/The Smart Kitchen Is Very Stupid
The Smart Kitchen Is Very Stupid

The Smart Kitchen Is Very Stupid


The smart home market is big and booming. Connected products, like those made by Roku, Nest, Sonos, and Amazon have changed the way we live, mostly for the better. But the so called “smart kitchen?” The app-connected kitchen gadgets, the experimental tiny ovens, the microwaves you can talk to, and the recipe apps? They’ve failed. While our first whack at the connected home kitchen was interesting and occasionally even fun, for the most part, it has flopped like a soufflé.
It’s time to wipe down the counter, tighten our apron strings, and start from scratch.
Harsh? Maybe. But most of the smart kitchen devices I’ve reviewed in the past few years would not get a passing grade. In fact, for all the kitchen testing I do, none of my favorite kitchen gear is connected.
Despite the influx of tech, my favorite kitchen tools are still my knives, a 25-cent plastic pocket scraper, and an old wood-handled silicone spoonula from Williams-Sonoma. The item I’m most excited to buy next is one of those old-school wood-and-Plexiglas cookbook holders. There is all sorts of excitement in the food-tech sector—robot delivery, ghost restaurants, restaurant ticketing—but the tech you use in a home kitchen feels like it’s stalling while the rest of the smart home is taking off.
It’s not just me. Most restaurant chefs aren’t bothering either. Over at America’s Test Kitchen, executive tasting and testing editor Lisa McManus also struggles with it. “The idea that you can make a home appliance ‘smart’ and you’re done had a lot of problems built in,” she says. “It’s hard enough to make a great appliance, and just adding an app to a basic one isn’t the answer.”
Photograph: Hestan
Perhaps home cooking just isn’t all that ripe for disruption. Look at a successful smart home product like the Nest, which automates temperature control in your home. Before Nest, nobody ever told me how much they loved their thermostat. The kitchen, though, is capital-F freighted. We chop with our cherished knives, sauté in favorite pans, mix in our moms’ beloved Kitchen-Aid mixers. Recipes are gently refined as they are passed down through generations. They make things the way they’ve always made them because it took forever to arrive at a recipe that good. On top of that, cooking is a skill and a trade that we’ve been honing in home and professional kitchens for centuries. The French alone have been refining their craft for hundreds of years; nobody in Paris ever thought, “You know what this dish needs? A Bluetooth-enabled tarte tatin pan.”
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