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My smart kitchen: the good, the bad, and the future

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In 2021, I built what I hoped would be my ideal smart kitchen. Three years on, I love how my new kitchen has made cooking more enjoyable and creative — but at the same time, the technology hasn’t completely fulfilled its potential. Here is a look at the appliances I added, what’s great about them, how they’ve helped me streamline my cooking, and what I would like to see in the future that will make the connected kitchen really smart.

Initially, I had dreams of creating a space that would make cooking for my family of four easier and more fun, plus stretch my culinary skills. From meal planning and grocery shopping to prepping and cleaning, I wanted the futuristic kitchen of my dreams. 

My home has an expanded galley kitchen measuring about 150 square feet, quite small for South Carolina. My main goals were to maximize cupboard space while cutting down on counter clutter and squeezing in as many high-tech appliances as possible. Here’s what I ended up with — and how well it all worked.

My Thermador range was the most important piece of my smart kitchen puzzle.

The smart oven range: Thermador Pro Harmony range

Thermador, which is owned by Bosch’s parent company, BSH, is recognized as one of the top prosumer ranges out there. I’ve always fancied myself as something of a home chef, and this was my dream oven. With this choice, I was prioritizing features like excellent baking, roasting, and broiling over ovens with a camera in them. I also valued innovations like its star-shaped pedestal burners with extra-low simmer capabilities. 

I got all of that — and more. The oven’s Home Connect app offers remote control, monitoring of temperature with a built-in probe, and the option of voice control with Alexa and Google. Today, I have just about mastered controlling it with my voice, which is handy when I want to turn the oven off from the couch. (Although I am still stymied by the oven’s insistence that I turn its knob to Remote Start to use any of these functions.) 

What I want next 

On the stovetop front, I’d really love induction, although, for various reasons, that isn’t practical for my house. I have dreams of importing these amazing ceramic countertops from Italy, where the induction coils are invisible until you need to cook. Combined with this new wireless charging system from FreePower that can be embedded in your counters, that would be one seriously smart, seriously good-looking kitchen (although seriously expensive). 

From a safety perspective, I’m astounded that there still isn’t a better way to check if you left your stovetop on — other than using third-party devices or training a camera on it. (I use an Aqara G3 camera for this purpose — its pan and tilt function means I can get a good view of the entire kitchen.)

I saw a demo at CES 2024 from IoT chipmaker NXP where a cooktop used various sensors, including presence sensing, to automatically turn off a burner if a pot was left on at high heat and the stove was unattended. This type of intelligence requires interoperability, however, something the smart kitchen is still sorely lacking — although with Matter adding support for appliances and organizations like the Home Connectivity Alliance pushing for connectivity between different brands, this future is looking more promising. 

A smart kitchen needs a smart fridge. I’ve had Samsung’s Family Hub refrigerator since 2019, and unlike most appliances, this one has gotten better with age.

The smart fridge: Samsung Family Hub

I’ve had a Samsung Family Hub smart fridge for five years, and I love it. Yes, it did seem silly to stick a giant Android tablet on the side of a fridge at the time, but half a decade later, it’s really come into its own. 

Thanks to software updates. I can now watch live TV on it while I cook or plan my weekly meals right on the fridge. Built-in cameras can (sometimes) identify (some) of the food in the fridge and alert me when something is close to expiring. I’ve also found the new Samsung Food app (on the fridge and on my smartphone) to be useful for collecting recipes, managing my food list, making meal plans, and following along with recipes while cooking. 

What I want next 

While the newer model Family Hub has more cameras and AI to help with recognizing ingredients, it’s still not able to know everything about all the food that’s inside the fridge. It often misidentifies products — for example, it consistently thinks my whipped cream is a sports drink. Plus, those cameras can’t see into my pantry. 

I want an automated system that really knows what I have in my fridge and pantry and that compiles suggested recipes, meal plans, and a grocery list for me automatically every week.

Perhaps the way forward here is an overall platform for food management that can be accessed on any screen or tablet and works by knowing what products you put in your shopping cart when you order your groceries online. Ultimately, it feels like this is a software solution over a hardware one. 

The Thermador dishwasher is great at washing dishes, but I’d like to see its connected features improve.

The smart dishwasher: Thermador Emerald Top Control smart dishwasher

The company threw in a free dishwasher when I bought my Thermador oven. This also works with the Home Connect app and can send alerts when it’s done, tell me when the rinse aid is running low, and connect to online services to automatically reorder supplies. There’s also a remote control feature and a schedule option (so I can set the dishwasher to run when I want it to). In addition, the dishwasher itself does an amazing job.

I previously had an LG dishwasher that once helped me diagnose a drainage issue just by using the app, saving me a fortune calling out a repair person or hours on hold with a call center. This isn’t a function on the Thermador — issues can be diagnosed remotely, but you still have to call someone. Still, along with energy management, remote troubleshooting is still one of the biggest benefits of connecting appliances.

What I want next

Dishwashers are already very technologically advanced without a lot of obvious room for improvement. Maybe in a Jetsons-like future, someone will come up with a Bot Dish that works like Samsung’s Bot Chef from CES 2020 and loads the dishes for me!

The Thermomix can whip up a mean hollandaise in minutes.

The smart multifunctional cooking tool: Thermomix TM6

I’ve written and talked about the Thermomix TM6 on The Verge before. It’s without a doubt the most useful gadget in my kitchen. A smart countertop device, it offers 28 cooking functions and a built-in touchscreen for guided cooking — in short, this is essentially a blender that can cook, chop, blend, steam, knead, sauté, grind, whisk, sous vide, slow-cook, and more. 

It doesn’t do all of these really well. (Sautéing is spotty, and chopping often ends up more like baby food unless you use its new cutter accessory.) But as one central place to do most of your food prep, it’s revolutionary. It’s also $1,500, and you have to pay $30 a year for its guided cooking / recipe function — but to me, it’s worth it. 

What I want next

As with nearly all smart countertop kitchen gadgets, the Thermomix is siloed in its own ecosystem. I can’t send preheating instructions from it to my Thermador oven, and I can’t use voice or its app to turn it off remotely. There’s no way to import recipes from other sources; if I want to use its excellent guided cooking interface, I have to use its (extensive) collection of recipes. In the future, I want a Thermomix that works together with the rest of my smart kitchen. 

The Moen smart faucet can be activated with a wave or with voice using an Alexa or Google smart speaker.

The smart faucet: Moen faucet

The Moen smart faucet is a connected, hands-free, motion-activated, voice-controlled kitchen tap. It’s the most-used gadget in my kitchen, and my entire family loves it.

Wave your hand to start or stop the water. Use Alexa or Google to ask it to dispense precise amounts (tablespoons / cups) at specific temperatures or to start filling the sink while you’re getting the roast out of the oven so you can just dump the pan in hot water. It’s one of the gadgets in my kitchen I really miss when I’m not home.

What I want next

My model is the older one; the latest faucets from Moen can adjust the temperature with a hand motion. I’m not sure I really want to add more complexity to the faucet, though. 

This automatic coffee maker from GE Appliances doesn’t do a lot more than its non-connected brethren, but it does make a great cup of coffee.

The smart coffee maker: Café Affetto Automatic Espresso Machine

GE Appliance’s Café Affetto, a $630 smart coffee maker, is a must-have in my kitchen; my husband and I love our Americanos and lattes, respectively, in the morning. Yes, it’s expensive, but then so are $7 lattes from a coffee shop. Its smart features are quite limited — all it really offers over a non-connected automatic espresso maker is the option to adjust the grind times and volume through the SmartHQ app. But the My Cup feature does let me customize my preferred coffee order in the app (two long espressos), and it works great.

What I want next

Voice control and automation are the missing pieces here. I want to tie my coffee maker into a smart morning routine, so when my alarm goes off, my lights turn on, the radio starts playing, and then the Cafe Affetto will start making my espresso. There are some high-end built-in coffee machines from Bosch and Thermador that can do this. Bosch launched its first connected countertop model at CES this year, although you can’t buy it yet, so that wish may come true sooner rather than later. 

I love my “smart” kitchen, but I feel there’s still so much more potential when it comes to connectivity in my favorite room.

The smart kitchen of the future

I’ve also spent some time with various connected kitchen gadgets I’ve tested for The Verge. These include the Tovala smart countertop oven, the GE Profile Smart Mixer, the Typhur smart air fryer, the Instant Pot Pro, and the GE Profile smart smoker. (You can hear about some of my early impressions of the last three on the latest episode of The Vergecast.) 

A common theme with all of these is that they are countertop gadgets with their own apps, ecosystems, and specific functions. They’re great at what they do, but so far, they don’t feed into the broader smart kitchen ecosystem, where appliances can communicate with each other. 

There’s a lot of potential in the smart kitchen space, but it needs greater interoperability and less reliance on individual apps to control each device — a regular frustration throughout the smart home, not just in the kitchen. It’s one that developments like Matter, the Home Connectivity Alliance, and a new KitchenOS platform from Fresco are trying to solve.

The Tovala smart countertop oven is a really useful gadget, even if you don’t pay for its meal delivery service, but as with many smart kitchen gadgets, it’s marooned in its own ecosystem.

The smart kitchen shares many similarities with the smart home. But as arguably the most technologically advanced space in our homes before we started connecting our appliances to the internet, the kitchen comes with its own set of challenges. It’s a demanding and active area with more single-purpose devices, making it much harder to innovate and improve on what are already very capable machines. 

Ultimately, better interoperability between our gadgets and more innovations in software — potentially enhanced by generative AI — could make some of my wishes come true. But the smart kitchen of 2024 is still very much at the early adopter stage. If that doesn’t describe you, I recommend futureproofing any major appliance purchase you make by opting for Wi-Fi connectivity. In the meantime, you’re better off putting your money into individual gadgets whose features fill your current needs and waiting until the smart kitchen is truly ready for prime time. 

Photography by Jennifer Pattison Tuohy / The Verge



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