The smart ovens we've seen at CNET Appliances have been inconsistent in their ability to use technology to make cooking easier. Inspired by the CNET Smart Home, here are features we want to see in future smart ovens.
Smart ovens have been few and far between in the CNET Appliances test kitchen, and their performances range from frustrating to favorable.
LG has disappointed us twice over with the Smart ThinQ LRE3027ST and the LDG4315ST and the two ovens' separate, but equally clunky apps. However, the GE Profile Built-In Double Convection Wall Oven wowed us with its useful connectivity to the GE Brillion app, and the brand continues to invest in making its Wi-Fi-enabled ovens even more connected. We've also seen a lot of promise in the premium (read: expensive) oven market with Dacor's introduction of voice-controlled ranges.
The smart oven is still a relatively small sliver of the large appliance landscape. It's been a challenge for manufacturers to add useful technology and connectivity to the ordinary oven that doesn't get in the way of preparing a meal. From casseroles to pancakes, you have to actively use your oven to get the meal that you want, whether you just peek through the oven door or adjust a burner's temperature. How much wiggle room should manufacturers leave for a home cook's creativity and improvisation when they add more technology to an oven and make it smart? And can manufacturers develop high-tech tools that will last for the lifespan of an appliance and stay up to date?
The CNET Smart Home will help us find the answers.
Our super-connected home gives us the chance to discover what smart features are truly useful in a working smart house and not just a novelty. That means I've been thinking a lot about what I features I want to see in the next generation of smart ovens. On a large scale, intelligent cooking appliances should make cooking easier and more accessible from smart devices, and maybe even make me a better cook. Here are some other must-haves on my smart-oven wish list:
Ovens and refrigerators are natural partners in any kitchen, so why not equip them with the technology to talk to one another?
I'd like to see an app that would allow me to search for recipes (such as the LG Smart Oven app ) based on the ingredients the app can see in my refrigerator (like Bosch's Home Connect app, which works with the brand's new camera-equipped fridge ). Add an automatic preheat once I select a recipe, and you've got connectivity that will make cooking easier. Granted, smart fridges currently have as many kinks as smart ovens to overcome --such as the need to manually enter the contents of a fridge into an app like we saw on the Samsung RF4289HARS. Receipt -or barcode-scanning built in an app or even the refrigerator would step up the smart fridge's game.
We've already armed the CNET Smart Home with a robust Wi-Fi network, a smart hub and smart lighting. I want to test an oven that can work with this tech to create an experience that extends beyond the cooktop.
Some scenarios that would be useful include kitchen lights that turn on when the oven starts to preheat, lights that change color when an oven has finished preheating, or dining room lights that turn on when my meat has reached the desired temperature. GE's compatibility with the online automation service IFTTT is a good start in connecting the oven to the rest of the home. Yes, I'll be just fine without an oven that turns on my lights. But if the technology is there, why not add a little convenience and flash to a chore like cooking?
Not all connections between device and app work well. The LG LDG4315ST connected with the LG Smart Oven with NFC (near-field communication) that requires you to hold your device over the stovetop next to the back panel to make any changes with the app. This was frustrating and, if you're cooking on the stovetop, dangerous.
Smart ovens need to use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to make accompanying apps useful. It's not impossible; the GE Chef Connect feature uses Bluetooth to connect ovens and microwaves, and Jenn-Air has added Wi-Fi to some of its ovens so you can control basic functions through an app. Even countertop smart appliances such as the June Intelligent Oven show the utility of a good wireless connection.
When I lived in my first apartment, I asked my mother how I could tell if a chicken breast was fully cooked. Her advice was that chicken is done "when it's done." I still don't have the sixth sense to gauge safe internal temperatures of meat, so I want to see smart ovens with tools to tell me how to cook a variety of foods (and how to tell when they're done). Manufacturers have equipped many higher-priced ovens with temperature probes that can be used for cooking meats, and some, like the Dacor ER30DSCH, will even turn off the oven when the food reaches an appropriate temperature. Smart ovens should include these features and more to help make me a better cook.
Turning on your oven from your smartphone is just plain cool. That same excitement should be present every time I use a smart oven. A useful smart oven should provide conveniences that will make cooking something we look forward to doing rather than dreading.