St. Upery “looking for a great product without the gadgets.” “On the other hand, younger working couples are more comfortable with technology; they’re going to want that convenience,” predicts St. Upery. In fact, a 2016 National Kitchen and Bath Association survey agrees, reporting that millennial homeowners are outspending those in other age groups when remodeling their kitchens and bathrooms.
Money can’t always buy happiness, but, evidently, it can buy convenience. And, while the kitchen is considered the hub of the house, the Smartphone has become central to the kitchen.