Tech House / Making kitchen chores easier
Images courtesy of vendors
Few activities reach back to our most primitive years like cooking. Evidence suggests that humans used heat to cook for as far back as a million years, and interest has only grown. Today, entire television networks are devoted to food and cooking. And wherever there’s a market like that, innovation, gadgetry, and connected digital systems appear to make it easier to provide nutritious and tasty food for our families.
If you love crispy French fries, but not the calories added by frying in fat, the Philips Airfryer can fry more than two pounds of food using less than a tablespoon of oil, which cuts fat by seventy-five percent. The Philips Airfryer uses a proprietary starfish-shaped pan that improves the circulation of hot air, and prevents uneven cooking. Accessories allow the Airfryer to grill or roast food as well. (usa.philips.com, $400)
If you haven’t needed a new refrigerator lately, you might be surprised to see what’s happened since the creation of the icemaker. Take Samsung SmartHub Family Fridge, with a screen display that provides a large digital interface for streaming video or music, checking the weather, sharing photos, or creating grocery lists. Available in three models, the SmartHub’s twin cooling technology keeps the freezer dry, prevents freezer burn, and maintains proper fridge humidity to keep perishable food fresher. A CoolSelect Pantry drawer provides temperature control for safe defrosting, and storing deli meats and cheese. The capacity of the units ranges from twenty-two cubic feet up to twenty-eight cubic feet. A FamilyHub smartphone app allows a peek inside the fridge—while shopping—to prevent purchase of unnecessary items. (samsung.com, $3,499 and up)
An ongoing challenge in any kitchen is keeping a grocery list that ensures the pantry and fridge are stocked with the items you need. To automate part of that task, GeniCan, an add-on for kitchen garbage cans, scans barcodes of tossed items, and adds them to a shopping list available through the GeniCan smartphone app. GeniCan also uses voice recognition to add items without scanning. Both functions require user activation, so a person can throw away an item without it automatically appearing on the shopping list. (genican.com, $149)
A less expensive option for checking out fridge contents while shopping is the Smarter FridgeCam. The mount is compatible with a wide array of fridge models and the connected app provides smart functions for tracking the amount of food in the fridge, as well as expiration dates. The app also sends notifications when you’ve run out of a grocery item, and helps users build a shopping list. The related Smarter Chef function suggests recipes based on the ingredients in the fridge. (smarter.am, $130)
The Internet age has spawned entire battalions of home chefs trying to achieve restaurant-quality meals at home. The Anova Precision Cooker allows them to cook sous vide, a technique where food is vacuum-packed, then heated to a precise temperature in a water bath. With sous vide, cooks can heat steaks to a specific doneness before finishing them off with a quick pan sear. The Anova Precision Cooker clamps to the side of a medium pot and heats the water to the temperature set on the unit itself or through a connected smartphone app, which also provides temperature guides to get a steak cooked anywhere from rare to well done. The unit doesn’t provide any vacuum-sealing components, but it appears to achieve decent results with food placed in a sealable plastic bag clipped to the side of the pot. (anovaculinary.com, $149 and up)
Cooking is an art, but baking is a science, and the wrong amount of flour or baking soda can ruin a dessert. The Drop Scale and connected app (requires iOS 8 or later) provide home cooks with recipes that can be accurately measured on the digital scale. The app display tells users if they’ve accurately measured the ingredients, and the scale can measure in ounces or grams, detect an amount less than a teaspoon, and hold up to thirteen pounds. The scale has a heat-resistant silicone top and offers a touch button to interface with the connected app so that flour doesn’t get all over a user’s device. The app also allows for substitution of ingredients, and adjusting for size. (getdrop.com, $80)
Coffee connoisseurs can experience café luxury at home with Bonaverde Berlin, which roasts green coffee beans, then brews them into the freshest joe possible. Users order green coffee beans sourced worldwide by a community of travelers coordinated by Bonaverde. Radio frequency ID sensors scan green coffee bean pouches ordered through Bonaverde, and the unit determines the type of bean and how it should be roasted. (bonaverde.com, $799)
Tea fans get some tech love, too, from the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker. This programmable unit has controls to calibrate perfect steep times for different varietals. Water temperature can be read from an LCD display, and the pot will keep water warm for up to an hour. Users can also preprogram the tea maker to ensure that tea is always ready when they want it. (brevilleusa.com, $250)
If tackling complex recipes has you fumbling through the cooking phase, you might benefit from SmartyPans, a cooking pan with digital features designed to walk a cook through a recipe, add the proper ingredients at the right time, and wait the proper time between steps. Temperature and weight sensors collect data that a connected app uses to track nutrition levels as the food cooks. Users can even share recipes they’ve created with the SmartyPans community. (smartypans.io, $229)
Steve Brachmann writes on technology, business, and legal topics for IPWatchdog.com, a blog focused on intellectual property law. He lives in Allentown.