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Smart cooking on a budget

Smart cooking might sound gimmicky, but we've tested -- and tasted -- the merits firsthand here at CNET Appliances. Best of all, the current crop of connected small appliances come with a lower cost of entry than ever before -- meaning you won't need to splurge on an overpriced, top-of-the-line major appliance.

Click through for a few of the more notable gadgets competing to cook you a smarter dinner, with links to our in-depth editors' takes of each.

Published:Caption:Photo:Colin West McDonald/CNET
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Anova Precision Cooker

Sous vide cooking, which heats vacuum-sealed ingredients in a precisely controlled water bath, is still an emerging category for the home kitchen, but it's long been the secret weapon of high-end restaurants. After helping make the technique more affordable with last year's Anova One, the Anova team is back with an improved design that costs even less and boasts Bluetooth to boot. And let's face it, there's nothing that isn't smart about perfectly cooked steak.

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

FNV Labs Mellow

For a deeper dive into smart sous vide, albeit a less affordable one, you could consider Mellow, available for pre-order now from FNV Labs. It's an all-in-one unit, so you'll pay more than you will for Anova's bring-your-own-pot approach, but Mellow justifies the extra cost with a design that cools as well as it cooks. That means you could plop your ingredients in before leaving for work in the morning, safely keep them there all day, then tell the smartphone app to start cooking as you head home.

Published:Caption:Photo:FNV Labs

The New Nomiku

Another name in smart sous vide worth keeping an eye on is Nomiku. The startup's original sous vide cooker was a close cousin to the original Anova, and like its competitor, Nomiku's releasing an improved, second-gen cooker with its own app. "The New Nomiku" won't be out until early 2015, but with built-in Wi-Fi and an appealing price, our appetite is sufficiently whetted.

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Crock-Pot WeMo Smart Slow Cooker

If you aren't sold on sous vide, consider the WeMo-enabled Crock-Pot with smartphone controls. It's slow cooking that's anything but.

Published:Caption:Photo:Colin West McDonald/CNET

Mr Coffee WeMo-enabled Coffeemaker

There's also a WeMo-enabled Mr Coffee brewer, which promises to integrate into existing WeMo smart home setups for an automated morning cup.

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

iDevices Kitchen Thermometer

If you'd rather cook with your existing large appliances, consider clever ways of smartening them up. This iDevices Kitchen Thermometer is one of my favorites, with dual temperature probes and built-in Bluetooth designed to help you keep tabs on the turkey from the comfort of the living room sofa. A smaller, cheaper, single-probe version is available too, along with a version built for backyard grilling.

Published:Caption:Photo:Colin West McDonald/CNET

Quirky Refuel

Speaking of grilling, Quirky's got a bargain-priced sensor for sale that's capable of sending you alerts whenever the propane is running low.

Published:Caption:Photo:Colin West McDonald/CNET

Perfect Bake

Let's get back to baking. Perfect Bake is a cute, kid-friendly set that includes bowls, a scale and an app that promises to guide you through each and every step of the cookie-making process. It'll even show you how to make elaborate, difficult deserts with ease -- though maybe I had you at "cookies."

Published:Caption:Photo:Tyler Lizenby/CNET

GE FirstBuild Smart Pitcher

While we're talking about smartening up your existing large appliances, consider the refrigerator. The GE FirstBuild team certainly did when they dreamed up the Smart Pitcher, a nifty, DIY fridge hack that you'll never need to refill.

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