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Renovation & Design

Smart cooking

Intelligent, connected devices are coming to your kitchen

Alchema

Make your own craft cider at home with the Alchema brewing machine.

Hestan

Using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors, the smart saute pan, induction burner and recipe app work in unison to assist you.

Who needs a fridge magnet for a grocery list when a scanner on your garbage can will remind you what to buy?

How about an egg-shaped gadget that plans your weekly meals and calls up videos to give you step-by-step cooking instructions?

Or how about a device that will prevent you from burning your meals or another one that will dispense an accurate amount of ingredients without having to use measuring cups and spoons?

A new wave of technologies is upping the ante on convenience and efficiency in the kitchen.

"The very nature of the space of the kitchen will begin to change as a confluence of enabling technologies come into the kitchen," says Michael Wolf, creator of the Smart Kitchen Summit, a forum that explores how technology is changing food and cooking.

Cooking appliances, he said, will evolve and become more intelligent over time to adapt to lifestyles. Cameras built into appliances, machine-learning software, voice-powered devices, guided cooking systems and smart surfaces also will gain a foothold in the kitchen.

Technologically, the living room is more advanced than the kitchen, he said, pointing out that the main function of the living room, entertainment, has evolved dramatically as smart TVs and video streaming have satisfied an appetite for being connected.

In the kitchen, the digital transformation has just begun.

"Over the next 10 to 20 years, we’re going to see that change happening in the kitchen," Wolf says.

Here’s a sampling of products, highlighted at the recent International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, designed to delight tech-savvy foodies and reluctant cooks and make grocery shopping, meal preparation and entertaining more manageable and productive.

Hello Egg

The timing couldn’t be more perfect for Hello Egg. A recent survey by online grocer Peapod found that 72 per cent of Americans cook at home four nights or more a week. Of those who cook at home, 53 per cent would like to plan meals more often to save money, eat healthy and waste less food.

This cleverly designed voice-operated device aims to take the hassle out of home cooking, especially when you have a busy schedule. Simply place Hello Egg on your kitchen counter and start talking to it. Its playful animated eye mimics facial expressions by blinking. The virtual assistant will help plan weekly meals according to dietary preferences, organize shopping lists, order grocery delivery, provide recipe videos and back you up with a 24/7 cooking experts team. (helloegg.net: basic version US$120; premium US$350)

GeniCan

Of all the mundane things to do in the kitchen, keeping a grocery shopping list is probably one of them. But in the world of smart technology, that’s the inspiration for GeniCan, a device that almost makes throwing away trash fun.

Attach the scanner to your garbage can or recycling bin. It keeps a log of items as you toss them out so you can update your grocery list. When the app is synced with an Amazon account, GeniCan orders items such as paper towels and snacks once they have been thrown away or recycled. (Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

An item without a bar code can be added to your shopping list by holding it in front of GeniCan for a couple of seconds and using voice-recognition technology to instruct the device. (genican.com: US$149)

PantryChic

Foodies of every skill level will probably appreciate this alternative to traditional storage canisters, measuring utensils and scales. The PantryChic Store & Dispense System simplifies recipe preparation by automatically dispensing the precise amount of each ingredient from canisters with the push of a button.

The system comes with three dishwasher-safe, BPA-free canisters in small, medium and large. They are rectangular and stackable to maximize storage space. The recipe app instructs users when to place each canister on the system so it can automatically dispense the right amount.

Wet ingredients are manually poured into the bowl on the base unit’s scale and an indicator on the app prompts you when to stop. A built-in scale measures and converts volume to weight, allowing you to choose from five measuring units. The system can be used alone or with the app, which allows you to prepare recipes from your smart device, track your pantry supply and order ingredients.

The app also enables you to share recipes on social media and gives you recommendations based on your preferences. (pantrychic.com: US$299.95)

SproutsIO

This app-controlled microgarden makes it easy for you to grow a variety of produce indoors, from fruiting plants to leafy greens and herbs to root vegetables, regardless of where you live or how much gardening experience you have.

The produce can be cultivated to your taste preferences by making adjustments to the plants’ growing conditions. The same seed and plant harvested at the same age can have different flavours, colours and textures simply because of how they are grown.

Results have shown SproutsIO can grow produce two to three times as fast as traditional methods. The hybrid hydroculture system uses only 2 per cent of the water of conventional soil-based growing techniques and half the power of an incandescent lightbulb.

The growing device is equipped with WiFi connectivity, sensors for monitoring plant and ambient conditions, a camera, LED lighting and an electronic mister. The product also includes software services and six months’ worth of seed refills. (sprouts.io: US$799)

Alchema

Make your own craft cider at home with this cool countertop brewing machine that turns fresh fruit into alcohol and creates hard cider, mead or wine. Simply choose a recipe on the app, add fruit, sugar, water and a yeast packet.

The app weighs ingredients and notifies you when fermentation is complete and the batch is ready. Cider typically takes up to two weeks to make, depending on the fruit and recipes.

Mead, also known as honey wine, takes less than a week. Notifications will appear on your smartphone with suggestions on what to do when the fermentation is finished, your WiFi disconnects or temperature or pressure is abnormal.

Three types of yeast are available in a standard three-pack for sparkling cider, fruitier concoctions and recipes with a stronger alcohol content. (alchema.com: US$499.99)

Hestan Cue

This connected cookware system controls time and temperature so you can always count on a cooking experience that’s just right.

Using Bluetooth technology and embedded sensors, the smart saute pan, induction burner and recipe app work in unison to assist you in every phase of the cooking process, all with the satisfaction of knowing the products will never burn your food.

Cue walks you through each step of a recipe with video guidance, from ingredient preparation to cooking technique and final touches, automatically controlling the pan and burner temperature during each phase. When it comes time to present your gourmet meal, no one will ever know you had a virtual sidekick. (hestan.com: US$649.95; early-bird special US$549.95)

Somabar

Impress guests with this app-controlled robotic bartending appliance created for the home kitchen. Mix cocktails and infuse bitters to make a cocktail in seconds simply by pressing a button.

The app is stocked with more than 300 cocktail recipes and you can even upload your own.

The ordering system presents a menu based on ingredients you already have or suggests what ingredients you need. Scroll through the menu and select a drink, then customize ingredients and alcohol content.

Six refill pods, which hold liquor and mixers, are removable and dishwasher-safe. (somabar.com: US$499)

— Washington Post

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